Friday, May 20, 2011

West Wing Week: 5/13/19 - 5/19/11

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week the President visited flood victims in Memphis,TN before speaking at the Booker T. Washington High School graduation, celebrated the Situation Room's 50th birthday, and gave a speech on the change sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa.

'A Good Summer Job Puts Money in a Teen's Pocket and Provides Invaluable Life Experience'

Governor Cuomo Launches "Jobs Express" to Encourage Businesses to Hire 16,500 Youth

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the Summer Jobs Express program to encourage business leaders to hire 16,500 youths between the ages of 14 and 21 for summer employment in high-need areas of the state.

Summer Jobs Express will provide $21 million in funding to qualifying local organizations and businesses that hire youth for five weeks or more from June 13 through September 30, 2011. Funds will also be used to provide work readiness training, supportive services and wages.

"A good summer job puts money in a teen's pocket, provides invaluable life experience and helps neighborhoods grow stronger," Governor Cuomo said.

"Businesses that employ young people create a talented workforce that resonates for decades to come. Our Summer Jobs Express program furthers our mission of job creation by giving businesses the resources to hire, train and foster growth in youths from underprivileged communities, creating a sense of pride for both workers and employers."

The NYS Department of Labor will connect companies with young workers this summer through its statewide network of One-Stop Career Centers. Businesses wishing to participate in Summer Jobs Express should contact the NYS Department of Labor at 877-226-5724.

Last year, the average unemployment rate in New York State among 16-24 year-olds was 16.5 percent – even more so for minorities in that age group (30.4 percent for African Americans, 27.2 percent for Hispanics).

Statistics show that for every year a teenager works, the income earned in their twenties rises between 14 to 16 percent. Teen summer employment also leads to higher high school graduation rates. Additionally, companies that hire younger workers during the summer benefit by building a reliable pool of future full-time employees.

Summer Jobs Express is supported by $5.5 million from the U.S. Department of Labor and another $15.5 million from the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (as allocated in the 2011-2012 state budget).

For more information, visit

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Moment of Opportunity: American Diplomacy in the Middle East & North Africa

President Obama lays out his vision for a new chapter in American diplomacy as calls for reform and democracy spread across the Middle East and North Africa, and in light of the death of Osama bin Laden.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Newt Gingrich, Palin, Conservative Media and Their Blatant Disregard for Black Voters

"Meet the Press" and Others Are Right to Question "Food Stamp President" Comment

Aw! Poor Newt Gingrich. The political dinosaur is all upset because he felt David Gregory of "Meet the Press" (MTP) set him up with a blistering series of questions regarding healthcare last Sunday. Get a damn grip, Newt!

If that wasn't bad enough, Gingrich then took offense to Gregory's line of questioning about a comment made at a recent appearance by the former Speaker of the House -- a comment where he referred to President Barack Obama as "a food stamp president".

The mainstream media has been all over Gingrich ever since his disastrous MTP appearance. On May 18, the MSNBC show "Morning Joe" exposed the growing backlash against Gingrich when it aired footage of an Iowa man pleading with Gingrich to get out of the presidential race before he further embarrasses himself.

Prior to this, the man was heard describing the "Contract with America" author as "an embarrassment to the Republican Party". Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough, as well as other panelists, couldn't contain his laughter during the entire segment. I was laughing long before the Iowa man ever uttered a word to Gingrich.

I knew it would only be a matter of time before "Newtie-G" would do or say something to make fellow Republican politicians and voters say, "Oh, hell-to-the-no!" You folks have to understand something: people like Gingrich can't help themselves. They're stuck in a warped pattern of thinking and scripted comments, which often leads to their political downfall. Their egos, financial status, and quest for power in its ultimate form -- the presidency -- are what drives them and forces Republicans and Democrats across the country to ask, "Is this the best we can do?"

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more bizarre, in comes Palin, the prime-time princess of politics, to add a bitter cherry on top of the bland, Newtie-G sundae. Palin proclaimed that MTP and Gregory conspired to set Gingrich up by asking a 'racially-tinged' question. Hey, Princess Pay-Pay? Do us all a favor and go sit in a corner and scratch your ass. People are too busy analyzing real presidential candidates to entertain anything your clown-ass has to say. Now, now.... don't cry. Just get to scratching.

I have something to say to every person that was upset over MTP's and Gregory's alleged mistreatment of Gingrich. Get over it! This man is trying to obtain the highest political seat in the country, and every news anchor and outlet should hold him and other candidates accountable for what they say and do. If they get mad and decide to throw a tantrum, too damn bad. Grill'em!! Grill'em like a fat, disgustingly-juicy sirloin!

The next few lines are for Gingrich. You opened up this can, now you're going to eat it all. Dude, what the hell is your problem? You're not some Washington, D.C. new-jack. You've been in the game long enough to know cowards and punk-asses need not apply for the position of Commander-in-Chief.

