Category Archives: technology

President Obama’s press conference with Chancellor Merkel, 5/2/14: Excerpted remarks on NSA

The President:

If you don’t mind, I’m going to also go ahead and maybe say something about NSA just because I know it’s of great interest in the German press as well. Germany is one of our closest allies and our closest friends, and that’s true across the spectrum of issues — security, intelligence, economic, diplomatic. And Angela Merkel is one of my closest friends on the world stage, and somebody whose partnership I deeply value. And so it has pained me to see the degree to which the Snowden disclosures have created strains in the relationship.

But more broadly, I’ve also been convinced for a very long time that it is important for our legal structures and our policy structures to catch up with rapidly advancing technologies. And as a consequence, through a series of steps, what we’ve tried to do is reform what we do and have taken these issues very seriously. Domestically, we’ve tried to provide additional assurances to the American people that their privacy is protected. But what I’ve also done is taken the unprecedented step of ordering our intelligence communities to take the privacy interests of non-U.S. persons into account in everything that they do — something that has not been done before and most other countries in the world do not do. What I’ve said is, is that the privacy interests of non-U.S. citizens are deeply relevant and have to be taken into account, and we have to have policies and procedures to protect them, not just U.S. persons. And we are in the process of implementing a whole series of those steps.

We have shared with the Germans the things that we are doing. I will repeat what I’ve said before — that ordinary Germans are not subject to continual surveillance, are not subject to a whole range of bulk data gathering. I know that the perceptions I think among the public sometimes are that the United States has capacities similar to what you see on movies and in television. The truth of the matter is, is that our focus is principally and primarily on how do we make sure that terrorists, those who want to proliferate weapons, transnational criminals are not able to engage in the activities that they’re engaging in. And in that, we can only be successful if we’re partnering with friends like Germany. We won’t succeed if we’re doing that on our own.

So what I’ve pledged to Chancellor Merkel has been in addition to the reforms that we’ve already taken, in addition to saying that we are going to apply privacy standards to how we deal with non-U.S. persons as well as U.S. persons, in addition to the work that we’re doing to constrain the potential use of bulk data, we are committed to a U.S.-German cyber dialogue to close further the gaps that may exist in terms of how we operate, how German intelligence operates, to make sure that there is transparency and clarity about what we’re doing and what our goals and our intentions are.

These are complicated issues and we’re not perfectly aligned yet, but we share the same values and we share the same concerns. And this is something that is deeply important to me and I’m absolutely committed that by the time I leave this office, we’re going to have a stronger legal footing and international framework for how we are doing business in the intelligence sphere.

I will say, though, that I don’t think that there is an inevitable contradiction between our security and safety and our privacy. And the one thing that I’ve tried to share with Chancellor Merkel is that the United States historically has been concerned about privacy. It’s embedded in our Constitution, and as the world’s oldest continuous constitutional democracy, I think we know a little bit about trying to protect people’s privacy.

And we have a technology that is moving rapidly and we have a very challenging world that we have to deal with, and we’ve got to adjust our legal frameworks. But she should not doubt, and the German people should not doubt, how seriously we take these issues. And I believe that we’re going to be able to get them resolved to the satisfaction not just of our two countries but of people around the world.

Transcript of complete remarks: http://1.usa.gov/1rNHqGs

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We the Geeks Google+ Hangout on Asteroids, 5/31/13

Posted by Phil Larson on whitehouse.gov:

Now that asteroid 1998 QE2 has safely flown by the Earth and Moon, we won’t have another close visit from this particular space rock for about 200 years.

As part of the White House’s ongoing series of “We The Geeks” Google+ Hangouts (focused on highlighting science, technology, and innovation topics), we gathered some leaders in space exploration together for a pregame show to the near-miss of asteroid 1998 QE2.
These experts included:

•Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator, NASA
•Bill Nye, Executive Director, Planetary Society
•Ed Lu, former astronaut and CEO, B612 Foundation
•Peter Diamandis, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources
•Jose Luis Galache, Astronomer at the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center

More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is available at: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/, http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch and via Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/asteroidwatch.

Ways to Get Involved

There’s a competition for students and young professionals to share their most innovative ideas for a mission to an asteroid with the world’s leading space experts. Check it out at: http://www.spacegeneration.org/maa.

Have ideas for the next “We the Geeks”? Use the hashtag #WeTheGeeks on Twitter and on Google+ and let us know! Also, you can sign up to receive updates about future “We the Geeks” hangouts at Whitehouse.gov/We-the-Geeks.

Source: http://1.usa.gov/16x68Wy

Weekly Address: The President Talks About How to Build a Rising, Thriving Middle Class, 5/18/13

President Obama talks about his belief that a rising, thriving middle class is the true engine of economic growth, and that to reignite that engine and continue to build on the progress we’ve made over the last four years, we need to invest in three areas: jobs, skills and opportunity.

“More than anything, the American people make me optimistic about where we’re headed as a nation. Especially after all we’ve been through the past several years. And that should encourage us to work even harder on the issues that matter to you.

