Saturday, January 30, 2016

Weekly Address: Giving Every Student an Opportunity to Learn Through Computer Science For All

West Wing Week: 01/28/2016

White House Press Briefing

President Obama Speaks on Advancing Equal Pay

On the 7th anniversary of the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, President Obama announces new steps to advance equal pay for women.

The President Speaks at the House Democratic Issues Conference

Oval Office Chat: President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil

On January 29, President Obama spoke by phone with President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff to discuss shared concerns over the spread of the Zika virus in the Western Hemisphere.  

The leaders agreed on the importance of collaborative efforts to deepen our knowledge, advance research, and accelerate work to develop better vaccines and other technologies to control the virus.  

The leaders also agreed to continue to prioritize building national, regional, and global capacity to combat infectious disease threats more broadly. 

President Rousseff also confirmed her attendance at the Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Washington, D.C. from March 31 to April 1, and the leaders agreed to work together to make the Summit a success. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Friday, January 29, 2016

House Democrats News Conference

House Democrats hold a closing news conference following their annual retreat in Baltimore. 

Click here for video. 

Source: C-Span

President Sergio Mattarella of Italy to Visit the White House

President Obama will host President Sergio Mattarella of Italy at the White House on February 8, 2016.  President Mattarella will visit the United States February 6-13.  Italy is a valued NATO Ally and a close partner on a broad range of global challenges.  During their meeting, the Presidents will discuss our shared efforts to counter ISIL and the global refugee crisis.  They will also exchange views on economic developments in Europe, the importance of concluding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and other issues of mutual interest. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Veep Talk: Nicos Anastasiades and Benjamin Netanyahu

Vice President Biden called President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades today to follow up on their meeting on the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this month.  The Vice President briefed President Anastasiades on his positive discussions with Turkish officials on finding a settlement to reunify Cyprus as a bizonal, bicommunal federation.  President Anastasiades updated the Vice President on the tripartite meeting in Nicosia yesterday between Greek, Cypriot, and Israeli leaders, which the leaders agreed was a positive step for regional cooperation and security.  Vice President Biden and President Anastasiades agreed on the importance of achieving a Cyprus settlement, and the Vice President pledged continued U.S. support to help both sides reach a successful agreement.

Following up on their recent discussion in Davos, Switzerland, Vice President Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier today to discuss ongoing efforts to improve Israel-Turkey relations and advance energy cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Vice President

Cuomo, Biden Kick Off 'Strong Families, Strong New York' Campaign

Earlier today, Governor Andrew Cuomo was joined by Vice President Joseph Biden, to kick off the "Strong Families, Strong New York" campaign to push for passage of the Governor’s paid family leave proposal in New York State. 

The Governor has proposed that New York enact a 12 week paid family leave policy – which would be the longest benefits period in the nation for such a policy – to help working families care for a new child or seriously ill relative. 

More information is available at

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Katie Beirne Fallon Leaves White House Post

Statement by President Obama

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have their differences - but when it comes to Katie, they're united in their admiration and respect. She came into her role at a time when we needed to build up our relationships with folks in both parties. And from bipartisan budget agreements, to protecting a deal that will prevent a nuclear Iran, to ensuring the long-stalled Ex-Im and IMF reforms were enacted, we simply could not have made the progress we've made without her. It's never easy to lose a close advisor, and it's even harder when they've become a good friend. That said, there's nobody better prepared to step into this role than Amy Rosenbaum, and I'm very pleased she's agreed to serve as my next head of legislative affairs. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

The First Lady Honors the 2016 School Counselors of the Year

As part of her Reach Higher initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the 2nd Annual School Counselors of the Year in the East Room of the White House.

Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Rally in Des Moines, Iowa

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa. Mr. Trump declined to participate in a debate with other Republican presidential candidates. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Republican Presidential Candidate Debate

A look at the final Republican Presidential candidate debate before the February 1, 2016 Iowa Caucuses. An exchange between former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio on immigration reform was included.  

Created by CSPANCLASSROOM on January 29, 2016

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Social Conservatives and the Iowa Caucuses

The Family Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats, who has pledged his support for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), previews the Iowa caucuses and discusses the role social conservatives have historically played in them. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Advance Estimate of GDP for the Fourth Quarter of 2015

 Jason Furman

WASHINGTON, DC – Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, issued the following statement today on the advance estimate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2015.  