You're not stupid. You know tough people are going to ask tough questions. Stop whining like a little, gray-haired, Aqua-Velva-wearing baby. Just bite your lip and answer the damn questions. If you can't handle that, then you need to take the advice of that voter you encountered in Iowa. Seriously!

In closing, I want to invite every so-called conservative news anchor, analyst, commentator and pundit to a political card game. Have a seat and use the coasters for your beer, please. Put the cigar out, Limbaugh! Okay, the game is called "Play the Race Card". Don't look so surprised....or scared. It'll be a hoot.

Ready? Okay, I'm dealing the race cards. Aw, damn! You lost already! Why? Two reasons. First, you all defended Gingrich while completely ignoring the fact that food stamps -- aka welfare -- have been an unfair and unfortunate stereotype linked to the majority of Black people in this country for decades. Even if you don't support that school of thought, you have friends and associates -- in and out of the newsroom environment -- that do. Don't deny it or play stupid.

Secondly, you all failed to realize that Black people, more than any other race in this country, had a vested interest in wanting to know exactly what the former Speaker of the House meant when he referenced President Obama -- the first Black president -- in that way. If Gingrich expects support from the Black community, he'd better do a better job of explaining what the hell he meant. Period! Every intelligent conservative and political strategist in America knows this.

David Gregory and MTP had every right to ask Gingrich about the food stamp comment, and any news representative or organization that avoids pressing Gingrich on the issue will be displaying a blatant disregard and disrespect for many concerned Black voters, be they Republican or Democrat, as the presidential election of 2012 draws near.

By the way, if you folks were wondering about the winning hand I had in that race card game with the conservatives, I won with five of a kind. They were all spades.

This commentary is from the heart and.....From The G-Man

Photo source: Gage Skidmore
Author: Gage Skidmore
Permission: Creative Commons Attributions - Share Alike 3.0 Unported

'I Am Confident Justice Morgan Christen Will Serve the American People with Integrity and Distinction'

Christen Nominated for U.S. Court of Appeals

WASHINGTON- President Obama has nominated Justice Morgan Christen for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“I am proud to nominate this outstanding candidate to serve on the United States Court of Appeals,” said President Obama. “I am confident Justice Morgan Christen will serve the American people with integrity and distinction.”

Justice Morgan Christen: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Justice Morgan Christen was born and raised in the state of Washington. She attended the University of Washington, where she received her B.A. in 1983. While an undergraduate student, Justice Christen studied in England, Switzerland, and China. She later attended Golden Gate University School of Law and obtained her J.D. in 1986.

Justice Christen moved to Alaska in 1986, when she began a clerkship for the Honorable Brian Shortell of the Alaska Superior Court. In 1987, she joined the law firm of Preston Thorgrimson Ellis & Holman (now K&L Gates LLP) in their Anchorage office.

While at the law firm, Justice Christen handled a variety of civil matters, including representation of the State of Alaska in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In 1992, she was elected to the firm’s partnership.

In 2001, Justice Christen was appointed to the Alaska Superior Court, the state trial court with jurisdiction over, among other things, civil cases, family law and probate matters, and felony criminal offenses.

Beginning in 2005, she served as the presiding judge of Alaska’s Third Judicial District, the judicial district with the largest caseload in the state. As presiding judge, Justice Christen supervised approximately 40 judicial officers in 13 court locations.

In 2009, Justice Christen was elevated to serve as one of five Justices on Alaska’s Supreme Court, the highest court in the state.

The Obama Nominations

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:

David S. Adams, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Department of State

David S. Adams has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for House Affairs in the U.S. Department of State since April 2009. Prior to this role, Mr. Adams served in a number of capacities for Representative Gary L. Ackerman and the House Foreign Affairs Committee since 1985, most recently as the Staff Director for the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. Mr. Adams received a B.A. from the University of Connecticut, an M.A. from American University, and an M.B.A. from Loyola College of Baltimore.

Luis A. Aguilar, Nominee for Commissioner, Securities and Exchange Commission

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Prior to his appointment as an SEC Commissioner, Mr. Aguilar was a partner with the international law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP, specializing in securities law. Commissioner Aguilar's previous experience includes serving as the general counsel, executive vice president, and corporate secretary of INVESCO. His career also includes tenure as a partner at several prominent national law firms and as an attorney at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He received a J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law, and also received a master of laws degree in taxation from Emory University.

Marcos Edward Galindo, Nominee for Member, Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation

Marcos Edward Galindo is currently a faculty member and Director of the Natural Resources Tribal Cooperative at the University of Idaho Aquaculture Research Institute. Dr. Galindo is also an affiliate faculty member in the biology department at Idaho State University and an affiliate faculty member in the physics department at Utah State University. Dr. Galindo previously worked as a science teacher at Shoshone-Bannock High School at Fort Hall, Idaho for almost twenty years. Dr. Galindo has extensive research and educational experience working with Native American students. While serving as chairman of the science department on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, he was twice elected as the National Indian Teacher of the Year, awarded by the National Indian School Board Association. Dr. Galindo obtained a Ph.D. as a NASA fellow at Utah State University, an M.S. from Idaho State University, a B.S. from the University of Idaho, and an A.S. from the College of Southern Idaho.

