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Entries in White House (75)

Monday
Dec172012

Gay Marine Proposes to Boyfriend at White House

Mike Tapscott / American Military Partner Association(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Phelps made history Saturday at the home of his commander in chief.

The 35-year-old active-duty officer proposed to his boyfriend, Ben Schock, 26, in the Grand Foyer of the White House at the end of a holiday tour.

It’s believed to be the first time two gay men have gotten engaged inside the White House, and a first for an active-duty member of the U.S. military.  A transgender man proposed to his partner in the East Room earlier this year.

“Our first date was to the White House, so I wanted to propose to him there,” Phelps told ABC News. “When I got invited to the holiday tour — six months to the day that we had been there on our first date — it was way too much of a coincidence to pass up.”

The moment, which Phelps described as a complete surprise to Schock, was captured on camera by fellow tour-goers. Some of the images have since gone viral online.

The White House declined to comment on the engagement. No word on whether the Obamas knew what happened in their halls.

Phelps said his public engagement — made possible in part because of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — has been well-received among his Marine Corps peers. But he noted that there could be a rocky road ahead for their relationship after the nuptials planned for next spring.

“The one thing that is overshadowing things,” he said, “is the fact that the Defense of Marriage Act is still in effect and the DOD [Defense Department] isn’t going to recognize our marriage.

“I’m expecting to get orders to Japan next summer, but as of right now, because they’re not going to recognize Ben as my spouse, they’re not going to pay for him to accompany me; he’s not going to have any health care coverage; and, he’s not going to have access to the base while I’m gone,” he said.

“I’d have to get permission to live out in town as a ‘single officer,’ so we’ll have to figure that out,” he said.

The Supreme Court will later this year review the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for federal purposes as between one man and one woman.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov282012

First Lady Unveils White House Holiday Decorations  

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy(WASHINGTON) -- It took 54 live Christmas trees, 175 pounds of gingerbread, and 85 volunteers from across the country to pull it off, but the holidays have finally arrived at the White House.
 
First lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the White House Wednesday for the big reveal and to show off this year’s theme of “Joy to All.”
 
“It celebrates the many joys of the holiday seasons:  the joy of giving and service to others; the joy of sharing our blessings with one another; and, of course, the joy of welcoming our friends and families as guests into our homes over these next several weeks,” she told the crowd gathered in the East Room.
 
The first lady praised the service and sacrifice of the families gathered at the White House Wednesday, which included Gold Star and Blue Star parents, spouses and children. “This is one big, huge thank you,” she said. “I have said this many times before and I will say it again, because I can't say it enough -- our military families truly represent the very best that this country has to offer.  And I've seen it up close.  You all do so much for this country, and you do it with such amazing poise and grace.”
 
Several of the decorations honor the military, including red, white and blue wreaths and special ornaments decorated by families of fallen soldiers. The decor also includes a nod to holidays past, with four trees trimmed with ornaments paying tribute to the legacies of former first ladies. “They just give you a sense of what Christmas felt like in other administrations with other families and first ladies,” Mrs. Obama said.
 
More than 90,000 visitors will tour the decorations at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this holiday season, which now boasts a huge 18-foot-6-inch Fraser fir in the Blue Room and a giant topiary of the Obama family dog Bo made out of 20,000 black and white pom-poms.
 
Other highlights include the annual White House gingerbread house, which weighs in at an impressive 300 pounds. “It even includes chandeliers that light up,” the first lady bragged. “It glows. Like Rudolph’s nose, right.”
 
Fun facts about this year’s decorations:

  • The official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room is an 18-foot-6-inch Fraser fir from the Estes Family’s Peak Farms in Jefferson, North Carolina, the winning tree farm of the National Christmas Tree Association’s National Christmas Tree Contest.
  • More than 175 pounds of gingerbread and modified gingerbread make up the White House Gingerbread House. With over 50 pounds of chocolate, the house weighs about 300 pounds. The combination of wheat, rye, and white-flour gingerbread mimics the color of the sandstone house prior to 1798, when the house was first painted white.
  • There are more than 40 “Bo-flake” ornaments throughout the White House.
  • The snowflakes at the East Entrance are made out of lightweight laminate board. Volunteers clipped and wired small boxwood bundles, dipped them in floor wax to preserve the freshness, and hot glued them to the frame. The project took approximately 25 volunteers a total of 100 hours to make.
  • The berry, pinecone, and leaf designs of the East Entrance column covers took a team of 40+ volunteers over two months to make. The column covers were constructed over a plywood base using 60,000 berries, 15,000 gold pinecone scales, and 15,000 pieces of lemon leaf. The pattern forms a three-dimensional geometric motif of “illusion cubes.”
  • The giant Bo topiary in Booksellers is made out of 18,000 one-inch black pom-poms and 2,000 white pom-poms. The pom-poms were strung on a single strand of yarn and then applied in an overlapping technique to resemble Bo’s fur. The Bo topiary took one volunteer approximately 85 hours to complete.
  • The colorful iron arches in the Lower Cross Hall are covered with over 6,000 repurposed White House ornaments. The arches took a team of 12 volunteers a total of 350 hours to make.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep272012

Some Administration Officials Had Early Concerns Benghazi Attack Was Act of Terrorism

US Department of Defense Photo by Glenn Fawcet(WASHINGTON) -- Obama administration officials told ABC News they had early concerns the attack in Benghazi, Libya was the work of terrorists. Events were too uncertain, and suspicions had been aroused, officials said.

Panetta Thursday said that the attack that killed four Americans on the anniversary of 9/11 was not only carried out by terrorists -- it was pre-meditated.

“As we determined the details of what took place there and how that attack took place,” Panetta told reporters, “it became clear that there were terrorists who had planned that attack.”

The White House first suggested the attack was spontaneous -- the result of an anti-Muslim video that incited mobs throughout the region.

“Let’s be clear, these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Sept. 14.

When ABC News pressed Carney on whether that included the Benghazi attack, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American men were killed, Carney said, “we certainly don’t know. We don’t know otherwise. We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.”

On ABC's This Week on Sept. 16, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said, “our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous -- not a premeditated -- response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated. We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to -- or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons … And it then evolved from there.”

White House officials acknowledge that assessments have changed over time as intelligence has been confirmed, but they insist that no information was given in bad faith and there was no attempt to downplay the attack.

But sources told ABC News that intelligence officials on the ground immediately suspected the attack was not tied to the movie at all. The attackers knew where to get Ambassador Stevens after he’d fled to a so-called safe house half a mile away. That building was hit with insurgent mortars -- suggesting the terrorists knew what they were doing.

As of Thursday afternoon, officials from the Obama administration were not even 100 percent certain that the protest of the anti-Muslim film in Benghazi occurred outside the U.S. diplomatic post.

In a closed-door briefing with top officials, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the mortar attack on the safe house as suggesting that the terrorist attack was one of opportunity, not pre-meditation, since the mortars were not used to attack the consulate earlier in the day.

President Obama has repeatedly said the investigation is on to find the killers and bring them to justice. But as first reported by CNN, ABC news has learned that the FBI -- which has been dispatched to Libya to take the lead in the investigation -- has not even reached Benghazi yet.

This is largely due to safety concerns. Indeed, as of Thursday, senior State Department officials said that the diplomatic presence in Libya -- which was already down to emergency-level staffing -- would be further reduced.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep142012

White House Asks YouTube to ‘Review’ Anti-Muslim Movie

Stockbyte/Thinkstock/YouTube(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration has asked YouTube to review its posting of the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims,” which has provoked violent protests across the Middle East.

“We reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Carney was adamant Friday that the Obama administration will not apologize for the video.

“We have made clear that we find it offensive and reprehensible and disgusting,” Carney told reporters at the daily White House news briefing. “We have denounced it. We have said we find it offensive and reprehensible, but we will not -- you know, we cannot and will not squelch freedom of expression in this country.”

The White House has not asked YouTube to take down the video, simply to review it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep142012

Obama Salutes US Olympic and Paralympic Teams at White House

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama welcomed the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House Friday, telling them they are “a portrait of what this country is all about.”

“You guys all find the strength to keep pushing on good days and bad days, because you believe that no matter where we come from, or no matter what hand we’ve been dealt in life, with enough effort, there is no limit to how far we can go,” the president told the large crowd of athletes gathered on the White House South Lawn.