The economy continued to expand in the fourth quarter, but at a slower pace than in the third. Overall, the most stable and persistent components of output—personal consumption and business investment—rose a solid 2.7 percent over the four quarters of 2015. Weaker foreign growth continued to weigh on domestic output in the fourth quarter, underscoring the importance of policies that open our exports to new markets while promoting strong domestic demand. There is more work to do, and the President is committed to policies that will boost our long-run growth and help ensure everyone shares in it: including through high-standards free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, increasing investments in infrastructure, and raising the minimum wage.

You can read the complete statement here

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary 

Claim Thousands of Dollars in Valuable Tax Credits

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA) remind New York taxpayers to check their eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC can reduce the amount of taxes owed or provide a substantial tax refund. However, based on IRS estimates, each year more than 430,000 eligible New Yorkers—including nearly 250,000 in New York City alone—may fail to claim the credit. (See chart below for county-by-county estimates.)
EITCs are refundable federal, New York State, and New York City credits for working taxpayers earning up to the $53,267 maximum. To qualify, taxpayers must meet certain requirements and file a tax return, even if they don’t owe any tax or aren’t required to file.
“The New York State EITC is one of the most generous state income tax credits in the nation,” said Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Jerry Boone. “Last year we paid New York taxpayers more than $1 billion, the highest ever paid in a year. It’s cash that counts—cash that eligible New Yorkers have earned.”
“EITC benefits can make a tremendous difference in the lives of eligible working New Yorkers,” said Sam Roberts, Commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. “These are dollars that can help low-income taxpayers make ends meet, and in turn benefit local economies. We encourage all working New Yorkers to make sure they claim the credit if they’re eligible.”
In tax year 2013, the latest year for which federal data is available, more than 1.75 million New Yorkers received the federal EITC. When the federal, New York State and New York City benefits were combined, the benefit to working families and individuals was more than $5 billion. The average benefit was more than $3,000 per household. 
Are you eligible?
Every year, thousands of New Yorkers qualify for the EITC for the first time as their filing status or personal financial situation changes.
The income limit varies based on number of children. The maximum for the 2015 tax year is $53,267 for a family with three children.
To qualify for the credit, in addition to meeting the income qualifications, taxpayers must:
  • earn wages from employment or self-employment,
  • have a valid Social Security number,
  • have a qualifying child living with them for more than half the year, or, if they don’t have a qualifying child, be at least 25 years of age and under age 65, and
  • have investment income of less than $3,350.
The Tax Department also reminded those ineligible for EITC benefits to look for other possible tax credits that they might be eligible to claim, such as the child and dependent care credit.
How much is the credit worth?
The maximum credits increase annually and vary based on factors including family income and number of children. For tax year 2015, the maximum of the combined federal, state and New York City credits is $8,427 (for a family with three children) – a $134 increase over tax year 2014. 
Taxpayers who were eligible in previous years but didn’t claim the credit may still be able to submit an amended income tax return for up to three years.
Noncustodial Parent Earned Income Tax Credit
New York was the first state in the nation to enact a Noncustodial Parent EITC in 2006. The refundable credit adds to the many ways that New York encourages low-income noncustodial parents to work and stay current with their child-support payments.
In 2013, almost more than 7,200 taxpayers claimed the Noncustodial Parent EITC for a total of $3.6 million.
For more information
Contact a NYS Tax Department representative at (518) 457-5181 

Source:  New York State Department of Taxation and Finance

Cuomo Announces Appointments to the NYS Dept. of Financial Services

Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced three appointments to the New York State Department of Financial Services. These appointments follow the Governor’s recent nomination of Maria Vullo to serve as the Superintendent of DFS.

The Department of Financial Services is charged with protecting consumers and markets in New York State from fraud and financial crises, as well as reforming the regulation of financial services to keep pace with dynamic changes within the industry. DFS was created in 2011 by the merger of the state’s Banking and Insurance Departments.

“These individuals bring with them practical knowledge and experience that will greatly aid DFS in its role as a regulator and help consumers, investors and markets in New York State,” Governor Cuomo said. “Their commitment to public service will be an asset to the talented team at DFS and I am proud to welcome them.”

