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That’s Our President

DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on the 6th Anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Washington, DC – DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on the 6th anniversary of President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law:

“Six years ago today, President Obama made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first piece of legislation he signed into law. By doing so, President Obama set a course for his administration to defend equality of opportunity for all Americans and prioritize middle class economic policies that help families make ends meet.

“With more women serving as their family’s primary breadwinner, equal pay is more than a women’s issue; equal pay is a family issue and an economic issue. Yet Congressional Republicans continue to oppose the Paycheck Fairness Act - common sense legislation necessary to provide women the legal tools they need to fight pay discrimination when it occurs - and the GOP’s potential 2016 contenders dismiss the importance of equal pay as an economic issue for middle class families.

“Six years after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act became law, Democrats are still fighting for economic policies that benefit middle class women and their families, including steps that continue to move us closer to the promise of equal pay.”

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Last week was a big one for Democrats, and if you're feeling as fired up as I am, I hope you'll show it by becoming an official DNC member for 2015.

Just pitch in $10 or more to become a member - we'll even send you your membership card to make it official.

Becoming a member is more than just a donation to Democrats. It's a symbol of your special commitment to the President, our party, and the work that we're going to do in 2015. It's an investment not only in the next couple of years, but in the future of the Democratic Party for many elections to come.

Plus, you'll be able to go to all your friends and family, show off your membership card with pride, and declare, "I am a card-carrying Democrat!" (And trust me, that feels good.)

Chip in $10 or more, and we'll put your official 2015 DNC membership card in the mail:

Thanks for taking the next step.

DNC Announces 2016 Convention Date

Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz today announced the 2016 Democratic National Convention will be held the week of July 25, 2016. The committee is still in final contract negotiations to choose a host city for the convention and will announce the decision in the coming weeks.

“This is the next step to finalize where and when we will nominate the 45th President of the United States, highlight the Democratic Party’s agenda of fighting  for expanded opportunity and contrast it with the Republican Party’s commitment to the fortunate few,” said Wasserman Schultz. “We are still in discussions with three excellent cities and are looking forward to a diverse and inclusive convention that displays our party’s values.”

The cities in final contract negotiations with the DNC are Columbus, New York, and Philadelphia.

DNC Chair Rep. Wasserman Schultz Statement on the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Washington, DC - DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement recognizing the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade:

“Today is the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, solidifying a woman's autonomy to make her own decisions regarding her health and family.

“It is with a perverse sense of cruelty that Republicans would choose today for an attempt to chip away at these protections with a bill that would undermine women’s access to safe and affordable healthcare and shows what the GOP’s true priorities are. Time and again, the American people have soundly rejected extreme Republican efforts to insert themselves into health care decisions best left to women, their family, and their doctors.

“Congressional Republicans continue to waste taxpayer time and money by focusing on their outdated, ideological agenda instead of economic policies that will help the middle class. So long as Republicans insist on refighting these battles, Democrats will continue to stand up for women and defend access to health care.”

College Democrats respond to President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address

During tonight’s State of the Union, Barack Obama laid out a vision for an economy that grows from the middle-class out, and makes sure the playing field is level for all Americans – especially young people.

He’s already got a record to be proud of…

And that’s just a few of his accomplishments. Tonight, the President laid out an agenda that will build on that progress – helping  make college more accessible and less expensive, by granting two years of free community college to any American willing to work for it. For a generation focused on filling the jobs and creating the businesses of tomorrow, this matters. The President’s continued fight for a level playing field for America’s young people is making a difference for the millennial generation, which is likely what’s contributing to his 60% approval rating with Americans under 40.

Meanwhile, the Republicans trotted out Joni Ernst, a Senator who would cut would cut Pell Grants and privatize student loans, while raking in donations from big banks. It’s no shock, then, that both the student lending industry and for-profit colleges have reason to be excited about the prospect of a GOP Congress. While the President and Democrats are focused on helping the middle class and young people get ahead, the Republican party is focused on helping the billionaires and big banks that bankroll their campaigns.

Put simply: Middle class economics is the right path for our generation. The GOP’s broken, trickle-down policies are a failed product of a generation gone by.

Given the important agenda the Administration is laying out for America’s young people, College Democrats President Natasha McKenzie released the following statement:

The proposals President Obama laid out tonight are game-changers for America’s young people. We share his vision for an economy that works for everyone—not just the well-heeled and well-off that have political influence. All we’re asking for is a chance to have meaningful careers and make a difference, and to know that rules aren’t stacked against us. The President’s middle-class economics help to level the playing field so all young people can get ahead. The old, broken, trickle down experiment has failed young people for decades, and we look forward to fighting with the President for a future that gives everyone a chance to succeed.

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DNC Chair Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on the State of the Union

Washington, DC - DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement following President Obama’s State of the Union address:

“Tonight, President Obama used his State of the Union address to offer an assessment of where we are as a nation, remind us of the obstacles we’ve overcome in recent years, and provide a vision of where our nation is headed.

“It was exactly six years ago that President Obama was sworn into office. He inherited an economy that had been losing 750,000 jobs per month, the housing market’s bubble had burst, and the auto industry was in danger of collapsing.

“Under President Obama’s leadership, we put an end to the trickle down policies that failed and restored an emphasis on middle class economics. We experienced our 58th straight month of private sector job growth. The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2008. The auto industry is thriving once again and millions more Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.

“Now, it is our responsibility to ensure that all Americans can share in our success. We need to ensure that middle class families have their shot at the American dream; where every American has the peace of mind to know that when they get sick, they have health insurance, can afford to send their child to college and to retire with dignity.

“Republicans need to stop stacking the deck in favor of corporations and the wealthiest among us and against working families looking to get ahead. Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans and the GOP’s 2016 hopefuls have shown little desire to work toward this goal. Instead of doubling down on failed, trickle-down economics that would reverse the progress we’ve seen, they should work with President Obama and Democrats in Congress to enact policies that put middle class families first.”

DNC Chair Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on the State of the Union

Washington, DC - DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement following President Obama’s State of the Union address:

“Tonight, President Obama used his State of the Union address to offer an assessment of where we are as a nation, remind us of the obstacles we’ve overcome in recent years, and provide a vision of where our nation is headed.

“It was exactly six years ago that President Obama was sworn into office. He inherited an economy that had been losing 750,000 jobs per month, the housing market’s bubble had burst, and the auto industry was in danger of collapsing.

“Under President Obama’s leadership, we put an end to the trickle down policies that failed and restored an emphasis on middle class economics. We experienced our 58th straight month of private sector job growth. The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2008. The auto industry is thriving once again and millions more Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.

“Now, it is our responsibility to ensure that all Americans can share in our success. We need to ensure that middle class families have their shot at the American dream; where every American has the peace of mind to know that when they get sick, they have health insurance, can afford to send their child to college and to retire with dignity.

“Republicans need to stop stacking the deck in favor of corporations and the wealthiest among us and against working families looking to get ahead. Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans and the GOP’s 2016 hopefuls have shown little desire to work toward this goal. Instead of doubling down on failed, trickle-down economics that would reverse the progress we’ve seen, they should work with President Obama and Democrats in Congress to enact policies that put middle class families first.”


Before President Obama delivers his State of the Union address tonight, Vice President Biden sent this email to supporters:

Tonight, Barack will give a State of the Union address to the last Congress he'll serve with -- and it's gonna be good.

You'll want to tune in.

Everything the President proposes tonight is ambitious, but doable -- like two years of free community college for everyone who will go there and work hard, better high speed internet access for more Americans, making homeownership more accessible and affordable, and more of the things we've always wanted to achieve.

So keep this email on hand while you watch, and if you're feeling fired up to go make these things happen, just chip in:

I'll keep you updated -- but I have to run. See you tonight,



Weekly Address: A Path Towards a Thriving Middle Class

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President described the progress our economy has made, laying a foundation for a future that prioritizes middle-class economics. This week, the President will send a budget to Congress centered on the idea that everyone who works hard should have the chance to get ahead. His plan will reverse harmful sequestration cuts and instead make paychecks go further, create good jobs here in the United States, and prepare hardworking Americans to earn higher wages. The President made the case for his Budget, and affirmed his commitment to doing everything he can to ensure more Americans can get ahead in this new economy.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at at 6:00 a.m. ET, January 31, 2015.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
January 31, 2015

Hi, everybody.  At a moment when our economy is growing, our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s, and wages are starting to rise again, we have to make some choices about the kind of country we want to be.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?

That was the focus of my State of the Union Address – middle-class economics.  The idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. 

This week, I will send a budget to Congress that’s built on those values. 

We’ll help working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid leave and child care like the economic priorities that they are.  We’ll offer Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, with plans like making two years of community college free for every responsible student.  And we’ll keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, infrastructure, manufacturing, and expanded access to faster internet and new markets. 

We can afford to make these investments.  Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds – the fastest sustained deficit reduction since just after the end of World War II.  We just have to be smarter about how we pay for our priorities, and that’s what my budget does.  It proposes getting rid of special interest loopholes in our tax code, and using those savings to cut taxes for middle-class families and reward businesses that invest in America.  It refuses to play politics with our homeland security, and funds our national security priorities at home and abroad.  And it undoes the arbitrary, across-the-board budget cuts known as “the sequester” for our domestic priorities, and matches those investments dollar-for-dollar in resources our troops need to get the job done. 

Now, I know that there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach.  And like I said in my State of the Union Address, if they have ideas that will help middle-class families feel some economic security, I’m all in to work with them.  But I will keep doing everything I can to help more working families make ends meet and get ahead.  Not just because we want everyone to share in America’s success – but because we want everyone to contribute to America’s success.

That’s the way the middle class thrived in the last century – and that’s how it will thrive again.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO MESSAGE: The Prosperity of the Middle Class


Office of the Press Secretary

EMBARGOED UNTIL 6:00 AM ET, SATURDAY, January 31, 2015

WEEKLY ADDRESS: The Prosperity of the Middle Class

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s message, Juan Gonzalez , Special Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs, described the progress our economy has made, laying a foundation for a future that prioritizes middle-class economics. He also spoke about the announcement that the President made in his budget’s proposal which will request a historic $1 billion to create a new initiative to promote prosperity, security and good governance in Central America.

The audio of the address and video of the message will be available online HERE

Remarks of Juan Gonzalez, Senior Advisor to the Vice President for Western Hemisphere Affairs

Spanish Weekly Address

The White House

Hi, everybody, I am Juan Gonzalez, Special Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs,. At a moment when our economy is growing, our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s, and wages are starting to rise again, we have to make some choices about the kind of country we want to be.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?

That was the focus of the President’s State of the Union Address:middle-class economics. The idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot.

And this week, the President will send a budget to Congress that’s built on those values.

We’ll help working families’ salaries go farther. We’ll offer Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, with plans like making two years of community college free for every responsible student. And we’ll keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, infrastructure, manufacturing, and expanded access to faster internet and new markets.

The Administration also announced that the President’s budget will also request a historic $1 billion to create a new initiative to promote prosperity, security and good governance in Central America. Last summer, when thousands of unaccompanied minors and families came to our southwest border, it reminded us that the entire Western Hemisphere suffers the consequences when these young people are not presented with opportunity.

The Administration also announced that the President’s budget will also request a historic $1 billion to create a new initiative to promote prosperity, security and good governance in Central America. As we were reminded last summer when thousands of unaccompanied children showed up on our Southwest border, the security and prosperity of Central America are inextricably linked with our own.

The President asked the Vice President to undertake this initiative. For the first time, we can envision and work toward having the Americas be overwhelmingly middle class, democratic and secure.

And the President will keep doing everything he can to help more working families make ends meet and get ahead.

That’s the way the middle class thrived in the last century – and that’s how it’ll thrive again.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.



