Hi, all. Today's report features:
• West Wing Week: A look at the past week.
• The President on JFK's legacy: On the 50th anniversary of his inauguration.
• DOJ cracks down on mob: The Attorney General reports on a historic operation against the mafia.
• Health care: Affordable Care Act helps a college student; mayors argue against repeal.
• White House press briefing: Mr. Gibbs takes questions; the President talks on the economy at General Electric in Schenectady, New York at 1 p.m. Eastern.
• GSA report: The General Services Administration reports on bringing clean energy to government.
• State news: Secretary Clinton hosts a press availability with the Estonian Foreign Minister.
• First Lady and Wal-Mart launch nutrition initiative: Making American food more nutritious and affordable.
• FLOTUS greets White House visitors: The First Lady welcomes visitors on the second anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration.
And that's the report for this week -- see you Monday, 1/24/11.
• WEST WING WEEK •
White House, Jan. 20, 2011:
West Wing Week: 1/21/11 or "A Rather Large Painting"
Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Watch as the President welcomes the presidents of China and Pakistan, serves the community in observance of Martin Luther King Day, speaks in remembrance of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and President John F. Kennedy, and more.
• THE PRESIDENT ON JFK'S LEGACY •
The President commemmorates the JFK inauguration
The President speaks about the legacy of President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his inauguration.
AFP, Jan. 20, 2011:
.... (President) Obama's remarks at the marble-clad Kennedy Center performing arts complex in Washington were a culmination of ceremonies marking the Kennedy inauguration on January 20, 1961, still remembered as a heady, rare moment of promise and patriotism....
"None of it feels dated, even now, one half of a century later, there is something about that day, January 20, 1961 that feels immediate, that feels new, urgent and exciting," Obama said....
Obama, who took office exactly two years ago with the threat of a second Great Depression staring down Americans, also dryly drew comparisons between his presidency and that of his Democratic predecessor.
"I can only imagine how he felt, entering the Oval Office in turbulent times," Obama said, causing ripples of laughter in the audience....
"What President Kennedy understood, was the character of the people he led, our resilience, our fearlessness, our distinctly American ability, revealed time and again throughout history, to defy the odds, to fashion our future, to make the world anew," Obama said.
"We can reach great heights, we can rise to any challenge -- so long as we are willing to ask what we can do for our country," Obama added, invoking a famous passage of Kennedy's inaugural address.
"The world is very different now than it was in 1961... but if we can hold onto that spirit today, I know that our generation will answer its call as ably as earlier ones did before us."
• DOJ CRACKS DOWN ON MOB •
Associated Press, Jan. 20, 2011:
Attorney General: Mob Engaged in 'violent and Illegal' Acts
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder details some of the government's case against the Mob, part of a series of arrests among members of organized crime. The Feds say this is one of the biggest crackdowns in U.S. history.
Department of Justice, Jan. 20, 2011:
Good morning, and thank you all for being here.
Today I’m joined by several key leaders, and partners, in our work to combat organized crime – Janice Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Division; Daniel Petrole, Acting Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor; Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Paul Fishman, United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey; Peter F. Neronha, United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island; and Ray Kelly, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department.
We are pleased to announce an important step forward in our nation’s ongoing fight against the organized crime families of La Cosa Nostra – the mafia.
Today, more than 800 federal, state and local law enforcement officials have arrested over 110 individuals, including dozens of La Cosa Nostra members and associates. In total, 127 people have been charged in 16 indictments unsealed today in four districts in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
This is one of the largest single-day operations against the mafia in the FBI’s history, both in terms of the number of defendants arrested and charged, and the scope of the criminal activity alleged. Defendants from numerous La Cosa Nostra families have been charged, including defendants from all five New York-based families: the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Luchese families.
We have charged mob associates and mob bosses alike, including the former boss of La Cosa Nostra operations in New England; the Street Boss, Acting Underboss, and Consigliere of the Colombo family; and the Gambino family Consigliere and a member of that family’s ruling panel.
Their alleged crimes include numerous violent and illegal acts – from murder and narcotics trafficking to extortion, illegal gambling, arson, loan sharking, and labor racketeering.
Some allegations involve classic mob hits to eliminate perceived rivals. Others involve senseless murders. In one instance, a victim allegedly was shot and killed during a botched robbery attempt. And two other murder victims allegedly were shot dead in a public bar, because of a dispute over a spilled drink.
Other charged criminal activity reflects the mafia’s continued influence in various economic sectors, and its alleged schemes to steal money by preying on vulnerable Americans. One fraud scheme carried out by the Colombo crime family allegedly defrauded consumers with poor credit histories out of one-time payments that the consumers believed they were making to secure loans. Other charges allege that the crime families’ extorted money from various labor union members, including some belonging to the International Longshoremen’s Association, and a concrete union in New York.