John A. Heffern, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia, Department of State

John A. Heffern is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Mission at USNATO, Brussels. Prior to his current post, Mr. Heffern served as Deputy Chief of Mission and Executive Assistant to the Undersecretary for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia. Mr. Heffern’s career has also included overseas assignments to Japan, Malaysia, Ivory Coast and Guangzhou, China. From 1994-1996, Mr. Heffern served as a Pearson Fellow on the Asia Sub-Committee for the House International Relations Committee. Prior to entering the Foreign Service, Mr. Heffern served in the Office of Senator John C. Danforth as the Senator’s Office Director and Research Assistant. Mr. Heffern received a B.A. from Michigan State University.

Harry Hoglander, Nominee for Member, National Mediation Board

Harry Hoglander is currently the Chairman of the National Mediation Board, where he facilitates the resolution of labor-management disputes in the railroad and airline industries. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Hoglander served as a Legislative Specialist in the Office of Congressman John Tierney of Massachusetts with a focus on transportation, including aviation, rail and maritime, labor, defense and Veterans issues. He also has an extensive background in the aviation industry and labor relations, having flown as a Captain for Trans World Airline (TWA) and being elected Master Chairman of TWA’s Master Executive Council, as well as Executive Vice-President of the Air Line Pilots Association. After leaving TWA, Mr. Hoglander was named Aviation Labor Representative to the United States Bi-Lateral Negotiating Team by then Secretary of State James Baker. He was also a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, retiring with the rank of Lt. Colonel. Mr. Hoglander holds a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School.

Gregory Karawan, Nominee for Member, Board of Directors of the Securities Industry Investor Corporation

Gregory Karawan is Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Retirement and Protection at Genworth Financial, Inc. Prior to joining Genworth, Mr. Karawan was at the law firm of Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal, where he served as a partner from 1994 to 2000. Mr. Karawan was an Associate at the law firm of Ashinoff Ross & Korff from 1988-1990. He serves as a Trustee of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the Virginia State Bar Board of Governors Corporate Counsel Division. Mr. Karawan received a B.A. in Economics from SUNY Binghamton, and a J.D. from Fordham Law School in 1988.

Patricia M. Loui, Nominee for Member, Export-Import Bank of the United States

Patricia M. Loui is the Founder and Chair of OmniTrak Group Inc., an international marketing and research consultancy focused on Hawai'i and Asia. She has consulted on market growth strategies in East Asia, South Asia, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Formerly president of the East West Center Association, Ms. Loui previously served as Vice President of Marketing, Planning, and Development at the Bank of Hawai'i and as a United Nations Development Programme and UNESCO development planner in Asia. Ms. Loui received a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University and an M.S. in Asian Studies from the University of Hawai’i.

Maria E. Ruess, Nominee for Member, Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation

Maria E. Ruess is the Vice President of Business Development & Strategy for Integrated Defense Technologies under Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors. She is a former high school Physics and Spanish teacher and was a volunteer “Hands-on-Science” teacher at her local elementary school for nine years. She volunteers in mentoring and roundtable events with young professionals at Lockheed Martin, with the Hispanic College Fund scholarship recipients, and with the Hispanic Congressional Caucus fellows. Ms. Ruess is a member of the Board of Directors for Great Minds in STEM, the chair of the Hispanic Leadership Council at Lockheed Martin, a member of the Executive Diversity Council at Lockheed Martin, and a member of the Women’s Success Forum. She has a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and an M.B.A. from George Washington University.

Susan L. Ziadeh, Nominee for Ambassador to the State of Qatar, Department of State

Susan L. Ziadeh is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. Currently she serves as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Prior to her current assignment, Ms. Ziadeh served as the Official Spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq from 2008 to 2009. From 2004 to 2007 Ms. Ziadeh served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain. Ms. Ziadeh’s career has also included overseas tours in Kuwait, Jordan and Jerusalem. Ms. Ziadeh worked in Washington from 2001 to 2003 and served as the Desk Officer for Jordan. Ms. Ziadeh earned a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan, an M.A. from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon and a B.A. from the University of Washington. She is a 2004 Distinguished Graduate of the National War College, National Defense University with an M.S. in National Security Studies.

President Obama said, “It gives me great confidence that such dedicated and capable individuals have agreed to join this Administration to serve the American people. I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

Cuomo/Bloomberg Legislation Passes Unanimously

Bill Protects New York City Ratepayers from Massive Increases

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that their legislation to prevent a massive rate hike on New York City energy customers has passed the Legislature unanimously in both houses.

The measure proposed by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg will allow the City to guarantee property tax abatements to power plants. This will change property tax abatements for power plants from a discretionary program back to an "as-of-right" program and, in doing so, addresses the primary reason the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) cited for requiring the rate increase.

