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Hi, all.  Today's report features:

• The President and General Powell: Statements on the need to ratify New START; GOP Secretaries of State urge ratification in a Washington Post op-ed; a nuclear agreement with Belarus advances the President's goal of curbing the spread of dangerous nuclear material.

• Happy Hanukkah: Watch the lighting of the menorah on WhiteHouse.gov at 6:35 p.m. EST.

• Austan Goolsbee answers job-seekers' questions: Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers answers questions from Monster.com's Facebook community.

• World AIDS Day: The President's domestic and global initiatives to fight AIDS; progress to date and plans for the future.

• White House Press Briefing: Tax cut negotiations, START and other issues.

• Net Neutrality: The President is strongly committed to net neutrality. New rules proposed by the FCC advance that policy.

• 55th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott: The President's statement; a video biography of Rosa Parks.

• White House Christmas: The First Lady welcomes the Marines' Toys for Tots Program.

• THE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL POWELL ON NEW START AND EDUCATION REFORM; PLUS, A NUCLEAR AGREEMENT WITH BELARUS •

President Obama Meets with General Colin Powell

The President and General Colin Powell speak to the press after meeting in the Oval Office to discuss reducing school dropout rates, the importance of ratifying the new START treaty, and other issues.

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 1, 2010:

Remarks by the President and General Colin Powell After Meeting

THE PRESIDENT:  I want to thank General Colin Powell for being here with me today.  He is not only a great statesman and a great public servant, but also a great friend and a great counselor.  And periodically I check in with him, and I know my entire team, including the Vice President, checks in with him, because he continues to have an unparalleled sense of our national security needs, and I think really taps into the best impulses of the American people.

The first thing that I want to do is I want to congratulate him and his wife Alma for the extraordinary work that he’s been doing with America’s Promise, which focuses on how can we finally get serious about education reform, because he understands, Alma understands and all of us understand that our kids are going to be competing not just against each other here in this country but they’re now competing worldwide.

And America’s Promise has been at the forefront on education reform.  They just issued a report, "Building a Grad Nation," that notes that we have made some progress over the last several years in reducing the number of dropout factories that we have around the country, that we are seeing a greater emphasis on kids staying in school, but we’ve still got a lot more work to do.  And it’s going to require all of us -- parents, teachers, administrators, the public and private sector -- to make sure that we continue on this trend of improvement.

So thank you for the work you’re doing in that.

Most of the discussion we had was around national security issues.  We talked about some of the challenges across the landscape, from North Korea to Iran to Afghanistan.  But we spent, in particular, a lot of time talking about the START treaty.  General Powell has been involved with just about every arms control treaty since there were arms control treaties.  I hate to –

GENERAL POWELL: Not quite that long.

THE PRESIDENT: I hate to date him, but from the Reagan administration on, he has helped to shepherd through a variety of these arms control treaties, and the reason is, is because he understands, as so many others understand, that a world without binding U.S.-Russia arms control treaties is a more dangerous world.

And he and I discussed why START is so important.  In the absence of START, without the New START treaty being ratified by the Senate, we do not have a verification mechanism to ensure that we know what the Russians are doing, and they don’t know what we’re doing.  And when you have uncertainty in the area of nuclear weapons, that’s a much more dangerous world to live in.

We also discussed the fact that Russia has cooperated with us on critical issues to our national security like Iran sanctions, transit to supply our troops in Afghanistan, working on securing loose nuclear materials.

And the relationships and trust that are built from the New START treaty spill over into a whole host of other national security issues that are of vital importance to America.

So Colin is one of a number of former national security advisors, Secretaries of Defense, Secretaries of State -- from both Democratic and Republican administrations -- that have emphasized how important it is to get this done.  And we discussed the fact that the Senate appropriately has a role in advice and consent, and it ultimately needs to ratify this treaty.  That’s why we have made sure that we have had 18 separate hearings.  We have answered over a thousand questions.  We have offered to brief every single senator -- Republican and Democrat -- around these issues.  But now it’s time to get this done.

I’m gratified by the leadership of the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, as well as the ranking Democrat, the chairman, John Kerry, for their extraordinary cooperation and work on this issue.

It is important for us to make sure that we complete the evaluation process, we finish the debate, and we go ahead and finish this up before the end of the year.

And so I just want to again thank General Powell for his good counsel, his friendship, most importantly his service to our country.  And I very much appreciate the fact that he supports an effort that all of us should support in order to make America more safe.

GENERAL POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. President.  Let me begin by thanking you for your support of the America’s Promise Alliance and the Grad Nation effort.  And also let me take this opportunity to thank Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for the great job that he is doing in making sure that our kids are ready for this 21st century world that is going to be so demanding.

