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August 24 2004 | 11:59 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Dan from Naples, Florida:
Why would President Bush sign any legislation that would tell anyone who is eligible for overtime or not. That is something left to the States and actually more so between an employer and employee upon hire. The Federal Government has no business telling anyone how they can be compensated for the work they have performed.

A: Al Robinson, Acting Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, U.S Department of Labor:
Thanks for your question, Dan. I assume you are referring to the new Overtime Security rule issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. This rule clarifies existing regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and is not actually legislation that would need to be signed by the President.

The Fair Labor Standards Act tasks the Secretary of Labor with updating the White Collar exemptions to overtime. However, significant parts of these regulations had not been updated in more than 50 years.

Under the Department's final rule, 6.7 million working Americans will see their overtime updated and strengthened. Workers earning $23,660/year or $455/week or less will be automatically entitled to overtime regardless of their title or responsibilities. Many workers earning more than $23,660, including police, firefighters, EMT's, and LPN's also have their overtime protection strengthened. Hourly workers, manual workers and blue collar workers are automatically guaranteed overtime regardless of how much they earn.

States are free to enact more stringent overtime rules if they see fit, and a number already have their own overtime regulations in place. In addition, this new rule does not impact workers covered by a collective bargaining agreements.

If you would like to know more about the new Overtime Security Rules, please visit

August 24 2004 | 8:59 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Michael from Towson, MD:
I would like to know more about the faith based initative policies and programs agenda. thank you michael.

A: Jim Towey, White House Faith Based and Community Initiatives Director:
Michael, thank you for your email. Shortly after coming into office, President Bush established the Faith-Based and Community Initiative to level the playing field for faith-based and other community groups in the Federal grants process. It was not a coincidence that this was one of the first actions that he undertook -- the President feels very strongly that the government should utilize every available resource, including the resources of faith-based and community groups, to provide social services to meet the needs of Americans who are suffering. Through the Initiative, we have reached out to thousands of faith-based and community groups to make them more aware of Federal programs and how to participate in them. And through Executive Orders and regulatory reforms, the President is delivering on his promise to remove unnecessary barriers to their participation.

Just this month, President Bush announced nearly $189 million in Federal funding to support the work of organizations serving America's needy, including many faith-based and community social service providers. $43 million was awarded through the President's Compassion Capital Fund, $45.6 million was awarded through the Mentoring Children of Prisoners program, and $100 million through the Access to Recovery drug treatment voucher program. Also, the Departments of Labor, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development are currently designing the framework for the President's proposed four-year, $300 million Prisoner Re-entry Initiative which will harness the resources and experience of faith-based and community groups in helping returning inmates transition back into society.

Just to clarify, you referred to this as the "faith-based initiative" in your email, so I think it is important to note that the Initiative focuses on all types of community organizations -- including both faith-based and secular groups.

I encourage you to visit our website for additional information ( While visiting the site, you can also sign up to receive updates on the Faith-Based and Community Initiative.

August 20 2004 | 12:11 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Daniel from Connecticut:
Why is Tom Ridge in Florida doing hurricane recovery work, when the nation is at Orange level alert? Don't you have more appropriate administration staff to work on housing, electricity, and food issues after a natural disaster?

Is the terrorism threat really so under control that Ridge can spend his day grand standing in FL?

A: Susan Neely, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of Homeland Security:
When the U.S. Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and established the Department of Homeland Security, the department was designated as the lead government agency responsible for providing a coordinated and comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) leads the effort within the Department of Homeland Security to prepare the nation for all potential hazards and effectively manage the response and recovery efforts following any crisis incident. Since last Friday when Hurricane Charley came ashore in Central Florida, FEMA has provided ice, water, food and housing for the victims and has issued more than $7,500,000 in disaster assistance checks to Floridians for temporary housing, housing repairs and other disaster-related needs. FEMA employees have worked tirelessly with state and local officials in affected areas across the state to get victims the help they need and deserve.