"With New York City ratepayers facing hundreds of millions of dollars in unwarranted electricity rate increases, we moved quickly with our partners in government and the Legislature to protect consumers and address the issues cited by FERC in its initial decision," Governor Cuomo said. "Now that the bill has passed, there are no grounds to increase rates; therefore we are moving immediately to file papers with FERC seeking a reversal of its January decision."

"The moment the decision came down from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to give power companies an unjustified windfall that would translate into a 12 percent electricity rate increase for ratepayers we began working to have it reversed," Mayor Bloomberg said.

"The passage of our bill clarifies for the Commission the true costs of producing power and there is now zero justification for the massive rate increase. We asked the Commission to re-examine this case and the passage of today's law is another reason they should render a new decision that will be more equitable to New York City ratepayers. I want thank Governor Cuomo and thank Senator Schumer for their strong leadership in fighting to protect New Yorkers from an unjust electric bill increase. I also want to thank Speaker Silver, Assemblyman Farrell and the rest of the Assembly for moving this bill quickly through the Assembly, and I also want to thank the State Senate, Majority Leader Skelos and in particular Senator Lanza for passage in the State Senate."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decided in January to allow power plants in the City to be paid energy capacity prices that factored in the cost of property taxes, even though many power plant operators in the City do not pay any property taxes at all. FERC's order concluded that since new power plants were not guaranteed property tax abatement, as they were in the past, those taxes should be built into the federally approved capacity prices that are passed on to ratepayers. This would have increased electricity bills for residents and businesses in New York City by as much as $1 billion over the next three years and provided a windfall to existing plants that do not pay property taxes.

The bill proposed by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg adds peaking power plants, which are used by the FERC to determine capacity prices, to the City's as-of-right property tax abatement program, and will provide 100 percent property tax abatement for 15 years. It also extends the City's existing Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP), which is currently set to expire this year, and does not impact property tax revenue because the City already planned to provide tax abatement for these units in their discretionary program.

The rate hikes were set to take effect in June.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

White House Briefs

White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing.

Obama Administration: 'S. 953 Generally Would Undercut Critical Reforms'


S. 953 – Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011

(Sen. McConnell, R-KY, and 17 cosponsors)

The Administration is committed to promoting safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production as part of a broad energy strategy that will protect consumers and reduce our dependence on oil. Safety and environmental reforms that the Administration implemented in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are critical to achieving those objectives.

These reforms strengthen requirements for issues ranging from well design to workplace safety to corporate accountability, and they require operators to show that they can contain a subsea oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. S. 953 generally would undercut these critical reforms; therefore, the Administration opposes S. 953.

S. 953 would undermine the Administration's work to ensure that environmental analysis required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is conducted in a rigorous manner. S. 953 would hastily open areas of the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the Atlantic to leasing, and require the Department of the Interior (DOI) to hold multiple lease sales in the Gulf and Alaska using outdated NEPA analysis that was conducted before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Administration has strengthened NEPA analysis in light of lessons learned from the spill and is committed to responsible development in the Gulf and the Arctic. DOI intends to hold the Gulf lease sales referenced in the bill by mid-2012.

With respect to Alaska, DOI has committed to holding annual lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve while respecting sensitive areas, encouraging development of existing leases by establishing a high-level interagency working group to coordinate the permitting process (including necessary environmental and safety reviews), and extending certain offshore leases.

S. 953 would constrain the ability of DOI to ensure that permits meet safety standards by requiring permitting decisions to be made within 30 days of receiving an application, thereby curtailing the review period. Two 15-day extensions would be possible, though DOI would be required to submit burdensome justifications.

The bill would grant permits automatically at the end of this 60-day window, regardless of whether the applicant satisfied safety standards. These concerns also arise over environmental safeguards and reviews. The Administration believes these statutory time constraints are unwarranted.

Fifty-three new shallow water permits have been issued since the Administration's stronger safety standards were put in place, and deepwater permit applications also are being processed in a timely manner. Since the end of February, when industry first demonstrated to safety regulators the capability to contain a subsea spill, fourteen deepwater wells have been permitted.

S. 953 also would require the Secretary of the Interior to grant an automatic one-year suspension of leases (effectively extending the term of the leases) in the Gulf. The Administration fully supports suspensions for Gulf leaseholders directly impacted by the drilling moratorium. Ten such suspensions have already been granted using administrative procedures to leaseholders who demonstrated that they were affected by the moratoria.

Obama: 'The Jewish People Have Always Persevered'




East Room

2:55 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. (Applause.) Good afternoon. Welcome to the White House.

I’m going to be very brief, but I do want to start by recognizing a few people. First of all, a great friend of mine, one of the driving forces behind the creation of this month, and somebody who happens to be the new chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is here. (Applause.) Did somebody say “stand up” to Debbie? Come on. (Laughter.) That's all right. A lot of fight in that little package. (Laughter.)