The President noted the issues that we discussed with a particular focus on the New START treaty.  I fully support this treaty and I hope that the Senate will give its advice and consent to the ratification of the treaty as soon as possible.

I have been involved, as the President noted, in arms control negotiations and the ratification of arms control negotiations and treaties for the last 25 years.  And what is fascinating about this whole process to me is that 25 years ago, the Soviet Union and the United States each had an inventory of something like 28,000, 29,000 nuclear weapons.  As a result of the arms control process and the end of the Cold War and change in the world situation, those numbers have been reduced by over 80 percent, so they’re down now under 10,000.

One of the reasons we were able to do this in a way that was transparent with both sides confident in the process was because of the arms control agreement -- whether it was INF Treaty or START I or START II that were ratified, the Moscow Treaty -- so many other treaties that came along to give us stability, to give us transparency, to give us visibility into what each side was doing.  As a result of these treaties we have both benefited -- both the Russian Federation now and the United States of America, but the world has benefitted by having fewer of these horrible weapons in existence.

And we hope that we can continue this process.  New START is important because it continues this process.  And it’s especially important because at the end of last year, we lost the verification system that we had under START I.  And this is the first time in all these years where we don’t have these procedures in place.  So we’re not sure exactly what’s going on within the Russian Federation; they’re not exactly sure what’s going on in the United States of America.

And I think the most important feature of New START is to put in place the verification regime again.  It will be a little different than the START I verification system, but it is more than adequate to make sure that we know what they are doing and they know what we are doing, and it has been so identified as being adequate by our intelligence community.

The number of warheads reduced is modest but nevertheless significant.  It continues the downward trend.  And so I fully support it.

And you’ll see tomorrow morning in -- hopefully in The Washington Post an op-ed piece signed by me, Secretary Shultz, Secretary Baker and Secretary Kissinger, former Secretaries, then former Secretary Eagleburger that once again shows we as a group of Republican former Secretaries of State believe that this treaty is in the best interest of the United States of America, best interest of the world and frankly the best interest of the Russian Federation....

So I hope that the Senate will move quickly and give its advice and consent to the ratification of this treaty....

WashingtonPost.com, Dec. 2, 2010:

The Republican case for ratifying New START
 
By Henry A. Kissinger, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Lawrence S. Eagleburger and Colin L. Powell

Republican presidents have long led the crucial fight to protect the United States against nuclear dangers. That is why Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush negotiated the SALT I, START I and START II agreements. It is why President George W. Bush negotiated the Moscow Treaty. All four recognized that reducing the number of nuclear arms in an open, verifiable manner would reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe and increase the stability of America's relationship with the Soviet Union and, later, the Russian Federation. The world is safer today because of the decades-long effort to reduce its supply of nuclear weapons.

As a result, we urge the Senate to ratify the New START treaty signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It is a modest and appropriate continuation of the START I treaty that expired almost a year ago. It reduces the number of nuclear weapons that each side deploys while enabling the United States to maintain a strong nuclear deterrent and preserving the flexibility to deploy those forces as we see fit. Along with our obligation to protect the homeland, the United States has responsibilities to allies around the world. The commander of our nuclear forces has testified that the 1,550 warheads allowed under this treaty are sufficient for all our missions - and seven former nuclear commanders agree. The defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the Missile Defense Agency - all originally appointed by a Republican president - argue that New START is essential for our national defense.

We do not make a recommendation about the exact timing of a Senate ratification vote. That is a matter for the administration and Senate leaders. The most important thing is to have bipartisan support for the treaty, as previous nuclear arms treaties did.

Although each of us had initial questions about New START, administration officials have provided reasonable answers. We believe there are compelling reasons Republicans should support ratification.

First, the agreement emphasizes verification, providing a valuable window into Russia's nuclear arsenal....

Second, New START preserves our ability to deploy effective missile defenses....

Finally, the Obama administration has agreed to provide for modernization of the infrastructure essential to maintaining our nuclear arsenal....

Although the United States needs a strong and reliable nuclear force, the chief nuclear danger today comes not from Russia but from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea and the potential for nuclear material to fall into the hands of terrorists. Given those pressing dangers, some question why an arms control treaty with Russia matters. It matters because it is in both parties' interest that there be transparency and stability in their strategic nuclear relationship. It also matters because Russia's cooperation will be needed if we are to make progress in rolling back the Iranian and North Korean programs. Russian help will be needed to continue our work to secure "loose nukes" in Russia and elsewhere. And Russian assistance is needed to improve the situation in Afghanistan, a breeding ground for international terrorism....

The writers were secretaries of state for the past five Republican presidents.