Today’s arrests mark an important, and encouraging, step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra’s operations. But our battle against organized crime enterprises is far from over. This is an ongoing effort and it must, and will, remain a top priority. Members and associates of La Cosa Nostra are among the most dangerous criminals in our country. The very oath of allegiance sworn by these mafia members during their initiation ceremony binds them to a life of crime.
As we’ve seen for decades, criminal mafia operations can negatively impact our economy – not only through a wide array of fraud schemes but also through the illegal imposition of mob "taxes" at our ports, in our construction industries, and on our small businesses. In some cases, La Cosa Nostra members and associates allegedly seek to corrupt legitimate businesses and those who have sworn to uphold the public trust. And many of them are lethal. Time and again, they have shown a willingness to kill – to make money, to eliminate rivals, and to silence witnesses.
Today’s successful arrests – across multiple cities and involving multiple mafia families – send a clear message that, in our fight against organized crime, the Justice Department is targeting federal resources and working with our state and local law enforcement partners like never before. We are committed – and determined – to eradicate these criminal enterprises once and for all and to bring their members to justice.
As part of our commitment to battling organized crime, the Justice Department’s Criminal Division has announced that it is working to merge its historic Organized Crime and Racketeering Section with its Gang Unit – a move that will bring together an elite group of prosecutors with extensive knowledge and experience in combating criminal enterprises.
In addition, due to the continued threat that these criminal organizations pose, in September of last year I issued an order directing the Department’s Criminal Division, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and the FBI to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to effectively combat these domestic organized crime groups, as well as international criminal organizations that threaten our nation’s security. I want to thank my colleagues in the Criminal Division, in our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and in the FBI for their outstanding efforts – and their commitment to collaboration.
Today’s actions are a reflection – and a direct result – of that renewed commitment. I am grateful to, and proud of, all of the investigators, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and agency partners involved in today’s take-down. This investigation and prosecution reflects unprecedented collaboration among four U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the Department’s Criminal Division, and the FBI. Thank you all, and congratulations on a job well done....
• HEALTH CARE •
White House Blog, Jan. 20, 2011:
Posted by Stephanie Cutter, Assistant to the President for Special Projects
Libbie Hough from North Carolina spent a lot of time worrying about her daughter, Natalie, who has a pre-existing condition.
Natalie had a previously undiagnosed condition, went into cardiac arrest while at school, beat the odds and survived. But Libbie knew that such an episode would be classified as a pre-existing condition and make it very difficult for Natalie to find quality, affordable health insurance. And she worried about what her daughter would do when she graduated from college and had to find insurance on her own.
She also knew that Natalie’s pre-existing condition might make it impossible for her to take a job or other opportunity if it didn’t come with health insurance. Libbie didn’t like that her daughter would feel constrained in her life choices, or have to worry about the cost of being covered when she should be able to focus on going to college, getting an education and pursuing her dreams.
Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act is helping people like Natalie across the country. Thanks to the new law, Natalie will be able to stay on her parent’s insurance plan until she turns 26. And when it comes time for her to look for health insurance on her own, insurance companies will be prohibited from discriminating against her because of her pre-existing condition.
The new law is giving young adults like Natalie the freedom to focus on priorities other than health insurance, and letting parents like Libbie breathe a sigh of relief.
Listen to her story:
Office of the Press Secretary, Jan. 19, 2011:
.... Los Angeles, California Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
"Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress want to move the country backwards and repeal this historic legislation. If this regressive, devastating action occurred, tens of millions of hard-working Americans would find themselves out in the cold -- no longer being guaranteed the coverage that is essential for survival and living better quality lives. In the Los Angeles area alone, it would increase the number of people without health insurance by two million and would allow insurance companies to deny coverage for up to 6.6 million people -- including 900,000 children -- with pre-existing conditions. We cannot stand by idly and allow this to happen. I would like to ask the members of Congress who are working to repeal the Affordable Care Act to transcend partisan lines and consider the countless lives that are at stake."
Hoffman, North Carolina Mayor JoAnn J. Thomas
"Hoffman, NC is a very rural town with many low income households with people who cannot afford health insurance. I am blessed to have a job that allows me to purchase insurance for my family, although the cost is nearly $600 per month. Many low income Americans don't make $600 every two weeks, let alone have it to pay for insurance. It's a crime to deny or revoke any legislation that is intended to improve the quality of life of our indigent citizens."
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Mayor Linda Thompson
"I strongly support continuation of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and oppose H.R.2 which calls for the Act to be overturned. Repeal of any portion of this critical legislation will weaken its capacity to protect Americans from discriminatory practices and ensure Americans are provided with more choices for affordable care options. Hospitals in and around Harrisburg are already seeing more patients without insurance, more underinsured patients and more who cannot pay their bills. The situation is untenable and must be reversed. The Affordable Care Act is an important step in that direction. Harrisburg is among the many cities with significant minority populations that will benefit from provisions in the law that extend coverage to 32 million Americans, including 8 million African Americans who are currently uninsured."