Matthew L. Levine has been appointed Executive Deputy Superintendent for Enforcement. In this role he will guide the Department's enforcement actions to ensure that regulated parties are held accountable for unlawful business practices, coordinating with other senior staff and law enforcement agencies under the direction of the Superintendent.

Mr. Levine is a former federal prosecutor and trial lawyer with significant experience in matters involving the financial markets and health care fraud. He has also represented clients in private practice, most recently as the founding principal of his own law firm in New York City. For nearly a decade, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, first in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and later in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. There, he served as Acting Chief of the Business & Securities Fraud Section and supervised a group of federal prosecutors conducting major securities fraud and other white-collar prosecutions. Before becoming a federal prosecutor, he worked in private practice as a Litigation Associate at the New York City office of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, where he represented corporate and individual clients in civil and criminal matters. 

Mr. Levine clerked for the United States District Judge Barefoot Sanders in Dallas, Texas. He earned his J.D. at Columbia School of Law and a B.A. in Government at Lehigh University.

Richard A. Loconte has been appointed Executive Deputy Superintendent for Communications and Strategy at DFS. Mr. Loconte brings with him more than 20 years of experience in communications and public policy. Since 2008, he was the Deputy Head of Government Affairs & Associate General Counsel at AIG, Inc. There, he represented AIG before regulatory agencies and other government bodies on legislative and regulatory issues related to the insurance industry and the broader financial services sector, and was instrumental in reestablishing the company's federal government affairs office in Washington, DC.

From 2005 - 2008, he was the Deputy Executive Director for the Association for a Better New York (ABNY), where he oversaw the organization’s communications, administrative functions, and legal matters. Prior to his time at ABNY, he was the Director of Public Affairs at the Grand Central Partnership. Mr. Loconte has also held roles at the New York City Department of Finance and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. He earned his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School and a B.A. in Political Science from Fordham University.

Jennifer L. Smith has been appointed Special Assistant to the Superintendent at DFS. Most recently, Ms. Smith was an attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where she worked with former Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye on various commercial and appellate matters. While at Skadden, she also served as Assistant Counsel to the Commission on Judicial Nomination and has handled multiple pro bono matters, including representation of domestic violence victims and representation of a client seeking executive clemency through the Department of Justice’s 2014 Clemency Project. 

Prior to her time at Skadden, she was a Trial Attorney for Bolan Jahnsen Dacey, and Greenberg Traurig, where she litigated civil matters. She also developed a program with Sanctuary for Families to provide legal services to homeless and battered women and their children at the New York City Department of Homeless Services Prevention Assistance & Temporary Housing (PATH).

Ms. Smith earned her J.D. at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, an M.A. in Organization and Leadership from Columbia University, Teachers College, and a B.A. in English and Anthropology & Sociology from Lafayette College. She received the Empire State Counsel Award from the New York State Bar Association in 2013 and 2014. 

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo   

'Flashback Friday': Jimmy Carter Debate with President Gerald Ford (Domestic Issues)

September 23, 1976 - The two presidential candidates argue over the nations economy and decisions on tax cuts and federal spending.

Trailblazer in Black History: Oprah Winfrey


Today in History: January 29th

'Elephant Not in the Room': FOX News Debate Continues Without Trump

Meet Danny Glover, Bernie Sanders' National HBCU Outreach Director

With the first presidential nominating contests looming in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders is turning his attention to key primary states that are more diverse, to secure minority voters who have been largely absent from his campaign events so far.

The Vermont Independent is leading his main rival Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, locked in a close race in Iowa, but trailing behind her in South Carolina, where African-Americans are expected to make up more than half of the Democratic primary vote.

As an effort to make inroads with Black voters, Sanders recently launched his "Feel The Burn HBCU" tour. Each stop will feature some of his notable black supporters, including Dr. Cornel West, former Ohio state senator Nina Turner, actress Tatyana Ali from the NBC sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "Run the Jewels" rapper Killer Mike. Prominent Black Lives Matter Activist Shaun King will headline the second leg of the tour on Thursday, Jan. 28 at Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi. 

NBCBLK recently spoke with Danny D. Glover, the campaign's National Historically Black Colleges and University's Outreach Director, who's spearheading initiative. He spoke about plans to visit about 10 HBCUs and why Sanders' populist message resonates with minority students. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Zika Fears: Airlines Offer Free Refunds, Rebooking for Pregnant Fliers

Major airlines and cruise lines are offering free refunds or rebooking for pregnant women and their companions in response to growing concerns over travel to countries and regions affected by the mosquito-borne Zika virus. 