New York Times, Dec. 1, 2010:

Belarus to Give Up Uranium Stockpile

By MARK LANDLER

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — The Obama administration scored a victory in its drive to curb the spread of dangerous nuclear material on Wednesday with an announcement here that a former Soviet republic, Belarus, had agreed to give up its stock of highly enriched uranium by 2012.

The announcement came at a European security summit meeting and served as an antidote to administration fears that the recent disclosure of confidential diplomatic cables would hamper America’s ability to deal with foreign governments, several of whom were portrayed in a negative light.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the cables had come up in her discussions with foreign leaders throughout the day, most notably in a spirited exchange with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, who was criticized for his flashy life and close ties to Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Yet the nuclear agreement with Belarus — advancing one of President Obama’s foreign policy goals — was a reminder that real diplomacy was still getting done, despite the obsessive focus on who-said-what-about-whom in the trove of leaked State Department cables....

• HANUKKAH AT THE WHITE HOUSE •

The White House Blog, Dec. 2, 2010:

Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah

Posted by Danielle Borrin, Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement

Last night, Jewish families, friends and neighbors all over the world lit the candles for the first night of Hanukkah. As the President and First Lady look forward to hosting the traditional Hanukkah celebration at the White House tonight, we remember that Hanukkah is not only a time to celebrate the faith and customs of the Jewish people, but for people of all faiths to celebrate the common aspirations we share and to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy.

At the Hanukkah celebration last year, President Obama said:

in every corner of the world, Jews have lit the Hanukkah candles as symbols of resilience in times of peace, and in times of persecution – in concentration camps and ghettos; war zones and unfamiliar lands. Their light inspires us to hope beyond hope; to believe that miracles are possible even in the darkest of hours. It is this message of Hanukkah that speaks to us no matter what faith we practice or what beliefs we cherish...it invites all of us to rededicate ourselves to improving the lives of those around us, spreading the light of freedom and tolerance wherever oppression and prejudice exist.

We invite you to join us here at the White House tonight for the President's remarks, the lighting of the menorah and a performance by saxophonist Joshua Redman beginning at 6:35 p.m. EST on WhiteHouse.gov/live.

Happy Hanukkah!

• AUSTAN GOOLSBEE ANSWERS QUESTIONS FROM MONSTER.COM JOB SEEKERS •

White House Blog, Dec. 1, 2010:

Austan Goolsbee Responds to Job Seekers' Questions

Posted by Sarah Bernard

Last month, we reached out, along with Monster.com, to take questions directly from job seekers about the Administration's economic recovery efforts.  Austan Goolsbee, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, answered questions that either had the most 'likes' in Monster's Facebook community or sparked the most conversation.  Here's some of what Austan addressed:

Evelyn Kraemer asked about creating jobs by rebuilding America's infrastructure.

Christopher Williams asked about our ability to "innovate and create" as an engine of economic growth.

Andrea Pleshette Lowe asked about what the Obama Administration is doing for small business.

• WORLD AIDS DAY •

President Obama's World AIDS Day Message

President Obama commemorates World AIDS Day 2010 and highlights the ways in which his Administration is combating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Office of the Press Secretary, November 30, 2010:

Presidential Proclamation--World AIDS Day

On this World AIDS Day, as we approach the thirtieth year of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we reflect on the many Americans and others around the globe lost to this devastating disease, and pledge our support to the 33 million people worldwide who live with HIV/AIDS.  We also recommit to building on the great strides made in fighting HIV, to preventing the spread of the disease, to continuing our efforts to combat stigma and discrimination, and to finding a cure.

Today, we are experiencing a domestic HIV epidemic that demands our attention and leadership.  My Administration has invigorated our response to HIV by releasing the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States.  Its vision is an America in which new HIV infections are rare, and when they do occur, all persons    regardless of age, gender, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic circumstance    will have unfettered access to high quality, life extending care.

Signifying a renewed level of commitment and urgency, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States focuses on comprehensive, evidence based approaches to preventing HIV in high risk communities.  It strengthens efforts to link and retain people living with HIV into care, and lays out new steps to ensure that the United States has the workforce necessary to serve Americans living with HIV.  The Strategy also provides a path for reducing HIV related health disparities by adopting community level approaches to preventing and treating this disease, including addressing HIV related discrimination.

Along with this landmark Strategy, we have also made significant progress with the health reform law I signed this year, the Affordable Care Act.  For far too long, Americans living with HIV and AIDS have endured great difficulties in obtaining adequate health insurance coverage and quality care.  The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurance companies from using HIV status and other pre-existing conditions as a reason to deny health care coverage to children as of this year, and to all Americans beginning in 2014.  To ensure that individuals living with HIV/AIDS can access the care they need, the Affordable Care Act ends lifetime limits and phases out annual limits on coverage.  Starting in 2014, it forbids insurance companies from charging higher premiums because of HIV status, and introduces tax credits that will make coverage more affordable for all Americans.  This landmark law also provides access to insurance coverage through the Pre Existing Condition Insurance Plan for the uninsured with chronic conditions.

