Sunday, February 14, 2016

Oval Office Chat: President Vladimir Putin of Russia

President Obama spoke by phone yesterday with President Vladimir Putin of Russia to discuss the decisions and agreements made at the February 11 meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and to stress the importance of rapidly implementing humanitarian access to besieged areas of Syria and initiating a nationwide cessation of hostilities. In particular, President Obama emphasized the importance now of Russia playing a constructive role by ceasing its air campaign against moderate opposition forces in Syria. The leaders agreed that the United States and Russia will remain in communication on the important work of the ISSG.

The President also urged combined Russian-separatist forces to fulfill their Minsk obligations, especially adhering to the cease-fire and ensuring that the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has full access to all areas of eastern Ukraine, including the international border. The President reiterated the importance of quickly reaching agreement on the modalities for elections in eastern Ukraine that comply with OSCE standards. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The President and Vice President Comment on the Passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

President Obama: 

Good evening, everybody.  For almost 30 years, Justice Antonin “Nino” Scalia was a larger-than-life presence on the bench -- a brilliant legal mind with an energetic style, incisive wit, and colorful opinions.

He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape.  He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.  Justice Scalia dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our democracy:  The rule of law.  Tonight, we honor his extraordinary service to our nation and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time.

Antonin Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey to an Italian immigrant family.  After graduating from Georgetown University and Harvard Law School, he worked at a law firm and taught law before entering a life of public service.  He rose from Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel to Judge on the D.C. Circuit Court, to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

A devout Catholic, he was the proud father of nine children and grandfather to many loving grandchildren.  Justice Scalia was both an avid hunter and an opera lover -- a passion for music that he shared with his dear colleague and friend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Michelle and I were proud to welcome him to the White House, including in 2012 for a State Dinner for Prime Minister David Cameron.  And tonight, we join his fellow justices in mourning this remarkable man.

Obviously, today is a time to remember Justice Scalia’s legacy.  I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time. There will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They’re bigger than any one party.  They are about our democracy. They’re about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life, and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our Founders envisioned.

But at this moment, we most of all want to think about his family, and Michelle and I join the nation in sending our deepest sympathies to Justice Scalia’s wife, Maureen, and their loving family -- a beautiful symbol of a life well lived.  We thank them for sharing Justice Scalia with our country.

God bless them all, and God bless the United States of America.  

Vice President Biden: 

Jill and I send our deepest condolences to Maureen and the entire Scalia family on the loss of their beloved husband, father, and grandfather. Justice Scalia and I had fundamental disagreements about how the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution, but we shared a belief that sharp debates, tough questions, and deep respect for the adversarial process was an essential part of our judicial system and our democracy. That’s how our rule of law—forged with the deep principles and convictions of justices, and laid out in majority decisions and minority dissents—becomes the model for the world. For the country, Justice Scalia will be remembered as one of our most influential justices, who inspired and challenged generations of students, clerks, lawyers, and judges. And for so many, he will be remembered as a mentor, dear friend, and a man devoted to his faith and his family, who will miss him most of all, and who we will keep in our prayers.

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary and Vice President

Influential Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Dead at 79

Weekly Address: The State of American Politics

West Wing Week: 02/12/2016

Feb 12, 2016 - This week, the President was all over the White House -- and the country. He discussed the economy in the Briefing Room, tossed a football with Stephen Colbert in the East Room, sat down with the First Lady for an interview in the Blue Room, met with the President of Italy in the Oval Office, rolled out the 2017 Budget in the Roosevelt Room, then headed west -- first to Illinois, then California.

Springfield: Where It All Began for President Obama

Alternate Water Supply Planned in the Village of Hoosick Falls

New York State has begun planning for a possible alternate water supply in the Village of Hoosick Falls – ensuring that the community has a new, permanent supply of clean water. This would be in addition to the long-term carbon filtration system Saint-Gobain has agreed to install. The state will work to ensure the planning is completed expeditiously in an open and transparent manner and will engage the public on how contamination is addressed and remediated throughout the Superfund process.