Minneapolis, Minnesota Mayor Mayor R.T. Rybak
"There’s no two ways about it: health-insurance reform is doing more to help middle-class families than any other act in decades — and that’s saying a lot, coming as it does from a President who has done more in just his first two years in office to help the middle class than any other president since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Health-insurance reform covers more Americans, makes health care more affordable, cuts the deficit and helps grow the economy. As its benefits are phased in, Americans are seeing how it is making their lives better. Not surprisingly, powerful special interests oppose making live better for the middle class — and not surprisingly, Congressional Republicans are doing their bidding by staging a meaningless bit of political theater they call "repeal." In so doing, they are betraying the trust that Americans placed in them to actually cooperate with President Obama to help people get back to work."
Durham, North Carolina Mayor William V. Bell
"This is simply not the time to turn back the clock on opportunities and access to Affordable Health Care. We need to move forward aggressively in support and implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act."
Boston, Massachusetts Mayor Thomas M. Menino
"The move to repeal the Affordable Care Act today is shortsighted and denies our nation the chance to provide all Americans with equal access to health insurance and care. The actions of the House Republicans could cost Massachusetts millions of dollars in federal assistance and continues to push Americans down the path of uncontrolled health care costs. In this tough economic climate when cities across the country are cutting basic city services to meet their shrinking budgets, small businesses are unable to afford health insurance premiums and when millions of seniors are unable to afford their medications, a return to status quo is not what we need, it is irresponsible."
Hobson City, Alabama Mayor Alberta McCrory
"Hobson City is the oldest incorporated African America municipality in the State of Alabama and the third oldest in America. According to the 2000 Census, there are 878 people living in Hobson City; 92.% are African American. In 2009, the estimated median household income in Hobson City was $20,224, with 50% of our people living below the poverty level... The Town of Hobson City joins the National Conference of Black Mayors in urging Congress to collectively focus on strengthening, not repealing, this landmark legislation."
Baltimore, Maryland Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
"I am disheartened that the new House of Representatives’ first order of business for the 112th Congress is to hold a theatric vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. At a time when the country is working to recover from the impact of a global recession, we need our leaders in Washington focused on creating jobs and growing the economy. In Maryland, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would put as many as 2.5 million Marylanders under the age of 65 at risk of losing their health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, and tens of thousands of Marylanders would immediately see a significant increase in their prescription drug costs. And, as President Obama plans to introduce another balanced and responsible budget for the nation, a repeal of Affordable Care Act would significantly increase the national debt, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office."
• PRESS BRIEFING •
White House, Jan.20, 2011:
1/20/11: 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, Jan. 20, 2011:
... MR. GIBBS .... I think you would all have to strain your recent memory to find a leader from China traveling outside of his country -- or in -- after meeting with the President on a number of occasions on this trip making such a frank admission of the improvement that needed to happen in the area of human rights in the country of China.
The process of translation was not the news yesterday. The news was just that, that President Hu realizes that -- and told the world -- that China has to do better.
We will certainly -- while we appreciate those words, the United States will watch the actions of –
Q: But somehow –
MR. GIBBS -- will watch the actions of the Chinese government to make sure that they meet the words that were spoken in the White House yesterday....
Well, I think broadly what I would say about the State of the Union is obviously this is a speech that will center around and the great majority of the speech will be on the steps that the President believes our country has to take to continue that economic recovery; steps that we need to take in the short term that relate to jobs and steps that we need to take in the medium and the long term to put our fiscal house in order and to increase our competitiveness and our innovation that allows us to create the jobs of tomorrow.
I think you’ve heard the President talk about certainly the notions of competitiveness and innovation a lot. Recently he, on a number of occasions, has spoken about it in speeches. One that comes to mind is in December in North Carolina. I think many of those -- many of the themes that you heard in that and other speeches on the economy you’ll hear again next Tuesday....
Q: .... First off on foreign policy, any reaction to the news that South Korea had agreed to talk to the North Koreans on military matters?
MR. GIBBS Look, obviously I think that is an important step forward. I think some of that comes as a result of yesterday’s meeting here that for the first time there was an acknowledgment by the Chinese about the North Koreans’ enrichment program. I think following that, the Republic of Korea agreeing to enter talks with the North Koreans -- clearly, conditions were created yesterday that showed the Republic of Korea that China and the United States were aligned in dealing with the aggressions of the North Koreans. So I think it is clearly a positive step.
Q: And on the State of the Union, will the President raise the issue of the recommendations of his deficit commission?
MR. GIBBS Without getting into a lot of detail, I think, again, spending and what we have to do to get our fiscal house in order is certainly going to be a topic that you’ll hear the President discuss on Tuesday....