Remarks by the First Lady at the Presentation of the School Counselor of the Year Award

East Room

1:42 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you guys so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everyone.  Welcome to the White House!  Here we are! 
(Child cries.)
MRS. OBAMA:  I know.  (Laughter.)  Let him run free, it’s the White House!  (Laughter.)  We’ve done worse in this room.  I am so thrilled to be here with all of you today. 
And I want to start by thanking the one and only Connie Britton for that wonderful introduction.  Yes.  (Applause.)  But more importantly, I want to thank her for bringing us Tami Taylor.  Now, Tami might be a fictional character, but she showed us the extraordinary compassion and commitment that school counselors bring to the students every day in real life, and for that we’re really grateful.  And she’s also been just a tremendous friend and advocate, and she’s very cool and funny and all that good stuff.  (Laughter.)  So we’re thrilled to have her shed some light on all of you guys.
I also want to thank the American School Counselor Association and its Executive Director, Richard Wong, for sponsoring the School Counselor of the Year award.  And I want to recognize our semi-finalists and finalists who are up here on stage with me today.  And I want to give a special shoutout to our School Counselor of the Year, Mr. Cory Notestine.  (Applause.)  Hey, mom.  (Laughter.) 
My husband and I, we’re so proud of all of you –- all of you.  And we are so excited to host the first-ever White House School Counselor of the Year Award Ceremony at the White House.  Yes!  (Applause.)  This is good.  You’re a lively bunch.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know what that says about the school counselors, but I like your spirit.  (Laughter.)
Now, as you all know, for decades, we’ve held the National Teacher of the Year Award Ceremony here at the White House, and we do this to send a clear message that we value our teachers.  And we do it because we believe that good teaching is the key to achieving our national goals.  It’s how we prepare our kids for good jobs and fulfilling lives.  It’s how we ensure that our workers can compete in a global marketplace.  And it’s also how we create a new generation of informed, engaged citizens and leaders. 
But as I started working on my Reach Higher initiative to inspire young people to complete their education beyond high school, I got to know another group of school professionals who are also critical for achieving these national goals. 
See, one of the very first meetings that we held about Reach Higher was with a group of school counselors.  And they told us how they’re working hard to keep kids from falling through the cracks, and how they’re supporting overwhelmed parents.  They told us how they track students down who don’t think they’re college material, or who don’t think they can afford it, and they shake them up and they tell them, you have what it takes, I believe in you, now fill out those FAFSA forms and sign up for those AP classes, get started on those college essays.  (Laughter.) 
And the more that I learned about our school counselors, the more I realized that often, America’s school counselors are truly the deciding factor in whether our young people attend college or not.  And in today’s global economy, higher education is essential for good jobs with good wages.  You all know that.  That is why my husband has set a goal that America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.  That’s what we’re working for. 
So we know that higher education isn’t just critical for our students’ future, it’s also critical for the future of this country.  And that’s why we thought it was about time we started giving our school counselors the support and recognition they deserve.  (Applause.)  And not just with words, but with meaningful action –- with resources, programs and partners to help them do their jobs.  That’s why we issued a challenge to universities, foundations, school districts, nonprofits and others to step up.  And in the past year alone, they’ve answered our call with tens of millions of dollars of new efforts to support school counselors and the students they serve. 
Universities are creating college and career-readiness centers in their masters programs for school counselors.  Nonprofits are working to improve student-to-counselor ratios and to provide more professional development opportunities.  With the help of the U.S. Department of Education, over half the states in this country are giving school counselors new tools to help students fill out those FAFSA forms and college applications.  And then we finally moved the School Counselor of the Year ceremony to where it truly belongs -- right here in the White House.  (Applause.)
So we’re raising the bar for you guys.  And while we still have a long way to go, we’re beginning to make some real progress on this issue, and that’s due in large part to the passion and dedication of school counselors across this country -– folks like this year’s School Counselor of the Year Award recipient, Cory Notestine.  I’m going to take a few moments just to tell you a little bit about Cory.  I’m sure many of you know him, but let me give you just a taste of what’s happened in the Alamosa High School counseling department under Cory’s leadership. 
Over the past couple of years, Cory’s department has more than doubled the amount of financial aid that seniors receive, growing from $500,000 to more than $1.3 million in money that’s going to seniors.  (Applause.)  They’ve raised the graduation rate by targeting students most at risk for falling behind.  They’ve expanded access to college courses, and students have earned nearly 1,200 college credits in just one school year. 
They brought together community leaders to create the Alamosa Parent Academy to provide skills and support to parents.  They helped train student mediators to resolve school conflicts.  They created a mentoring program for underserved freshmen.  They helped start a gay-straight alliance.  And then in his ample spare time –- (laughter) -- Cory also manages to mentor interns, to serve on the board of the Colorado School Counselor Association, and –- yes -– (applause) -- and also to participate in an array of trainings and conferences throughout the year.
But as impressive as all these achievements are, they don’t even begin to show the impact that Cory has had during his career.  And for that, you need to hear directly from the people whose lives Cory has transformed –- his students.  And here is just a small sampling of the kind of praise that Alamosa students have for Cory. 
One said that Cory -- and this is a quote -- “served as a true inspiration for me in all endeavors.”  That was one of his students.  Another called Cory “a man of great integrity.”  Another said that -– and this is another quote – said, Cory “inspires me to become a better student and overall person.”
Now, I could do this for hours –- (laughter) –- because as -- my staff found that there were so many kids who were singing Cory’s praises that we could do this all day.  But despite all of these accomplishments and all these accolades, Cory, I have learned, is one of the most humble, unassuming, down-to-earth people that you will ever meet.  The man is so modest that in the School Counselor of the Year application video, he spends most of his time on that video talking about how wonderful his colleagues are, and he hardly mentions any of his own achievements. 
He does, however, allow himself a brief moment of reflection on what it means to be a school counselor.  And he says that the most important part of his job –- and this is his quote, his words –- “being able to make an impact on students’ lives and have them be successful and finally get to the place where they want to be in their lives.”
And I really can’t think of a better description of the mission of our school counselors, because that’s really what they, all of you, do every single day –- they help our young people get to where they want to be in their lives.  And they do it with patience and compassion, and sometimes even a little tough love.  Our school counselors convince students that they have something special, each of them, to offer, and they push those students to dig deep and fulfill every last bit of their potential. 
So really, every day, our school counselors help young people become the people they’re meant to be and achieve what they were put on this earth to achieve.  And that is truly an awesome responsibility –- and it’s also a tremendous privilege. 
So today, on behalf of myself and my husband and a grateful country, I want to just say thank you.  I want to share in Connie’s thanks -- thank you guys.  Thank you!  (Laughter and applause.)  The work you do is extraordinary.  Thank you for all that you do to support our kids and our country.  We are proud.  We’re incredibly grateful.  And we look forward to continuing our work together to support all of you in the months and years ahead.
So it is now my great pleasure and my great honor to introduce this year’s National School Counselor of the Year, Cory Notestine!  (Applause.)
1:54 P.M. EST

FACT SHEET: Promoting Prosperity, Security and Good Governance in Central America


Office of the Vice President


January 29, 2015

FACT SHEET: Promoting Prosperity, Security and Good Governance in Central America

Today, the Administration announced that the President will request an historic $1 billion as part of his Fiscal Year 2016 Budget to contribute to the evolution of an economically-integrated Central America that is fully democratic, provides greater economic opportunities to its people, promotes more accountable, transparent, and effective public institutions, and ensures the safety of its citizens.   

The President’s request aligns the resources necessary to help the leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras implement systemic reforms that address the lack of economic opportunity, the absence of strong institutions, and the extreme levels of violence that have held the region back at a time of prosperity for the rest of the Western Hemisphere. 

While the United States is investing significant resources, the success of this effort will depend far more on the readiness of Central American governments to continue to demonstrate political will and undertake substantial political and economic commitments to bring about positive change in the region.  We are encouraged that the Central American governments – and the Northern Triangle countries in particular – have taken concrete actions to further this objective.  This includes developing their own Alliance for Prosperity Strategy – unveiled on November 14, 2014 at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) – that commits resources to advance strategic goals in sectors such as education, energy, tax regulation and business regulations.  They have also committed to promoting government accountability and reform and strengthening border management that will also focus on migration.  As agreed to at the IDB conference, Central America, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, international financial institutions, the private sector, civil society, and other international partners have committed to promote regional prosperity through a sustained, well-coordinated plan to address longstanding challenges to economic growth in the region. 
U.S. funding will support a whole-of-government approach to address three overarching lines of action: 1) Promoting prosperity and regional economic integration; 2) Enhancing security; and 3) Promoting improved governance. 

Prosperity and Regional Integration

The United States will provide over $400 million of the $1 billion to promote trade facilitation, promote transport and customs/border integration, promote more efficient and sustainable energy, reduce poverty, enhance workforce development, facilitate business development and help small businesses create jobs, link Central American and North American markets, and strengthen Central American regional institutions. 

Examples of current and planned activities include:

  • Agencies will provide the region with trade facilitation, trade capacity building, and technical support to promote efficient movement of goods across borders in a safe and secure framework, support integration of regional value chains, and strengthen competitiveness to grow trade and economic prosperity and work to improve workers’ rights and conditions.  The export of goods to the United States from CAFTA-DR countries increased 66.7 percent since 2005, totaling $30.1 billion in 2013.
  • The United States will continue to fund technical assistance to support electricity market integration, renewable energy development, power sector solvency, and resource planning to improve Central American citizens’ access to clean, affordable, and reliable electricity.  These efforts will help attract private investment in clean energy infrastructure and boost overall economic competitiveness. 
  • Bilateral technical and financial assistance will advance economic prosperity by reducing poverty, accelerating both business and rural development, improving education and workforce development, and strengthening resilience in the region.  These efforts will include support for creating business environments friendly to entrepreneurs and for job placement for at-risk youth to increase the resiliency of vulnerable communities as well as to provide alternatives to the illicit activities that contribute to insecurity and undermine effective governance.
  • The United States supports improved educational access and quality for under-served populations, including rural indigenous girls and boys in hundreds of rural schools, and expanded educational and vocational training opportunities for at-risk youth. 

Examples of additional complementary efforts as part of our whole-of government approach include:

  • Complementing our efforts, in September 2014, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed a $277 million Compact with El Salvador, designed to enhance the country’s competitiveness and productivity in international commerce through a set of interrelated projects in investment climate (including regulatory and institutional improvements), education, and logistical infrastructure.
  •  The Overseas Private Investment Corporation has significantly invested supporting development across the Northern Triangle and is standing by to provide investors and project developers with financing and risk mitigation tools to make investments in the Northern Triangle more attractive.  The U.S. Trade and Development Agency, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, is also supporting the planning and development of priority energy and transportation infrastructure projects in Central America. 

Enhanced Security

The United States will advance regional security efforts by providing over $300 million to improve community security, promote police reform, continue defense cooperation, and attack organized crime.  Examples of ongoing and future activities include:

  • Continuation of the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), providing for security projects such as model police precincts (MPPs) in Guatemala, El Salvador, and most recently, in Honduras.  MPP projects, which have shown success in targeted Central American neighborhoods, provide police training, facilitate community engagement, and prioritize the crimes of most concern to Central American citizens:  gang extortion, robbery, and domestic violence. 
  • Preventing violence through Municipal Crime Prevention Committees that identify crime “hot spots” and implement community-led plans to improve security; working with faith-based organizations to provide at-risk youth with life skills, job training, and recreation activities; supporting civic groups to reclaim gang-controlled public spaces and improve basic infrastructure, such as street lights; and providing services at domestic violence assistance centers.
  • Developing investigative and prosecutorial capacity to successfully prosecute cases through assessments, training, judicial cooperation and exchanges.  Agencies are working with local counterparts to advance professional responsibility policies and procedures, and enhance collaboration among all parts of the criminal justice system, including police, courts, and corrections. 
  •  Providing assistance to build partnerships that professionalize and improve the competency, capability, and accountability of security institutions, especially in the fight against transnational organized crime.  This is accomplished through activities that include professional education, tactical and operational training and exercises, human rights programs and institutional reform activities. 

Improved Governance

Nearly $250 million will strengthen institutions and enable governments to more effectively address the social, economic, political, and security problems they face.  These resources will allow the United States to continue partnering with Central American governments as they make necessary reforms to their own institutions, and will draw on the expertise of the U.S. agencies and other stakeholders in the hemisphere to advance the reforms necessary to ensure the long-term effectiveness and impact of U.S. assistance.  Our focus is to help Central American countries improve revenue collection and public sector fiscal management, increase the role and impact of civil society on governance, strengthen the efficiency, accountability, and independence of judicial institutions, reinforce democratic institutions, and target corruption.  The following are examples of U.S. cooperation to improve governance capacity:

  •  The United States will help national and local governments to improve management of public funds; strengthen rule-of-law institutions to better administer justice, ensure due process, and protect human rights; and to increase local resilience to issues that can contribute to migration, especially stresses on rural agriculture
  • Technical and material support to national and regional civil society networks, including traditionally excluded groups and organization, to build capacity to serve as watchdogs and advocate around public policy issues.  This will include technology to increase the capacity to document corruption, build monitoring and reporting networks and improve digital security of civil society organizations and the media.
  • Supporting Central American governments to create a competent civil service workforce that provides executive branch continuity and services to citizens to and help develop and modify current practices in delivering government services to reduce opportunities for corruption and to comply with international standards. 
  • Complementing these efforts, in December 2014, the MCC finalized a Threshold Program with Guatemala which will focus on policy and institutional reforms to improve the quality of secondary education, including technical and vocational education and training.  The program is expected to also help the government to mobilize additional revenues through more efficient tax administration and public-private partnerships.  In 2013, MCC and the Government of Honduras signed a $15.6 million Threshold Program Agreement designed to promote good governance practices in Honduras. 

