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Hi, all.  Today’s report features:

• President on transition in Egypt: President Obama to President Mubarak: "...an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now."

• State update: Help for U.S. citizens in Egypt; Secretaries of State, Labor, Homeland Security and Attorney General at President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

• Education update: President launches his second annual Race to the Top Commencement Challenge;  Secretary Duncan visits Morehouse College and speaks to Ebony magazine about teaching as a career.

• Working with women online: A day of policy briefings with 25 online programming leaders.

• Winter weather help: Prepare for storms with help from Ready.gov;  President orders Federal aid to Maine.

• Interior releases strategic plan: Secretary Salazar gives comprehensive overview of DOI’s achievements in conservation, renewable energy, Indian rights and other areas, and lays out a blueprint for even more significant progress.

• PRESIDENT ON TRANSITION IN EGYPT •

White House, Feb. 1, 2011:

President Obama on Transition in Egypt

The President speaks on the situation in Egypt and says the orderly transition "must be meaningful, must be peaceful, and must begin now."

Office of the Press Secretary, Feb. 1, 2011:

Remarks by the President on the Situation in Egypt

THE PRESIDENT:   Good evening, everybody.  Over the past few days, the American people have watched the situation unfolding in Egypt.  We’ve seen enormous demonstrations by the Egyptian people.  We’ve borne witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country, and a long-time partner of the United States.

And my administration has been in close contact with our Egyptian counterparts and a broad range of the Egyptian people, as well as others across the region and across the globe.  And throughout this period, we’ve stood for a set of core principles.

First, we oppose violence.  And I want to commend the Egyptian military for the professionalism and patriotism that it has shown thus far in allowing peaceful protests while protecting the Egyptian people.  We’ve seen tanks covered with banners, and soldiers and protesters embracing in the streets.  And going forward, I urge the military to continue its efforts to help ensure that this time of change is peaceful.

Second, we stand for universal values, including the rights of the Egyptian people to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the freedom to access information.  Once more, we’ve seen the incredible potential for technology to empower citizens and the dignity of those who stand up for a better future.  And going forward, the United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve, in Egypt and around the world.

Third, we have spoken out on behalf of the need for change.  After his speech tonight, I spoke directly to President Mubarak.  He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place.  Indeed, all of us who are privileged to serve in positions of political power do so at the will of our people.  Through thousands of years, Egypt has known many moments of transformation.  The voices of the Egyptian people tell us that this is one of those moments; this is one of those times.

Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders.  Only the Egyptian people can do that.  What is clear -- and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak -- is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.

Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties.  It should lead to elections that are free and fair.  And it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles, but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

Throughout this process, the United States will continue to extend the hand of partnership and friendship to Egypt.  And we stand ready to provide any assistance that is necessary to help the Egyptian people as they manage the aftermath of these protests.

Over the last few days, the passion and the dignity that has been demonstrated by the people of Egypt has been an inspiration to people around the world, including here in the United States, and to all those who believe in the inevitability of human freedom.

To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear:  We hear your voices.  I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren.  And I say that as someone who is committed to a partnership between the United States and Egypt.

There will be difficult days ahead.  Many questions about Egypt’s future remain unanswered.  But I am confident that the people of Egypt will find those answers.  That truth can be seen in the sense of community in the streets.  It can be seen in the mothers and fathers embracing soldiers.  And it can be seen in the Egyptians who linked arms to protect the national museum -- a new generation protecting the treasures of antiquity; a human chain connecting a great and ancient civilization to the promise of a new day.

Thank you very much.

• STATE UPDATE •

Department of State, Feb. 1, 2011:

Public Service Announcement for U.S. Citizens Affected by Events in Egypt

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs provides an update on actions the State Department is taking to ensure the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens in Egypt, on February 1, 2011, in Washington, D.C. U.S. citizens in Egypt who require assistance, or those who are concerned that their U.S. citizen loved one in Egypt may require assistance, should contact the U.S. Department of State at 1-202-501-4444. Go to for the latest information on the situation in Egypt.

Department of State, Feb. 1, 2011:

Secretary Clinton at President's Interagency Task Force To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks at the opening of the annual meeting of the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The meeting was held at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC February 1, 2011.

Department of State, Feb. 1, 2011:

Remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano  at the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

SECRETARY CLINTON:    .... This is, as you probably saw on your schedules, the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons. This is mandated by the Congress because it is an issue of such great and grave importance that Congress wanted as many members of the Cabinet and the heads of agencies to come together to discuss it once a year. So I thank you for taking time out of what are amazingly busy schedules between national security issues and weather security issues to gather here. And I’m joined today by Under Secretary Maria Otero and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca. They are helping to lead our efforts here at the State Department and within the interagency process.

Very fittingly, we meet today on National Freedom Day to discuss the latest steps in a journey that our country has been taking for more than 150 years. On this day in 1865, President Lincoln signed the joint congressional resolution that became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery. Yet modern slavery, often hidden and unrecognized, persists today on every continent and, most tragically, right here in the United States, despite being prohibited by both domestic legislation and international law.