I want to thank Ambassador Michael Oren for being here, and doing fine work representing our great friend, the state of Israel. (Applause.) Jewish Americans have always stood up for freedom and democracy around the world, and that includes our unshakable support and commitment to the security of the state of Israel. (Applause.)

I want to thank the Maccabeats for their outstanding performance. (Applause.) They just did an outstanding number for me -- it was very brief -- (laughter) -- that said, “four more years.” (Laughter and applause.) It was good. I really liked it. So thank you.

We’ve got more than a few members of Congress here, and I just want to say thank you to all of them for everything that they do, working with us to help advance not only freedom and prosperity here in the United States but around the world.

Finally, we’re honored to be joined by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg. (Applause.) And a dear friend of mine and an inspiration to the world, the great Elie Wiesel is here. (Applause.)

This month is a chance for Americans of every faith to appreciate the contributions of the Jewish people throughout our history –- often in the face of unspeakable discrimination and adversity. For hundreds of years, Jewish Americans have fought heroically in battle and inspired us to pursue peace. They’ve built our cities, cured our sick. They’ve paved the way in the sciences and the law, in our politics and in the arts. They remain our leaders, our teachers, our neighbors and our friends.

Not bad for a band of believers who have been tested from the moment that they came together and professed their faith. The Jewish people have always persevered. And that’s why today is about celebrating the people in this room, the thousands who came before, the generations who will shape the future of our country and the future of the world.

So I hope that everybody enjoys themselves. I encourage you to take a look at some of the exhibits that are set up here in the hallway. And I am grateful for all of your friendships.

Thank you.

END 2:59 P.M. EDT

White House Gets Serious About Closing Big Oil Tax Loopholes


S. 940 – Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act

(Sen. Menendez, D-New Jersey, and 28 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of S. 940, which would repeal tens of billions of dollars in special tax breaks for oil and gas companies over the next decade.

While there is no single solution to addressing the effect of rising gas prices on American families in the short term, the Administration has put forth a long-term plan to cut the Nation’s oil imports by one-third by 2025.

The plan includes increasing domestic production in the short term, while investing in domestic alternative fuels, and increasing efficiency in the vehicles Americans drive. It is also clear that there are much more responsible ways to utilize the billions in taxpayer dollars provided to oil and gas companies through unwarranted tax breaks.

The Nation’s outdated tax laws currently provide the oil and gas industry billions of dollars per year in these subsidies, even though oil and gas prices are high and the industry is reporting outsized profits.

Furthermore, heads of the major oil and gas companies have in the past made it clear that high oil prices provide more than enough profit motive to invest in domestic exploration and production without special tax breaks.

The Administration believes that, at a time when it is working with the Congress on proposals to reduce Federal deficits, the Nation cannot afford to maintain these wasteful subsidies. The President proposed eliminating these subsidies in his FY 2010, FY 2011, and FY 2012 Budgets.

The Administration believes these resources are better used for efforts that will help the American people, such as deficit reduction or investments in clean home-grown sources of energy. The Administration considers this bill to be an important step toward more responsible fiscal and energy policies and looks forward to continuing to work with the Congress to end these subsidies.

President Obama Holds Meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan




Oval Office

12:17 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is a great pleasure to welcome once again my good friend King Abdullah to the White House. The United States and Jordan have had a longstanding friendship, an extraordinary relationship of cooperation on a wide range of fronts. I have valued His Majesty’s advice on numerous occasions, and obviously this meeting was an opportunity for us to share our views on the extraordinary changes that are taking place throughout the Middle East, throughout the region.

We discussed the situation in Libya, and are grateful for the support of a wide range of Arab countries in our efforts to make sure that humanitarian assistance and humanitarian protection occurs inside of Libya. We discussed the rapid transformation that’s taking place in places like Egypt and Tunisia, and we both agreed that it’s critical that not only does political reform proceed, but economic reform accompanies those changes there, because so much of what’s taking place has to do with the aspirations of young people throughout the Arab world for their ability to determine their own fate, to get an education, to get a job, to be able to support a family. And that means some of the old structures that were inhibiting their ability to progress have to be reworked.

His Majesty discussed the reform efforts that are taking place inside Jordan as well, and we welcome the initiatives that His Majesty has already embarked on, and feel confident that, to the extent that he’s able to move these reforms forward, this will be good for the security and stability of Jordan, but also will be good for the economic prosperity of the people of Jordan. And so we’re very pleased to support him on that front.

Along those lines, one of the things we discussed is how the United States can continue to be supportive of these economic efforts that His Majesty has embarked on, and so I’m pleased to announce that we have mobilized several hundreds of millions of dollars through OPIC, and that will leverage ultimately about $1 billion for economic development inside of Jordan. In addition, because of the huge spike in commodity prices throughout the world, we are going to be providing 50,000 metric tons of wheat to Jordan. All of this will help to stabilize the cost of living and day-to-day situation of Jordanians and will provide a foundation so that these economic reforms can move forward and long-term development can take place. So we’re very happy to be partnering with His Majesty on that issue.