Remarks by the First Lady at Got Your Six Screenwriters Event - Conversation on the Power of Telling Veterans' Stories

National Geographic Society
Washington, D.C.

11:21 A.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA:  Good morning.  (Applause.)  Thank you all.  Thanks so much.  You all, rest yourselves.  We want you well-rested so you can get to work on this initiative.
I want to start by thanking Chris for that wonderful introduction, for his leadership of Got Your Six, and for his tremendous service to our country.  I also want to thank National Geographic for hosting us here today, and for highlighting the strength and courage of our men and women in uniform in their latest issue.  And I’ve got to give a big thank you to our panel from earlier today, especially Bradley Cooper, as well as my dear friend, Bruce Cohen, who has been such a tremendous ally in this effort from the very beginning.
And most of all, I want to thank all of you -- the writers, the content creators, and leaders from across the industry.  Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to be here today.  This is very important. 
Every day, through the movies and TV shows and ads you all create, you have the power to shape our understanding of the world around us.  You challenge our most strongly held beliefs.  You influence our opinions on current events.  You bring ideas and perspectives into our lives that we might not be exposed to otherwise.  So the fact is, in many ways, you all are in a unique position to help us address some of the most challenging issues that we face as a nation.
Just take an issue like gay rights.  It wasn’t all that long ago that this was a third-rail kind of issue, not just in politics, but in entertainment as well.  It was considered sensitive, even controversial.  But in the early ‘90s, that started to change.  Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his portrayal of a gay character in “Philadelphia.”  “The Real World” included an openly gay cast member.  And over the years, there was “Ellen” and “Will and Grace,” “Milk” and “Brokeback Mountain.”   And today, “The Imitation Game” is up for Best Picture at the Oscars, and Cam and Mitchell –- two of my favorites -- are raising their daughter on “Modern Family,” one of the top-rated shows on TV.  And at the same time, we’ve seen gay rights advance in real life as well.  As my husband said, we’ve seen gay marriage go from a wedge issue into a civil right in states all across this country.
And that’s just one issue.  From women’s rights to interracial marriage, to combatting drunk driving –- as our nation has evolved and changed for the better, the entertainment industry has not only reflected that evolution, in many cases, Hollywood has inspired and accelerated it.  You all have told the real, honest, true stories that for too long went untold.
And that’s what brings us all here today.  See, there’s another great untold story in this country right now, one that is crying out for our attention -– and that is the story of our troops, veterans, and their families.  Now, as Chris mentioned, I think most folks have at least a broad idea of who those folks are.  But often, it stops there –- just a rough sketch, a superficial image.
As Got Your Six has found, people generally see veterans in one of two ways –- either the broken, downtrodden vet who is homeless or on drugs or has such severe PTSD that he can’t even function, or the saintly hero who lives with such courage and moral clarity that the only thing the rest of us can do is shower him with awe and amazement.  And of course, it’s always a “he.”  We sort of forget about the 1.5 million women veterans who have served in uniform.  (Applause.)
But these two images –- one broken, one perfect –- they’re just caricatures.  They simply don’t reflect the real, human complexity of our veterans’ lives.  They don’t reflect the real courage and struggle and sacrifice our veterans make, and all the skills they can offer.  So often we only see the emotional homecomings, but not the rest of the story.  And having had the privilege of meeting so many of our troops and veterans, I can tell you that the real stories are much more complicated –- and much more inspiring.
For example, take the story of Jim Zenner, who was an Army intelligence analyst during the Iraq War.  Jim is sharp, thoughtful -- but not long after he came home, his father died, and Jim says that’s when “things kind of fell apart.”  He struggled to control his emotions, got into shouting matches with his wife, and one night it got so bad he had to move out of the house.  He was suddenly homeless, with nowhere to go.
But Jim quickly got back on his feet.  He earned his social work degree.  He is now back with his wife and kids -- and this is the kicker -- the nonprofit that helped get Jim into housing ended up hiring him to run a veterans center in LA.  See, they didn’t see him as somehow damaged.  They saw how much of an asset he could be.  And today, he’s in charge of about 30 staffers.  He’s launched a veteran-to-veteran mentoring and training initiative.  And all together, his facility has given shelter and counseling and job training to hundreds of his fellow veterans.
And then there’s Trish Freeland, who served for 30 years in the Air Force, doing everything from logistics to broadcasting to career counseling.  She earned her bachelor’s and her master’s degrees along the way.  When she left the service, she went home to be with her family and struggled to find a job.  Sometimes she talked herself out of even applying for jobs if she lacked just one qualification on the posting.  Other times folks told her that she had too many skills.  And finally, more than a year after she retired from the Air Force, Trish landed a meaningful career at the Small Business Administration, and she’s putting all the skills she learned in the military to good use and she loves everything she’s doing.
And then there’s Melissa Meadows, whose husband sustained severe brain and nerve injuries in Afghanistan.  It was so serious that one of his doctors described him as an “advanced Alzheimer’s patient.”  So Melissa ended up leaving her job as a nurse, and today, she’s a full-time caregiver, helping her husband in and out of bed, making sure he takes all of his medications, managing his finances and offering emotional support every step of the way.  But Melissa doesn’t want sympathy.  She’s proud to be there for her husband.  She’s proud to serve her country as a military spouse.  She even helped organize a support network to help other caregivers share information and ideas -– a model that’s now being replicated at institutions around the country.
Now, when I think about folks like the ones I just described, I think about how easily their stories could be misrepresented.  Jim could be just the homeless vet with emotional issues; Trish, the down-on-her-luck vet that can’t find a job; Melissa, the downtrodden military wife.
But these men and women are nothing like those stereotypes.  They are dynamic, skilled professionals.  They’re loving sons and daughters and spouses and parents.  They’re proud of their country, and want to do their part to help make it better.  And you shouldn’t have to be First Lady to have the opportunity to see all of that.
So today, I’m calling on all of you and folks across the entertainment industry to change the conversation about our veterans and military families.  Give us the full story.  Show us veterans like Jim –- veterans who were born to serve and keep giving back long after they hang up their uniform.  Give us characters like Trish –- strong female veterans with skills and experience who can thrive in any kind of business or organization.  Show us the courage of people like Melissa -– spouses whose strength and passion for their family and their country can inspire us all.
And let’s be clear -- I’m not saying that you should tell these stories just because it’s the nice thing to do or the right thing to do.  You should do it because these are good stories, period.  They make for tremendous TV and movies that people want to see.  So these stories are good for business as well. 
Just look at the latest box office numbers.  The number-one movie in America right now is a complex, emotional depiction of a veteran and his family.  And I had a chance to see “American Sniper” this week on that long flight we took – (laughter) -- and while I know there have been critics, I felt that, more often than not, this film touches on many of the emotions and experiences that I’ve heard firsthand from military families over these past few years.
Now, I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but this movie reflects those wrenching stories that I’ve heard -- the complex journeys that our men and women in uniform endure.  The complicated moral decisions they are tasked with every day.  The stresses of balancing love of family with a love of country.  And the challenges of transitioning back home to their next mission in life.
And here’s why a movie like this is important:  see, the vast majority of Americans will never see these stories.  They will never grasp these issues on an emotional level without portrayals like this.  Like I said, I’m lucky -– I have had the   chance to visit our wounded warriors at Walter Reed, go to base after base.  I’ve been able to sit down with groups of caregivers and military spouses and hear about their struggles and their triumphs.
And let me tell you, those experiences have changed me.  They have changed me.  They’ve made me want to do everything I can to support our troops, veterans and their families.  But for all those folks in America who don’t have these kinds of opportunities, films and TV are often the best way we have to share those stories.
And here’s the thing -- you don’t have to center an entire movie or create a special episode on these issues.  These folks can just be ordinary characters in the communities you create -- a neighbor who once saw combat, a teacher whose son is deployed.   See, that’s the way we hope our country will welcome back our veterans -- not by setting them apart, but by fully integrating them into the fabric of our communities.
Those are the kinds of stories you can tell.  Just like the pioneers who pushed the envelope and added an interracial couple on “The Jeffersons” -– (laughter) -- or who convinced the folks at “Cheers” and “L.A. Law” to take on the issue of drunk driving -- just like all those folks, you can change the game for our newest generation of veterans and their families.  And that’s why I’m so thrilled that organizations from across the entertainment industry are coming together through Got Your Six and Six Certified to encourage writers and producers to tell our veterans’ stories.
But it’s not just about writing about these stories.  It’s about taking that next step and actually hiring or even casting a veteran, or bringing veterans into the writers’ room.  Because that’s how you get a real, true understanding of what it means to be an American veteran.  And this effort is really just the latest example of Hollywood answering the call to action that Jill Biden and I made back in 2011.
Shows ranging from “Nashville” to “Doc McStuffins” have shared the stories of our veterans in new and meaningful ways.  Disney’s “Jessie” and Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” each have military parents as recurring characters.  HBO put on that wonderful Concert for Valor on the Mall on Veterans Day.  And our Joining Forces initiative has worked with Dreamworks and iHeartRadio to create a series of powerful PSAs -– including one I did with some animated penguins.  That was new.  (Laughter.)
Now, I know that some of you might be thinking to yourselves, well, this all sounds great, but I don’t know anything about veterans issues so how am I going to get this done?  You might be wondering about doing our veterans a disservice by taking on something that you don’t fully understand.  And believe me, I understand that feeling -- in fact, that’s exactly how I felt when I first started working on military-family issues.
But what I want you to know is that you don’t have to do this on your own.  There are so many wonderful people and organizations who are ready and willing to connect you with veterans and family members who can help you tell these stories -– organizations like the Mission Continues, Team Rubicon, Blue Star Families, and so many more.
So with their help, any one of you can share the stories of our veterans and military families.  You can help show this country who our veterans really are.  And right now, with our combat mission over in Afghanistan and more of our veterans transitioning home, this work couldn’t be more important.  Because if we do this right, it can mean real change for how our veterans are treated in their communities.  It can mean that employers are more likely to hire a veteran or military spouse.  It can mean that teachers are reaching out to military kids in their classrooms.  It can mean that veterans are more willing to engage with their friends, families, neighbors about the challenges they face, because they know they’ll be talking to someone who maybe understands their experience just a little bit more.
Now, it’s not like a single episode or a movie will mean that everyone in America will immediately understand the full experience of what it’s like to wear our country’s uniform or serve in combat.  No, that’s not it.  But just like we’ve seen on other issues, bit by bit, if we can familiarize the country with who these folks truly are, if we can give folks a better picture of everything our veterans have to offer, then we can make a real difference in the lives of these folks and their families.
That’s what this effort is about.  It’s about making the transition home just a little easier.  It’s about serving our men and women in uniform as well as they’ve served us.  For so many years, these men and women have had our backs -- and now it’s our turn to step up for them.
We’ve got to join forces with them.  We’ve got to show them that we’ve truly got their six.  And I know that you all can do that.  I know that you have the talent and creativity, and, more importantly, the humanity to succeed in this mission.  And I can’t wait to see all the extraordinary stories you’re going to tell in the months and years ahead.
So thank you all so much for everything you do, everything you will do.  And God bless.  Take care.  (Applause.)
11:39 A.M. EST

Executive Order – Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input

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By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to improve the Nation's resilience to current and future flood risk, I hereby direct the following:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to improve the resilience of communities and Federal assets against the impacts of flooding. These impacts are anticipated to increase over time due to the effects of climate change and other threats. Losses caused by flooding affect the environment, our economic prosperity, and public health and safety, each of which affects our national security.