In a little over three years, our businesses have created more than 6.5 million new jobs. And while our unemployment rate is still too high, it’s the lowest it’s been since 2008. But now we need to create even more good, middle-class jobs, and we need to do it faster.

Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs. But now we need to get middle-class wages and incomes rising too.

Our housing market is healing. But we still need to help a lot more families stay in their homes, or refinance to take advantage of historically low rates.

And our deficits are shrinking at the fastest rate in decades. But now we need to budget in a smarter way that doesn’t hurt middle-class families or harm critical investments in our future.

So in a lot of sectors, things are looking up. The American auto industry is thriving. American energy is booming. And American ingenuity in our tech sector has the potential to change the way we do almost everything.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/19JA79I

West Wing Week: 05/17/13 or “We the Geeks”

This week, the President honored fallen officers and top cops, spoke on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, invited the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and of Turkey to the White House and kicked off a new Google+ Hangout series on science and technology. That’s May 10th through May 16th or “We the Geeks.”

President Obama Speaks to the People of Mexico, May 3, 2013

You see the difference between the world as it is and the world as it could be; between old attitudes that stifle progress and the new thinking that allows us to connect and collaborate across cultures. And by the way, that includes how we think about the relationship between Mexico and the United States.

Despite all the bonds and the values that we share, despite all the people who claim heritage on both sides, our attitudes sometimes are trapped in old stereotypes. Some Americans only see the Mexico that is depicted in sensational headlines of violence and border crossings. And let’s admit it, some Mexicans think that America disrespects Mexico, or thinks that America is trying to impose itself on Mexican sovereignty, or just wants to wall ourselves off. And in both countries such distortions create misunderstandings that make it harder for us to move forward together. So I’ve come to Mexico because I think it’s time for us to put the old mind-sets aside. It’s time to recognize new realities — including the impressive progress of today’s Mexico. (Applause.)

It is true that there are Mexicans all across this country who are making courageous sacrifices for the security of your country; that in the countryside and the neighborhoods not far from here, there are those who are still struggling to give their children a better life. But what’s also clear is that a new Mexico is emerging.

I see it in the deepening of Mexico’s democracy, citizens who are standing up and saying that violence and impunity is not acceptable; a courageous press that’s working to hold leaders accountable; a robust civil society, including brave defenders of human rights who demand dignity and rule of law. You have political parties that are competing vigorously, but also transferring power peacefully, and forging compromise. And that’s all a sign of the extraordinary progress that’s taken place here in Mexico.

And even though we know the work of perfecting democracy is never finished — that’s true in America, that’s true here in Mexico — you go forward knowing the truth that Benito Juarez once spoke — “democracy is the destiny of humanity.” And we are seeing that here in Mexico….

You are the dream. This is your moment. And as you reach for the future, always remember that you have the greatest of partners, the greatest of friends — the nation that is rooting for your success more than anybody else — your neighbor, the United States of America. (Applause.)

Viva México! Viva los Estados Unidos! Que Dios los bendiga! Thank you very much. (Applause.)”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/138QawK

President Obama Speaks at the 150th Anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences

“…. But President Lincoln founded the Academy with a mandate that went far beyond the science and technology of war. Even as the nation was at war with itself, President Lincoln had the wisdom to look forward, and he recognized that finding a way to harness the highest caliber scientific advice for the government would serve a whole range of long-term goals for the nation.

It was the same foresight that led him to establish land-grant colleges and finish the Transcontinental Railroad — the idea that the essence of America is this hunger to innovate, this restlessness, this quest for the next big thing. And although much of this innovation would be generated by the powers of our free market, the investments and the convening power of the federal government could accelerate discovery in a way that would continually push the nation forward.

That’s our inheritance, and now the task falls to us. We, too, face significant challenges — obviously not of the magnitude that President Lincoln faced, but we’ve got severe economic and security and environmental challenges. And what we know from our past is that the investments we make today are bound to pay off many times over in the years to come.

So we will continue to pursue advances in science and engineering, in infrastructure and innovation, in education and environmental protection — especially science-based initiatives to help us minimize and adapt to global threats like climate change….

And what I want to communicate to all of you is, is that as long as I’m President, we’re going to continue to be committed to investing in the promising ideas that are generated from you and your institutions, because they lead to innovative products, they help boost our economy, but also because that’s who we are. I’m committed to it because that’s what makes us special and ultimately what makes life worth living.

And that’s why we’re pursuing “grand challenges” like making solar energy as cheap as coal, and building electric vehicles as affordable as the ones that run on gas. And earlier this month, I unveiled the BRAIN initiative, which will give scientists the tools that they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action, and better understand how we think and learn and remember.

Today, all around the country, scientists like you are developing therapies to regenerate damaged organs, creating new devices to enable brain-controlled prosthetic limbs, and sending sophisticated robots into space to search for signs of past life on Mars. That sense of wonder and that sense of discovery, it has practical application but it also nurtures what I believe is best in us.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/12K7pEe