By Jueseppi B.
In Case You Missed It
Here are some of the top stories from the White House blog:
Preventing Violence: President Obama Asks Americans to Stand Up and Say “This Time It’s Different”
Yesterday, President Obama visited Minnesota, where he told a crowd that the best way to make significant progress towards reducing gun violence in this country is for the American people to decide change is important.
Honoring Rosa Parks on the 100th Anniversary of her Birth
The release of a postage stamp honoring Rosa Parks on the 100th anniversary of her birthday commemorates the courage and legacy of an American civil rights icon.
How Are Race to the Top States Doing in Year Two?
The Department of Education released reports for 12 Race to the Top states, showcasing their improvements in helping our education system.
All times are Eastern Standard Time (EST).
7:00 AM: The Vice President will meet with British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
8:00 AM: The Vice President will meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron
9:45 AM: The President receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
11:00 AM: The President meets with progressive and labor leaders
1:15 PM: The President Delivers a statement
1:25 PM: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
3:20 PM: The President meets with business leaders
4:30 PM: The President meets with Secretary of Defense Panetta
In these videotaped remarks, President Obama delivers a clear message to the people of Kenya: the upcoming elections are a historic opportunity for Kenyans to stand together, as a nation, for peace and progress, and for the rule of law. The President has strong ties to the people of Kenya. From visiting his father’s village to touring the country as a U.S. Senator, he has a deep and personal interest in seeing Kenya flourish.
President Obama’s Message to the People of Kenya
Kenyans have made remarkable progress since the devastating violence that followed the elections five years ago. Lives and communities have been rebuilt, the economy has rebounded, and Kenyans have peacefully stood together to pass a historic constitution and advance important political reforms. While the international community has assisted these efforts, the Kenyan people have stood together to solidify the rule of law and put Kenya on a path to greater prosperity.
As Kenyans prepare for the March elections, President Obama urges the people of Kenya to put aside tribal and ethnic differences; to clearly reject intimidation and violence; to address electoral disputes through Kenya’s courts, rather than on the streets; and to come together as a nation on the 50th anniversary of Kenyan independence. It is a moment to put strife and impunity firmly in the past, and to embrace a bright and peaceful future.
We are happy to announce that applications are now being accepted for Round 2 of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program! You can apply here.
Launched last year, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program recruits top innovators and entrepreneurs from the private sector for 6-12 month “tours of duty” in government to help develop innovative solutions in areas of national significance. Our 18 inaugural Fellows arrived last August, teamed up with top government innovators, and have been doing extraordinary work on five projects:
- Open Data Initiatives have unleashed data from the vaults of the government as fuel for entrepreneurs and innovators to create new apps, products, and services that benefit the American people in myriad ways and contribute to job growth.
- RFP-EZ has created a new online marketplace and built tools that make it easier for innovative small tech businesses to bid on government contracts, while also making it easier for government contracting officers to identify the bids that offer the best value for taxpayers.
- Blue Button for America has moved personal health records ahead significantly by giving millions of veterans and other Americans massively improved, secure access to their own health information.
- Better Than Cash is working with an array of foreign and non-governmental partners to transition “the last mile” of international development assistance payments from cash to electronic mobile money, resulting in increased funding transparency and more impact for American taxpayer dollars.
- MyUSA (formerly MyGov) has reimagined how citizens can interact with government, developing a prototype of an online system that allows people to more easily find and access the information and services that are right for them from across government.
Throughout the Federal Government, in every agency where Fellows have been working, we’ve been thrilled to see the exciting advances they’ve been achieving in concert with their government teammates. So we are excited to announce that the program is extending and expanding—and that we are ready to welcome applications for our next round of Presidential Innovation Fellows.
In addition to seeking applicants to work on the next phases of the Open Data Initiatives, MyData Initiatives (including Blue Button for America), RFP-EZ, and MyUSA projects, we are also inviting applications from those who would like to help launch the following new projects:
- Disaster Response and Recovery will collaboratively build and “pre-position” critical tech tools ahead of future emergencies or natural disasters in order to mitigate economic damage and save lives.