The virus, which may be linked to an increase in cases of a birth defect called microcephaly, is "spreading explosively" through Latin America and the Caribbean, a World Health Organization official warned Thursday. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a travel alert on Jan. 15 advising pregnant women to consider delaying travel to affected areas to avoid the possibility of being infected.

Airlines contacted Thursday by NBC News would not provide figures on the number of cancellations they are handling as a result of the warnings. But they said they are trying to make it easy for affected travelers. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

What Is the Zika Virus? Your Questions Answered

The World Health Organization meets next week to decide whether to declare Zika a global emergency.

The virus is spreading fast across the Americas, and WHO expects 3-4 million people to be infected over the next year. Scientists are urgently looking into whether the virus causes birth defects. "We know many people are concerned or scared," says Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are some answers to questions many are asking: 

How worried should I be?

It depends on where you live. For most U.S. residents, Zika is unlikely to be a problem. That's because it take two factors for the virus to spread: actively infected people and the right kind of mosquitoes to spread it.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News

Little Respite Seen from Hot, Dry South African Summer – Weather Service

Reuters, 29/01 15:34 CET

By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – An El Nino weather pattern which has triggered historic drought in South Africa remains on track to keep conditions hot and dry for the rest of the summer over most of the country including the maize belt, the country’s weather service said on Friday.

South African maize prices have raced to record highs because of the drought, which the central bank once again cited on Thursday as a concern driving food prices and inflation when it raised interest rates by 50 basis points.

“Most models are showing the continuation of a strong El Nino episode towards the late-summer season with the expectation to start gradually decaying during the autumn and early winter seasons,” the service said in its monthly outlook, which gives rolling forecasts for the following five months.

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Venezuela Opposition Leader Urges Fast Action to Oust President

Henrique Capriles

Reuters, 29/01 15:11 CET

By Andrew Cawthorne and Diego Ore

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition must define within weeks its strategy for ending Nicolas Maduro’s presidency given the OPEC nation’s “monstrous” economic crisis, opposition leader Henrique Capriles believes.

Having won control of the National Assembly last month due to voter ire at Venezuela’s punishing recession, the opposition coalition has vowed to find a constitutional mechanism to oust Hugo Chavez’ successor in the first half of 2016.

Options for the multi-faction coalition include demanding his resignation, forcing a recall referendum as allowed half-way through his term, or reforming the constitution to trigger a new presidential election.

“We have to find a common position. The clock is ticking … We can’t wait longer than the first quarter,” Capriles, a state governor who narrowly lost a 2013 presidential vote to Maduro, told Reuters in an interview late on Thursday. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Plea for Cash as Ethiopia Battles One of Its worst Droughts in Decades

Source: Euronews

Aliza Bin-Noun Tells Euronews Iran Must Prove Itself Over Nuclear Deal

Source: Euronews

Court Stuns Spain by Demanding Princess Cristina Face Trial

Source: Euronews

Migrant Influx Will ‘Impoverish European Nations,’ Le Pen Tells Far-Right Convention

Source: Euronews

Germany Agrees New Measures to Stem Flow of Migrants

Source: Euronews

Myanmar Generals Hand Over Power to Suu Kyi’s NLD

Source: Euronews

Emotional Plea from UN on Eve of Syria Talks

Source: Euronews

Court Rules EU Sanctions Against Five Ukrainians Should Be Overturned

Source: Euronews

Italy: Senate Debates Civil Partnership Legislation

Source: Euronews

Russia to Talk to OPEC About Pumping Less Oil to Boost Prices

Oil prices continue to get a bit of a boost from the idea that major producers – particularly Russia – may cooperate to cut production.

Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak has confirmed they would take part in a meeting some time next month between OPEC member-states and other oil producers.

He said Saudi Arabia had proposed that oil producing countries cut output by up to five percent each. That would represent a reduction of around 500,000 barrels per day by Russia.

“This is a subject for discussions, it’s too early to talk about it,” he said, adding “We think it’s reasonable to discuss the situation.”