Q: .... Tell us about (the President’s) thinking about what he -- how he sees this -- not the state of the union, but the state of his leadership going forward.
MR. GIBBS Well, Jake, I don’t know that he spends a lot of time separating the state of the country and where he is in his presidency, because his task is -- the task that he has before him and the task that he’ll bring to the next two years is helping our economy continue to recover after the massive job loss and downturn of what happened as a result of the financial calamities that peaked in September of 2008. I don’t think the President -- obviously there are aides inside of here and outside of here that spend time worrying about the President’s political standing. I don’t think the President spends a whole lot of time thinking through and worrying about sort of where he is in his presidency. Obviously there’s a lot on his plate and a lot that has to be done to continue that recovery, to put the pieces in place to see us be able to compete with the rest of the world, to attract the type of jobs that we know are necessary to continue our important economic growth. I think that’s what the President is focused on each and every day.
MR. GIBBS Look, I will say this, Jake. I think if you look at any series of public polling that we’ve all churned through in the last week or so, I think it’s -- I think the message that we saw come through and what you heard us say a lot during the lame duck I think is -- manifested itself in some of these recent numbers. And that is that the American people would like to see Democrats and Republicans sit down at a table, be it here, be it there, and work through important solutions to the problems that face the American people. That’s -- I think that’s what we did in large measure during the lame duck. I think with strong bipartisan votes we were able to see an agreement that didn’t raise taxes on middle-class families, that protected our country from deployed nuclear weapons -- a whole host of things that were tremendously important, and I think that’s what the President wants to continue to do.
Look, I think what -- it’s that old adage that I think the President is not going to be worried about his political standing. That will certainly -- a lot of that stuff takes care of itself. You make good decisions on behalf of the American people, and I think that’s what he’s done for the last two years.
Q: .... Is there any indication from President Hu that he will be taking any actions regarding the Falun Gong, regarding Tibet, regarding the jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner?
MR. GIBBS Well, Jake, look, that’s why you heard me say at the beginning of this that while that admission is an important one, the President will continue to, in meetings with President Hu and our administration, will continue, in meetings with Chinese officials, press the case for tangible action and result on human rights.
The President I think was pretty forward-leaning when it came to Liu Xiaobo and the awarding of the Nobel Prize and what happened when China would not release him in order to go get that Nobel Prize....
.... I think we had issues that we discussed in walking you guys through the important aspects of what we hope to get out of this visit -- security, economics and human rights -- I think we saw progress in each of those three areas, right?
So in the security realm, again, the Chinese acknowledgment in the statements that -- of the North Korean uranium enrichment program, setting forth a series of conditions that made the Republic of Korea confident enough to go into talks with the North Koreans -- is certain -- I would say one in the security basket.
In the economic basket, you had a series of important commercial agreements to the tune of about $45 billion, which directly support several hundred thousand American jobs right here; progress on intellectual property rights. Obviously more has to be done on the economic basket, but, again, the progress on indigenous innovation and intellectual property rights I think were important steps to move us forward.
And lastly, the admission on human rights was obviously another set of issues that you heard the President discuss yesterday -- he had spent a lot of time with the Chinese President discussing over the course of the last couple days.
So I think we see some tangible progress on all three of those fronts that’s important. There’s clearly more work that has to be done. We’ve seen a currency because of some actions that the Chinese have taken, as well as inflation rise the -- increase the value of the RMB, but there’s still progress that has to be made on that in order to, as you heard the President say yesterday, rebalance that currency....
(On perceptions of the worth of health care reform.)
MR. GIBBS I mean, look, Chip, I think -- do I think that a lot of the coverage last year was on process and politics? Yes. I don’t -- do I think, at the same time, 3.3 million seniors have gotten checks to cover the doughnut hole expenses in their prescription drugs? I do. I think that’s why, in a series of the public polling that you’ve seen, people don’t support repeal, because they understand -- they do understand that they’re seeing, whether it’s their children -- children that might have preexisting conditions not have to fight with insurance companies to ensure that they can get proper coverage. I think they understand that insurance companies are not in charge of making all the decisions anymore, and I think that’s a good thing for our medical system....
Q: What is the reaction to the House vote on health care repeal?....
MR. GIBBS .... I don’t think it was a serious legislative effort and I don’t think anybody -- I don’t think people in the House thought it was a serious legislative effort. I think the message, though, that those people that voted for repeal were sending were to put health insurance companies back in charge of medical decisions that have the ability to drop, deny, limit or cap health insurance coverage.
I think it -- I think you got a pretty good example of who you think should be in charge of health care. Should it be patients and doctors or should it be insurance companies? I think that was -- I think that’s what we’ve seen. I think -- again, we -- I mentioned 3.3. million seniors that have gotten help with their prescription drug costs as a result of this; out-of-pocket costs that are going to go up if something like this were to become law. But I don’t -- I think, thankfully, it’s not going to....