The Federal Government must take action, informed by the best-available and actionable science, to improve the Nation's preparedness and resilience against flooding. Executive Order 11988 of May 24, 1977 (Floodplain Management), requires executive departments and agencies (agencies) to avoid, to the extent possible, the long- and short-term adverse impacts associated with the occupancy and modification of floodplains and to avoid direct or indirect support of floodplain development wherever there is a practicable alternative. The Federal Government has developed processes for evaluating the impacts of Federal actions in or affecting floodplains to implement Executive Order 11988.

As part of a national policy on resilience and risk reduction consistent with my Climate Action Plan, the National Security Council staff coordinated an interagency effort to create a new flood risk reduction standard for federally funded projects. The views of Governors, mayors, and other stakeholders were solicited and considered as efforts were made to establish a new flood risk reduction standard for federally funded projects. The result of these efforts is the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (Standard), a flexible framework to increase resilience against flooding and help preserve the natural values of floodplains. Incorporating this Standard will ensure that agencies expand management from the current base flood level to a higher vertical elevation and corresponding horizontal floodplain to address current and future flood risk and ensure that projects funded with taxpayer dollars last as long as intended.

This order establishes the Standard and sets forth a process for further solicitation and consideration of public input, including from Governors, mayors, and other stakeholders, prior to implementation of the Standard.

Sec. 2. Amendments to Executive Order 11988. Executive Order 11988 is amended as follows:

(a) Section 2 is amended by inserting ", to the extent permitted by law" after "as follows".

(b) Section 2(a)(1) is amended by striking "This Determination shall be made according to a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) floodplain map or a more detailed map of an area, if available. If such maps are not available, the agency shall make a determination of the location of the floodplain based on the best-available information. The Water Resources Council shall issue guidance on this information not later than October 1, 1977" and inserting in lieu thereof "To determine whether the action is located in a floodplain, the agency shall use one of the approaches in Section 6(c) of this Order based on the best-available information and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's effective Flood Insurance Rate Map".

(c) Section 2(a)(2) is amended by inserting the following sentence after the first sentence:

"Where possible, an agency shall use natural systems, ecosystem processes, and nature-based approaches when developing alternatives for consideration.".

(d) Section 2(d) is amended by striking "Director" and inserting "Administrator" in lieu thereof.

(e) Section 3(a) is amended by inserting the following sentence after the first sentence:

"The regulations and procedures must also be consistent with the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS).".

(f) Section 3(a) is further amended by inserting "and FFRMS" after "Flood Insurance Program".

(g) Section 3(b) is amended by striking "base flood level" and inserting "elevation of the floodplain as defined in Section 6(c) of this Order" in lieu thereof.

(h) Section 4 is revised to read as follows:

"In addition to any responsibilities under this Order and Sections 102, 202, and 205 of the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4012a, 4106, and 4128), agencies which guarantee, approve, regulate, or insure any financial transaction which is related to an area located in an area subject to the base flood shall, prior to completing action on such transaction, inform any private parties participating in the transaction of the hazards of locating structures in the area subject to the base flood.".

(i) Section 6(c) is amended by striking ", including at a minimum, that area subject to a one percent or greater chance of flooding in any given year" and inserting in lieu thereof:

". The floodplain shall be established using one of the following approaches:

"(1) Unless an exception is made under paragraph (2), the floodplain shall be:

"(i) the elevation and flood hazard area that result from using a climate-informed science approach that uses the best-available, actionable hydrologic and hydraulic data and methods that integrate current and future changes in flooding based on climate science. This approach will also include an emphasis on whether the action is a critical action as one of the factors to be considered when conducting the analysis;

"(ii) the elevation and flood hazard area that result from using the freeboard value, reached by adding an additional 2 feet to the base flood elevation for non-critical actions and by adding an additional 3 feet to the base flood elevation for critical actions;

"(iii) the area subject to flooding by the 0.2 percent annual chance flood; or

"(iv) the elevation and flood hazard area that result from using any other method identified in an update to the FFRMS.

"(2) The head of an agency may except an agency action from paragraph (1) where it is in the interest of national security, where the agency action is an emergency action, where application to a Federal facility or structure is demonstrably inappropriate, or where the agency action is a mission-critical requirement related to a national security interest or an emergency action. When an agency action is excepted from paragraph (1) because it is in the interest of national security, it is an emergency action, or it is a mission-critical requirement related to a national security interest or an emergency action, the agency head shall rely on the area of land subject to the base flood".

(j) Section 6 is further amended by adding the following new subsection (d) at the end:

"(d) The term 'critical action' shall mean any activity for which even a slight chance of flooding would be too great.".

(k) Section 8 is revised to read as follows:

"Nothing in this Order shall apply to assistance provided for emergency work essential to save lives and protect property and public health and safety, performed pursuant to Sections 403 and 502 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C. 5170b and 5192).".

Sec. 3. Agency Action. (a) Prior to any action to implement the Standard, additional input from stakeholders shall be solicited and considered. To carry out this process:

(i) the Federal Emergency Management Agency, on behalf of the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group, shall publish for public comment draft amended Floodplain Management Guidelines for Implementing Executive Order 11988 (Guidelines) to provide guidance to agencies on the implementation of Executive Order 11988, as amended, consistent with the Standard;

(ii) during the comment period, the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group shall host public meetings with stakeholders to solicit input; and

(iii) after the comment period closes, and based on the comments received on the draft Guidelines during the comment period, in accordance with subsections (a)(i) and (ii) of this section, the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group shall provide recommendations to the Water Resources Council.

(b) After additional input from stakeholders has been solicited and considered as set forth in subsections (a)(i) and (ii) of this section and after consideration of the recommendations made by the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group pursuant to subsection (a)(iii) of this section, the Water Resources Council shall issue amended Guidelines to provide guidance to agencies on the implementation of Executive Order 11988, as amended, consistent with the Standard.

(c) To the extent permitted by law, each agency shall, in consultation with the Water Resources Council, Federal Interagency Floodplain Management Task Force, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Council on Environmental Quality, issue or amend existing regulations and procedures to comply with this order, and update those regulations and procedures as warranted. Within 30 days of the closing of the public comment period for the draft amendments to the Guidelines as described in subsection (a) of this section, each agency shall submit an implementation plan to the National Security Council staff that contains milestones and a timeline for implementation of this order and the Standard, by the agency as it applies to the agency's processes and mission. Agencies shall not issue or amend existing regulations and procedures pursuant to this subsection until after the Water Resources Council has issued amended Guidelines pursuant to subsection (b) of this order.

Sec. 4. Reassessment. (a) The Water Resources Council shall issue any further amendments to the Guidelines as warranted.

(b) The Mitigation Framework Leadership Group in consultation with the Federal Interagency Floodplain Management Task Force shall reassess the Standard annually, after seeking stakeholder input, and provide recommendations to the Water Resources Council to update the Standard if warranted based on accurate and actionable science that takes into account changes to climate and other changes in flood risk. The Water Resources Council shall issue an update to the Standard at least every 5 years.

Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(d) The Water Resources Council shall carry out its responsibilities under this order in consultation with the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group.


January 30, 2015.

Remarks by the President on Precision Medicine

East Room

11:19 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you so much, Elana, for that wonderful introduction.  Let me just be clear, when I was 19, I was not doing genetic testing.  (Laughter.)  When I met Elana at the White House Science Fair last year, she tried to explain her research to me -- and to help her explain her findings, she made these giant pink chromosomes out of swim noodles, which was helpful to me -- (laughter) -- because I know what swim noodles are, and I saw how they fit together. 

But I could not have been more impressed with Elana.  And she represents the incredible talent and energy and possibility of our young people, and so I’m so proud of her and I’m so grateful that she introduced me here today.  And she’s doing great at Harvard from what I understand.  So those of you who are interested in purchasing stock in her -- (laughter) -- I’m sure she has an agent of some sort that you can talk to.

We’ve got some folks here who are doing outstanding work to keep Americans healthy.  We have America’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Sylvia Burwell.  You can give her a round of applause.  (Applause.)  She’s worthy of it.  We’ve got our Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy.  Where’s Vivek?  (Applause.)  Stand up, Vivek.  Our new Surgeon General.  We haven't had one in a while.  (Laughter.)  So we’re really happy to have him here.  And he looks sharp in his uniform.  We have Dr. Harold Varmus of the National Cancer Institute.  Harold.  (Applause.)  We have the singing scientist, Dr. Francis Collins, of NIH here.  (Applause.)  And we have my science advisor, Dr. John Holdren, who does not sing.  (Applause.)  For anyone wondering, “Is there a doctor in the house?” -- we have got you covered.  

We also have members of Congress who are here.  Lamar Alexander from the great state of Tennessee is one of the Senate’s key supporters of encouraging medical innovation, and I’m so looking forward to working with him.  Give Lamar a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Senator Patty Murray is prepared to work with him on this issue.  She couldn’t make it here today.  But we do have on the House side, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, who is here and who is leading this effort in the House.  We’re very proud of her.  (Applause.)   

Now, last week, in my State of the Union Address, I focused on what we need to do to make sure middle-class economics helps more Americans get ahead in the new economy.  We’ve got to help working families make ends meet and make them feel more secure in a constantly changing, dynamic, global economy.  We have to offer more opportunities for people to upgrade their skills for better-paying jobs in this economy.  And we’ve got to build the world’s most competitive economy so that businesses create jobs here in the United States and not someplace else.

And that last part is what I want to focus on today.  We’ve invited some of America’s brightest minds in medicine and technology; some of our strongest advocates for privacy.  And perhaps most importantly, we’ve invited patients who have the most at stake in these efforts.  And we’re here to harness what is most special about America, and that is our spirit of innovation; our ability to dream and take risks, and tinker and try new things.  And as a result of that, it will not only improve our economy, but improve the lives of men and women and children for generations to come.  And together, what’s so exciting is, is that we have the possibility of leading an entirely new era of medicine that makes sure new jobs and new industries and new lifesaving treatments for diseases are created right here in the United States.

Because we shouldn’t just celebrate innovation.  We have to invest in innovation.  We have to nurture innovation.  We have to encourage it and make sure that we’re channeling it in ways that are most productive.  And that’s especially true when it comes to medicine.  After all, when American researchers developed a vaccine for polio, a program created by Congress helped to distribute it.  A federally funded study helped American doctors discover the risk factors for heart disease.  Grants from the National Science Foundation and NIH supported the early experiments that led to the invention of the MRI. 

And these kinds of investments don’t always pay off.  Basic research, by definition, will sometimes lead us down blind alleys, but it will also tell us what we don’t know, which then helps us figure out new pathways.  And when things do pay off, then they create economic opportunities in ways that we could never imagine. 

So, Francis, Dr. Collins here, helped lead the Human Genome Project, and we’ve got a number of people here who are deeply involved in that process.  And one study found that every dollar we spent to map the human genome has already returned $140 to our economy.  There’s a huge economic stake in us tapping into this innovation.  (Applause.)  There’s nothing wrong with clapping about that. 

But as anybody who’s ever watched a loved one battle with an illness, particularly a life-threatening illness -- and I suspect that there’s nobody here who hasn’t been touched in some fashion by that experience -- what everybody here understands is that the most important impact these investments can have can’t be measured in dollars.  If we have an opportunity to prevent hurt and heartbreak for more families; if we have the opportunity to help people live longer, happier, healthier lives; if we have the chance to make sure that a young person like Elana, who was stricken by a disease before their life has even really gotten going, if we have a chance to make sure that they’re okay and cured, and then able to make incredible contributions our society, then we’ve got to seize that.  We’ve got to go after that.

And that’s why we’re here today.  Because something called precision medicine -- in some cases, people call it personalized medicine -- gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs that we have ever seen.  Doctors have always recognized that every patient is unique, and doctors have always tried to tailor their treatments as best they can to individuals.  You can match a blood transfusion to a blood type.  That was an important discovery.  What if matching a cancer cure to our genetic code was just as easy, just as standard?  What if figuring out the right dose of medicine was as simple as taking our temperature?

And that’s the promise of precision medicine -- delivering the right treatments, at the right time, every time to the right person.  And for a small but growing number of patients, that future is already here.  Eight out of 10 people with one type of leukemia saw white blood cell counts return to normal with a new drug targeting a specific gene.  Genetic testing for HIV patients helps doctors determine who will be helped by a new antiviral drug, and who will experience harmful side effects. 