“That’s what sets all of you apart.  That’s what sets America apart.  We celebrate individual effort, but we also know that, together, we can do incredible things that we couldn’t accomplish on our own,” he said.

The president was joined by Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama, who led the U.S. delegation to the Summer Games in London, in saluting the nation’s finest athletes.

“I had so much fun with everyone over in London that when I got home, I told Barack that we had to invite everybody over to the house,” Michelle Obama said.

The president admitted he was “pretty jealous” that his wife got to go to the games, “but like millions of Americans, I had almost as much fun just following you guys from here.”

“I usually work pretty late, but I’ve mastered the DVR,” he quipped. “It was a great way to end the day, watching you guys do things that I did not think were humanly possible.”

After his wife returned to Washington, the president, an avid sports fan and exercise enthusiast, said he and the first lady would talk about the games while they worked out in the morning.

“We’d talk about, did you see that thing?” he recounted. “That was unbelievable. …  And then I’d jog on the treadmill,” he said, making fun of his own athletic prowess.

The president said that he was not supposed to shake everyone’s hands because of his tight schedule but vowed to “break the rule” and do it anyway, which he did.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug202012

Obama Crashes First-Ever Kids’ State Dinner

Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama made a surprise appearance at the first-ever kids’ “State Dinner” hosted by the first lady at the White House Monday, celebrating the young winners of a national healthy recipe contest who proved food can be “healthy and tasty at the same time.”

“Usually, I get invited to the state dinners. So this time I just had to crash,” the president said as he entered the ornate East Room to squeals of excitement from the young guests. “I had to crash the party because I did not want to miss out on all the fun.”

The children, ages 8 to 12, were all winners of the “healthy lunchtime challenge,” a nationwide competition that asked kids and their parents to submit recipes for lunchtime meals that were “healthy, affordable and tasty.” Today’s “State Dinner” luncheon featured a selection of the winning recipes, including “Yummy Cabbage Sloppy Joes” and “Quinoa, Black Bean and Corn Salad.”

“I could not be prouder of you, the young people, because, you know, it’s hard enough to follow a recipe and make something good to eat,” the president said. “I’m not a great cook. I’m an OK cook. I can make a good omelet and toast. …  Let’s face it, I don’t cook that often these days, but I remember cooking, and it’s not always easy to make something that people like to eat.

“Then for you guys to actually come up with recipes that are healthy and tasty, and to do it in a way that helps to contribute to spreading the word about healthy eating among your peers, that’s a really big deal.”

The White House spared none of the pomp and circumstance of a State Dinner. The children, dressed to the nines, were announced as they entered the White House and interviewed by eager reporters.

White House chef Sam Kass MC’d the arrivals and spoke with guests about their recipes as they entered the East Room.

“Is this not cool?” Michelle Obama said as she welcomed the 54 contest winners and their guardians to the White House. “This is just so very cool. And understand, it’s not just cool for all of you. I mean, this house has been abuzz with this event. I think this is one of the best events that we’ve ever had here, our very first-ever Kids State Dinner, so, so awesome.”

The first lady sat with the children as they ate their healthy lunches off the red Reagan state china, sitting at round tables with large bouquets of bright red tomatoes and green apples.

The White House chefs and a team of judges critiqued more than 1,200 entries to pick the winning recipes from each state and territory and recreated the winning recipes for Monday’s lunch.

“You’re here because your recipes truly stood out, right? And that’s really saying something,” the first lady said. “You came up with dishes that were packed with nutritious, delicious ingredients, dishes that are good for you, but more importantly, they taste good, too. See? It can happen, healthy and tasty at the same time.”

Lunch was just the beginning of a fun day at the White House for the winners, who were also treated to a concert by Big Time Rush and given a tour of the kitchen garden.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul132012

White House Won’t Condemn ‘Made in China’ US Olympic Uniforms

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The White House does not believe the U.S. Olympic Team’s “Made-in-China” uniforms need to be replaced with American-made apparel ahead of the London Games later this month.

“Maybe for future Olympics, those kinds of things should be considered,” deputy White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One en route Norfolk, Va., this morning.