Anywhere from 12 to 27 million people are currently held in forced labor, bonded labor, or forced prostitution. That’s equivalent to all the people who live in London at the low end and the combined populations of New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. at the high end. The victims range from the men and women enslaved in fields, factories, and brothels to the girls and boys whose childhoods have been shattered and stolen, to the parents whose children have vanished. Whether they are far from home or in their own villages, they need and deserve our help and the help of the world.

Now, since we last met together last year, everyone around this table and our entire government has really achieved a great deal. We continue to strengthen our efforts. An obvious sign of our growth here today is that we are joined, for the first time, by the FBI, by the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Interior. Today, I hope we can hear how we will take this work to the next level, how we can ensure that trafficking is an issue we continue to address within our agencies and throughout our government, and I hope we’ll take on another important task – ending the practice of punishing the victims of human trafficking. For all the millions who are held in servitude, fewer than 50,000 have been officially identified as victims. Too many others are either ignored, or even worse, treated as criminals. So we need to do more to identify the true victims of human trafficking and help restore them to participation in our society.

I just want to kick off by describing several of our State Department initiatives. First and foremost, we will publish another edition of our annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Some countries have been downgraded and may be downgraded again automatically from Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 3, because they have not taken steps adequately to address trafficking. Now, this is an uncomfortable position for them to be in and for us. And as I travel around talking to heads of state and governments and ministers, they watch this very closely, and they often raise questions about their position on this list.

Now, last year, for the first time ever under my direction, we included the United States in this report. As President Obama has made clear, we want to be the best champion for our own ideals, and we want to live up to those ideals ourselves. And we know we can do more to diminish involuntary servitude and slavery in our own country.

Now, beyond this report, our Bureau of Diplomatic Security will establish an anti-trafficking unit to support its field offices which already participate in the 39 Department of Justice-funded anti-trafficking task forces nationwide. This new unit will centralize case referrals and command at headquarters and offer training to all agents, particularly on how to work with victims. We will also begin an annual briefing for visiting diplomats and their domestic workers as part of an ongoing effort we launched last year – thanks to Hilda and others for their help on this – to protect domestic workers brought here by diplomats and raise awareness within the diplomatic community. Whether they’re diplomats or national emissaries of whatever kind, we all must be accountable for the treatment of the people that we employ. We will also work with federal contractors to identify best practices for preventing trafficking, help them protect victims, and hold them accountable if they do not follow the federal government’s anti-trafficking policies.

And finally, we are working with many partners to develop a voluntary international code of conduct for private security service providers. Companies that sign the code commit to not engage in human trafficking and report allegations to competent authorities. To date, nearly 60 private security companies have signed the code, including many that contract with the U.S. Government.

Now, before we hear from a number of you about what your agencies are doing, I have a request. I would like to ask this group to task the Assistant Secretary Level Senior Policy Operating Group with developing an overarching victims services strategy. One of our continuing challenges is that we’ve not yet made the American public fully aware of the protections that are already available to victims who are United States citizens. And we need to maximize our resources by looking at other federal programs to serve all trafficking victims. A victims services strategy would do a great service to victims in our own country and set an example around the world.

So I would hope that the Senior Policy Operating Group would work together to hold a public meeting, to get the word out on the work we’re doing to interact with civil society groups, would inventory existing juvenile justice and child welfare programs that affect at-risk youth. That’s one of our biggest problems, is that an underage child gets picked up on the streets, there’s nowhere for that child to be held, so that young boy or girl is put into jail as opposed to a safe place.

We want to develop standards and training to ensure that children in prostitution are treated as victims, not criminals, and given the help they need, and determine whether having separate outreach and service programs for foreign and domestic victims is truly in their best interest. We have seen several legislative proposals to address these issues, and the Trafficking Act will be up for reauthorization in this Congress. But I think through greater interagency cooperation, we can make improvements and really set the agenda for, hopefully, the next decade, at least.

Now, I’d like to call on some of our colleagues to discuss some of the issues that they are dealing with, and I want to start with our Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who has been a real champion of everything having to do with people in every setting, but in particular this area.

Hilda.

SECRETARY SOLIS:   Thank you so much, Secretary Clinton. And I’m happy to join you with the Department of Labor to be a representative on the President’s Interagency Task Force on Trafficking in Persons. I’m firmly committed to supporting the mission of the task force, which includes our strong cooperation with my colleagues here today. This commitment builds upon the long history of the Department of Labor to protect and assist vulnerable workers. And I’m proud of the work the Department has done over the past year to help combat trafficking, both domestically and internationally. And I’m pleased that the DOL is a member of the Federal Enforcement Working Group spearheaded by Attorney General Holder. Through this effort, I am confident we will achieve the goals of assisting victims and dismantling trafficking organizations through high impact prosecutions.

This March is the one-year anniversary of the implementation of a new regulation for H2-A programs. Agricultural workers are a group most at risk of trafficking. These new regulations, reinstated, requires that employers provide documentation as a part of their application, strengthen transportation safety requirements, and prohibited foreign recruiters from charging workers certain fees. Employers who have committed violations can be banned from filing future applications of similar visas. This regulation has strengthened protections for non-immigrant agricultural workers as well as domestic agricultural workers.