Our Government has a role to play in reducing stigma, which is why my Administration eliminated the entry ban that previously barred individuals living with HIV/AIDS from entering the United States.  As a result, the 2012 International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington, D.C., the first time this important meeting will be hosted by the United States in over two decades.  For more information about our commitment to fighting this epidemic and the stigma surrounding it, I encourage all Americans to visit:  www.AIDS.gov.

Tackling this disease requires a shared response that builds on the successes achieved to date.  Globally, tens of millions of people have benefited from HIV prevention, treatment, and care programs supported by the American people.  The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria support anti retroviral treatments for millions around the world.  My Administration has also made significant investments and increases in our efforts to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS at home and abroad by implementing a comprehensive package of proven prevention programs and improving the health of those in developing countries.  Additionally, the Global Health Initiative integrates treatment and care with other interventions to provide a holistic approach to improving the health of people living with HIV/AIDS.  Along with our global partners, we will continue to focus on saving lives through effective prevention activities, as well as other smart investments to maximize the impact of each dollar spent.

World AIDS Day serves as an important reminder that HIV/AIDS has not gone away.  More than one million Americans currently live with HIV/AIDS in the United States, and more than 56,000 become infected each year.  For too long, this epidemic has loomed over our Nation and our world, taking a devastating toll on some of the most vulnerable among us.  On World AIDS Day, we mourn those we have lost and look to the promise of a brighter future and a world without HIV/AIDS.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States do hereby proclaim December 1, 2010, as World AIDS Day.  I urge the Governors of the States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of the other territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and the American people to join in appropriate activities to remember the men, women, and children who have lost their lives to AIDS and to provide support and comfort to those living with this disease.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty fifth.

BARACK OBAMA

White House, Dec. 1, 2010:

World AIDS Day at the White House

Administration officials and leaders in the AIDS community gather at the White House on World AIDS Day to discuss lessons learned and strategies to fight HIV and AIDS in the United States and around the world. Video begins with the President's remarks.

Office of National AIDS Policy, Dec. 1, 2010:

Commemorating World AIDS Day

Posted by Jeffrey Crowley, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP)

(On Dec. 1), Obama Administration officials and leaders in the AIDS community (spoke) at a World AIDS Day event at the White House to reflect on the lessons learned and the path forward in the fight against HIV and AIDS in the United States and around the world.  The White House World AIDS Day Event (included) keynote remarks as well as a panel discussion with HIV/AIDS researchers and advocates and (was) live streamed ....

Throughout his career in public service, President Obama has been committed to fighting HIV/AIDS here at home and around the world.  With the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as a foundation, the President put forward an ambitious $63 billion Global Health Initiative (GHI) to combat HIV/AIDS, address other health challenges and assist partner countries to strengthen their health systems and build capacity to provide services sustainably.  Through the GHI, the President’s aim is to ensure our programs have maximum impact, as this Administration’s focus is on outcomes, such as lives saved -- not simply dollars spent. Since taking office, the number of those on antiretroviral treatment has nearly doubled to 3.2 million – up from 1.7 million in 2008, and under the GHI, the U.S. continues to be the global leader in funding for HIV/AIDS.  The President proposed the largest request to date for PEPFAR for FY 2011.  Additionally, in October, the Administration announced an unprecedented multi-year pledge of $4 billion for 2011-2013 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  This pledge represents a 38% increase in U.S. support for the Global Fund, and is in addition to more than $5.1 billion provided to the Fund to date.  

Domestically, the Office of National AIDS Policy released the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy and Federal Implementation Plan for the United States with three key goals: reducing the number of new infections; increasing access to care and optimizing health outcomes for people living with HIV; and reducing HIV-related health disparities.

White House, July 14, 2010:

President Obama on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

The President speaks about the just released National HIV/AIDS Strategy and his commitment to focusing the public's attention on ending the domestic HIV epidemic. July 13, 2010.

Office of the Press Secretary, July 13, 2010:

Remarks by the President on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

THE PRESIDENT:

.... So the question is not whether we know what to do, but whether we will do it.  (Applause.)  Whether we will fulfill those obligations; whether we will marshal our resources and the political will to confront a tragedy that is preventable....

In recent months, we’ve held 14 community discussions.  We’ve spoken with over 4,200 people.  We’ve received over 1,000 recommendations on the White House website, devising an approach not from the top down but from the bottom up.