“The United States Olympic Committee has said that they are a—they are privately funded.  This isn’t a government decision,” he said.

Earnest suggested President Obama would prefer to see the team outfitted in outfits stamped with “Made in the USA,” noting “the president’s views on the high quality of American-made products is well known. It’s something he talks about extensively.  That includes American-made clothing.”

But, echoing the position of the USOC, Earnest said the administration doesn’t want the uniform controversy to “distract from the story of young Americans…who spent a good portion of their lives preparing to compete on the international stage.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul132012

First Lady Hosts Nation's Top Innovators at White House

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy(WASHINGTON) -- First Lady Michelle Obama paid tribute to some of the nation’s top innovators at the White House Friday. Winners of the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards are honored annually by the Smithsonian as creative thinkers in disciplines the organization believes are critical in shaping humanistic achievements.
 
At a luncheon in the White House’s East Room, the first lady said it was important to put faces on the winners for their contributions to society.
 
“All of them have done something really good for our country and our world.  From the clothes we wear to the technologies we use to the public spaces we enjoy, their work affects just about every aspect of our lives,” she said.
 
The sentiment was echoed by Dr. Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian.
 
“We see design around us every day, in everything small and large, from the paper clip to the shuttle Discovery,” he said.  "The awards demonstrate and celebrate how design affects the quality of our life, the community, our education, and yes, our environment.”
 
This year’s 11 winners range in fields from biology to fashion design, and everything in between. They include names such as Scott Wilson, whose firm collaborated on the design for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming platform and the iPod Nano. Also on the list: Tim Prestero, whose organization Design that Matters focuses on solutions for developing countries. One innovation they sprung: A neonatal care unit created out of spare car parts.
 
Richard Saul Wurman received a lifetime achievement award during the event. Wurman is the creator of the popular “TED Talks” conferences, yearly non-profit events where the world’s top thinkers and doers share their ideas.
 
Friday’s event was preceded by an education program for Washington high school students. The youths of the “design fair,” selected for their own unique projects, also met the winners one-on-one.
 
Obama said she hoped the event would inspire those young people to keep at it.
 
“What you guys have to understand is that these honorees weren’t born brilliant designers,” she said.  "They became brilliant designers because they worked hard.  They’re here today because they had a dream, and they put in long, hard, exhausting work -- all of that [is what] it takes to follow that dream.”
 
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun292012

Stephanie Decker, Hero Mom, Visits White House

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In March Stephanie Decker lost both her legs saving her children from an Indiana tornado. On Friday, she walked into the Oval Office with the help of President Obama.

The president welcomed Decker, her husband Joe and their children, Reese and Dominic, to the White House less than four months after the twister destroyed their home in Henryville, Ind.

Decker saved her young children from the tornado by shielding them with her own body, but lost her legs in the process when they were crushed under debris.

A White House photo shows Decker, who now uses prosthetic legs, walking arm-in-arm with the president in the Oval Office.

Decker and the president discussed a foundation she started to help children with artificial limbs play sports.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun152012

Obama Interrupted By Heckler During Rose Garden Announcement

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama was in the middle of delivering remarks on immigration in the Rose Garden this afternoon when he was interrupted and heckled repeatedly by a reporter.

The man, later identified as Neil Munro of The Daily Caller, asked the president several times “why do you favor foreigners over American workers?”

“It’s not time for questions, sir,” the president responded angrily. “Not while I’m speaking.”

While reporters were present at the Rose Garden announcement, the president was not expected to take questions.

At the end of his remarks, the president attempted to address Munro’s concerns. “The answer to your question, sir — and the next time I prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question — is this is the right thing to do for the American people,” he said.

When Munro interrupted again, the president snapped back “I didn’t ask for an argument, I’m answering your question.”

Asked afterwards who he was, Munro said simply, “I’m just a reporter asking questions you should be asking.”

The Daily Caller later lauded Munro’s behavior. “We are very proud of, @NeilMunroDC for doing his job,” the online publication posted to its Twitter feed.

The president was announcing plans to stop deporting young illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, but have since been enrolled in, or graduated from high school and have abided by U.S. law.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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