Q: The Attorney General has announced the military commissions board of the Cole bombing suspects will go forward. It was 14 months ago that he said that they would go to military commission. Why so long in setting a trial?
MR. GIBBS Well, look, I read the story in the paper today. I don’t -- I think the individuals that are mentioned in the story were talked about in terms of going through military commissions, as you said, quite some time ago. I don’t have any sense of timing or any sense of when final decisions on that type of thing will be made.
You heard the President outline –
Q: No final decision has been made?
MR. GIBBS No, the -- I think if you look at -- in terms of timing, I don’t -- you’ve heard the President back at the Archives speech talk about the fact that we were going to -- we had different groups of those at Guantanamo that -- they were going to have to be dealt with in different ways, which is why we sought and the President and the administration worked through a restructuring of the military commissions law....
Q: You have lauded President Hu’s admission that there’s work to be done on Chinese human rights. Where’s your reaction to the fact that 1.3 billion Chinese did not hear those comments -- they were blacked out -- nor did they hear anything about Liu Xiaobo?
MR. GIBBS Look, again, I -- which is why one of the conditions to coming here was an opportunity to take questions from you guys.
Look, we can’t -- obviously there’s very little that we can structurally do to deal with that, in terms of how they cover this visit. Obviously they’ve got a very different governmental system than we do, and a very different system on how leaders in their country are covered.
But when the President was in Shanghai more than a year ago, he talked about needing an open society, having an open Internet so that people in China can read about the news all over the world.
The world heard the leader of China make that important admission, and the world will watch to see the steps that they take over the course of the next many months to fulfill -- or I should say to make the improvements that he says need to be made....
.... (Friday) as you mentioned, the President will go and visit the birthplace of General Electric, talk about the economy. It’s the -- it’s home to GE’s largest energy division. It will be the future home of their advanced battery manufacturing. This is a company that has brought jobs from overseas back into the United States -- obviously that’s important -- and a company that as a result of some of the work that the President did on commercial diplomacy before and, while in India, saw an expansion of the business that they do all over the world that supports jobs here in America. So I think that’s a bit of the backdrop of the events tomorrow in Schenectady....
Q: How do you all feel about this term "Obamacare"?....
MR. GIBBS Again, I don’t know that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what somebody may or may not call it. Again, I don’t know what a senior who is getting help from prescription drugs calls it. I don’t know a senior that gets a free preventative visit calls it. I don’t know what a child that no longer has to fight with an insurance company to get coverage because their preexisting condition calls it. My sense is that all those people call it a number of different things, but in their mind it means that they’re finally getting a little bit of help with the problems that they have. And we live in a country where if you go sick, you ought not go bankrupt trying to get the type of care and help that you need. And that’s what animated the President’s decision to pass the bill.
Q: Totally unrelated, Robert -- I’m wondering if the President has had any contact with Congresswoman Giffords’s family or any of the other victims since he was in Tucson, any other communication with –
(Answer provided after Mr. Gibbs checked: "While the President hasn’t spoken with the family, White House staff is in regular touch with Rep. Giffords’s husband, Mark Kelly.") ....
Q: Does the President still see something of a tension between that short-term focus on jobs and a need to keep government spending –
MR. GIBBS Well, I would say we took some -- we obviously had to take, in the course of two years, some extraordinary steps to ensure that an economic downturn did not become the next Great Depression. And we did that, and some of that stuff obviously -- Hans just mentioned -- is -- a lot of that stuff has run its course through the Recovery Act.
So, look, I think that the President wants to and will outline what he thinks is the best course forward to ensuring that we’re dealing with a whole host of problems, including how do we grow our economy, how do we help and work with the private sector to create jobs, and how we get our fiscal house in order all at the same time....
.... I think even in a -- even -- if you look at last year’s budget, even at a time where the second half of the Recovery Act is still doing what it needed to do, the President presented a budget that froze non-security discretionary spending because we had to begin to take steps even then.
Q: In 2007, at a labor union forum, the President raised concerns about -- or the candidate at the time raised concerns about Walmart....
MR. GIBBS I mean, obviously I think we’re in a -- I think we’re all in a different time with clearly steps that have been taken. I think the First Lady was proud to stand with the country’s largest retailer. They’ve taken some dramatic steps in how they’re dealing with food and how they’re marketing food and packaging and things like that that will make a genuine and big difference for people that shop there. And the First Lady is proud to and happy to stand with any company that will make similar pledges to make a difference on behalf of the American people....
(On global warming.)
MR. GIBBS .... Obviously I think there are continual reminders that we have to transition to a clean energy economy. Without getting into whether or not that’s in the speech, obviously there are a number of different policy ways to do such a thing -- whether it is setting renewable energy standards that create the type of market conditions where you see that transition -- again, there are obviously a number of different ways to do that....