But some analysts believe Russia is actually likely to increase production this year to protect its economy. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Thursday, January 28, 2016

National Security Council Notes: The President's Meeting on Counter-ISIL

President Obama today convened his National Security Council to discuss the intensification of our campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL. The President was briefed on ways we and our partners in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL continue to accelerate and integrate the military campaign and diplomatic efforts on all possible fronts, including working with international partners to counter ISIL’s stated goal of expansion beyond Iraq and Syria.

The President emphasized that the United States will continue to counter ISIL terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary. Noting that ISIL affiliates and other violent extremists attempt to find safe haven in areas with limited or poor governance, the President directed his national security team to continue efforts to strengthen governance and support ongoing counterterrorism efforts in Libya and other countries where ISIL has sought to establish a presence. 

Degrading and destroying ISIL will continue to require coordination and cooperation among a wide range of global partners, and the United States is strongly committed to continuing to lead the shared efforts of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Pregnant Woman Diagnosed With Zika Virus; 3 Confirmed NYC Cases

A pregnant woman was diagnosed with Zika virus after visiting a country stricken with the mosquito-borne illness that may cause birth defects, New York City health officials say. 

New York City Commissioner of Health Mary Bassett said that the woman was diagnosed with the virus recently, bringing the city's total of residents diagnosed with the disease to three. 

Four other people in New York have been diagnosed with the virus -- including one each in Monroe, Nassau, Suffolk and Orange Counties. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

White House Daily Briefing

Spokesman Josh Earnest briefs reporters and responds to their questions on a variety of topics, including lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water, Monday’s Iowa caucuses, and the spread of the Zika virus. 

Click here for video. 

Source: C-Span

Senate Democrats on Flint, Michigan, Water Contamination

Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and other Senate Democrats announced an amendment to an energy policy bill dealing with lead contamination of the water supply in Flint, Michigan. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Military Reforms

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter speaks to reporters and responds to their questions about efforts to improve the quality of life for military personnel, including the doubling of maternity leave from six weeks to 12 weeks across all forces. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Senator Rand Paul Campaign Rally in Des Moines, Iowa

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) delivers remarks at a campaign event at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.  

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

The Obama Nominations: Terrence J. Campbell & Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama nominated Terrence J. Campbell to serve on the United States District Court for the District of Kansas.

Terrence J. Campbell has had a distinguished legal career and I am honored to ask him to serve as a judge on the federal bench,” said President Obama. 

“I am confident he will serve the American people with distinction from the District Court bench.”

Terrence J. Campbell is a member in the law firm of Barber Emerson, L.C. in Lawrence, Kansas, where he practices both civil and criminal litigation.  He joined the firm as an associate in 1999 and was elevated to membership in 2005.  From 2005 to 2008, Campbell also served part-time as a Traffic Judge Pro Tem for the District Court of Douglas County, Kansas.  In 2001, Campbell served part-time as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law teaching contracts.  Campbell began his legal career as a law clerk to the Honorable John W. Lungstrum of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas from 1997 to 1999.  Campbell received his J.D., Order of the Coif, from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1997 and his B.A. magna cum laude from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota in 1992. 

Today, President Obama also nominated Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

“Throughout her career, Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl has shown unwavering integrity and an outstanding commitment to public service,” said President Obama. “I am proud to nominate her to serve on the United States Court of Appeals.”

Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl is an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of North Dakota, where she currently serves as the Criminal Supervisor in the Fargo Office and is also a member of the appellate team.  In addition to having extensive trial experience, Puhl regularly advises on appellate briefs and arguments for the office and has argued a number of cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Puhl was born and raised in Devils Lake, North Dakota.  She remained in North Dakota for college and law school and received her B.A. magna cum laude in 1997 from the University of North Dakota and her J.D. cum laude in 2000 from the University of North Dakota School of Law.  After graduating from law school, Puhl served as a law clerk to the Honorable Mary Muehlen Maring of the North Dakota Supreme Court from 2000 to 2001.  From 2001 to 2002, she worked as an associate in the law firm of Kennedy & Graven, Chartered in its Minneapolis, Minnesota office.  In 2002, Puhl returned to North Dakota to join the criminal division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota, where she prosecutes a wide variety of criminal matters.  Due to her broad expertise, Puhl has been named to a number of leadership roles, including Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Coordinator, National Security Cyber Specialist, Human Trafficking Coordinator, and Project Safe Childhood Coordinator. 