And today, we’re releasing our National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is the product -- (applause) -- which is the product of these conversations, and conversations with HIV-positive Americans and health care providers, with business leaders, with faith leaders, and the best policy and scientific minds in our country.

Now, I know that this strategy comes at a difficult time for Americans living with HIV/AIDS, because we’ve got cash-strapped states who are being forced to cut back on essentials, including assistance for AIDS drugs.  I know the need is great.  And that’s why we’ve increased federal assistance each year that I’ve been in office, providing an emergency supplement this year to help people get the drugs they need, even as we pursue a national strategy that focuses on three central goals.

First goal:  prevention.  We can’t afford to rely on any single prevention method alone, so our strategy promotes a comprehensive approach to reducing the number of new HIV infections -– from expanded testing so people can learn their status, to education so people can curb risky behaviors, to drugs that can prevent a mother from transmitting a virus to her child.

To support our new direction, we’re investing $30 million in new money, and I’ve committed to working with Congress to make sure these investments continue in the future....

Second is treatment.  To extend lives and stem transmission, we need to make sure every HIV-positive American gets the medical care that they need.  (Applause.)  And by stopping health insurers from denying coverage because of a preexisting condition and by creating a marketplace where people with HIV/AIDS can buy affordable care, the health insurance reforms I signed into law this year are an important step forward.

And we’ll build on those reforms, while also understanding that when people have trouble putting food on the table or finding a place to live, it’s virtually impossible to keep them on lifesaving therapies.  (Applause.)

Now, the third goal is reducing health disparities by combating the disease in communities where the need is greatest.  (Applause.)

We all know the statistics.  Gay and bisexual men make up a small percentage of the population, but over 50 percent of new infections.  For African Americans, it’s 13 percent of the population -- nearly 50 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS.  HIV infection rates among black women are almost 20 times what they are for white women.  So, such health disparities call on us to make a greater effort as a nation to offer testing and treatment to the people who need it the most.  (Applause.)

So reducing new HIV infections; improving care for people living with HIV/AIDS; narrowing health disparities -- these are the central goals of our national strategy.  They must be pursued hand in hand with our global public health strategy to roll back the pandemic beyond our borders.  And they must be pursued by a government that is acting as one.  So we need to make sure all our efforts are coordinated within the federal government and across federal, state and local governments -– because that’s how we’ll achieve results that let Americans live longer and healthier lives.  (Applause.)

So, yes, government has to do its part.  But our ability to combat HIV/AIDS doesn’t rest on government alone.  It requires companies to contribute funding and expertise to the fight.  It requires us to use every source of information –- from TV to film to the Internet -– to promote AIDS awareness.  It requires community leaders to embrace all -- and not just some -- who are affected by the disease.  It requires each of us to act responsibly in our own lives, and it requires all of us to look inward -- to ask not only how we can end this scourge, but also how we can root out the inequities and the attitudes on which this scourge thrives.

When a person living with HIV/AIDS is treated as if she’s done something wrong, when she’s viewed as being somehow morally compromised, how can we expect her to get tested and disclose her diagnosis to others?  (Applause.)

When we fail to offer a child a proper education, when we fail to provide him with accurate medical information and instill within him a sense of responsibility, then how can we expect him to take the precautions necessary to protect himself and others?  (Applause.)

When we continue, as a community of nations, to tolerate poverty and inequality and injustice in our midst, we don’t stand up for how women are treated in certain countries, how can we expect to end the disease –- a pandemic -– that feeds on such conditions?

So fighting HIV/AIDS in America and around the world will require more than just fighting the virus.  It will require a broader effort to make life more just and equitable for the people who inhabit this Earth.  And that’s a cause to which I’ll be firmly committed so long as I have the privilege of serving as President.

So to all of you who have been out there in the field, working on this issues day in, day out, I know sometimes it’s thankless work.  But the truth is, you are representing what’s best in all of us -- our regard for one another, our willingness to care for one another.  I thank you for that.  I’m grateful for you.  You’re going to have a partner in me....

The White House, July 13, 2010:

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, ONAP Director Jeffrey Crowley and HHS Assistant Secretary Dr. Howard Koh speak during the official announcement of the White House National HIV/AIDS Strategy. July 13, 2010.

Office of the Press Secretary, July 13, 2010:

White House Announces National HIV/AIDS Strategy

$30 Million of Prevention Fund Dedicated to Implementation of Strategy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the United States, approximately 56,000 people become infected with HIV each year and more than 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV.  To combat this growing epidemic, the White House today released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and accompanying NHAS Federal Implementation Plan.

Secretary Sebelius also announced that $30 million of the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention Fund will be dedicated to the implementation of the NHAS.  This funding will support the development of combination prevention interventions.  It will also support improved surveillance, expanded and targeted testing, and other activities.