Look, I think energy independence and the security of our planet are and will continue to be issues that we’re going to have to deal with. And, again, more and more and more of our oil comes from -- or our energy comes from places that are not here. That puts us at a disadvantage. We’ve clearly taken some steps to change corporate average fuel economy, fuel economy standards, that lessen some of that usage of foreign oil, but I think there’s no doubt that we have a lot more to do.
The Recovery Act invested in wind and solar. The plant that we’ll visit tomorrow will soon be home to GE’s advanced battery manufacturing as you see car companies, both foreign and domestic, having success marketing cars that don’t run on gas but run on electricity. And we’re going to have to meet many of those challenges....
Q: I imagine that Democrats are going to have to respond to Republicans who are not only trying to repeal the law but also they’re making -- taking steps today to replace the health care law. Is he going to –
MR. GIBBS I was going to say, I did notice they passed an almost one-and-a-half-page bill –
Q: Something like that.
MR. GIBBS Yes, many of which I find -- it’s interesting -- many of the goals that they espouse in that bill are the current law of the land, like ensuring that people aren’t discriminated because of preexisting conditions. That actually exists -- it’s called the Affordable Care Act.
Q: So you’re not at all concerned about this effort to actually propose an alternative and the consequence for the –
MR. GIBBS I am happy that several years later they’ve gotten around to what they might do. I think all of you must be anxious to know what they’re going to do. I think they have set forth some exceedingly lofty goals, again, some of which -- most of which are currently embodied in the law of the land.
But, yes, I’m happy for them to take a spin and tell us how they’ll do what they passed today. I would suggest, too, that as they talk about making some progress in the deficit, they deal with the Congressional Budget Office’s indication that the action that they took just yesterday adds a couple of hundred billion dollars to the deficit.
Now, keep in mind this was a CBO that, while we were going through the process of health care reform, was the be all and end all of the scorekeeper. Then when that same CBO, headed by the very same person, discussed the very same topic of the impact of the deficit on health care reform, all of a sudden, "Well, that can’t possibly be right, that’s not true."
So I do think it is important to underscore that the first legislative action that that Congress took was to repeal a law that helps seniors and helps families, and added a couple hundred billion dollars to the deficit. Not entirely sure that in the run-up to the 2010 campaign, they spent a lot of time talking to seniors about raising their out-of-pocket costs on medical care and prescription drugs or talking about adding a couple of hundred billion dollars to the deficit....
Q: Thank you. On Guantanamo, Robert, with the reports that the administration is likely to start military trials in Guantanamo, what does this mean for the administration’s efforts of moving some detainees back to either their home countries or host countries? And does that have any effect on the administration’s talks with these other countries?
MR. GIBBS Well, look, I think that look, there are -- let me at the beginning of my answer acknowledge obviously there are some prohibitions, legal prohibitions now, on some transfers that I think you’ve seen our commenting on in the past.
We will continue the process of going through who is there. Clearly the courts continue that process of going through who is there and deciding whether or not their continued -- whether them being continually held there is in accordance with the laws, as you’ve seen courts do in the past.
But none of these decisions change our fundamental desire and goal to see, because of our security, the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed once and for all....
• GSA REPORT •
White House Blog, Jan. 20, 2011:
Posted by Martha N. Johnson, Administrator of the General Services Administration
2010 was a historic year for the General Services Administration (GSA). With a portfolio including 350 million square feet of public buildings, 200,000 federal vehicles, and a flow of goods and services throughout government totaling $95 billion, GSA has the capacity to impact every corner of government in every region of the country. In 2010, President Obama set a bold agenda for GSA to change the way the government does business by:
• Creating jobs and supporting American businesses by leading the Federal government to a sustainable future;
• Identifying sustainable products ranging from vehicles to cleaning products that will reduce the Federal government’s environmental footprint and save millions of taxpayer dollars; and,
• Laying the framework for an emerging clean energy economy.
GSA delivered. Here’s a look back at 2010 and a look forward to 2011:
Established the Federal Government as a Leader in the Sustainable Building Market
In order to meet President Obama’s goals of a 28% reduction in Federal greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by 2020 and a net-zero-energy building requirement by 2030, GSA began sustainable construction and retrofit projects around the country, employing 500 businesses and creating jobs in all 50 states. Moving forward, all GSA construction projects will achieve at least a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for GSA’s use of cutting-edge and sustainable design and technology.
Reduced Carbon Emissions and Saved Taxpayer Money by Greening the Federal Automobile Fleet
After President Obama called for a 30% reduction Federal vehicle petroleum use by 2020, GSA doubled the Federal government’s hybrid fleet, replacing 22,000 of the least fuel efficient cars and trucks with more fuel efficient vehicles, including almost 9,000 hybrids. The increase in fuel efficiency will reduce Federal petroleum consumption by over 20 million gallons of gas, saving taxpayers almost $65 million over five years.