In addition, Puhl routinely speaks in the community regarding her work, including educating children on the dangers associated with social networking.
Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary 

The Power of the Pen: New Bills Signed into Law

Statement by the Press Secretary on S. 142, S. 1115 and S. 1629

On Thursday, January 28, 2016, the President signed into law:

S. 142, the “Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015,” which requires the packaging of liquid nicotine containers to be subject to existing child poisoning prevention packaging standards;

S. 1115, the “Grants Oversight and New Efficiency Act or the GONE Act,” which provides the Congress with additional information on the status of Federal Agencies' outstanding grant awards; and

S. 1629, the “District of Columbia Courts, Public Defender Service, and Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency Act of 2015,” which amends certain authorities of the District of Columbia Courts, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Israel’s Labor Party Leader: Two-State Solution is Unattainable Today, Calls for Separation from Palestinians

January 28, 2016 — The leader of Israel’s Labor party, Isaac Herzog revealed his new plan in a speech he gave in Tel Aviv at the National Security Studies Conference on January 19th, where he concluded that it is currently impossible to implement a two-state solution in the immediate future.

Below are excerpts from his comments reported by numerous Israeli and world media outlets.

“I’ve been observing the situation for some time and I realize that right now it would be impossible to negotiate a two-state solution… I’ve not abandoned the idea; my basic position continues to be that the only way to solve the conflict is by implementing a two-state solution… The reason we cannot achieve it right now is that Netanyahu and Abbas… are held hostage by their supporters and they are alienated from one another.

“The basic principle is separation from the Palestinians; we should separate wherever it is feasible. This will increase security. We should complete the fence around the settlement blocks, us here and them there. That will lower the level of terror immediately. Ariel Sharon did it successfully. The separation wall will reduce terrorist’s attacks and each of us will be able to go on with his life.

“I suggest withdrawing from 28 Palestinian villages surrounding Jerusalem and building a wall that will keep them out of the city. We don’t need hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in our capital… By doing this we will reduce the level of friction. Anyone who wants to work here will have to receive permission from the various security agencies. I don’t describe this as a diplomatic measure. It is a security measure. What I am saying is that peace is unobtainable right now so let’s achieve security so that we can talk about peace.

“We will be here and you, Palestinians, will be there…live your lives, improve your economy, create employment.” 

Regarding Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza, Herzog said:

“They will have no immunity and for every attack they’ll pay a heavy price. This won’t mean dummy bombings of empty areas. We’ll employ an effective iron fist and shut down their radio and TV stations. After that they won’t have Internet or mobile phone services. They won’t be able to transmit instructions to terrorists. We’ll take harsh and severe steps, including ones directed at their leaders.” 

Following his speech, Herzog went to Paris where he met with French President Francois Holland at the Elysee Palace, telling him that current French and EU resolutions restricting trade with Israel to the 1967 boarders only reward terrorism and the BDS movement and nullify the possibility of advancing regional moves. Herzog added, “Israelis won’t accept anyone imposing decisions on them. Israel is a sovereign state, hence any such decision or step only damages Israeli public willingness to advance toward a change in the Middle East.’’ 

“Herzog’s remarks”, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder and Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “reflect a widely held opinion in Israel on all sides of the spectrum that what we have before us today is a three-state solution, with two separate Palestinian entities that don’t speak to each other, one in Ramallah and the other, headed by Hamas, that make prospects for peace in the near future untenable.”

Source: The Simon Wiesenthal Center

The President Speaks at the Righteous Among Nations Award Ceremony

President Obama delivered remarks at the Righteous Among Nations Award Ceremony at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. This is the first time this ceremony has been held in the U.S.

A White House Conversation on Child Hunger in America

The White House hosts a conversation about child hunger in America, with experts, service providers and SNAP benefit recipients discussing how hunger continues to harm children across the country.

Veep Meet and Greet: Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden met with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the White House. Building off of Prime Minister Turnbull's visit to Washington, D.C. on January 19, Vice President Biden and Foreign Minister Bishop praised the breadth and depth of the 65 year-old U.S.-Australia alliance.  The Vice President and the Foreign Minister discussed the importance of promoting prosperity and building a rules-based order in the Asia Pacific through closer bilateral, intra-regional, and multilateral cooperation. The Vice President thanked Foreign Minister Bishop for Australia's considerable military contributions to the fight against ISIL and for its significant humanitarian assistance in the Middle East. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Vice President