And I announced that the Department of Labor will begin exercising its authority to certify applications for new visas. This will provide an avenue for immigrant victims desperate to escape an abusive situation and willing to cooperate with law enforcement. My staff is working hard to finalize those protocols now. Recognition and inclusion of anti-trafficking provisions in contracts and grants is also equally critical. That’s why, at the Department of Labor, we’re including and requiring our anti-trafficking federal acquisition regulation provisions in our contracts and grants. And while it’s not currently required, all of the Department’s international grants include anti-trafficking language, and we’ll further explore how to integrate such language into all of our grants.

Last December, our department released three new reports on child labor and forced labor. For the first time last year, our major report, the findings on the worst forms of child labor identified gaps in government efforts and included specific suggestions for each government that would address those problems. We believe this information will be useful for Congress, the executive branch agencies to consider when developing labor and trade policy.

And I’m also proud that in May of 2010, the Department entered into a revised agreement with the Mexican Embassy and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that Mexican workers in the United States are informed about their labor rights through their consular offices. This information can assist vulnerable workers, including persons who may have been trafficked. We are expanding the approach to now include more partnerships with embassies from Central America and the Caribbean. And on December 2nd, I met with several ambassadors from nine Central American and Caribbean countries who wanted to learn about the program. We are following up with those discussions now.

In conclusion, I would just say as a nation and as members of the global community, we reject the proposition that it is acceptable to pursue economic gain through force, fraud, and coercion of human beings. I’m delighted to be a part of this working group and also proud to represent our agency here today. Thank you so much, Secretary Clinton.

SECRETARY CLINTON:   Thank you so much, Hilda. Let me turn now to the Attorney General. Attorney General Holder, the Department of Justice has done a lot of good work on this. We appreciate it.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:    .... It’s an honor and a privilege to join my colleagues to mark the many breakthroughs that we’ve made over the past year and the momentum that we have generated for the year ahead in our fight to end human trafficking. Now this past year, and for the third year in a row, the Department of Justice has prosecuted more human trafficking cases than ever before. This modern day slavery is an affront to human dignity. And each and every case that we prosecute should send a powerful signal that human trafficking will not be tolerated in or by the United States.

Our prosecutions have been – have brought long overdue justice to victims from Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, the Philippines, Thailand, and Mexico, as well as from our own country. We have liberated adults, children, men and women exploited for sex and labor in virtually every corner of our nation. We have secured long sentences against individual traffickers and we have dismantled large transnational organized criminal enterprises that have exploited victims across the United States, depriving them of their freedom and of their dignity.

But we have more to do, and we have farther to go. On the 10th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act last fall, I committed that the Justice Department would be launching a human trafficking enhanced enforcement initiative to take our counter-trafficking enforcement efforts to the next level by building on the most effective tool in our anti-trafficking arsenal: partnerships. Well, today, I am pleased to announce the launch of this initiative, which will streamline federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking. The Departments of Homeland Security and Department of Labor have collaborated closely with the Justice Department in this historic effort, and I want to thank Secretaries Napolitano and Solis for their expertise and for their shared commitment.

Now, as part of this fight against human trafficking, specialized anti-trafficking coordination teams, known as ACT teams, will be convened in a number of pilot districts nationwide. Under the leadership of the highest-ranking federal law enforcement officials in the district, these teams will bring together federal agents and prosecutors across agency lines to combat human trafficking threats, dismantle human trafficking networks, and bring traffickers to justice. The launch of these ACT teams will enable us to leverage the assets and the expertise of each federal enforcement agency more effectively than ever before. But we will not rest until this unprecedented collaboration translates into the results that matter most, the liberation of victims and the prosecution of traffickers.

Now, we are all inspired by the courage of survivors who have escaped from bondage and energized by the strength of our partnerships. But above all, we are firm in our resolve to do more than ever before to end human trafficking. The efforts announced today and the work being undertaken across this government are an important step forward in winning this fight. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Thank you very much, Attorney General, for not only the work you’ve done but this new initiative.

Let me now turn to Secretary Napolitano. Obviously, the Department of Homeland Security plays an absolutely critical role in these efforts. Janet.

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:   Well, thank you. And thank you, Secretary, for hosting this meeting. We are, indeed, proud to play a strong role in combating human trafficking as demonstrated by ICE’s arrest last week at the JFK airport of a human trafficker who was one of its top ten most wanted persons. This past year, ICE, working with DOJ, initiated its highest ever number of cases with a nexus to human trafficking. Our success in combating human trafficking continues to be rooted in strong partnerships. This includes not only the partnership represented around this table today, but also state, local, tribal, international, nongovernmental, and private sector partners who see this problem every day on the ground.

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security launched a campaign to coordinate and enhance its anti-human trafficking efforts. It’s called the Blue Campaign. Under the Blue Campaign last year we provided new training for state and local law enforcement, offered new materials on how to assist victims, and conducted public awareness campaigns both in the United States and in Latin America.

Indeed, I was in Dallas yesterday to check out security for the Super Bowl, and between Dallas and Arlington, I saw at least two billboards advertising how to gain assistance under the Blue Campaign. So it is really rolling out everywhere.

