TIME climate change

The White House Wants To Increase Your Access To Solar Power

solar panels
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A new government plan hopes to make it a lot easier to cut your energy costs

On July 7, the White House unveiled a solar energy plan that it said would help cut energy costs for low and middle-income Americans while also fighting climate change. The plan will help finance solar improvements at American homes and expand solar power in federally subsidized housing, the White House said.

“We know that our economy is strongest when every American has the tools to participate and get ahead,” said Brian Deese, the president’s senior climate change advisor, on a conference call. “As we look at driving innovation towards a clean energy economy, we need to work to expand opportunity for more families to reap the benefits of using cleaner sources of energy.”

As part of the announcement, the White House said it would aim to install 300 megawatts of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing. The administration has already surpassed a goal of installing 100 megawatts of solar and other renewable energy sources in federal housing. The federal government says it will also make it easier for homeowners to take out loans of up to $25,000 for solar power installations.

Read More: Here’s The Most Lucrative Way to Fight Climate Change

The White House also says the program will create jobs. The solar industry added jobs ten times faster than rest of the economy last year, according to the White House, and Obama recently announced a program to train 75,000 veterans to work in the solar energy industry.

Solar power generation has expanded rapidly since the beginning of the Obama presidency, while costs have plummeted. The U.S. increased its solar energy output every three weeks in 2014 by an amount equivalent to all of 2008, according to Deese, and the cost of solar electricity has been sliced in half since 2010.

Congressman Elijah Cummings, a supporter of the plan, said the solar energy expansion would benefit Americans like his constituents by providing cost savings. “I cannot tell you the number of calls I get from constituents who have to make choices about which bills they will pay each month,” he said on a conference call for journalists. “By giving people in struggling communities more money in their pockets each month, we’re helping them to secure their household finances so they can move from struggle to success.”

TIME White House

How President Obama Decided to Sing ‘Amazing Grace’

"I knew I was going to sing. I was just trying to figure out which key to sing it"

When President Obama first broached the topic of singing “Amazing Grace” as the finale to his eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney he’d already had his mind pretty much made up: He was going to do it.

“When I get to the second part of referring to ‘Amazing Grace,’ I think I might sing,” he told his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, adviser Valerie Jarrett, and two others before the funeral for the South Carolina state senator and pastor murdered along with eight others at a Charleston church last month.

Their responses were not encouraging. Jarrett’s answer was a non-committal “Hmm,” while Mrs. Obama was straightforward: “Why on earth would that fit in?”

Jarrett, recalling the moment at the Aspen Ideas Festival last week, said she and the First Lady ultimately “encouraged him to do whatever the spirit moved him to do.”

Read the entire story at the New York Times

TIME White House

President Obama Sang the Davy Crockett Theme Song at an Event

"Is your name really Davy Crockett? That's a cool name"

When a man named James Davy Crockett asked the President a question at a town hall on Wednesday, President Obama had some questions of his own—and also, the urge to sing.

“Is your name really Davy Crockett? That’s a cool name,” Obama said. “But you don’t have that beaver cap?”

“I’ve got one at the house,” Crockett replied. (The frontiersman Crockett was actually known for a coonskin cap.)

Obama then recalled the Davy Crockett show that aired in the 1950s. “”Ya’ll remember that TV Show?” he asked the giggling crowd at Taylor Stratton Elementary School in Madison, Tenn. He then briefly broke into the show’s theme song.

The President’s exchange with Crockett began much more seriously—Crockett told the President he had unsuccessfully tried to get Social Security benefits, but had been turned down four times. Crockett’s story has been highlighted in the past, with an April Tennesseean article detailing his struggles with his health and gaining insurance. During Wednesday’s event, Obama promised to reach out to the Social Security Administration to get Crockett’s application expedited.

Obama took questions for about 50 minutes from a friendly crowd at the elementary school. He said his work on health care was not yet finished and thanked local leaders for their work in getting people in their states insured. The event followed the recent Supreme Court decision that kept the Affordable Care Act in place.

Watch a clip of Obama’s exchange with Crockett:

 

 

 

TIME White House

See the First Tourist Instagrams Taken at the White House

“Visitors are now able to take photos and keep those memories for a lifetime!” Michelle Obama announced on Instagram Wednesday, lifting a 40-year ban on tourist photography inside the White House

TIME White House

Now You Can Take Photos at the White House

A four-decades-old ban is overturned

Visitors on public tours to the White House can now take photos and post to social media, First Lady Michelle Obama said Wednesday.

In a video posted to her Instagram account, she is shown tearing apart a White House sign saying “no photos or social media allowed.”

“Visitors are now able to take photos and keep those memories for a lifetime!” Obama wrote in her post. The White House is also encouraging visitors to share photos on social media with the hashtag #WhiteHouseTour.

The announcement overturns a four-decade ban on visitors taking photos on public tours. Video cameras, flash photography and live-streaming remain banned. The new policy doesn’t change restrictions on access for press photographers, which have long caused tensions between the Obama Administration and photographers at news organizations.

TIME Cuba

U.S., Cuba to Announce Plan to Open Embassies

File photo of U.S. President Obama greeting Cuban President Castro during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City,
Jonathan Ernst—Reuters President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul Castro as they hold a bilateral meeting during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama on April 11, 2015.

Another major milestone in the U.S.-Cuban thaw

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will announce Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba have finalized an agreement to reopen embassies in each other’s capitals, a major step in ending hostilities between the Cold War foes, a senior administration official said.

The U.S. and Cuba have been negotiating the reestablishment of embassies following the historic December announcement that they would move to restore ties after a half-century of animosity.