Used Government as a "Green Proving Ground" for Innovative, Sustainable Technologies
GSA is the government’s "green proving ground," where new sustainable technologies and systems can be tested and best practices can be brought to the market. Because GSA owns and operates buildings in every climate and most altitudes in the country, GSA has a unique position as a test bed for learning what works -- and what doesn't -- in green and sustainable building. GSA is installing solar panels, geothermal wells, chilled beams, advanced lighting and metering systems, and vegetative and reflective roofs across the nation, providing projects that develop skills and create local green sector architecture, engineering, and construction jobs.
Incentivized Sustainability for Companies Doing Business with the Federal Government
More than 60 companies enrolled in the GreenGov Supply Chain Partnership and Small Business Pilot, a voluntary collaboration between the federal government and its suppliers to create a greener, more efficient supply chain. GSA and the Council on Environmental Quality will jointly host a year of trainings for these businesses to learn how to develop GHG inventories and take steps to reduce their GHG emissions. GSA will use data from the program to develop contracting incentives for all companies bidding to do business with the Federal government to measure and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Equipped All Government Agencies to Measure and Reduce Their Greenhouse Gas Emissions
President Obama called on all Federal agencies to measure their GHG emissions by January 30, 2011 and submit plans to reduce those emissions. GSA created a free, web-based Carbon Footprint Tool for Federal agencies to use in completing their comprehensive GHG inventories, including carbon emissions, water usage, GHG emissions related to commuting, and the return on investment agencies can expect from adopting sustainable lighting, technology solutions, and other products. The Carbon Footprint Tool gives every agency the ability to quickly identify areas for GHG emissions reduction so they can set reduction targets and monitor their progress year after year.
A Look Forward
GSA’s progress toward a more sustainable government in 2010 will have lasting impacts. Construction and retrofit projects will proceed around the country, continuing to create jobs and positively impact the economic recovery in every state. GSA will continue to accelerate the addition of hybrid vehicles to the Federal fleet, saving taxpayer dollars. And GSA will continue to pursue bipartisan solutions that support American businesses, create jobs, and leverage the purchasing power of the government to drive a clean energy economy.
• STATE NEWS •
Department of State, Jan. 20, 2011:
Secretary Clinton and Estonian Foreign Minister
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton hosts joint press availability with Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C, January 20, 2011.
Department of State, Jan. 20, 2011:
.... SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is a pleasure to welcome my colleague, Minister Paet, again to Washington. We have enjoyed many productive conversations, both in the United States as well as in Estonia and in many other locations as well.
I particularly appreciate the leadership that Estonia showed in hosting the NATO ministerial meeting in Tallinn last April and at the recent NATO summit in Lisbon – the leadership and support that Estonia gave to the new strategic concept that calls for NATO to develop its defense capabilities against growing threats such as ballistic missiles and cyber attacks.
We have a strong and unwavering commitment to engagement between our nations. It’s built on mutual respect, common security concerns, shared democratic values, and a history of cooperation from air policing in the Baltic region to development assistance in Afghanistan. The close friendship between our nations goes back many years, but it is certainly rooted in today’s world in our admiration for Estonia’s remarkable success. Despite years of occupation and depression during much of the 20th century, the Estonian people never lost sight of the free, democratic, vibrant society they hope to build for themselves.
And in the short space of 20 years since they regained their independence, that’s exactly what they’ve done. Their growth as a wired-in nation of internet voters and cyber innovators, their commitment to good governance, the rule of law, and fiscal responsibility make Estonia one of the most successful models for emerging nationhood anywhere in the world.
Once again, the minister and I covered a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global challenges. We appreciate the cooperation in helping the people of Afghanistan rebuild. We discussed the foreign minister’s recent trip to Kabul and Helmand Province. Estonian civilian experts are working with Afghanis to build healthcare facilities and train police officers. Estonian soldiers are serving shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and our other NATO-ISAF allies. And I thank the Estonian Government and especially the Estonian people for showing their commitment to the ISAF mission with 400,000 Euros in development and humanitarian assistance this year.
Beyond Afghanistan, Estonians have expanded their role as champions of freedom, security, and humanitarian assistance and prosperity from Georgia and Moldova to Haiti and Gaza. We saw this most recently in Belarus, where Minister Paet announced Estonia will maintain its support for an open civil society and educational opportunities for students despite the hostile political environment.
Estonia is also working with their Baltic and Nordic neighbors to liberalize the electricity market in the region and to promote energy independence and security. Through the Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, they have laid the groundwork for NATO’s efforts to protect our alliance and our citizens from cyber attacks. And they adopted the euro as their currency this month to expand trade and attract investors.