This year, we’re also developing new public awareness materials and a new message to be played in DHS immigration offices and waiting rooms which informs potential victims that help is available. We’re expanding the campaign called No Te Enganas, or Don’t Be Fooled, in Central America and some United States cities to also raise awareness among potential victims.

We are developing comprehensive anti-human trafficking courses for our own personnel to address what role each and every DHS component agency plays in combating this scourge. And we are working with firefighters and first responders around the country who may come into contact with victims during their daily work.

As was indicated, we are working with a number of other agencies on joint initiatives including the anti-trafficking coordination teams the attorney general just announced and also initiatives with the Department of Labor. This is a fight that all of us around this table are committed to do. So I look forward to continuing on this work with my Cabinet colleagues and on all of our partners in order to combat this terrific problem.

Thank you, Madam Secretary.

• EDUCATION UPDATE •

White House, Feb. 1, 2011:

Kicking Off the 2011 Commencement Challenge

Viacom's Get Schooled campaign follows Simon Boehme, the salutatorian from the winner of the 2010 Commencement Challenge Kalamazoo Central High and current freshman at the University of Michigan, as he travels to the White House to discuss the Commencement Challenge with President Obama.

White House Blog, Feb. 1, 2011:

Race to the Top Commencement Challenge: Winning the Future by Out-Educating the World

Posted by Melody Barnes

Today, the President launched his second annual Race to the Top Commencement Challenge. The 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge invites public high schools across the country to demonstrate how their school best prepares them for college and a career, helping America win the future by out-educating our competitors, preparing today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow,  and achieving President Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

Last year, over 1000 schools applied and more than 170,000 people voted on short videos and essays from the six finalists.  President Obama selected the national winner from the three high schools with the highest average ratings (you can see all the 2010 finalists here).  This year, the President has renewed the challenge.

In order to participate, schools are asked to submit an online application at WhiteHouse.gov/commencement.  The application consists of three short essay questions, relevant supporting data, and an optional video that demonstrate how their school successfully prepares students for academic and career success.  Graduation rates, course offerings, and more will be used to select the winning school.      

The deadline to submit applications is Friday, February 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm EST.  Following the application deadline, the White House and Department of Education will select 6 finalists. Viacom, the Get Schooled Foundation and the White House will work with these six schools to create short videos that will be featured, along with the essay questions, on the White House web site. The public will then have an opportunity to vote for the three schools they think best meet the President’s goal. The President will select a national winner from these three and visit the winning high school to deliver the commencement address to the class of 2011.  Senior administration officials will attend the commencements of the five runner-up schools.

kevinchappell, Jan. 31, 2011:

Ebony interview with Secretary Duncan and Morehouse students

The Education Secretary visited Morehouse College in Atlanta Monday and heard from young men who have decided to become teachers. (Video has abrupt beginning and ending.) Read more here.

White House Blog, Feb. 1, 2011:

The Next Generation of Teachers

Posted by Education Secretary Arne Duncan

President Obama and I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. It is the one factor that can prevent a person’s zip code from determining his or her destiny.  During Black History Month, it’s important to reflect on where we must go as a nation to ensure that all children, regardless of race or ethnicity, are given the world-class education they deserve.

Yesterday at Morehouse College in Atlanta, I shared a stage with some great leaders who reminded me that the struggle for education has always been a matter of civil rights and that now more than ever it is imperative that we work to ensure all children have access to an excellent education.  I joined Congressman John Lewis, director Spike Lee, Morehouse President Dr. Robert Franklin, and MSNBC’s Jeff Johnson as we spoke to a crowd of nearly 800 young men – both high school and college students – who are deciding their career trajectory.  All of us onstage encouraged these high-achieving men to answer the call to serve their country in the classroom.

The statistics paint a clear picture of where we need to go.  Nearly 35% of our students in this country are Black or Hispanic, but less than 2% of our nation’s teachers are Black or Hispanic men.  We need to change this so the teachers in our schools reflect the diversity of the students that they teach.   It is for this reason, and because we must ensure that we have a new generation of great teachers, that the U.S. Department of Education launched the TEACH campaign this past September.  The mission of TEACH is to increase the number, quality, and diversity of teachers in the classroom as we see the baby boomers retiring over the next ten years.

Morehouse College was the most appropriate place for our discussion.   A century-old institution dedicated to the education of Black men, the College has an amazing history of producing civil rights leaders who became change agents for our country.  The passion in the air was palpable as students shared their dreams for their future careers.  I was inspired by the stories of several young men who are choosing to become teachers so that they can fill what they feel is a void of male role models in schools.  Dr. Franklin reminded us of the words of perhaps the most famous Morehouse alumnus, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, "We can all be great, because we can all serve."

Dr. Franklin urged the students of Morehouse College, and to young African-American men everywhere, to answer the call to serve by being a teacher. After yesterday, I’m hopeful that many of them will answer that call.

For more information on teaching, and how you can start your pathway to the classroom, visit www.teach.gov.