Potentials for the alternate water supply in the Village of Hoosick Falls include: installing new or deeper wells within the Town and Village area determined to be free of PFOA contamination; securing and treating alternative sources such as from the Hoosic River or other clean water sources in areas outside of the Town or Village. The state will also be conducting a thorough investigation to ensure the water source is free of PFOA contamination.

In addition to the free water sampling tests and free blood testing offered by the state, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will purchase and install water filtration systems for approximately 1,500 homes in the Town of Hoosick, if a homeowner wishes to have such a system installed. These particular carbon-based filtration systems have been shown to reduce PFOA levels in water to below two parts per trillion. This action is made possible by an emergency allocation of $10 million from the state Superfund. The state will later pursue total cost recovery from the parties deemed responsible for the PFOA contamination, including Saint-Gobain and Honeywell. This will be in addition to the long-term water filtration system that Saint-Gobain has agreed to install for the current water source for the Village of Hoosick Falls.

“Protecting the health of New Yorkers is paramount,” said Governor Cuomo. “My administration is taking aggressive action in Hoosick Falls because no one should have to question the safety of their water. We are working closely with our local partners, and will continue to take all necessary steps to safeguard the public health.”

To ensure the health and safety of residents in Hoosick Falls, the state Department of Health has begun offering free blood testing for community members who wish to be tested. That process will begin today. At the Governor’s direction, DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos will be onsite to answer questions from residents. For more information on this testing service, and to make an appointment for a blood test, residents should call (800) 801-8092, email, or visit the DOH website here.

The Village’s temporary treatment system is now installed and undergoing disinfection and testing. Once all testing is complete in the coming weeks, this system will provide drinking water for the Village until the planning is finished and permanent water system is in place.

While no PFOA has been detected in the Hoosick Valley Central School District school’s water, the state has already committed to install a water filtration system at the school as the Superintendent requested. This project should be completed within the next two weeks.

These announcements build on last month’s actions taken by the state to address contamination in the Hoosick Falls water supply. More information on those actions is available here

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Friday, February 12, 2016

George Pataki is Unhappy

What You Should Know
By Senator Rev Rubén Díaz
32nd Senatorial District 

You should know that former New York State Governor George Pataki has joined the voices of those elected officials who are demanding for the name of Donald Trump to be removed from the parkland that Mr. Trump donated to the State of New York.

It is important for you to know that during an interview on February 11, 2016 with Reporter Nick Reisman on Time Warner Cable New Program “Capital Tonight,” former Governor Pataki stated that he was unhappy that Donald Trump’s name appears on the parkland that Donald Trump donated.

It is disappointing to learn that 10 years ago, when Donald Trump donated the Park, it was former Governor George Pataki who accepted the donation and made the deal with Donald Trump to keep his name on the Park.

In fact, back on April 19, 2006, former Governor George Pataki released a press release celebrating this donation:
"With spring upon us and Earth Day right around the corner, today marks the perfect time for New Yorkers to receive such a generous and meaningful gift - the protection of valuable open space and beautiful parklands in the Hudson Valley," Governor Pataki said. "The establishment of Donald J. Trump State Park will increase public access to scenic landscapes and provide additional recreational opportunities for families and visitors to the region. On behalf of the people of the Empire State, I express our gratitude to Donald Trump for his vision and commitment to preserve the natural resource of this property for the benefit of future generations."  

Now, my dear reader, it seems that because Donald Trump destroyed George Pataki in the Republican Presidential Primary, George Pataki is joining the crusade to have Donald Trump’s name removed from the Park that Trump donated, and that Pataki accepted with the conditions they both agreed upon.

It is also important for you to know that back on January 15, 2016, I wrote a What You Should Know column titled “A Deal Is A Deal” in which among other things, I stated the following:
“I don't think it is moral to accept land from Donald Trump - or from anyone - with an agreed upon deal for the donor's name to remain on the 435 acres of parkland that he gave, and then to reject and erase the name of the person who gave it.”

I am Senator Reverend Rubén Díaz, and this is what you should know.

The President Speaks at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield

February 10, 2016 - Nine years after he announced his candidacy for the presidency, President Obama returned to Springfield, IL to discuss the state of American politics.