"We can’t afford complacency – not when in the ten minutes I’ve been talking to you, another American has just contracted HIV," Secretary Sebelius said.  "That’s why our strategy calls for aggressive efforts to educate Americans about how dangerous this disease still is and the steps they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones."

The vision of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy is to make the United States "a place where new HIV infections are rare, and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic circumstance will have unfettered access to high-quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination."
               
The NHAS has three primary goals:

  1. Reducing  the number of new infections;
  1. Increasing access to care and optimizing health outcomes for people living with HIV;
  1. Reducing HIV-related health disparities;

To accomplish these goals, the NHAS  calls for a more coordinated national response to the HIV epidemic and includes a NHAS Federal Implementation Plan that outlines key, short-term actions to be undertaken by the federal government to execute the outlined recommendations.  Additionally, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum directing agencies to take specific steps to implement this strategy.  

Since taking office, the Obama Administration has taken extraordinary steps to engage the public to evaluate what we are doing right and identify new approaches that will strengthen our response to the domestic epidemic.  The Office of National AIDS Policy hosted 14 HIV/AIDS Community Discussions with thousands of Americans across the U.S. and reviewed suggestions from the public via the White House website.  ONAP also organized a series of expert meetings on several HIV-specific topics, and worked with Federal and community partners who organized their own meetings to support the development of a national strategy.

Go to www.AIDS.gov and www.whitehouse.gov/onap for more information and resources.

HIV/AIDS Report Round-up:  Addressing the needs of various communities

Highlighting HIV Issues Among Older Americans

Commemorating National Latino AIDS Awareness Day

ONAP Commissions Institute of Medicine to Examine Data Gaps in Monitoring Access and Quality of HIV Care

HHS Awards $3.5 Million to Expand HIV/AIDS Care Capacity for Minorities

Focusing HIV Prevention Efforts on Gay and Bisexual Men

Implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy at the Community Level

Women Engaging and Responding to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

White House, Oct. 1, 2010:

National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the Latino Community

The White House Office of National Aids Policy holds a forum with representatives of the Latino Community. September 23, 2010.

• WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING •

White House, Dec. 1, 2010:

12/01/10: White House Press Briefing

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

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 1, 2010:

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 12/1/2010

Excerpts dealing with tax cuts, START and vote scheduling.

MR. GIBBS:  Let me do one quick statement before I start taking questions.  I just want to call your attention to a significant step forward for the agenda that the President outlined during the nuclear security summit in April.  Belarus has agreed to eliminate all its stocks of highly enriched uranium by the time of the next nuclear security summit in 2012.  This removal represents a significant, as I said, step forward in President Obama’s worldwide effort to secure nuclear material.  

The United States intends to provide technical and financial assistance to support this effort.  The Republic of Korea, as host of the 2012 nuclear security summit, has agreed to invite Belarus, contingent upon the completion of its highly enriched uranium removal....

Q: And I believe that Senator Kyl said that he thinks that the tax cuts issue needs to be wrapped up by Monday in order for there to be enough time to deal with START.  Do you agree with that and do you think that that timeline is realistic?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, I think first and foremost, everybody agreed yesterday that the issue of taxes needs to be resolved before anybody can go home and certainly before the end of the year.  The President’s position obviously is, as he stated -- as he stated before, and that is our goal is to ensure that middle-class families don't see their tax bills go up on New Year’s Day.

We're going to work through a series of these issues.  But if people come to the discussions that are being had up on Capitol Hill with an open mind and a desire to find common ground, the President believes we can get an agreement on this and still have time to sequence other issues that are important to the country to get done before the end of the lame duck, and START is certainly one of those.

I think we still have -- I don't think the Congress is going anywhere just yet and we'll have plenty of time to get a whole host of things done.....

Q:  Has the President been briefed on the negotiations, these tax cut negotiations, up on the Hill?

MR. GIBBS:  I believe so.  Secretary Geithner and Director Lew came back, oh, let’s see, a little after -- a little before, I think, 12:30 p.m., and I presume -- I'll double-check and see if they directly briefed the President.  I believe they did.

Q:  And I know you don’t want to give a readout of progress, but is there a sense that the President is encouraged by what has transpired so far?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, I think it’s encouraging that they’re meeting.  I think it’s encouraging that they’ve had a meeting and they’re going to go back again this afternoon.

This is -- it’s going to take a little time to get something done, and we understand that.  I think what’s important is what everyone agreed on yesterday, and that is this is a problem that has to be dealt with by the end of the year.  We cannot have Congress leave for the holidays without a solution to an issue that will bring a hardship -- potentially a big hardship to middle-class families at the end of the year.