We also discussed the situation with respect to Israel and the Palestinian conflict. And we both share the view that despite the many changes, or perhaps because of the many changes that are taking place in the region, it’s more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table and begin negotiating a process whereby they can create two states that are living side by side in peace and security.

Jordan, obviously, with its own peace with Israel, has an enormous stake in this. The United States has an enormous stake in this. We will continue to partner to try to encourage an equitable and just solution to a problem that has been nagging the region for many, many years.

Finally, I just want to say that we continue to appreciate all the security and counterterrorism cooperation that we receive from the Jordanians. It is very important in terms of our own security, and that partnership we expect to continue.

So Your Majesty, you are always welcome here. The American people feel great affection for the Jordanian people. And we trust that during this remarkable time of transition in the region that Jordan will be at the forefront in being able to move a process forward that creates greater opportunity and ensures that Jordan is a model of a prosperous, modern, and successful Arab state under your leadership.

So thank you very much.

HIS MAJESTY KING ABDULLAH: Thank you. Mr. President, I’m delighted to be back here and again take this opportunity to thank you and your government for the tremendous support that you’re showing Jordan economically and the support of the United States and a lot of our friends internationally on really being able to push reform in an aggressive manner in our country, and again your continued interest and support on the core issue of the Middle East, which is the Israeli and Palestinian peace.

We are very, very grateful to the President’s role in all these issues. I’m delighted to be back here. And I will continue to be a strong partner with you, sir, on all the challenges that we face. Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good. All right, thank you very much, everyone.

END 12:23 P.M. EDT

"Their First Interest is in the Safety and Well-Being of their Campers"

Senate Passes Bill Requiring Camp Directors to Report Suspected Child Abuse

NYS Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens), voted for the recent passage of a Senate bill pending in the legislature, A.05519/S.3777-A, which would amend the social services law to require directors of children’s overnight, summer day and traveling summer day camps to report suspected child abuse and maltreatment, regardless of the location where abuse may have occurred.

Camp operators are currently required by the state Department of Health to report abuse or maltreatment that may occur at camp. However, the directors are not included as mandated reporters of child abuse that may be witnessed in other settings.

In addition, directors that report suspected abuse could be liable for civil liability actions, such as slander or defamation. By including overnight, summer day and traveling summer day camp directors among the teaching, medical and law enforcement professions, and many others who act as mandated reporters, New York is increasing the potential for early detection of abuse and facilitating the ability of directors to come forward with important information.

Senator Addabbo explains: “As youth development professionals, camp directors work with hundreds of children each year. Their first interest is in the safety and well-being of their campers. The current Department of Health regulation requires camp operators and directors to report allegations of child abuse only when the alleged abuse or maltreatment occurs at the camp.

This new bill extends to outside the camp, granting them immunity from civil liability actions like slander and defamation when they assert a good-faith claim of abuse. It also enlarges the network from the current list of 38 persons and officials required to make such a report immediately to the State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment and the local department of social services when there is reasonable cause to suspect abuse.

Such protections encourage camp directors to speak out when a child is threatened, guaranteeing that these professionals won’t hesitate when the need arises to protect their campers.”

The legislation has been sent to the Assembly. If passed, the law will take effect immediately.

Author: Peter Griffin
Title: A Child's Gaze

Addabbo Announces Passage of Bills Protecting Against Sex Offenders

Bills Heighten Protections, Deal with Sex Offender Penalties, Registration and Employment

NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., (D-Queens) announced that the New York State Senate recently passed a package of bills that strengthen the state’s criminal and correction laws to protect our children and youth from sexual abuse.

The bills list as follows:

S.1882 - Under current law, a criminal charge of sexual abuse in the 1st degree is applied when children under the age of 11 have been abused by individuals 18 and older. Meanwhile, pedophiles who sexually abuse a 12- or 13-year-old victim are charged with only a Class A misdemeanor, a penalty similar to someone who was guilty of stealing a pack of gum. This Senate bill will charge anyone guilty of abusing a child under the age of 13 with sexual abuse in the 1st degree, a class D felony that carries significantly harsher penalties which will keep pedophiles off the street.

“Current law is inconsistent and dangerous, especially in a world where 12- and 13-year-olds are using the same modes of communication as the most tech-savvy pedophiles,” said Senator Addabbo. “Those who would sexually abuse young teens must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, which our bill will guarantee.” The consequences faced under New York State criminal law for a person guilty of a class D felony is up to 7 years in prison, a punishment far more severe than the minimal 15 days to 1 year a person would face if convicted of a class A misdemeanor. The bill is awaiting action in the Assembly.