As head of the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Ridge traveled to the areas of Florida hardest hit by Hurricane Charley to get first-hand knowledge of the damage that was sustained and the needs of the area residents so that he could better direct the resources of the department to provide an effective recovery effort and to ensure that the emergency response professionals had the equipment they needed to help the victims. The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA are committed to helping Floridians affected by Hurricane Charley rebuild their communities as quickly and efficiently as possible.

August 17 2004 | 12:08 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Michelle from Pennsylvania:
Why did you stop posting video clips of the president's recent speeches on this site?

For instance, today I missed his rather important speech to the VFW, concerning troop relocation from foreign bases. Went to C-Span which apparantly not only didn't carry it live but doesn't have the video clip up. Finally I came here, knowing I probably wouldn't find it, and didn't. Of all places where interested parties should be able to expect to find the president's speeches, the site seems as though it should be it.

A: Jimmy Orr, White House Internet Director:
Good question, Michelle. We do post video of the President's speeches on our site. Unfortunately, we don't have the ability to web cast his speeches from a remote location live, i.e.: off the White House grounds. While technically this is easy to accomplish, we don't have the resources to web cast remote speeches live. So, we have to wait until the actual videotape arrives back at the White House before we can post it. This is something we continue to work on and hopefully we will be able to web cast all speeches live soon

August 13 2004 | 4:49 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Cathie from Wisconsin:
In the President's State of the Union address, he mentioned funding would be available for programs which helped/assisted individuals who were released from prison or mental health instutitions to get re-established in the communities. I am trying to finding the grant requirements and guidelines for submittion. Please let me know where I can locate this information. In advance, thank you for your assistance.

A: Jim Towey, White House Faith Based and Community Initiatives Director:
Cathie, Congress has yet to fund this initiative - we hope they do so in the appropriations cycle that is upon us. We have asked $75 million for fiscal year 2005. You can visit our web site if you want additional information, or status reports. But we won't know anything until October - January (depending on when Congress finishes this year's work).

August 13 2004 | 4:33 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Elizabeth from Boston Mass.:
I have a Question for whitehouse Press Secretary Scott McClellan? I was wondering when President speaks to the media he always calls on a person named Stretch. Who is that?

A: Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary:
“Stretch” is the President's nickname for White House correspondent Dick Keil of Bloomberg News. Dick has covered the President since the 2000 campaign. Dick is an avid long distance runner who is somewhere around six feet five inches tall -- hence the nickname “Stretch.”. When the President calls on “Super Stretch,” he is referring to White House correspondent Bill Sammon of the Washigton Times, who towers over Dick by an inch or two.

August 13 2004 | 3:08 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Gregory from Weston, Fl:
How is it that a Supreme Court Judge, who is to represent the american people, is not appointed by the american people. If the House does not want the person in office whom the President picks, all they have to do is have a filibuster. let's cut this out, and put this in the hands of the people, not some parties Special Interest!

A: Judge Al Gonzales, White House Counsel:
Thanks for your question, Gregory. To answer the question we must turn to the United States Constitution. Section II of Article II provides that the President shall nominate, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, Judges of the Supreme Court.

August 13 2004 | 1:35 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Jim from Ozark, MO:
I would like to help Iraq prosper and possibly profit myself by exchanging US dollars for Iraq dinars. My bank can't exchange dinars. Where is a trustworthy place to exchange into dinars and what are your thoughts about this? (besides the risk of losing all my dollars)

A: Tony Fratto, Deputy Assistant Secretary - Public Affairs, U.S. Department of the Treasury:
The introduction of the new Iraqi currency is one of the most important economic reforms to have taken place in Iraq. After years of a depreciating currency -- in fact Iraq had two currencies circulating -- we were able to introduce a new, stable currency in Iraq last year. To date the new currency has been really successful, it's very popular in the country and has remained strong. The Central Bank of Iraq conducts currency auctions daily so that the market will set the value of the currency. At this time, however I am not aware of banks in the United States that hold Iraqi dinars for foreign exchange. This could change in the future as the volume of travel and commercial exchanges with Iraq grows. I am aware that certain individuals or businesses offer Iraqi dinars for sale over the internet. These sellers may be legitimate, but we cannot vouch for the authenticity of the dinars they are offering for sale. The new iraqi dinars are made with modern security features, like watermarks and coloring, but these do not completely eliminate the risk of counterfeiting. Until Iraqi currency is available for purchase by regulated financial institutions, I recommend exerting caution before purchasing Iraq currency.