Q: You said it’s going to take a little time, but I think yesterday you were talking about a couple of days.  So what are we talking about now in terms of getting something actually done?

MR. GIBBS:  Look, I'm not -- I hung up my hat on congressional predicting months ago.....

Q: Wait, I have one more question, on Colin Powell.  He’s here today meeting with the President on education but obviously START as well.  Is the White House looking for sort of a heavy hitter to help push this through, and Colin Powell is that person?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, let’s be clear that the number of people that are I think by any estimation you’d consider heavy hitters on either the Democratic or the Republican side have weighed in in strong support of ratifying the New START treaty.

Certainly General Powell is among those.  General Powell, former Secretary of State Powell -- call him either one, I guess -- is somebody obviously whose advice the President seeks on a regular basis.  He’ll be here, as you said, to talk about national security issues, particularly around the New START treaty, as well as to talk to the President and the Vice President about his work on dropouts and education, which obviously is a passion of his, and important work that he’s doing on behalf of the country.

But I think if you look at the number -- I think there’s a reason why 75 percent of the American people think that ratifying the START treaty is a good idea, and I think one of the reasons is Henry Kissinger or Jim Baker or Colin Powell or Madeleine Albright -- I’m leaving out dozens -- but a whole host of important national security heavyweights from both parties that understand the importance of reducing our deployed nuclear weapons, having a verification regime as it relates to the nuclear arsenal of Russia, and our engagement and our place in the world all make a -- all those are important factors in trying to get something finished this year....

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think you’ve heard the President discuss his focus in ensuring that middle-class families don’t see their tax rates go up.  I think you’ve heard the President lay out what is not acceptable to him, and that’s borrowing an additional $700 billion for a permanent extension of upper-end tax cuts.

Q:   Beyond appearing here at the White House today, what are you hoping that General Powell will do in support of the START treaty?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, General Powell and others have been helpful in having conversations with and discussions with a whole host of people, I believe including those on Capitol Hill, on why it is important -- why this treaty is important, why it’s important to get it done -- why it’s important to get this treaty done, and its impact on our relationship in the world and the progress that we can make in reducing dangerous weapons.

Again, he and others, many of whom I outlined earlier, have been helpful in this effort.  And I think over the course of the past -- you guys have mentioned this letter -- I think over the course of the last 24 hours we’ve seen -- last week we were ready to pronounce START -- or two weeks ago ready to pronounce START dead.  We’ve got Senator Voinovich who said just yesterday that he hopes we get it done this year and I think he said he would likely support it.  I think there’s an understanding that it’s something that's tremendously important to do....

MR. GIBBS:  .... You mentioned the economic impact that those (unemployment) benefits have. That's money that -- look, if you are drawing down your unemployment benefits, you don't have full-time work, and you’re using that money to pay your bills, to continue to look for work. And it’s an important part of the efforts that individuals that have lost their jobs use to continue to keep going to pay their bills.  And it’s an important part of the economy.  It is something that the President and the economic team particularly feel strongly has to be extended.

I will say this.  If we are going to have a debate in this town about extending tax cuts for people that make a billion dollars a year, how do we not have a debate and how do we not come to some conclusion for unemployment benefits for people that have lost their job?  Nothing could be more completely out of whack with what is important to the American people and to getting our economy going again than to watch a debate about billionaire tax cuts while people lose their unemployment benefits.

Q:  Has the President issued any guidance to Senator Reid in terms of scheduling the "don't ask, don't tell" vote or in terms when it should come up relative to the START treaty or tax cuts?

MR. GIBBS:  We have not provided specific calendar guidance. I would reiterate, though, what I said here earlier, and what was I think a fairly powerful and eloquent statement from Secretary Gates about the strong need to get something done and address this issue in the lame duck session.  It is tremendously important that we do this over the next few weeks....

• NET NEUTRALITY •

The White House Blog, Dec. 1, 2010:

President Obama's Strong Commitment to Net Neutrality and an Open Internet

Posted by Aneesh Chopra, the United States' Chief Technology Officer

President Obama is strongly committed to net neutrality in order to keep an open Internet that fosters investment, innovation, consumer choice, and free speech.  The announced action by FCC Chairman Genachowsk, building on the work of Chairman Waxman's collaborative effort to craft legislation in this area, advances this important policy priority.

We recognize that this announcement reflects a significant amount of effort on the part of numerous broadband providers, Internet applications developers, content providers, consumer groups, and others to finding a thoughtful and effective approach to this issue. Today's announcement is an important step in preventing abuses and continuing to advance the Internet as an engine of productivity growth and innovation.