• WORKING WITH WOMEN ONLINE •

White House Blog, Feb. 1, 2011:

Working Closer with Women Online

Posted by Sarah Bernard

Yesterday, the White House brought together a diverse group of 25 online programming leaders who touch millions of women across the country for a day of policy briefings and a candid discussion of how to work more closely together.  Our challenge to the group was to find the right ways to keep women engaged with their government so that they are better informed and more active citizens.

Much of the day was spent with senior Administration officials taking the group through some key issues and priorities including: military families, health care, the First Lady'sLet's Move! initiative, education, the economy, opportunities for women business owners, workplace flexibility, and the to-be-launched Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

President Obama was able to stop by, and Valerie Jarrett took questions as we closed out the day.  All agreed that this was only the beginning of an ongoing dialogue and relationship.

As part of our continued efforts to engage more citizens online, the Women's Online Summit followed two previous gatherings that reached out to African American and Hispanic communities.  (And I hope you didn't miss all of the activity last week around the State of the Union, as we brought 18 sites' communities into the mix for citizen-sourced interviews and roundtables.)

Thanks to everyone who came yesterday:

• Colleen Curtis, AOL
• Sarah Bryden-Brown, babble.com
• Linda Murray, BabyCenter.com
• Melissa Ford, BlogHer
• Jesse McGranahan, Burst Media
• Robyn Hessinger, care2.com
• Brooke Chaffin,Disney Interactive Media Group
• Emil Wilbekin, Essence.com
• Andrea Pippins, Fly
• Janice Brand, helium.com
• Kelly Wallace, iVillage
• Dr. Neil Izenberg, MD, kidshealth.org
• Laurie Berger, lifescript.com
• Sarah Gormley, marthastewart.com
• Jo-Ann Strangis, Medscape
• Chris Vander Sys, momswhothink.com
• Cyrus Krohn, MSN
• Samantha Youngman Meiler, Nickelodeon
• Stephanie Snipes, oprah.com
• Rachel Fishman Feddersen,parenting.com
• Chandra Turner, PARENTS magazine / parents.com
• Suzanne Murray, The Stir (by cafe mom)
• Clare Martorana, WebMD
• Carlos Lamadrid, womansday.com
• Lylah Alphonse, Yahoo!

• WINTER WEATHER HELP •

White House Blog, Feb. 1, 2011:

Preparing for Winter Weather

Posted by Jesse Lee

This morning President Obama spoke with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to discuss preparations for the winter storm coming to much of the country.  For some guidance on getting your own preparations together, Ready.gov is there to help.

Office of the Press Secretary, Feb. 1, 2011:

Readout of President Obama’s Briefing with DHS Secretary Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Fugate on the Preparations for Severe Winter Weather

President Obama was briefed this morning by phone by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate regarding the ongoing preparations for the large winter storm that is forecasted to affect more than two dozen states by the end of the week.  The National Weather Service has issued winter storm watches, warnings or advisories in over 30 states, and blizzard warnings have been issued for 8 states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. We encourage all Americans to follow the instructions of state and local officials, and listen to local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information.  We urge all individuals in the region to listen to NOAA Weather Radio and their local news to monitor for updates and directions provided by their local officials.

Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate discussed FEMA’s close coordination with state, local and tribal officials in affected and potentially affected states.  As of this morning, the following states have accepted FEMA’s offer to deploy personnel and closely coordinate with state officials should federal emergency response assistance be needed: Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. FEMA has also prepositioned commodities for rapid delivery, if needed, including water, meals, blankets, cots, generators and other essential items.  

The President stressed the need to be prepared for all scenarios, including significant power outages across the country, and that state and federal agencies need to work closely to support affected communities.  The President also  reinforced the importance of the ongoing efforts to encourage Americans in the path of the storm to take the steps needed to be prepared.  While no requests for federal financial assistance have been made yet by governors, President Obama reinforced the need to be ready to do everything needed to support the impacted states throughout the duration of the storm.

To see a photo of President Barack Obama on the phone with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and click here.

Office of the Press Secretary, Feb. 1, 2011:

President Obama Signs Maine Disaster Declaration

The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Maine and ordered Federal aid to supplement State, Tribal, and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms and flooding during the period of December 12-19, 2010.

Federal funding is available to State, Tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms and flooding in the counties of Aroostook, Piscataquis and Washington, and the Tribal lands of the Passamaquoddy Tribe located entirely within Washington County.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for all counties and Tribes within the State.

W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named James N. Russo as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.

FEMA said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the State and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  FEMA (202) 646-3272.

• INTERIOR RELEASES STRATEGIC PLAN •

Department of the Interior, Jan. 28, 2011:

All-Hands Town Hall – 2011

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released the Department of the Interior's Strategic Plan for 2011-2016, outlining the Department's goals for America's Great Outdoors, commitments to American Indian communities and responsible natural resource development. The five-year plan also emphasizes the Administration's commitment to stronger science-based decision-making, higher ethical standards for employees as well as greater transparency and accountability to the American public.