And advances in technology means these breakthroughs could just be the beginning.  The year Dr. Collins helped sequence the first human genome, it cost about $100 million dollars, and today it costs less than $2,000.  Wearable electronics make it easier than ever to record vital signs from your blood sugar to your heart rate.  Electronic medical records let doctors and researchers across the country collaborate more closely than ever before.  And more powerful computers help us analyze data faster than ever before. 

So if we combine all these emerging technologies, if we focus them and make sure that the connections are made, then the possibility of discovering new cures, the possibility of applying medicines more efficiently and more effectively so that the success rates are higher, so that there’s less waste in the system, which then means more resources to help more people -- the possibilities are boundless.  So the time is right to unleash a new wave of advances in this area, in precision medicine, just like we did with genetics 25 years ago. 

And the really good news -- this is how you know that the moment is right, is there’s bipartisan support for the idea -- (laughter) -- here in Washington.  (Applause.)  Which makes me very happy.  (Laughter.)  When I was a senator back in 2005, I worked with Republican Senator Richard Burr on a bill supporting precision medicine.  Newly elected Republican Senator Bill Cassidy -- who also happens to be a gastroenterologist -- recently called precision medicine, “An incredible area of promise.”

And that’s why the budget I send this Congress on Monday will include a new Precision Medicine Initiative that brings America closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes, and gives all of us access, potentially, to the personalized information that we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier. 

So let me just outline the facets of this.  First, we’re going to work with the National Cancer Institute.  We want to find the genetic factors that can lead to cancer.  And we want to use that knowledge to develop new and more effective approaches to help people beat this disease.   

Second, we’re going to work with the FDA to develop new approaches for evaluating next-generation genetic tests.  The way we approve a new gene-sequencing technology is going to be different than the way we approve a new pacemaker or prosthetic device.  And we need to make sure that our approach reflects the difference in technology.

Third, we’re going to work with the National Institutes of Health to create a research group of one million volunteers.  And just like analyzing our DNA teaches us more about who we are than ever before, analyzing data from one of the largest research populations ever assembled will teach us more about the connections between us than ever before.  And this new information will help doctors discover the causes, and one day the cures, of some of the most deadly diseases that we face.  So if we have a big data set, a big pool of people that’s varied, then that allows us to really map out not only the genome of one person, but now we can start seeing connections and patterns and correlations that helps us refine exactly what it is that we’re trying to do with respect to treatment.

And finally, we’re going to make sure that protecting patient privacy is built into our efforts from day one.  And I’m proud we have so many patients’ rights advocates with us here today.  They’re not going to be on the sidelines.  It’s not going to be an afterthought.  They’ll help us design this initiative from the ground up, making sure that we harness new technologies and opportunities in a responsible way.

So the Precision Medicine Initiative we’re launching today will lay the foundation for a new generation of lifesaving discoveries.  But in order for us to realize its potential, I’m asking more hospitals, and researchers, and privacy experts to join us in this effort.  And I’m asking entrepreneurs and non-profits to help us create tools that give patients the chance to get involved as well.  Because we want every American ultimately to be able to securely access and analyze their own health data, so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and for their families.  

And ultimately, this has the possibility of not only helping us find new cures, but it also helps us create a genuine health care system as opposed to just a disease care system.  Part of what we want to do is to allow each of us to have sufficient information about our particular quirks -- (laughter) -- that we can make better life decisions.  And that, ultimately, is one of the most promising aspects about this -- making sure that we’ve got a system that focuses on prevention and keeping healthy, not just on curing diseases after they happen.

Medical breakthroughs take time, and this area of precision medicine will be no different.  But the patients with us this morning are living proof that the dawn of a new era has arrived.  If we start today, and seize this moment, and the focus and the energy and the resources that it demands, there is no telling how many lives we could change.  And every single one of those lives matter.

Bill Elder was one of Michelle’s guests at the State of the Union last week.  Where’s Bill?  Here he is.  Stand up, Bill.  (Applause.)  Bill is a good-looking, young guy.  (Laughter.)  And about 20 years ago, Bill was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.  But it turns out Bill is one of 4 percent of cystic fibrosis patients whose disease is caused by a particular mutation in one gene.  And a few years ago, the FDA fast-tracked a new drug target specifically targeting that mutation.  And one night in 2012, Bill tried it for the first time.  Just a few hours later he woke up, knowing something was different, and finally he realized what it was:  He had never been able to breathe out of his nose before.  Think about that.

So Bill is now 27.  When he was born, 27 was the median age of survival for a cystic fibrosis patient.  Today, Bill is in his third year of medical school.  (Applause.)  And “for the first time in my life,” Bill said -- for the first time in his life, he says, “I truly believe that I will live long enough to be a grandfather.”  And one day Bill will be able to tell his grandchildren about how he used the miracle of his own life to not only serve as an example, but also an inspiration and ultimately a pathway for his own career to help save the lives of other people.

And that’s the spirit of hope, and resilience, and community that’s always carried America forward.  And we may disagree sometimes, especially here in Washington, but we do share a common vision for our future.  We want an economy powered by the world’s best innovations, the best ideas.  We want a country that extends its promise of opportunity to everybody who’s willing to work for it.  We want to have a nation in which the accidents and circumstances of our birth aren’t determining our fate, and therefore born with a particular disease or a particular genetic makeup that makes us more vulnerable to something; that that’s not our destiny, that’s not our fate -- that we can remake it. 

That’s who we are as Americans, and that’s the power of scientific discovery.  And we want Bill’s generation, and the generations that come after, to inherit that most extraordinary gift anybody can imagine, and that is not just a chance to live a long, and happy, and healthy life in this greatest country on Earth, but also the chance to remake that world continuously, in ways that provide great promise for future generations.  So I’m very excited about this.  I hope you are, too.   

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)  God bless the United States.  Let’s get to work. 

11:39 A.M. EST

Op-ed by First Lady Michelle Obama on Counselors build the bridge to college

The following op-ed by First Lady Michelle Obama appeared this morning on and across Gannett platforms.

Counselors build the bridge to college

Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, it wasn’t exactly a forgone conclusion that I would go to college.  Neither of my parents and hardly anyone in my neighborhood had gone beyond high school, and while my folks were determined to see me and my brother Craig get a good education, they weren’t exactly sure how to make that happen.

I worked hard and got good grades, but I didn’t have much in the way of college counseling in high school.  Fortunately, Craig was a couple of years ahead of me, and he had managed to get himself into Princeton University.  So in addition to applying to one school because I liked the pictures in the brochure and to another because it was close to home, I also applied to Princeton, and my brother helped guide me through the process.  

Many young people in this country aren’t so lucky, because when it comes to college counseling in our nation’s schools, there are really two worlds.

There’s the world of high schools where the question isn’t whether students are going to college, but where.  From the first day of freshman year, students at these schools are shepherded through the process, often by school counselors who ensure they enroll in the right classes; prepare for the SAT and ACT; meet their application deadlines; and choose a school that best meets their needs and get the financial aid they need to pay for it.  That’s one world.

Then there’s the world of the schools that most of our kids attend where school counselors are too often under-valued and overstretched, and they simply don’t have what they need to do their jobs.  While the American School Counselor Association recommends no more than 250 students per counselor, the national average is one counselor for every 471 students.  And often, school counselors are burdened with all kinds of unrelated responsibilities such as proctoring exams, substitute teaching, even monitoring the lunchroom.  Many school counselors find themselves doing triage, juggling those duties while trying to help kids in crisis and also keep up with the latest college admissions deadlines and requirements.

As a result, many of our young people have little, if any, guidance on how to pursue higher education.  This is a serious loss, not just for them, but for our country.  Today, workers with a bachelor’s degree make an average of $16,000 more per year than those with just a high school diploma, and three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require a college degree.  The facts are very clear: if we want America to compete in the global marketplace, all of our young people will need some kind of education beyond high school, whether that’s a two-year or four-year degree or a professional certificate.

Our school counselors are the key to achieving that goal, but only if we give them the support, recognition and resources they need to do their jobs.  That’s why last year, the White House issued a challenge to universities, foundations, school districts, non-profits and others to step up – and already they have answered with tens of millions of dollars of new efforts on behalf of school counselors and the students they serve.

Non-profit organizations are working to improve student to counselor ratios.  Universities are creating college and career readiness courses in their masters degree programs for school counselors.  With the help of the U.S. Department of Education, over half the states in this country are giving school counselors new tools to help students fill out their financial aid forms and college applications.  And today, for the first time in history, we are honoring the National School Counselor of the Year with a ceremony at the White House.

This work is all driven by the simple belief that in this country, getting the education you need shouldn’t be a matter of luck, or privilege, or having a big brother who can pave the way for you like I did.  Instead, every young person who is willing to work for it should have a chance to fulfill his or her boundless promise.  That is the mission that drives America’s school counselors every day, and my husband and I and so many others are doing everything we can to support them as they support our kids and serve our country. 

Michelle Obama is First Lady of the U.S.

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative

Building on President Obama’s announcement in his State of the Union Address, today the Administration is unveiling details about the Precision Medicine Initiative, a bold new research effort to revolutionize how we improve health and treat disease.  Launched with a $215 million investment in the President’s 2016 Budget, the Precision Medicine Initiative will pioneer a new model of patient-powered research that promises to accelerate biomedical discoveries and provide clinicians with new tools, knowledge, and therapies to select which treatments will work best for which patients.

Most medical treatments have been designed for the “average patient.” As a result of this “one-size-fits-all-approach,” treatments can be very successful for some patients but not for others.  This is changing with the emergence of precision medicine, an innovative approach to disease prevention and treatment that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles.  Precision medicine gives clinicians tools to better understand the complex mechanisms underlying a patient’s health, disease, or condition, and to better predict which treatments will be most effective. 

Advances in precision medicine have already led to powerful new discoveries and several new treatments that are tailored to specific characteristics of individuals, such as a person’s genetic makeup, or the genetic profile of an individual’s tumor.  This is leading to a transformation in the way we can treat diseases such as cancer.  Patients with breast, lung, and colorectal cancers, as well as melanomas and leukemias, for instance, routinely undergo molecular testing as part of patient care, enabling physicians to select treatments that improve chances of survival and reduce exposure to adverse effects.  

The potential for precision medicine to improve care and speed the development of new treatments has only just begun to be tapped. Translating initial successes to a larger scale will require a coordinated and sustained national effort.  Through collaborative public and private efforts, the Precision Medicine Initiative will leverage advances in genomics, emerging methods for managing and analyzing large data sets while protecting privacy, and health information technology to accelerate biomedical discoveries.  The Initiative will also engage a million or more Americans to volunteer to contribute their health data to improve health outcomes, fuel the development of new treatments, and catalyze a new era of data-based and more precise medical treatment. 

Key Investments to Launch the Precision Medicine Initiative:

Complementing robust investments to broadly support research, development, and innovation, the President’s 2016 Budget will provide a $215 million investment for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), together with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to support this effort, including:

  • $130 million to NIH for development of a voluntary national research cohort of a million or more volunteers to propel our understanding of health and disease and set the foundation for a new way of doing research through engaged participants and open, responsible data sharing.
  • $70 million to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of NIH, to scale up efforts to identify genomic drivers in cancer and apply that knowledge in the development of more effective approaches to cancer treatment.
  • $10 million to FDA to acquire additional expertise and advance the development of high quality, curated databases to support the regulatory structure needed to advance innovation in precision medicine and protect public health.
  • $5 million to ONC to support the development of interoperability standards and requirements that address privacy and enable secure exchange of data across systems.