- Cyber-Physical Systems will work with government and industry to create standards for a new generation of inter operable, dynamic, and efficient “smart systems”—an “industrial Internet”—that combines distributed sensing, control, and data analytics to help grow the economy and new high-value American jobs.
- 21st Century Financial Systems will work to move the financial accounting systems of Federal agencies out of the era of large-scale, agency-specific implementations to one that favors more nimble, modular, scalable, and cost-effective approaches.
- Innovation Toolkit will develop a suite of tools that empowers our Federal workforce to respond to national priorities more quickly and more efficiently.
- Development Innovation Ventures will help enable the US government to identify, test, and scale breakthrough solutions to the world’s toughest problems.
We are looking for incredibly talented, entrepreneurial people from a diverse array of backgrounds and with a wide range of experiences. Many of the Fellowship roles require coding and other tech skills, but not all do. We are also looking for gifted and accomplished change agents with skills in user experience design, product management, project management, business development, operations reengineering, and more. In a nutshell, we are looking for people who can help make big things happen rapidly to advance the public good.
So please throw your hat in the ring and apply to be a Round 2 Presidential Innovation Fellow! This is an opportunity to take a journey that will allow you to make an impact on a massive scale.
The American public increasingly relies on the Internet for socializing, business transactions, gathering information, entertainment, and creating and sharing content. The rapid growth of the Internet has brought opportunities but also risks, and the Federal Government is committed to empowering members of the public to protect themselves against the full range of online threats, including online radicalization to violence.
Violent extremist groups ─ like al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents, violent supremacist groups, and violent “sovereign citizens” ─ are leveraging online tools and resources to propagate messages of violence and division. These groups use the Internet to disseminate propaganda, identify and groom potential recruits, and supplement their real-world recruitment efforts. Some members and supporters of these groups visit mainstream fora to see whether individuals might be recruited or encouraged to commit acts of violence, look for opportunities to draw targets into private exchanges, and exploit popular media like music videos and online video games. Although the Internet offers countless opportunities for Americans to connect, it has also provided violent extremists with access to new audiences and instruments for radicalization.
As a starting point to prevent online radicalization to violence in the homeland, the Federal Government initially will focus on raising awareness about the threat and providing communities with practical information and tools for staying safe online. In this process, we will work closely with the technology industry to consider policies, technologies, and tools that can help counter violent extremism online. Companies already have developed voluntary measures to promote Internet safety ─ such as fraud warnings, identity protection, and Internet safety tips ─ and we will collaborate with industry to explore how we might counter online violent extremism without interfering with lawful Internet use or the privacy and civil liberties of individual users.
This approach is consistent with Internet safety principles that have helped keep communities safe from a range of online threats, such as cyber bullies, scammers, gangs, and sexual predators. While each of these threats is unique, experience has shown that a well-informed public, armed with tools and resources to stay safe online, is critical to protecting communities. Pursuing such an approach is also consistent with the community-based framework we outlined in Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States and the Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.
A New Interagency Working Group
To more effectively organize our efforts, the Administration is establishing a new Interagency Working Group to Counter Online Radicalization to Violence, chaired by the National Security Staff at the White House and involving specialists in countering violent extremism, Internet safety experts, and civil liberties and privacy practitioners from across the United States Government. This Working Group will be responsible for developing plans to implement an Internet safety approach to address online violent extremism, coordinating the Federal Government’s activities and assessing our progress against these plans, and identifying additional activities to pursue for countering online radicalization to violence.
Raising Awareness through Existing Initiatives
In the coming months, the Working Group will coordinate with Federal departments and agencies to raise awareness and disseminate tools for staying safe from online violent extremism primarily through three means.
First, information about online violent extremism will be incorporated into existing Federal Government Internet safety initiatives. Internet safety initiatives at the Department of Education, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies provide platforms that already reach millions of Americans, and relevant departments and agencies will work to add materials related to online radicalization.