"This blueprint provides a vision for a 21st Century Department," said Salazar, who outlined the plan in remarks to Interior employees at an All-Hands Town Hall at Interior Headquarters. "It sets out mission priorities and guides our investments and allocation of resources for stewardship of America's Great Outdoors, sustainably managing natural resources and strengthening our nation-to-nation relationship with American Indian Tribes and Native Alaskans. The plan also underscores our focus on enhanced safety for offshore energy development, stronger environmental protection and support for renewable energy technologies."

Department of the Interior, Feb. 1, 2011:

Secretary Ken Salazar’s Remarks at All Hands Meeting

.... The President's (SOTU) speech provided a road map about what America needs to do to win the future.  He spoke about the need to create jobs today, what we need to do to be competitive tomorrow, what we must do to win for the future for our children and for our country.

When I listened to the President ... I thought about all the things that we at the Department of the Interior are doing to implement that agenda to help our nation harness our potential. I thought about our renewable energy agenda that is creating jobs and driving innovation, very much a keystone to the clean energy agenda.... making believers out of those skeptics that said that it cannot be done. We believe in this Department that it can be done and we will get it done.

I thought about the remarkable progress the Department has made towards making sure that oil and gas is developed safely and responsibly not only in our labs, but in our nation's oceans, so that we can meet the nation's energy needs.

I thought as I listened to the speech about all we are doing as a group of employees of the people of the United States to protect the lands and the wildlife and the history and the culture that define us as a people and that fuels our spirit as Americans.

I thought about our nation's first Americans and what we were doing to empower tribes to pursue a future of their choosing so that they too can achieve their full, God-given potential.

I thought about our scientists and engineers in each of our agencies, our water experts and all the people in our Department whose daily work helps our economy grow, businesses flourish, and our nation prosper.

The truth is, the strength of our economy, our spirit, and our union are all tied to what we do here at the Department of the Interior That is why I am proud to serve as your secretary and why I am proud to serve in the President's administration.

It also is why many of you, you who are here, you who are watching, from Alaska to the Everglades to Acadia, it is why you chose to serve the public in this proud positions in this Department.

Now, this past year the Department of the Interior has not been an easy year. It has been a full year full of challenges and full of complex undertakings, but we have survived and are doing very well. We started out the year with great ambitions -- the stand up renewable energy on our public lands and oceans and to build a conservationist ethic for the 21st century. We move forward with an ambition to strengthen the relationship with Indian country and infuse science into the decision making process.

And while we kept a laser focus on these goals and we have a great record of achievement that we can show for our collective work, we also responded with a herculean effort after the tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that killed 11 men and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. From the beginning this Department has served in a leadership role, an integral role, in responding to the disaster. Biologists from the Fish and Wildlife Service established wildlife recovery centers, to save our oiled pelicans and to incubate sea turtle eggs until they could be safely returned to the wild. Scientists from various shops in the USGS developed innovative technologies and methods to estimate the spill's flow rate. They lent their scientific expertise and engineering expertise to the well control mission to kill the well. The National Park Rangers, under the leadership of Tom Strickland and Jon Jarvis and Dan Wenk and Dan Kimball and so many others, donned their gloves and shovels to clean the oiled beaches at the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

I walked those seashores often with the MMS, now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management,  and their employees worked overtime. I watched their work to help to kill the well and to move forward to make offshore oil and gas development safer in the future. Employees from every corner and region in the Department uprooted their lives, often leaving behind families to deploy to the Gulf to respond to the disaster....

Now, our work in the Gulf today is by no means over. There is much more to be done to restore the Gulf and to rebuild the region....We will not only achieve a safer oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, but we will also achieve meaningful and ecological restoration of the Gulf Coast, an ecological area that has frankly been degraded for more than a century by the hand of man. We have a unique opportunity to move forward and do a restoration on the Gulf Coast that can become a template of restoration all around the world....

As I look back over the past year, I am proud of the fact that, in spite of the deepwater horizon and all the time and resources that the Department devoted to it, the many times that Christopher Mansour and his team had to get me ready to go and testify I believe 14 or 15 times before committees of the Congress and others, but notwithstanding all that we did there, we were still able to accomplish the ambitious agenda we set originally set out to do. In fact we even did more than we had thought we could do.

On the conservation front, we welcomed the new National Wildlife Refuges into the family and proposed others. The Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area dedicated in Kansas a few months ago, works with the ranchers of that area to protect more than 1 million acres of the last remaining tall grass praries of the United States of America....In Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, a 27 square mile area which will become one of the greatest urban wildlife refuges of our time, formally joined the Department of the Interior. A place that once served as a manufacturing site for weapons and toxic chemicals is now home to bald eagles and roaming buffalo, surrounded by 3 million people who will frankly take advantage of this gateway to conservation that we have collectively created here in this Department.

Earlier this month I announced a proposal in Florida for a new wildlife refuge and conservation area in Florida at the headwaters to the Everglades. Like Flint Hills, this area would work with local ranchers to preserve the heritage and way of life for generations to come. The Everglades restoration effort, which the Department has undertaken and we have put on steroids over the last two years, really has become the template for ecosystem restoration around the world. As the world watches, we are moving forward with a result-driven agenda, which is restoring the river of grass, and restoring the World Heritage site that the Everglades exemplifies for the entire world....