Objectives of the Precision Medicine Initiative:

  • More and better treatments for cancer: NCI will accelerate the design and testing of effective, tailored treatments for cancer by expanding genetically based clinical cancer trials, exploring fundamental aspects of cancer biology, and establishing a national “cancer knowledge network” that will generate and share new knowledge to fuel scientific discovery and guide treatment decisions. 
  • Creation of a voluntary national research cohort: NIH, in collaboration with other agencies and stakeholders, will launch a national, patient-powered research cohort of one million or more Americans who volunteer to participate in research.  Participants will be involved in the design of the Initiative and will have the opportunity to contribute diverse sources of data—including medical records; profiles of the patient’s genes, metabolites (chemical makeup), and microorganisms in and on the body; environmental and lifestyle data; patient-generated information; and personal device and sensor data.  Privacy will be rigorously protected.  This ambitious project will leverage existing research and clinical networks and build on innovative research models that enable patients to be active participants and partners.  The cohort will be broadly accessible to qualified researchers and will have the potential to inspire scientists from multiple disciplines to join the effort and apply their creative thinking to generate new insights. The ONC will develop interoperability standards and requirements to ensure secure data exchange with patients’ consent, to empower patients and clinicians and advance individual, community, and population health.
  • Commitment to protecting privacy: To ensure from the start that this Initiative adheres to rigorous privacy protections, the White House will launch a multi-stakeholder process with HHS and other Federal agencies to solicit input from patient groups, bioethicists, privacy, and civil liberties advocates, technologists, and other experts in order to identify and address any legal and technical issues related to the privacy and security of data in the context of precision medicine.
  • Regulatory modernization: The Initiative will include reviewing the current regulatory landscape to determine whether changes are needed to support the development of this new research and care model, including its critical privacy and participant protection framework.  As part of this effort, the FDA will develop a new approach for evaluating Next Generation Sequencing technologies — tests that rapidly sequence large segments of a person’s DNA, or even their entire genome. The new approach will facilitate the generation of knowledge about which genetic changes are important to patient care and foster innovation in genetic sequencing technology, while ensuring that the tests are accurate and reliable.
  • Public-private partnerships: The Obama Administration will forge strong partnerships with existing research cohorts, patient groups, and the private sector to develop the infrastructure that will be needed to expand cancer genomics, and to launch a voluntary million-person cohort.  The Administration will call on academic medical centers, researchers, foundations, privacy experts, medical ethicists, and medical product innovators to lay the foundation for this effort, including developing new approaches to patient participation and empowerment.  The Administration will carefully consider and develop an approach to precision medicine, including appropriate regulatory frameworks, that ensures consumers have access to their own health data – and to the applications and services that can safely and accurately analyze it – so that in addition to treating disease, we can empower individuals and families to invest in and manage their health.

Remarks by the President to the House Democratic Issues Conference

Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

7:34 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey!  (Applause.)  Hello, hello, hello!  (Applause.)  Hello, Democrats!  Thank you so much.  Everybody, sit down, sit down.  It’s good to be with you, Democrats.  (Applause.)  It’s good to be in Philadelphia.  (Applause.)  My understanding is we still have our host, Mayor Nutter, here.  Where’s Mayor Nutter?  (Applause.)  There he is right there. 

I want to just remind the New England and Pacific Northwest contingents, this is the City of Brotherly Love.  So regardless of what you think about Sunday, I want you all to keep it clean. (Laughter.)  I am not taking sides on that one.  (Laughter.)  I want to begin by -- oh, bring your own football -- is that -- oooh.  (Laughter.)  Oooh. 

AUDIENCE:  Ooooh --

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Unless number one plays --

THE PRESIDENT:  And you're, what, a Giants fan?  See, that’s why he’s so resentful.  (Laughter.) 

Let me begin by just acknowledging your outstanding leadership, starting with someone who, somehow, can travel for 17 hours, come off the plane perfectly coifed -- (laughter) -- not a wrinkle on her, happy as a clam -- (laughter) -- come back another 17 hours later, after two and a half, three days of programs, and go straight to a retreat of her caucus, and never miss a beat.  I don't know what she drinks along with that chocolate.  (Laughter.)  But I want some of it.  Your outstanding Leader, Nancy Pelosi.  Give Nancy a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

Joe Crowley also went on that trip, and didn’t look perfectly coifed when he got off the plane.  (Laughter.)  But give Joe Crowley a big round of applause also.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Steny for the gracious introduction; Xavier, who helped obviously make this happen and is just providing outstanding leadership all the time; Jim Clyburn, one of my favorite people, just an extraordinary gentleman and leader.  We love him.  And Debbie Wasserman Shultz, our Chairwoman at the DNC.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.) 

And then the guy who I had a chance to see before I came out just to let him know that he should not feel overly disappointed when his hair gets grey, because in this job it will -- Ben Ray Luján.  (Applause.)  The DCCC chair.  I used to be youthful and attractive like him.  (Laughter.)  We’ll see how long that lasts, brother.  (Laughter.)  You're going to have hair like Steve Israel.  (Laughter.) 

I'm not going to give a long speech because I just gave one, and I want to spend most of the time on questions.  Let me summarize then what I said last week. 

We have been through an extraordinarily challenging journey -- worst financial crisis in our lifetimes.  We've seen the incredible courage and sacrifice, but also the costs of two difficult wars.  There’s been ups and downs in every region of the country, and people feeling as if the economy is churning in ways that defy their control.  And yet, despite all the challenges, despite all the fears, despite all the difficulties, over the last six years what we've seen is the American people fighting their way back.  And because of them, because of their resilience and their grit and their hard work, and because you and I, together, made some really choices -- some, sometimes, politically unpopular choices -- America has come back.

We've seen 11 million jobs created, best job growth since the ‘90s, best job growth in manufacturing since the ‘90s; steepest drop in the unemployment rate in 30 years; deficit cut by two-thirds; over 10 million people with health insurance that didn’t have it before.  (Applause.)  We've seen reading scores go up, high school graduation rates go up, more young people attending college than ever before.  We're number one in oil production; number one in natural gas production; doubled clean energy production; solar power up tenfold; wind power up threefold; carbon pollution down.

There is no economic metric by which we are not better off than when I took office.  And that is because of the extraordinary will and dedication of the American people, but also because all of you have done a terrific job.  And I'm proud of you for that.  (Applause.) 

Now, what we also know is we've now got some choices to make.  Going forward, are we going to be an economy in which a few do spectacularly well, or are we going to be an economy in which everybody who’s willing to work hard is getting a fair shot and can succeed?  (Applause.)  Are we going to be an economy that continues to invest in innovation and infrastructure, all the ingredients that are necessary to power this economy through the 21st century -- or are we going to be neglectful of those very things that have made us an economic superpower?  Are we going to do what’s necessary to make sure that everybody gets the tools they need to succeed -- the education, the child care support, the help when it comes to minimum wages and paid sick leave -- that gives people a basic baseline of stability, but also allows them to constantly adapt to an ever-changing world?

That's the set of choices that we now have to make.  And because the economy has gotten better, wages are beginning to tick up, people are starting to feel better about the economy.  But I think what everybody here understands is that the ground that middle-class families lost over the last 30 years still has to be made up, and the trends that have squeezed middle-class families and those striving to get into the middle class -- those trends have not been fully reversed. 

And so, as much as we should appreciate the progress that's been made, it shouldn’t be a cause for complacency, because we've got more work to do.  We've got a lot more work to do.  And in my State of the Union, I laid out a series of specific proposals that would allow us to continue to control our deficit, but would also ensure that we were investing in the kind of quality education -- including free community college that is so necessary for people to move forward.  (Applause.)  Specific proposals to make sure that we provided some relief to middle-class families in the form of a child care credit and additional higher education credits -- (applause) -- so that somebody who is working hard and doing their best can get a little bit of relief, a little bit of help.

We talked about how important it is for us to rebuild our infrastructure in this country, and put people back to work all across the country -- something that everybody knows we need to do.  And we've got very specific ways of paying for it, by closing loopholes that send jobs overseas and rewarding companies who are investing right here in the United States of America.  (Applause.) 

So I summarized all this as middle-class economics.  And what we know is middle-class economics works.  That's been the history of this country.  That's been the history of the last six years when we've implemented middle-class economics.  And the other side was telling us this would be a disaster, and it would kill jobs and raise the deficit, health care costs would explode. And none of that happened.  That's pretty rare where you have two visions, a vigorous debate, and then you test who’s right -- and the record shows that we were right and middle-class economics does work.  (Applause.)

So the bottom line is this:  We've got to make sure it continues to work.  We should protect the progress we're making.

I hear Republicans are holding their 50th or 60th vote next year [sic] to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act.  I've lost count at this point.  But here’s something easy to remember -- if that bill ever actually reached my desk, I would happily veto it. (Applause.)  If they try to unravel new rules that we put in place to make sure Wall Street recklessness doesn’t hurt American families again, I'll be happy to veto it.  (Applause.)  If, rather than try to solve the problem of a broken immigration system, they compound the problem, I'll veto it.  (Applause.) 

But my hope is that they join us.  And one good piece of news is I noticed that even though their policies haven't quite caught up yet, their rhetoric is starting to sound pretty Democratic.  (Laughter.)  I heard -- Chris Van Hollen was telling me about one Republican senator who shall go unnamed, but generally doesn’t agree with me on much, and he was suddenly shocked, shocked that the top 1 percent is doing really well and everybody else is getting squeezed, and we need to do something about it.  And I welcome that.  I consider imitation the highest form of flattery.  Come on board.  Let’s go help out that middle-class family.  Let’s get something done.  (Applause.) 

We've got a former presidential candidate on the other side who suddenly is just deeply concerned about poverty.  (Laughter.) That's great!  Let’s go!  Come on!  Let’s do something about it!

I am glad that their rhetoric at least has shifted, but let’s now make sure that the policies match up with the rhetoric. Let’s make sure Americans are able to upgrade their skills for higher wages.  Let’s build the world’s most competitive economy. Let’s make sure that we end this across-the-board sequester -- (applause) -- that doesn’t differentiate between smart government spending and dumb government spending.  Let’s take a scalpel and not a meat cleaver and let’s make sure that we're funding the things that we know help American families succeed.  That's the smart thing to do.  (Applause.) 

I disagree with any Republican who says letting funding for the Department of Homeland Security lapse is “not the end of the world.”  That's a quote from one of them.  I tell you, these are the guys who are always saying they’re concerned about the borders.  These are the folks who say they’re concerned about terrorism.  Well, who do you think helps monitor our borders?  What do you mean, it's not the end of the world?  That's all you’ve been talking about.  And now, suddenly, because you want to make a political point, you think that we can afford to have the Department of Homeland Security not functioning -- because of political games in Washington?

We can pay for all of -- all of the proposals that I put forward in the State of the Union we can pay for by fixing a tax code that is riddled with loopholes for special interests. And if Republicans don't agree with my approach for paying for it, then they should put forward their own proposals.  And I'm happy to engage them on that.  I'm eager to engage with them on that.  I think it's entirely fair for them to say, that's not the right way to fund higher education; that's not the right way to help families with child care.  And we can have a good, healthy debate.  What we can't suggest is that child care is not important to American families, or that higher education costs are not relevant to folks who are currently in the middle class or trying to work their way into the middle class, or hoping their children will be able to get in the middle class.  Those things are important.  So put forward alternatives.

And the good news is, is that I think there are some who want to work with us.  And maybe the fact that I've now run my last election means that, instead of just blocking what we're trying to do, they may be interested in getting some stuff done. Of course, they’ll then spend all their time attacking the next Democrat coming down the pike, but that's okay.

Because, ultimately, what this is about, the reason we are here, the reason so many of you make such extraordinary sacrifices and your families make sacrifices to be here, is because the story of the people that I mentioned in the State of the Union -- people like Rebecca, who I talked about, from Minnesota -- those people are us.  They’re our moms and our dads, and our aunts and our uncles, and our nephews and our cousins, and our neighbors and our coworkers, and our friends.  And we remember some point in time where somebody gave us a little bit of a hand up.  And we remember that scholarship that allowed us to go to school when it wasn’t clear that our family might be able to afford it.  And we remember what it was like to try to find child care when you got two folks working and trying to pay the mortgage at the same time, just like Michelle and I had to do.  We remember those things.

And the reason that we do this is so that those folks have the same extraordinary opportunities in the same extraordinary country as we did.  And more importantly, so that our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren have those same opportunities.  (Applause.)  And it is our obligation to make sure that we are crystal-clear about what we stand for and who we are fighting for. 

And I will just say, obviously we were all disappointed with the outcome of the last election, and there are a lot of reasons for it and I'm happy to take on some of the blame.  But one thing I'm positive about is, when we're shy about what we care about, when we're defensive about what we've accomplished, when we don't stand up straight and proud and say, yes, we believe that everybody in this country should have health insurance, and we're glad that we are making that happen -- (applause) -- yes, we believe that families shouldn’t be torn apart, and we're glad that we're fighting for immigration reform -- (applause) -- yes, we believe in middle-class economics, and we don't apologize for wanting to make sure that some wonderful young man or young woman out there can actually afford to go to college even if their parents didn’t go -- we need to stand up and go on offense, and not be defensive about what we believe in!  (Applause.)  That's why we're Democrats!  (Applause.)

