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The Obama Administration: May 16-31, 2009

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Day116/May16th/Saturday: In his weekly address, the president focused on clean energy and healthcare, calling them the two pillars of “a foundation for economic growth where we no longer rely on excessive debt and reckless risk – but instead on skilled workers and sound investments to lead the world in the industries of the 21st century.”  Transcript video

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The President announced his appointment of Republican Governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, Jr as the new United States Ambassador to China. Transcript Video

Day117/May17th/Sunday: The President delivered a commencement address to the class of 2009 at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Among the Presidents remarks, he spoke about abortion: “Understand - I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it - indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory - the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”  Transcript &Video 

Day118/May18th/Monday: The President met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu in the White House. “I’ve said before and I will repeat again that I believe it is in the interests of not only the Palestinians but also of the Israelis and the United States and the international community to achieve a two-state solution where the Israelis and Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security” the President said as he and Natanyahu answered questions from reporters. Transcript & Videos 

Day119/May19th/Tuesday: In the Rose Garden of the White House, the President announced new fuel and emission standards: by 2016, cars must average 42 miles per gallon and light trucks 27. The overall goal is to make vehicles 30 percent cleaner and save the equivalent of 1.8 billion barrels of oil. Transcript Video

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The President met in the Oval Office with former U.S. Secretaries of State: Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Senator and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn, former Secretary of Defense William Perry and National Security Advisor James L. Jones  to discuss key priorities in U.S. nonproliferation policy.

In the East Room of the White House, the President delivered remarks at a ceremony honoring the National Small Business Award Winners. Transcript Video

The President met with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in the Oval Office.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the U.S. will provide $10 million in humanitarian aid to Pakistan: “Today I am announcing that the people of the United States are responding to a request for assistance from the government of Pakistan with more than $100 million in humanitarian support. Now, this money comes on top of almost $60 million that the United States has provided since last August to help Pakistanis who have been affected by the conflicts, and in addition to the other funding for Pakistan that we are already seeking from the Congress,” Clinton said. “Providing this assistance is not only the right thing to do, but we believe it is essential to global security and the security of the United States, and we are prepared to do more as the situation demands.” Transcript & Video

Day120/May20th/Wednesday: The President attended the first quarterly meeting of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board in the Roosevelt Room. The focus of the meeting was on energy and green jobs and the board provided recommendations on how to enhance the strength and competitiveness of the nation's economy through the creation of a comprehensive energy plan that will generate millions of clean energy jobs. Transcript Video

In the Cabinet Room of the White House, the President met with human and civil rights leaders who urged him to reverse his decision to revive the Military Commissions that originated with the previous George Bush administration as a means of prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees. According to Newsweek investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, in a May 20, 2009 interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, the meeting was attended by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, David Axelrod, United States Attorney General Eric Holder and White House counsel Greg Craig. Isikoff Newsweek report
 
The President  signed the
Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act in the East Room of the White House. Of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, the President said, “Last summer, Congress passed the HOPE for Homeowners Act to help families who found themselves ‘underwater’ as a result of declining home values, families who owed more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.  But too many administrative and technical hurdles made it very difficult to navigate, and most borrowers didn't even bother to try. This bill removes those hurdles, getting folks into sustainable and affordable mortgages, and more importantly, keeping them in their homes.  And it expands the reach of our existing housing plan for homeowners with FHA or USDA rural housing loans, providing them with new opportunities to modify or refinance their mortgages to more affordable levels.” Familiy eligability guidelines can be found at MakingHomeAffordable.gov.  Of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, the President said, ”This bill nearly doubles the FBI's mortgage and financial fraud program, allowing it to better target fraud in hard-hit areas. That's why it provides the resources necessary for other law enforcement and federal agencies, from the Department of Justice to the SEC to the Secret Service, to pursue these criminals, bring them to justice, and protect hardworking Americans affected most by these crimes.” Transcript Video 

The Obama Administration decided to release $8 billion in federal stimulus funds to help the state of California fund its Medicaid program.

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The Obama administration urged the United States Supreme Court not to revive a lawsuit accusing former Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials in the George W. Bush White House of illegally revealing the identity of a CIA agent. U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan argued before the United States Supreme Court, in a legal filing, that a federal appeals court was right to dismiss the suit by former CIA operative Valarie Plame and that the justices should not revive the lawsuit against former Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby for disclosing Plame was a CIA agent. Source

United States Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius held a joint press conference on Sebelius’s crafted New Medicare Fraud Initiative that Holder said was, “a senior-level taskforce, bringing together the leadership of our two agencies to tackle health care fraud throughout the country.” Holder added, “This taskforce,  the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (or HEAT),  is a working group of key stakeholders at the highest levels of DOJ and HHS that will increase coordination, intelligence sharing and training among our investigators, agents and prosecutors. As a top priority, this taskforce will look at how we can better share real-time intelligence data on health care fraud patterns and practices. The taskforce also will ensure that critical, up-to-date information about health care services, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices is readily exchanged between HHS and DOJ, increasing the efficiency and prompt resolution of complex health care fraud cases. It will also explore improvements in technology and training that will provide our analysts and agents with the best tools to effectively prevent fraud and abuse.” Transcript of Holder Remarks

On Capitol Hill, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that, “…a nuclear-armed Iran, with a deliverable weapons system is going to spark an arms race in the Middle East and the greater region.” The warning was prompted by Iran’s successful launch of a missile capable of hitting Israel and Eastern Europe.

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Retired, Robert Arend was president of an AFSCME local from 1997-2007.

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