But this new era of conservation in the Department is one that is community-driven, it is science-based. It takes into account entire ecosystems and working landscapes. In 2010, we also, through everyone in this department, many people involved in the regions and the states and everyone here in Washington, D.C., carried the torch for President Obama's Great Outdoors Initiative that he announced right here on April 16 of 2009. Along with our Federal partners, the Department held 51 public sessions across the country and heard from thousands and thousands of Americans, over 100,000 of them. We listened to them about how we could promote and support innovative community level conservation efforts and how we can reconnect Americans, especially our young people...  to the outdoors.

Soon we will be delivering a report to the President that lays out a vision of an enduring conservation agenda for the 21st century. At the end of last year, BLM Director Bob Abbey, and I announced a new wildlands policy that restores balance and clarity to the management of our public lands. The much-needed policy will ensure that the lands of the American people, the lands of the American public, which belong to you and me and every one of these 300 million Americans, the places where we hunt and fish and find solitude, are protected wisely for gererations to come.

On the energy front, the Department led and is helping lead President Obama's charge to help build a clean energy economy. In 2010 we started to show the world how we could unlock our nation's renewable energy potential in unprecedented ways.... we approved over a dozen solar, wind and geothermal transmission projects, including nine solar energy projects in the deserts of Nevada and California. Combined, these projects will produce nearly 3700 megawatts of energy, or enough power to electrify 100 million homes. These projects will create over 7300 jobs. These are the first ever large-scale, solar energy projects ever approved on public lands. They will include the largest solar energy project in the entire world.

We approved the Cape Wind energy project, the nation's first offshore energy project. After the project had languished in red tape for a very long time, we launched an offshore wind initiative to spur smart strategic development in our nation's oceans, and are moving forward with a swat team to make sure that we do it smart from the start with David Hayes and Michael Bromwich and others in a leadership position on this effort. I am confident that we will see offshore energy becoming a reality along the Atlantic and other places around our coasts in America.

We also continued the most aggressive and comprehensive reform of offshore oil and gas regulations in US history. We are raising the bar for safety, oversight and environmental protection at every stage of the development process. We are establishing an offshore energy safety program and committee to institutionalize the lessons we have learned from the Deepwater Horizon and bridge the information and technology gap that exist between industry, acadamia, and government.

.... we have undertaken a massive overhaul of the agency that regulates off-shore energy production. We are deconflicting the missions of the former MMS by establishing three independent agencies to carry out the three separate missions. Those missions are -- One, we promote resource development of our off-shore energy resources, that's one mission. A Second mission is to make sure that we are enforcing the safety regulations on those operations. A Third mission is to maximize the revenue where we average 13 billion dollars of revenue from the American people's assets to the American Treasury.... This new framework will provide the right checks and balances as we evaluate the proposed oil and gas projects in the future, the structure will ensure that robust environmental analysis and safety considerations are given appropriate weight throughout the permitting and drilling process....

All of you know, from the multiple visits that President Barack Obama has made to the stage to speak about the agenda of the United States with respect to First Americans, that we have been ushering in a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and the Indian tribes of this country. As we have implemented that agenda in Indian Country, this department made great strides over the past year. You in this Department know better than most what the Cobell Litigation did to the Interior. The results of the great leadership of my senior team here in the Department, working hand in hand David Hayes and Hillary Tompkins with the Department of Justice, we were able to finally bring the Cobell Settlement to a close. The Cobell Settlement which honorably and responsibly addresses the injustices regarding the US Government's trust mismanagement. Closing that chapter will allow us to move forward with a proactive relationship for the nation's First Americans....

The President of the United States signed into law four Indian water rights settlements that will total more than $1 billion, which is already set aside for these projects, and those projects will help to deliver clean drinking water to Indian communities, and they will provide certainty to water users across the west. Let me make a point about what that means. First, when you look at some of the reservation areas where I have visited, where many of you have visited, there are places where 70% or 80% of people who live in those reservations have never had potable running water. Whereas in the testimony regarding the Navajo water pipeline, there were pictures of the water trucks that would go out to the places where the Navajo people lived, and  delivered water which would be taken in five-gallon cans into those homes to be able to provide domestic water supply. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Native Americans will have for the first time what most of us take for granted, which is good, clean potable water in their homes. That is a great justice for those whose time has come to recognize those water rights and to be able to make those projects a reality. That's what those four Indian water projects were all about -- the moral imperative fulfilled....

....  what happens with Indian water rights is also you create a cloud over what the other water users who have also grown to have economic certainty, the dependence on the exercise and use of water from those rivers And so by resolving those Indian water rights' claims, what we also did for non-Indian water users is provide certainty regarding future water supply....

We are also proud of the work that so many of you did with Assistant Secretary Larry EchoHawk and his entire team to put together the second White House Tribal Nations Conference, and together renewed our pledge to carry out our agenda of reconciliation and empowerment for Indian Nations.