And I promise you, I'm not going out the last two years sitting on the sidelines.  I am going to be out there making the case every single day, and I hope you join me.  (Applause.) 

Thank you.  (Applause.) 

7:54 P.M. EST  


This week in the war on workers: McDonald's in turmoil
The workers suing McDonald's for racist harassment and firings speak out in the video above; meanwhile:
McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson, one of just seven African-American chief executives among the Fortune 500 companies, is stepping down less than three years after rising to the top job.

Thompson’s exit is being widely blamed on the company’s weak financial performance under his stewardship. But McDonald’s next CEO will also face numerous public relations problems, widespread labor unrest, and legal threats to its business model.

Here's to workers continuing to give the next CEO hell right up until McDonald's changes its terrible labor practices.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.

Cartoons are better science sources than conservative experts
Above is a clip from a cartoon on Comedy Central that mentions evolution, below are some words on the same subject from one of the leading intellectual lights of the modern conservative movement. Which one is more trustworthy?
For me, the plausibility of evolution is further strained by Darwin's assertion that within fifty to one hundred years of his time, scientists would become geologically sophisticated enough to find the fossil remains of the entire evolutionary tree in an unequivocal step-by-step progression of life from amoeba to man—including all of the intermediate species. Of course that was 150 years ago, and there is still no such evidence.  
It's not even close; the words of Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson lose out to Futurama in a first round knock-out.

Carson's duplicity begins in the very first quoted sentence: paleontologists do not assert that the fossil record would or should contain the preserved remains of every individual organism that ever lived. But they have certainly found plenty of transitional fossils in that record representing the evolution of amphibians from fish, birds from reptiles, whales from land animals, and humans from earlier primates, just to name a few.

It would be pointless to log the many errors in Carson's flaccid grasp of evolution for his benefit or for the benefit of his listeners and supporters. Clowns like Carson aren't interested in truth, they're interested in fleecing the conservative faithful for money and power, and in that seedy profession, misinformation works much better.

Big banks want to merge into bigger bank, run astroturf to pressure Fed
A community protest at OneWest bank HQ in December 2014
Housing advocates protest OneWest Bank's appalling record on foreclosures.
Two banks with troubled histories of foreclosures and squandered public bailouts are now asking the Federal Reserve to merge, making them “too big to fail”—and they are getting really creative in their tactics.

It is very rare for the Federal Reserve to deny bank mergers, but OneWest Bank is not taking any chances. They have set up an online petition to support the merger on the bank’s website that has netted 1,900 signatures.

The bank is even trying to pressure regulators to approve the merger with no public hearing, and the facts behind the two banks—OneWest and CIT Bank—make it clear why.

OneWest has a terrible record on foreclosures—they recently attempted to evict an 103-year-old Texas widow because she forgot to pay her homeowner’s insurance.

They are asking to merge with CIT Bank—who received $2.3 billion in taxpayer funds to help small businesses, and then filed for bankruptcy to be discharged of this obligation. If the Federal Reserve approves the merger, experts say they would become “too big to fail.”

Daily Kos was approached by consumer advocates, who asked for our assistance—so we set up our own online petition opposing the merger.

Please read below the fold for our progress so far.

Republican states at war over Obamacare case
Supreme Court Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy
It's a war of words, anyway. In conflicting briefs submitted to the Supreme Court in the King v. Burwell health insurance subsidy case, Republican attorneys general argue either for or against the federal government's case that the intent of the statue was to provide health insurance subsidies to all who qualify based on income, regardless of whether they got their insurance through a state or the federal market. There are six state Republicans arguing with the plaintiffs, and seven Republican states in a group of 22 agreeing with the feds.

And the evidence, as it has been throughout this case, is all on the side of the states on the side of the feds. As is Supreme Court precedence.

To prevail, however, the plaintiffs in King must do more than simply show that they have discovered the best way to read Obamacare's text. Under the Supreme Court’s decision in Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, a state cannot be bound by an alleged condition tucked into a federal grant program "if a State is unaware of the conditions or is unable to ascertain what is expected of it." Rather, when Congress says that it will only pay out money if a state takes a particular action, the Supreme Court insists "that Congress speak with a clear voice." Thus, if there is uncertainty about how to read the law, that uncertainty must be resolved against the plaintiffs' reading and in favor of the view that the law does not make tax credits conditional upon anything.

And that's not all the bad news for the King plaintiffs. Under the Supreme Court’s opinion in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy, the question of whether a state is able to ascertain whether federal money comes with conditions must be evaluated "from the perspective of a state official who is engaged in the process of deciding whether the State should accept . . . the obligations that go with those funds." Thus, if there is a wealth of evidence showing that state officials did not read Obamacare in the same way the King plaintiffs do—and it turns out that there is—that evidence also cuts strongly against a decision for the plaintiffs in King. […]

On Wednesday, a much larger bloc of 22 states plus the District of Columbia filed their own brief opposing the King plaintiffs' attempt to cut of tax credits. After reading that brief, it is not hard to guess why the smaller group of anti-Obamacare attorneys general were not able to muster any evidence for their position—there are piles of evidence demonstrating that the six attorneys general are simply wrong about how state officials understood the law.

So you've got six Republican AGs arguing that of course all the states completely understood that their residents were going to be penalized by not getting subsidies if they didn't set up their own exchanges. And yet, they would argue, all those states decided to use the federal exchange and punish their own residents. Worse for them, there are actually statements by the governors and other officials on those six states clearly stating that they understood the law to mean that the states had flexibility and that their residents would get the subsidies, no matter what the state decided to do about setting up an exchange.

It's a contradiction so glaring that a Supreme Court justice would have to be completely blinded by ideology not to acknowledge. I can think of at least three who will fit that description.

Spotlight on green news views: Senate okays Keystone XL, Obama opens more offshore drilling

That video was captured by by EdMass and retitled Climate Change: The Best Evah Weather Report.

Many environmentally related posts appearing at Daily Kos each week don't attract the attention they deserve. To help get more eyeballs, Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) normally appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The most recent Wednesday Spotlight can be seen here. More than 21,740 environmentally oriented diaries have been rescued for inclusion in this weekly collection since 2006. Inclusion of a diary in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.

Because of the relatively small number of eco-diaries the past few days, the categories usually included with the Green Spotlight have been dropped for this edition only.

The Ugly Truth about Methane Pollution from Fracking—by Earthworks Action: "Recently, the Obama administration came out with its plans to regulate methane from oil and gas wells. These rules will be the first of their kind, and underscore two of the most important problems with fracking-enabled oil and gas production—its impact on the climate and its impact on human health. Oil and gas operations across the country are a major source of air pollution of all types. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), coupled with nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (together known as NOx) and sunlight, produce ozone, which is hazardous to human health and can cause premature death. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas, found in many shale oil and gas formations, can cause difficulty in breathing and eye and throat irritation. High levels of exposure can be fatal. Families living with oil and gas development nearby experience these health impacts when the wind blows these toxic chemicals near homes and schools. Earthworks has documented this VOC pollution using our FLIR Gasfinder camera—you can hear the stories of people living with this type of development and see the invisible pollution we've captured using infrared technology."
green dots
NRDC Attorney Defends Clean Air Act Health Standards From Attack by Energy-in-Depth—by LakeSuperior: "I've been a member of the national environmental group, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), for 40 years. I still remember the first NRDC workproduct I ever reviewed. It was a 1974 briefing paper on the Clean Air Act of 1970 and what state air pollution control program requirements had to be met to gain EPA approval of individual State Implementation Plans. NRDC is a principle guardian and steward of the Clean Air Act, including the heart of  the Act with Senator Muskie's vision and enactment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health from common pollutants called "criteria pollutants" named for the Air Quality Criteria that are the basis for EPA's setting of NAAQS. In this recent blogpost, NRDC Attorney John Walke, a former EPA air enforcement attorney, shows Democrats and everyone else, just how public trust defense of the Clean Air Act and outstanding, highly effective environmental & public health advocacy is done."

You can find more rescued green diaries below the orange garden layout.

View from the left—the 2016 Republican dilemma
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) delivers remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3F259
Nothing has been quite so clear in the past couple weeks as just how out of step the GOP establishment is with the GOP base—a disconnect that has stunning implications for 2016.

Only a few weeks ago, for instance, Republican strategists started selling the idea that a Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide would neutralize the issue for Republicans on the campaign trail. They could simply say what Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did after a federal appeals court ruled in favor of marriage equality and the Supreme Court declined to hear the state's challenge to the decision.

“For us, it’s over in Wisconsin,” he told reporters.

But Rep. Steve King’s Iowa summit last weekend proved that to be nothing but wishful thinking. Even as some GOP hopefuls tried to sidestep the topic, here’s what one conservative Republican who has first-hand experience with Hawkeye State politics had to say about the issue.

“If you dodge the question, then it’s the kiss of death,” said social conservative Sam Clovis, who finished second behind Joni Ernst in last year’s Iowa GOP Senate primary. “Candidates have got to be declarative about where they stand. Period.”

“If you’re not vocally pro-life and pro-traditional marriage, I don’t think you can win here because you’re going to get hammered,” added Clovis.

And it’s not just the voters pushing the divide, it’s the candidates. Head below the fold for more on the GOP dilemma.

Do any Republicans really believe what they're telling the SCOTUS now about Obamacare?
Paul Ryan with nose extended like Pinocchio
The standard line from Republicans now that the Supreme Court has decided to hear the challenge to Obamacare subsidies in King v. Burwell is that, of course, they all knew that Congress meant to exclude millions of people from getting federal subsidies to purchase their insurance. They insist, in propping up the ridiculous case, that Congress was using the stick of withholding subsidies on the federal exchange to make states establish their own. This is critical to the plaintiffs' case, which is based on the presumption that Congress really meant for the Affordable Care Act not to be affordable for millions of people.

The problem with this newfound orthodoxy is that none of them seemed to notice back when the law was passed or as it was being implemented that this was the case. In fact, they all seemed to accept the exact opposite interpretation—subsidies would be available on both the state and federal exchanges.

An August 2013 letter to then-Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius shows how Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made this exact shift. Back then, Ryan declared these subsidies would cost taxpayers more than $1 trillion—an amount only possible if they were available nationally, not just in the 15 state-run exchanges in place at the time.

This acknowledgment of the Affordable Care Act tax credits for low- and middle-income households in every state contradicts a brief Ryan and 14 other GOP lawmakers filed to the Supreme Court last month. […]

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) is another of the 15 Republican lawmakers whose brief to the Supreme Court declares subsidies were only meant for state-run exchanges. But in 2011, Barrasso had a different point of view, Salon reported Tuesday.

At a press conference touting legislation that would have allowed states to opt out of Affordable Care Act insurance regulations, Barrasso stated the subsidies in question would be provided no matter what a state did. Taxpayers are “not going to give up that right to have an opportunity to use that money,” he said.

That same year, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who was chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a report titled "Uncovering the True Impact of the Obamacare Tax Credits." In the footnotes of that report, he and his staff adopted the argument that Obamacare defenders now use to defend the legality of sending subsidies to all eligible recipients, regardless of what exchange they shop on. […]

Also in 2011, Republicans unanimously supported a bill using subsidy funding to pay for a change in tax law. Doing so explicitly assumed those tax credits were national, as The New Republic reported last week.

Huffington Post tried to get a comment from Ryan's spokesperson, Brendan Buck, about the glaring inconsistency, but he refused to address it, saying instead that the "increasingly half-baked 'evidence' that defenders of the law are citing is revealing quite a sense of rising panic that Obamacare is in real trouble." Not that one should expect substance from Ryan or his staff. But the reality is—as usual with Republicans—that they have no problem at all with making shit up. Even if it is diametrically opposed to the shit they made up previously.

What's the state of income inequality in your state? Bad, terrible, or appalling?
Average share of growth during economic expansions captured by the top 1%, 1949-2012. The expansion beginning in 2009 is startlingly more to the top 1% than others, but overall there's a marked increase after 1979.
The top one percent is out of control. As the economy recovered from recession between 2009 and 2012, the top one percent sucked up an estimated 95 percent of all income growth in the United States. There were 39 states where the top one percent took at least half of the income growth in that period. Emphasis on "at least":
The states in which all income growth between 2009 and 2012 accrued to the top 1 percent include Delaware, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington, Louisiana, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, Rhode Island, and Nevada.
That's 17 states, if you're counting. In another seven states, more than 80 percent of the income growth went to the top one percent.