S.3207 – Provides that a person is guilty of the crimes of aggravated sexual abuse in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree when the victim is under 13 years-old and the abuser is ages 18 or older. Section 1 amends the criminal law by adding a new provision to aggravated sexual abuse in the 3rd degree. Under the new provision, a person is guilty of the crime when he inserts a foreign object in the vagina, urethra, penis, or rectum of a child who is under 13 years-old, and the offender is 18 or older. Section 2 adds a new provision to aggravated sexual abuse in the 2nd degree to provide that a person is guilty of the crime when he inserts a finger in the vagina, urethra, penis, or rectum of a person under 13 and causes physical injury to that person and the actor is 18 or older. Section 3 adds a new provision to aggravated sexual abuse in the 1st degree to provide that a person is guilty of the crime when he inserts a foreign object in the vagina, urethra, penis, or rectum of another under 13 years-old and causes injury to that person and the actor is 18 or older. This act makes a similar change in the age threshold for the crimes of aggravated sexual assault in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree, as those made by the enactment of the Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2000 (SARA) for the crimes of rape or sodomy when the victim is under 13. This bill would take effect on the first of November after the date on which it becomes a law.

S.1416 – Amends the criminal law and the correction law by establishing penalties for a convicted sex offender’s failure to provide a DNA sample in the 2nd degree (class A misdemeanor) and in the 1st degree (class E felony) and a sex offender’s failure to register or verify as a sex offender in the 2nd degree (class E felony) or in the 1st degree (class D felony), under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). Failure to register is currently a correction law felony, but not a criminal law felony, so it does not constitute a predicate felony with regard to enhanced sentencing. Moving the offense of “failure to register” to the penal law would improve compliance with the important public safety initiative of SORA by making offenders who repeatedly refuse to comply with their sex offender obligations subject to enhanced sentences. Under Executive Law, certain crimes require the convicted to provide a DNA sample (including assault, homicide, sex offenses, escape or incest). The success of New York State’s DNA data bank depends on it being as complete as possible. However, many convicted criminals continue to flout the law and refuse to comply. Offenders are occasionally charged with obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, though this was not the law’s original intent. Several states have addressed this problem with statutes that provide a misdemeanor penalty or fines. Creating misdemeanor and felony offenses in New York for failure to register or to verify as a sex offender as well as for refusing or failing to provide a DNA sample would provide an incentive to comply with the current law. This bill would take effect on the first of November after the date on which it becomes a law.

S.3325 – Amends the correction law in relation to sex offender registration, to help insure that sex offenders are held responsible for knowing what the state and local residency and employment laws are in the community and verifying in a statement that they are in compliance with them at time of registration. The current law requires verification of residency and employment but does not put the burden on the offenders of verifying that they are in compliance with state, county and local laws that regulate residency and employment. The State and localities have imposed numerous laws regulating where a sex offender can reside or work. This bill places the obligation on the offender of knowing those laws, complying with them and verifying their compliance. This act shall take effect on the 60th day after it becomes a law.

S.1418 – Amends the correction law, in relation to prohibiting permissible employment, employment-related activities and volunteer activities that may be performed by sex offenders. Under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), convicted sex offenders are restricted from living in certain communities, but the law does not extend to limit where they can or cannot work in paid and unpaid circumstances. More specifically, existing state law does not prohibit convicted sex offenders from obtaining “unsupervised” employment. Absent supervision in residential living quarters and assisted living quarters could potentially lead to a dangerous situation. This bill would prevent sex offenders from serving in managerial and supervisory roles in specific fields which the bill identifies as employment within residential living quarters, as a home health aide, and in assisted living facilities. It would take effect immediately.

Addabbo concludes, “I am hopeful that these bills eventually become law in order to strengthen and improve the protection of individuals against sex offenders.”

President Obama Gives Commencement Address at Booker T. Washington High School

The President speaks about education, dedication and overcoming adversity in a commencement address at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, TN. The school was the winner of the 2011 Commencement Challenge contest.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Obama Agenda: Expanding Responsible Oil Production in America

As part of his long-term plan to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, President Obama lays out his strategy to continue expanding safe and responsible domestic oil production.

White House Releases 'The Small Business Agenda'

Report Release Marks Kick-Off of 2011 National Small Business Week

WASHINGTON – Today, the President’s National Economic Council released The Small Business Agenda: Growing America’s Small Businesses to Win the Future, a report highlighting the importance of expanding and supporting the growth of entrepreneurs and small businesses across the nation.

The report, which kicks off National Small Business Week, outlines the critical investments this Administration has made to support small businesses, create jobs and strengthen our economy.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstones of our communities. They create two of every three new jobs in America, spur economic growth, and spark new industries across the country,” said President Obama.

“We will continue to create new incentives to help small business owners hire new workers, promote growth and do what America does best – invest in the creativity and imagination of our people.”

View the full report, which includes small business success stories from around the country, here:


Over the past two years, the Obama Administration has taken decisive action in seven critical areas aimed at empowering America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners to create jobs and strengthen the economy. The Administration will continue to build on these accomplishments.