Let me make a comment here, as well, on our group of people working within the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs. For a long time before 2008, there were parts of that branch of the Department which simply could not do its job because we did not have people in those positions. We would go, or did go, for a period of time over three to four years where we did not have an Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs. One of the great achievements really that we have done in the last several years is that all of those positions are filled. We have no vacancies in the National Indian Gaming Commission. We have an Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Larry EchoHawk, who has served longer than anybody in that position in the previous 50 years, I am told. We have a Bureau of Indian Education Affairs Director. We are fortunate to have someone that has joined that team who is Jody Gillette, who has worked in the White House and knows First American issues backwards and forwards. Our work on First Americans is work that we are very proud of (having) done, but our work there has only just begun....

We have continued the drumbeat to restore science to its rightful place in our decisionmaking process. We are putting science to work for us with the planned establishment of eight climate science centers around the nation. In coordination with our landscape conservation cooperatives, which Sam Hamilton envisioned, we are laying a strong foundation for a coordinated strategy to address the impacts of climate change on land, water, and wildlife resources. Just a note on the issue of climate change and water. For those of you who participated with Anne Castle and her team, as we dealt with the set of Colorado River issues and the great dearth of water that we currently had and have in the Colorado River Basin, and the decline in the levels in Lake Mead, and putting together the agreement with Mexico on a shared water arrangement for the Colorado River, for those of you that have worked in the water arena, when you think about a 20% decline of water availability within the Colorado River Basin, which affects the seven states of the Colorado River Basin,that is a huge problem for the United States. But that is what our scientists are telling us on the Colorado River Basin. It does not matter if you are a Democrat, a Republican, whether you are a farmer who irrigates on the Colorado River, or a Indian water rights' user or a municipal water rights user from the Colorado River, you need to wake up, as those water users of the Colorado River have, to the reality of climate change as something that they need to respond to, that we need to get ready for those changes. We are leading the way there through our efforts in this Department.

We are also leading the charge to foster a culture of scientific and scholarly integrity, recognizing that science and scholarship play a vital role in the Department's mission. We are the first agency in this administration to develop a policy on scientific integrity. This policy, which we will be releasing in a Departmental Manual in the coming days, establish ethical standards, including a code of conduct that will apply to all Interior employees, political appointees and career alike, so that the good science is never choked out for the sake of expediency or politics.

Today we should reflect on our accomplishments as an Interior team in 2010. But we must also look forward. That's why I am proud to announce today the release of our five-year strategic plan....

This plan includes five specific priority goals that will help to focus our efforts....

By the end of 2012, this Department will increase approved capacity for production of renewable energy resources on public lands while ensuring full environmental review to a least 10,000 megawatts....

By the end of 2012, for 50% of our nation, the Department will identify resources that are particularly  vulnerable to climate change and coordinate an adaptation response action plan for those changes. By the end of 2012, this department will increase the available water supply for agriculture, municipal, industrial, and environmental uses in the western United States by 490,000 acre ft. through reclamation and conservation programs. Now, some of you might think "490,000 acre ft., that is a lot." Imagine 490,000 acres of land, each with 1 foot of water in depth. So, that is what you're talking about saving through the conservation initiatives of Mike Connor and the Bureau of Reclamation and that team.

In addition, by the end of 2012... we will increase the employment of youth between the ages of 15 and 25 in the conservation mission of the Department by more than 50%.

Within 24 months the Department will achieve a significant reduction of crime by at least 5% on targeted tribal reservations, where we have led the way in the interagency effort to combat drugs and violence on reservations throughout the country....

Building out the achievements of the past two years, we know that we have the potential to do amazing things. If we can do amazing things in the face of crisis, imagine what we can do if we are planning and thinking ahead in the way we are doing.We will continue to usher in a new era of conservation, implementing the President's Great Outdoors Initiative by creating great urban parks for the people of the United States, protecting rural and working landscapes across our country, and enhancing and restoring the blue waves and rivers of America.

We will continue to build a safe and secure energy future by rapidly and responsibly standing up renewable energy in our public lands....

We will continue to raise the bar on offshore energy production so that safety and science permeate every decision, and so the United States serves as a gold standard for profitable oil and gas development.

We will continue to work with Native Americans to develop stronger economies and safer communities. We will implement a tribal consultation policy that will provide a framework for open and transparent nation to nation dialogue.

We will continue to tackle the most pressing challenges of our day, from climate change to water shortages to endangered species, armed with the best science available for us  so we can make the best decisions.

At Interior, we often talk about the importance of passing on a better world for our children and grandchildren. We get it here because we understand the connection our planet and our Earth. I often find myself thinking about the world which our children and grandchildren will grow up in. The life that they will lead and how our decisions here at the Department will affect their tomorrow. I wonder if they will get to see the massive glaciers of Glacier National Park or feel the warm sand of the Florida Keys under their feet, or see the great swoop of the bald eagle or the whooping crane.

I know that I cannot guarantee this for the next generation. Nor can you.  But I know that the President and I and all of you here will fight with every ounce of energy you have to fulfill that dream. I know that from the work that to do on a daily basis that you share my determination, and the President's determination, to win the future, to win the future for our children and grandchildren, for our planet.

Together I believe that we can and we will win that future. I thank you all, and I thank you for your great service in the United States. God bless America and God bless the Department of the Interior.

Originally posted to Kat 4 Obama on Wed Feb 02, 2011 at 07:20 AM PST.

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