Now I could go on and on about Estonia, and I have enjoyed already two visits as Secretary of State to Estonia. But what I am most excited about is how closely we are working together to meet the shared challenges of the 21st century. We are grateful, Minister, for such a dependable, creative and close ally, and we look forward to the work ahead....
• FIRST LADY AND WAL-MART LAUNCH NUTRITION INITIATIVE •
VOA, Jan. 20, 2011:
Largest U.S. Grocer Pledges Healthier Foods
First lady Michelle Obama and retail giant Wal-Mart have launched a program aimed at improving the nutritional content of America's foods, and making those items more affordable for millions of Americans. The initiative is part of the first lady's campaign to promote healthier choices for children in the United States. VOA's Robert Raffaele has more.
Office of the First Lady, Jan. 20, 2011:
First Lady Michelle Obama joined Wal-Mart executives today to help launch the company’s Nutrition Charter, a groundbreaking new initiative that has the potential to have a transformative impact on the market place and help families across America put healthier, more affordable food on their tables. The initiative proposes a number of changes by Wal-Mart to offer more nutritious food products, lower the cost of healthy foods, and provide consumers with better information about healthy food options. These changes are the types of improvements critical to achieving the primary goal of Let’s Move! – solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.
The Nutrition Charter is the result of over a year of work together between Let’s Move! and Wal-Mart, and by collaborating with the nation’s largest grocer, Let’s Move! and the Nutrition Charter will catalyze remarkable change in the products provided to families across the country, and highlight the type of action that is needed to best serve our communities.
"I believe this Charter is a victory for parents...it’s a victory for families...and most of all, it’s a victory for our children," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "But I’m also here today because I think that this nutrition charter represents something bigger. The truth is, back when we first decided to take on the issue of childhood obesity, in the back of my mind, I wondered to myself whether we would really be able to make a difference. When you’re dealing with a problem this big...and this complicated...it can be a little overwhelming. You can start to wonder: Is what we’re doing here really working? Are folks really interested in making these kinds of changes? Is this actually making our kids healthier? But today, when I see a company like Wal-Mart launch an initiative like this, I feel more hopeful than ever before that the answer to these questions is yes. Efforts like this show us that yes, we can improve how we make and sell food in this country – and what we feed our kids. Yes, we can give parents better information so they can make better decisions for their families." A full transcript of Mrs. Obama’s remarks is included below.
"In that effort to make healthier eating more of a reality in America, perhaps no one has been a more vocal partner or powerful collaborator than our First Lady, Michelle Obama. Through the Let’s Move! campaign, she is working to take on one of the most pressing public health challenges facing our nation today, by engaging every sector of society, to help kids be more active, eat better, and get healthy. As she has rightly recognized, this is an issue that demands the attention of us all—our schools, our communities, our government leaders, NGOs and businesses. And with that collaboration, it is an issue that we can and will solve. As our First Lady has said, ‘We have the tools at our disposal, all we need is the motivation, the opportunity and the willpower to do what needs to be done.’ "said Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart US.
"We have enormous respect and admiration for the First Lady’s leadership on this important issue. She was a catalyst that helped make today’s announcement a reality and her spirit of collaboration made our commitment to bring better nutrition to kitchen tables across this country even stronger," said Leslie Dach, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart’s Nutrition Charter consists of three major pillars that aim to impact the health and wellbeing of American families by making critical changes to accessible and affordable food:
• Reformulate products to improve nutrition by 2015. Reformulating thousands, of everyday packaged food items by 2015 by reducing sodium 25 percent and added sugars 10 percent, and by removing all remaining industrial produced trans fats. The company will work with suppliers to improve the nutritional quality of national food brands and its Great Value private brand in key product categories to complete their reformulations.
• Make healthy food more affordable. Wal-Mart is committed to reducing the cost of fruits and vegetables and the healthier options.
• Empower consumers to make informed choices by implementing a healthy seal. In addition to their strong support for a meaningful front of pack label, Wal-Mart is developing a healthy seal that will make it easier for customers to identify health products and quickly make a healthy choice.
Partnership for a Healthier America will be working with Wal-Mart to evaluate and monitor their progress with these efforts.
Mrs. Obama has been leading a nationwide effort to combat childhood obesity so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight. Launched almost a year ago, the Let’s Move! Campaign is a comprehensive, collaborative, and community-oriented initiative that has sought to engage every sector of society to tackle head-on the many different factors that lead to childhood obesity.
In December, President Obama signed The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – a major legislative achievement that will improve the quality of school breakfasts, lunches and other foods sold in schools while also strengthening nutrition programs that serve young children, including WIC and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
• FLOTUS GREETS WHITE HOUSE VISITORS •
White House, Jan. 20, 2011:
Raw Video: The First Lady and Bo Surprise White House Visitors
First Lady Michelle Obama is joined by the Obama family dog Bo as she surprises visitors on White House tours on the second anniversary of the inauguration of President Barack Obama.