OpenInternet.gov, Dec. 1, 2010:

Preserving a Free and Open Internet

by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission

After months of hard work we have reached an important milestone in the fight to protect a free and open Internet for all Americans.

Today, the FCC proposed basic rules of the road to preserve the open Internet as a platform for innovation, investment, job creation, competition, and free expression. If adopted later this month, these basic rules will mean several things for consumers, namely:

  1. Americans have the freedom to access lawful content on the Internet, without discrimination. No one should be able to tell you what you can or can’t do on the Internet, as long as it’s lawful. Our rules will ensure that no central authority—either corporations or government—have the right to decide what you can access on the Internet.
  1. You have a right to basic information about your broadband service. Our proposed framework will ensure that consumers have information they need to make informed choices about subscribing or using broadband networks.
  1. The Internet will remain a level playing field. The ability for consumers to speak their mind, engage in commerce and innovate without permission from a corporation has enabled the Internet’s unparalled success.  Our rules will protect against corporate gatekeepers prioritizing access to one person’s content over another’s.

The openness of the Internet has enabled unparalleled innovation and job growth, yet we continue to find examples of this freedom being attacked. We have found instances when broadband providers position themselves as gatekeepers to the Internet, and have prevented consumers from using applications of their choice without disclosing what they were doing.

We must take action to protect consumers against price hikes and closed access to the Internet—and our proposed framework is designed to do just that: to guard against these risks while recognizing the legitimate needs and interests of broadband providers.

I look forward to the very important work ahead as we strive for free and open communications for all Americans.

Cross-posted at FCC.gov

• 55TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT •

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 1, 2010:

Statement by President Obama on the 55th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Fifty-five years ago, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus – an act that challenged the moral conscience of an entire nation.  The Montgomery Bus Boycott marked a turning point in American history – the moment where we began the march toward the Civil Rights Movement and the eventual outlawing of racial segregation and discrimination.  Rosa Parks and the many other leaders and foot soldiers in that struggle for justice championed our founding principles of freedom and equality for all, and today, as we commemorate the anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, I encourage all Americans to honor their legacy – the legacy of Americans who marched bravely, worked tirelessly, and devoted their lives to the never-ending task of making our country a more perfect union.

Biography Channel, January 26, 2010:

Rosa Parks

In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks is jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, a violation of the city's racial segregation laws.

• CHRISTMAS AT THE WHITE HOUSE •

White House, Dec. 1, 2010:

Simple Gifts: Holidays at the White House 2010

A behind the scenes look at the nearly 100 volunteers and their efforts to decorate the White House for the 2010 holiday season.

The White House, Dec. 1, 2010:

The First Lady Previews White House Holiday Decorations

First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes the press and military families to the White House to preview the 2010 White House holiday decorations. December 1, 2010.

The White House, Dec. 1, 2010:

Remarks by the First Lady at Holiday Press Preview

The First Lady:

.... And any and everyone who has helped to bring joy to so many people, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all the work that you’ve done.  In the end, that spirit of kindness and generosity is really what the holiday season is all about.  And it was the idea behind this year’s theme, which is "Simple Gifts".  That's the theme this year, "Simple Gifts," because in the end, the greatest blessings of all are the ones that don't cost a thing -- the time that we spend with our loved ones, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and the joy we feel from reaching out to those in need.

And that's why our holiday decorations this season include a children’s tree, with some beautiful gingerbread ornaments that were decorated by children of our troops.  And hopefully you’ll get a chance to see that, as well.

We also have a very special Military Appreciation Tree in honor of our men and women in uniform who can’t always spend the holiday season with the people they love the most.  It is the creation of Deborah Mullen, my dear friend and the wife of Admiral Mike Mullen, who has been an incredible advocate for military families and is here with us today.  So, Deborah, I know you hate this, but please stand so that we can thank you. (Applause.)

We are also honored to be joined by so many members of the military and their families today, folks who show us every day with their service truly what it means to put others above self.  And as First Lady, I’ve had the privilege of meeting our men and women in uniform on bases and in hospitals and in communities all across the country.  And I say this all the time, but when I make those visits, I come away not just with a sense of pride and gratitude, but also with a sense of awe, both at their courage and their sacrifice and at their commitment to serving their country and their communities.

That’s what the folks here today are doing with a very special program, Toys for Tots, that is run by the Marine Reserves.  Each of them has volunteered their time, collecting and distributing some of the millions of toys that will be delivered to children this year.  "Toys for Tots" is just one example of how our military families are serving our communities and Americans in need all around the country, year-round.

And I’m thrilled that the White House staff will be supporting their efforts with a toy drive to help make this holiday a little bit brighter for children right here in the D.C. community....

Originally posted to Kat 4 Obama on Thu Dec 02, 2010 at 08:35 AM PST.

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