The primary government platform for raising awareness about Internet safety is On Guard Online, managed by the Federal Trade Commission and involving 16 departments and agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education. On Guard Online─ in addition to other Federal Government Internet safety platforms like Stop.Think.Connect and Safe Online Surfing─ will begin including information about online violent extremism. This information also will be posted on the Countering Violent Extremism homepage on the Department of Homeland Security’s website and updated to reflect new best practices and research.
Second, the Federal Government will work with local organizations throughout the country to disseminate information about the threat. One reason for the success of Federal Government Internet safety awareness efforts is that they work closely with local organizations — such as school districts, Parent Teacher Associations, local government, and law enforcement — to communicate to communities. Law enforcement is a particularly important partner in raising awareness about radicalization to violence and is already developing materials with support from the Department of Justice. Law enforcement departments and agencies have established Internet safety programs and relationships with community members and local organizations that can reach multiple audiences with critical information about the threat of online violent extremism and recruitment. Departments and agencies will provide the latest assessments of this threat to our local partners and encourage them to incorporate this information into their programs and initiatives.
Third, departments and agencies will use our preexisting engagement with communities to provide information about Internet safety and details about how violent extremists are using the Internet to target and exploit communities. U.S. Attorneys throughout the country, who historically have engaged with communities on a range of public safety issues, are coordinating these Federal engagement efforts at the local level, with support from other departments and agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education. U.S. Attorneys and others involved in community engagement will seek to incorporate information about Internet radicalization to violence into their efforts, as appropriate. At the same time, the Federal Government will engage with State, local, and tribal government and law enforcement officials to learn from their experiences in addressing online threats, including violent extremism.
As the Federal Government implements this effort in the coming months, we will continue to investigate and prosecute those who use the Internet to recruit others to plan or carry out acts of violence, while ensuring that we also continue to uphold individual privacy and civil liberties. Preventing online radicalization to violence requires both proactive solutions to reduce the likelihood that violent extremists affect their target audiences as well as ensuring that laws are rigorously enforced.
Since we launched We the People, our team of developers has been hard at work on the code that makes the whole thing tick. Good thing, too! More than 2 million users joined We the People in the last two months of 2012 alone and some 6 million of you have logged in to the system and left more than 10 million signatures. That’s a lot of citizen engagement for one application to handle, but it’s done well, and we continue to release updates to the source code on GitHub and Drupal.org
Today, though, we’re starting the next stage of We the People’s development. I’m pleased to announce that Petitions 1.0, the code that We the People runs on, is complete. We’re now working towards Petitions 2.0.
In software development, when you go from one version number to another it means that something big is going on. We’re taking a new approach to how the application works, one that starts with the assumption that it should be as open, transparent, and flexible as possible.
As a result, Petitions 2.0 is based on an application programming interface, or API, that we will release to the public in the coming months. The first set of methods, Read API, will be released in March, 2013 and will allow anyone to retrieve data on petitions, signatures, and responses. Later, we’ll release a second set of methods, Write API, that will allow other websites and apps to collect and submit signatures without directly sending users to WhiteHouse.gov. With this API in place we’ll be able to decouple the presentation and data layers of the application and build a new, streamlined signature process. This also means that developers who reuse our code will be able to choose which database the application relies on. Between that and our continued work on a white label theme, Petitions 2.0 will be easier for others to contribute to and reuse.
But it all starts with the API… and we’d like to give you a sneak peek.
We’re inviting a small group to join us in Washington, DC on February 22, 2013 for the White House Open Data Day Hackathon. In the weeks before the event we’ll give participants access to We the People’s Read API methods so they can use them, ask questions, provide feedback, and build cool stuff. For the hackathon, participants will come to the White House to share their work, talk with the API developers, and submit examples to be included in a software development kit (SDK).
Want to take part? If you have the skills necessary to work with APIs and develop visualizations, tools, or other services that rely their data, we want to hear from you.
If you are selected to attend, you will be notified no later than Friday, February 8, 2013. To learn more about Open Data Day or find other ways to take part.
Statements and Releases
Statement by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan on Bulgaria’s Announcement of Hizballah’s Role in the 2012 Burgas Terrorist Attack
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