White House Announces 2016 Easter Egg Roll

WASHINGTON – The President and First Lady announced today that the South Lawn of the White House will be opened up for children 13 years and younger and their families on Monday, March 28th for the 2016 White House Easter Egg Roll. This will be the final Easter Egg Roll of the Obama Administration, and will feature live music, sport courts, cooking stations, storytelling and, of course, Easter egg rolling. In honor of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, this year’s event will also include the first-ever White House Fun Run.

White House Easter Egg Roll tickets can be requested through an online lottery which opens today, Friday, February 12, at 12:00 PM EST and closes on Wednesday, February 17, at 12:00 PM EST. Winners will be notified at a later date; tickets are free of charge and cannot be sold. To enter the lottery, please visit
To honor the final Easter Egg Roll of the Obama Administration, this year’s theme will be “Let’s Celebrate,” and will feature aspects of First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiatives, as well as the contributions the Obama Administration has made to the Easter Egg Roll.

In honor of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, this year’s event will also include the first-ever White House Fun Run.      

This year’s White House Easter Egg Roll features five souvenir eggs, designed by graphic designer and blogger Joy Cho. The collection features four colored eggs with stamped signatures of the President and First Lady on the back, and one gold “Bo and Sunny” egg, with stamped “signatures” and “paw prints” of Bo and Sunny on the back.

The National Park Foundation (NPF), the official charity of America’s national parks, produces and sells the commemorative White House Easter eggs. Each child 13 years and younger who attends the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn, which sits on President’s Park, will also receive a souvenir egg.

To place your order for the full collection of 2016 White House Easter Egg (all 5 eggs), please visit


The White House invites all elementary and middle school students to submit original artwork related to this year’s theme for the 2016 Easter Egg Roll Design Contest. The First Lady will select the winning designs, which will be used as a part of the White House 2016 Easter Egg Roll program and souvenir poster.

Submissions for the contest will be accepted starting today, Friday February 12th, and will close on Monday, February 22nd, at 12:00 PM EST. Designs should be uploaded to Artwork should reflect this year’s theme. Please note submissions may be made public during the selection process.


For the most up-to-date information on the Easter Egg Roll and other public events at the White House, please visit  Media details will be released in the coming weeks. 

Source: The White House, Visitors Office

Veep Talk: President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine

Vice President Biden spoke today with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to follow up on their February 11 phone call. The two leaders agreed on the importance of unity among Ukrainian political forces to quickly pass reforms in line with the commitments in its IMF program, including measures focused on rooting out corruption. The leaders also reiterated the importance of making progress on Minsk implementation through close coordination with the Normandy Format countries on sequencing and implementation.  

The following was submitted to From The G-Man today at 3:17 p.m.

Earlier today, the Vice President spoke with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan. The two leaders discussed events in the region, including our cooperation to counter ISIL and ongoing efforts to negotiate a political solution to the conflict in Syria. During the conversation, the Vice President also reaffirmed the United States enduring commitment to Jordan's security and stability.

Source: The White House, Office of the Vice President

Hearing on Biodefense Preparedness

Witnesses, including members of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, testified at a hearing on how to prepare and respond to biological threats. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

'Flashback Friday': Evel Knievel Retires After Near-Fatal Jump

Trailblazers in Black History: Maritza Correia

In 2002, Maritza Correia made history when she became the first black woman to break an American record. She later became the first black woman to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic swim team.

Click here for more information. 


Today in History: February 12th

Has the Democratic Race Become a Referendum on Bernie Sanders, Not Hillary Clinton?

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter. 

A referendum on Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton? 

A remarkable turn of events is now taking place in the Democratic presidential race: The contest has turned into a referendum on Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton — or at least that's what the Clinton campaign is attempting. That's our takeaway from last night's debate, where Clinton tried to poke holes in Sanders' plans ("The numbers don't add up"), his grasp of foreign policy ("I know journalists have asked who you do listen to on foreign policy, and we have yet to know who that is"), his relationship with the president ("This is not the first time that he has criticized President Obama"), and his ability to be more than a one-dimensional president ("I do not believe we live in a single-issue country").

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News