More tax relief

The President enacted 17 tax cuts for small businesses, including billions of dollars in tax credits, write-offs, and deductions for Americans who: start a new business -- invest or buy stock in startups and small businesses -- hire people who’ve been unemployed to work at their business -- and buy new equipment or machinery for their business, provide health insurance for their employees.

More access to capital

After lending froze in 2008, the new Administration implemented critical tools to increase the flow of capital to small businesses. This included: SBA lending support totaling $53 billion for 113,000 small businesses -- a Small Business Lending Fund to help community banks increase small business lending -- a State Small Business Credit Initiative to support up to $15 billion in small business lending through innovative state small business programs -- billions of dollars in loans and other support to small businesses hit by disasters such as the BP Oil Spill, floods, and tornadoes --and new SBA programs to increase small-dollar lending to spur business growth among women, minorities, veterans and others in under-served communities.

More federal contracting opportunities

Starting in FY2009, an increasing percentage of federal contracting dollars have gone to small business, totaling about $221 billion by April 2011. Efforts to augment contracting opportunities for small businesses included: delivering nearly one-third of Recovery Act contracts to small businesses while also exceeding all goals for under-served small business groups with these contracts -- actions from the President’s Inter-agency Taskforce on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Business to strengthen rules, to create a better-trained acquisition workforce, and to strengthen outreach to more small businesses -- implementing the woman-owned-small-business contracting program to help women compete in 83 industries where they are underrepresented in the federal contracting arena, building on the $16 billion women-owned firms won in FY 2009 -- and reducing the time it takes to pay small businesses who do work for the Department of Defense from 30 to 20 days, potentially impacting more than $60 billion of goods and services.

More exporting support and opportunities

The President’s National Export Initiative places a strong focus on helping small businesses as they begin or expand exporting. In its first year, the U.S. exported $1.83 trillion in goods and services supporting 10.3 million jobs. Efforts to identify, prepare and support small exporters have included: the President’s advocacy with world leaders in India, Korea, Colombia, Panama, and others, including advancing trade agreements that will lower tariffs on U.S. exports -- 35 trade missions totaling $2 billion in anticipated success, with small businesses representing nearly 80% of participants -- increasing training and expert-level counseling to create growth plans for manufacturers through the Department of Commerce’s ExportTech program -- and increasing authorizations from $3.2 billion in 2008 to $5 billion in 2010 from Export-Import Bank.

More counseling and training

Over the past two years, agencies that provide or coordinate free counseling have helped serve more than 2 million entrepreneurs and small business owners. Key efforts have included: launching four new Women’s Business Centers, bringing the total to 110 centers nationwide, building on the momentum in women’s business ownership -- launching the President’s Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development which expanded opportunities for veterans, reservists, and their families -- strengthening SBA’s efforts to inspire and empower the next generation of young entrepreneurs -- coordinating multi-agency efforts to foster “clustering,” an economic development strategy that maximizes innovation and job creation by building on a region’s existing strengths and assets -- creating the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Commerce -- streamlining patent services and providing patent fee reductions for small businesses -- and strengthening education in order to promote small business ownership through the America COMPETES Act, Race to the Top, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, and more

More support for “high-growth” small businesses

The vast majority of net new jobs created in the U.S. come from startups and small business poised for high-growth and innovation. The Administration has focused intently on this subset of small businesses, with efforts including: creating the President’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council, led by top U.S. executive business leaders -- creating Startup America, a set of initiatives that include: $2 billion in growth capital, a mentoring corps, efforts to reduce regulatory barriers and commercialize federal research, and a new Partnership of top U.S. investors, corporations, universities, and foundations committed to fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems which secured $400 million in commitments in April 2011 -- awarding more than $4.5 billion in research funding through the Small Business Innovation Research program during FY 2009 and FY 2010 -- developing two Recovery Act programs through NIH to help early-stage companies catalyze research in new areas and to help more advanced companies bridge the commercialization gap -- new “challenge” grants from the Commerce that spur commercialization of new technologies -- increasing the percentage of small companies involved in the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Centers from 23% to 44% between 2006 and 2010 -- strengthening USDA commercialization, licensing, and patenting efforts for small businesses involved in agricultural technology transfer and innovation through research partnerships -- expanding broadband to small businesses in rural and remote areas through nearly $7 billion in grants through the Recovery Act -- providing women veterans, veterans with disabilities, and reservists with entrepreneurship “boot camps,” in-person training sessions, and online resources through partnerships with universities -- and organizing the White House Women Entrepreneurs Conference and continuing with regional women’s entrepreneurship summits around the country led by SBA and the National Women’s Business Council.

More small business protection

Providing stability and protections for small businesses in the wake of the recession is critical for future economic growth. Administration efforts in this area have included: strengthening financial markets and community banking in order to ensure access to conventional credit through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Report and Consumer Protection Act -- protecting small businesses from unfair and deceptive credit card practices through the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act -- and saving small businesses $15 billion in foregone regulatory costs in 2010 through the SBA Office of Advocacy’s efforts to ensure flexibility with regulations that disproportionately affect small businesses.