For Obama, ending the U.S. freeze with Cuba is central to his foreign policy legacy as he nears the end of his presidency. Obama has long touted the value of direct engagement with global foes and has argued that the U.S. embargo on the communist island just 90 miles south of Florida was ineffective.

Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are expected to speak Wednesday morning about the embassy openings. The official insisted on anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter ahead of the president.

Since the late 1970s, the United States and Cuba have operated diplomatic missions called interests sections in each other’s capitals. The missions are technically under the protection of Switzerland, and do not enjoy the same status as full embassies.

While the opening of embassies marks a major milestone in the thaw between the U.S. and Cuba, significant issues remain as the countries look to normalize relations. Among them: talks on human rights; demands for compensation for confiscated American properties in Havana and damages to Cuba from the embargo; and possible cooperation on law enforcement, including the touchy topic of U.S. fugitives sheltering in Havana.

Obama also wants Congress to repeal the economic embargo on Cuba, though he faces resistance from Republicans and some Democrats. Those opposed to normalizing relations with Cuba say Obama is prematurely rewarding a regime that engages in serious human rights abuses.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said in a statement that opening a U.S. embassy in Cuba “will do nothing to help the Cuban people and is just another trivial attempt for President Obama to go legacy shopping.”

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the opening of embassies was part of the administration’s “common sense approach to Cuba.” However, he called for Cuba to recognize that it is out of step with the international community on human rights.

“Arrests and detentions of dissidents must cease and genuine political pluralism is long overdue,” Cardin said in a statement.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro met in April during a regional summit, marking the first time U.S. and Cuban leaders have met in person since 1958.

TIME Girl Scouts

Here’s Why Girl Scouts Are Camping Outside the White House

Michelle Obama Girl Scouts White House
Evan Vucci—AP First lady Michelle Obama participates in a knot tying station during a Lets Move! event with Girl Scouts on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on June 30, 2015.

It's part of the First Lady's anti-childhood obesity campaign

The White House South Lawn might not be the epitome of American wilderness, but it’s where the First Lady and several dozen Girl Scouts are camping out on Tuesday.

Michelle Obama, the honorary national president of Girl Scouts of the USA, has invited 45 Girl Scouts to pitch tents in the presidential backyard to raise awareness on the benefits of outdoor activity. The campout is part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Outside campaign, a branch of the larger anti-childhood obesity campaign she launched in 2010.

The lucky Girl Scouts, who hail from Maryland, Oklahoma, Virginia, West Virginia and D.C., will participate in a range of outdoor activities to encourage their fellow youth to take advantage of America’s outdoors. In the evening, they’ll lay out on the South Lawn for a stargazing session led by NASA astronaut Cady Coleman.

It’s been a high-profile week for the Girl Scouts, who also made news on Monday when a regional chapter’s CEO declined a $100,000 gift after the donor requested the funds not to be used to support transgender Girl Scouts.

TIME 2016 Election

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Is Running for President

Christie is running to "change the world"

(LIVINGSTON, N.J.) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has launched a 2016 campaign for president.

The Republican governor formally announced his plans in a Tuesday morning event in the gymnasium of his old high school.

He says both political parties “have failed our country” in an announcement speech calling for more compromise in politics.

Christie was once thought to be a leading White House contender, but his star has faded over the last year. He’s been hurt by a traffic scandal involving senior aides and a lagging state economy.

He joins a GOP field that already includes more than a dozen candidates.

Christie heads to New Hampshire later in the day, where he’s planning to campaign through the end of the week.

TIME White House

Obama’s Approval Rating Cracks 50%

President Obama Joins Mourners At Funeral Of Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Joe Raedle—Getty Images President Barack Obama delivers the eulogy for South Carolina state senator and Rev. Clementa Pinckney during Pinckney's funeral service on June 26, 2015 in Charleston, S.C.

After he sang 'Amazing Grace' on television and had a big week in the Supreme Court

President Barack Obama’s approval rating cracked 50% following a week of dramatic news events, marking the highest ratings for his presidency since 2013.

A CNN/ORC poll found that 50% of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of the presidency, after a week that included Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act, as well as several statements on race and an emotional eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the Charleston shooting. Obama rounded out the week by singing “Amazing Grace” on national television at Rev. Pinckney’s funeral Friday.

The poll shows a significant jump since Obama’s 45% approval rating in May, and a dip in his disapproval rating, to 47%. This is the first time his approval rating has hit 50% since May 2013, and the second time his disapproval rating has fallen below 50% in that stretch of time.

The breakdown on specific issues is also going Obama’s way. 52% said they approve of how Obama is handling the economy, which is the first time that particular metric has exceeded 50% in six years of CNN/ORC polling. 55% said they approve of how Obama is handling race relations, up from 50% in May.

Yet there are still persistent challenges for Obama, especially on race. 74% of Americans say racial discrimination against black people is a serious problem in America, up from 47% five years ago– among African-American respondents, that number has jumped from 42% to 80%. And 42% of Americans think that race relations have gotten worse under Obama, compared to 20% who think they’ve gotten better.

[CNN]

TIME White House

Millions More Americans Will Qualify for Overtime

overtime
Getty Images

The maximum salary for exemption will more than double

Millions more American workers will be eligible for overtime under new eligibility rules to be released Tuesday, according to reports.

Under current federal regulations, workers making more than $23,660 are not guaranteed overtime. The new rules will boost that to $50,440, Bloomberg reports.

Proponents of the regulation say it would protect workers below the poverty line who are not currently compensated for their work beyond 40 hours per week. Critics say it could cause some businesses to hire more part-time workers rather than pay their managers overtime.

The rules, which received their last major update in the 1970s, are part of a second-term effort by President Obama to help working-class Americans without going through Congress.

[Bloomberg]

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