If you're wondering why raises have been few and far between for a generation, this is your answer. Between 1979 and 2007:

... the average income of the bottom 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent. Simultaneously, the average income of the top 1 percent grew over 10 times as much—by 200.5 percent.
There are four states—Nevada, Wyoming, Michigan, and Alaska—where the average income of the bottom 99 percent actually fell while the top one percent just kept getting richer. Related: How messed up is it that when we talk about the American economy these days, we talk about "the bottom 99 percent"? That shouldn't even be a meaningful concept for "bottom," but given the way income and wealth are skewed, it makes perfect sense in this context.

Why Ben Carson ticks me off
Dr. Ben Carson speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
Mother Jones went through the previously published works of Dr. Ben Carson, presidential candidate. Why someone would do such a thing voluntarily is a question best left to historians, but this particular application of Dr. Ben Carson logic is I think by far the most intriguing, if only because of the great gobs of personal intellect that must be cast aside in order to write it.
From what I know (and all we don't know) about biology, I find it as hard to accept the claims of evolution as it is to think that a hurricane blowing through a junkyard could somehow assemble a fully equipped and flight-ready 747. You could blow a billion hurricanes through a trillion junkyards over infinite periods of time, and I don't think you'd get one aerodynamic wing, let alone an entire jumbo jet complete with complex connections for a jet-propulsion system, a radar system, a fuel-injection system, an exhaust system, a ventilation system, control systems, electronic systems, plus backup systems for all of those, and so much more. There's simply not enough time in eternity for that to happen.
I am going to confess right here that things like this irritate me more than they have any right to. Explaining why, however, is very difficult. The shorthand version is that it is an assertion by a person who has reached his own limits of knowledge and comfort that anyone who has a greater understanding or finds comfort in a more expansive universe must simply be wrong, and a call for readers to embrace that smug rejection as their own stopping point as well. And it is dishonest; statements like this are not intended to be logical arguments for or against something. There is no possible response that could possibly change the mind of someone who sees their personal God as the chief assembler of discarded junkyard parts.

This is a perfect example of The Boundary, that line within each of us that divides what we personally know from the things we do not understand, followed by the internal mental declaration that anything unknown or unaccepted by us personally is formally Unknowable or Unacceptable, period. The same mind that can follow all the vagaries of biology on the scale of one organism or fifty may not be able to comprehend the same processes whirring away on an evolutionary scale—and that is not a character flaw, because the human mind has great difficulty grasping time when scaled outside that which we experience within our own lifetimes—but wherever the line is drawn, it is drawn with gusto. This here is science; the part beyond the line is magic.

I suspect the above Carson explanation of evolution would receive plaudits by many, even if the rest of us are stumped by it, because for all the technical-sounding overlay it is an argument for one kind of magic set up in opposition to ... precisely the same kind of magic. It presents the notion of spontaneous creation of a complex system as inherently ludicrous, and does so by just supposing that all the complex parts naturally pre-existed before there was that providential gust of wind to assemble them. The adherents of this argument suppose, at least emotionally, that there were human hearts and human brains and human lymphatic systems all strewn about a large field all before humanity existed, all waiting for a factory-worker God to come along to rivet them together. Or maybe the factory created those parts individually, but they were pre-formed, damn it; different persons have different notions of where the magic occurred, but if the notion that the human heart is merely a variation of the typical mammalian heart design is controversial, the notion that the human heart is merely a variation upon a variation upon a variation of a design that had served admirably in prehistoric fish, now that is outrageous, and trying to imagine the previous link between that primitive heart and the greatest advance pre-pre-prehistoric life had ever experienced, the ability to merely twitch, is a longer journey than most imaginations can take. If you want to suppose an intelligent designer assembling parts, at least put them to work in your mind on the designs for those first microscopic clumps. Everything since then has been incremental.

This is what irritates me so much about anti-evolution fundamentalists. It is an argument, often by very intelligent people, for enforced ignorance. It is not that we cannot trace what happened during the long span of time before humans existed as a species, but that we are not allowed to, and we are not allowed to for the same reason past generations were chastised for supposing our planet orbited the sun or that the stars were not merely painted on the firmament—not because that vastly expanded universe or the unfathomable timescales disproved or diminished their God, but because with each expansion of the known universe mankind becomes a smaller and less central fragment of that universe, and a far more fleeting presence, and the notion of mankind not being the central reason that the entire vast sweep of reality exists is deeply, deeply angering to some people. It is not about God. It is about preserving some small sense of dominance and declared ownership of all things. It's neither science nor faith; it's just a psychological reflex, and not a particularly flattering one at that.

And that, short version, is why people like Dr. Ben Carson tick me off.

Middle-class economics and budget are topics in Obama's weekly address
Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?
President Obama is not going to let up on his more recent populist message of focusing on the middle class, evidenced this morning by a weekly address that marks the third week in a row that he's hit this theme. This week he riffed on the budget he's going to send to Congress next week.
We’ll help working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid leave and child care like the economic priorities that they are. We’ll offer Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, with plans like making two years of community college free for every responsible student. And we’ll keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, infrastructure, manufacturing, and expanded access to faster internet and new markets.
Of course, he knows Republicans won't like it. Of course.
Now, I know that there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach. And like I said in my State of the Union Address, if they have ideas that will help middle-class families feel some economic security, I’m all in to work with them. But I will keep doing everything I can to help more working families make ends meet and get ahead. Not just because we want everyone to share in America’s success – but because we want everyone to contribute to America’s success.
To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.


News Analysis: Why Judges Tilt to the Right
It allows conservatives to emerge from a liberal lawyer pool.

Blue Dot for Obama Prompts Red Nebraska to Revisit Electoral College Rules
Nebraska is one of just two states, along with Maine, that do not award all their electoral voters to the statewide winner.

White House Seeks to Limit Health Law’s Tax Troubles
Obama administration officials say they worry that the tax-filing season will generate new anger as uninsured consumers learn that they must pay tax penalties.

G.O.P. Campaigns Scramble to Add Romney Donors
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida are in all-out battle this weekend to tap into the billion-dollar donor network once harnessed by Mitt Romney.

News Analysis: A Strained Alliance: Obama-Netanyahu Rift Grew Over Years
The diplomatic break touched off by Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to negotiate an address to Congress without first telling President Obama reflects their fundamentally different world views.

Criticism of Holder Dominates Hearing on Loretta Lynch, Attorney General’s Possible Successor
Loretta E. Lynch’s dealings with the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee were mostly cordial as she faced questions on immigration and other hot-button issues.

Support Waning, Romney Decides Against 2016 Bid
By not pursuing a third presidential bid, Mitt Romney frees up scores of donors and operatives who had been awaiting his decision.

National Briefing | South: Mississippi: New Tumor Found in Congressman
Doctors have found a new tumor in Representative Alan Nunnelee and told him no further medical treatment is possible, his spokesman said Friday.

U.S. to Collect Genetic Data to Hone Care
President Obama announced a biomedical research initiative, including plans to collect data on one million Americans in order to tailor treatments to individual patients.

Federal Construction Projects Must Plan for Flood Risks From Climate Change
President Obama issued an executive order requiring that all federally funded construction projects take into account the flood risks linked to global warming.


Hendrik Hertzberg: Anthony Weiner’s all-digital sex scandal.
It’s been another political season of impressively gaudy sex scandals, further confounding America’s hard-won reputation as a nation of censorious puritans. The paradox isn’t so surprising, when you think about it: the broader the range of sex-related activities deemed immoral, unnatural, or . . .

John Cassidy: Don’t give up on Detroit.
If you were to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, home to Diego Rivera’s magnificent murals depicting scenes at the Ford Motor Company in the early nineteen-thirties, and then take a stroll through the surrounding streets, you might be surprised at what you would find: coffee shops . . .

Jelani Cobb: The folly of Stand Your Ground laws.
For some years, the N.R.A.’s approach to gun-rights advocacy has amounted to a variant of the old Maoist dictum, to the effect that democracy flows from the barrel of a gun. In March, the group provided a novel twist on the theme of sidearm liberty when it . . .

George Packer: Why Egypt is a foreign-policy puzzle.
American foreign aid has always been an awkward exercise in high-minded self-interest—humanitarian goals balanced uneasily with strategic calculations. Whenever these two come into conflict, Presidents inevitably find a way out of their loftier commitments. In 1947, when Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a huge . . .

Jeffrey Toobin: The end of DOMA and the future of gay rights.
The Supreme Court’s embrace of gay rights last week had an almost serene majesty. The obvious correctness of the Court’s judgment, its curt dismissal of a monstrous injustice, had a grandeur that requires little elaboration. Yet the decision had its roots in something prosaic and largely . . .

Steve Coll: Obama sends weapons to Syria.
The carved minaret above Aleppo’s twelfth-century Umayyad Mosque collapsed in April. The city, which is Syria’s most populous, has endured Hittite, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman rule, little of it benevolent. But this year, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have delivered a distinctly . . .

Hendrik Hertzberg: Difficult questions about the N.S.A.
Since the first week of June, when the Washington Post and London’s Guardian, doing the work that journalism is supposed to do, published detailed news of the National Security Agency’s gigantic programs of cell-phone and Internet information-gathering, the world has been riveted. These were . . .

Steve Coll: Why journalists deserve better protections.
In 1969, when nothing excited the public’s interest like the depredations of drug fiends, the Louisville Courier-Journal sent a reporter named Paul Branzburg to penetrate Kentucky’s marijuana underground. He published eyewitness accounts; a photograph accompanying one of them showed hands hovering over a pile of . . .

William Finnegan: The struggle for immigration reform.
It was edifying while it lasted. A bipartisan immigration bill, supported by an unusually wide coalition of business, labor, church, and humanitarian groups, made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the baying over Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service was fierce and rising . . .

Elizabeth Kolbert: What’s at stake in Obama’s Keystone decision.
A lot of what’s known about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be traced back to a chemist named Charles David Keeling, who, in 1958, persuaded the U.S. Weather Bureau to install a set of monitoring devices at its Mauna Loa observatory, on the island of Hawaii. By . . .

60 MINUTES +/-

The Republican Leaders: Boehner and McConnell
House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sit down for their first joint interview since the new Republican majority Congress convened

Li Na's victory
Lesley Stahl profiles the great Chinese tennis champion who stood up to her country's stringent sports system

The Cleveland Division
Bill Whitaker interviews the chief of the embattled Cleveland PD and some of its officers for a story on the hot-button issue of policing in America

Li Na talks to Lesley Stahl
Inspired by her father to become an athlete, retired Chinese tennis star Li Na now inspires China's next generation to compete

More black police not solution, says Cleveland's top cop
Police Chief Calvin Williams doesn't believe more black police officers is the solution to broken relationships between white officers and black communities

Boehner: Tea Party cashing in on me
Conservative "Tea Party" groups are using him as a whipping boy to raise cash and "it works," says House Speaker John Boehner

Boehner and McConnell respond to Obama
GOP leaders say they'll consider the president's proposal to triple child care tax credit. But free college? A minimum wage hike? Raise taxes on rich? No way

Bad Cleveland cops need to be weeded out, police chief says
In his first national interview since a Cleveland cop gunned down a 12-year-old playing with a pellet gun, Police Chief Calvin Williams allows 60 Minutes inside his police force

Conquering the impossible
Wounded veterans are using their hearts and minds to summit some of the world's tallest mountains and overcome the disabilities war has dealt them

Dissecting Obamacare
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, everyone with a stake in the $3-trillion-a-year health industry came out ahead -- except the taxpayers, says author Steven Brill

The marijuana effect
It's been a year since Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational pot, Bill Whitaker checks in

Colo. gov. on legal pot: It can work despite problems
Despite problems, legal recreational pot "can work" says Colorado governor who once opposed it

60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll: Fear
Do Americans want the world to love or fear the U.S.? The results are in for this month's 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll on fear

Alive and Kickin'
"The first 50 years are for learning; the second 50 are for LIVING!" That's the motto of a new show in Harlem with a cast of singers ages 55 and up

Ending America's longest war
Lara Logan reports from Afghanistan on the future of the country as the U.S.-led coalition draws down its forces

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