August 12 2004 | 1:02 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Angela from Laurel, Mississippi:
What will be the fate of the Head Start program? I am concerned because I work in both settings (Head Start and school districts) and I know the preschoolers will not receive the comprehensive services from school districts if things change.

A: Terrell Halaska, Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy:
The President believes that every child can learn, and that children who start Kindergarten ready to learn have a much better chance of succeeding in school and in life. Through the Good Start, Grow Smart Early Childhood Initiative, the President set a goal that every child enter school ready to learn.

To help prepare the nearly one million children take part in the Head Start program every year for school, HHS has trained more than 50,000 Head Start teachers in research-based early learning skills, has successfully completed the first year of the National Reporting System, to start bringing accountability to Head Start grantees -- Nearly 500,000 children were assessed at the beginning and end of the school year to determine which grantees made the most progress in preparing children for school.

Also, this summer Head Start is training 3,000 volunteer parents in early literacy skills -- so they can work with Head Start parents and children throughout the country. In addition, the President has proposed that states be given a greater opportunity to coordinate Head Start with state pre-K and child care programs.

August 10 2004 | 5:00 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Bernard from Syosset, N.Y.:
Has this administration actually invited international oversite of our national elections? If so, under what authority or mandate?

Respectfully submitted by this Korean War veteran recipient of only one Purple Heart decoration.

A: Jim Wilkinson, Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications:

Let me first begin by thanking you for your service in the Korean War -- which as you know is the "forgotten war" to many. Because people like you made sacrifices, people like me have a great nation to live in. Thanks.

As to your question, here are some facts that I think will help.

In Copenhagen in 1990 the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), agreed to allow fellow OSCE members to observe elections in one another’s countries.

The U.S. is a member of OSCE. And just as it did for the Presidential elections in 1996 and 2000 – and the mid-term elections in 1998 and the 2002 elections -- the U.S. has invited an OSCE election observer team to observe this fall’s Presidential elections. The OSCE did not send observers in 1996, 1998 and 2000 although they were invited.

The OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) did send election observers to Florida for the 2002 midterm elections, and to California for the 2003 gubernatorial elections. The 2002 election observation mission consisted of 11 international observers (and included one U.S. citizen) and met with the Federal Election Commission, staff of the Senate Rules Committee, the Helsinki Commission, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and representatives of civil society in Washington, D.C.

In Florida, the mission met with the Assistant Secretary of State and the director and staff of the Division on Elections, county executives and Supervisors of Elections, representatives of the Republican and Democratic parties, and representatives of civic organizations with special interests in the election process.

On Election Day, the Mission deployed teams in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough and Duval counties.

In the past, the OSCE has observed French presidential elections (April-May 2002), Spanish parliamentary elections (March 2004), and U.K. elections for the Devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (May and November 2003).

The U.S. serves as a model for democratic systems and, as it has in the last two Presidential elections, wants to invite OSCE observers to view our free and fair elections. We are delighted to have our partners in the OSCE view our election process which serves as a model for other nations who seek to reform their systems to include free and fair elections.

August 10 2004 | 12:55 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Shannon from Virginia:
Is there a link that gives the times for the upcoming "Ask the White House" sessions? Thank you.

A: Jimmy Orr, White House Internet Director:

Not really. Of course, if you go to, you will be able to see the upcoming and previous chats. And we promote the upcoming chats usually a day out on the main "Ask" page and on the home page (

The reason for this, is that everyone's schedules are fluid and there is a lot of juggling going depending on what is happening on that day. So rather than promote someone three or four days out, and then unfortunately have to cancel, we choose to promote the day beforehand.

For example, Sean McCormack and Harriet Miers are both appearing on Ask the White House tomorrow (Wednesday). We have another guest scheduled for Thursday, but we'll wait a day before promoting.

It would be better for the visitor to have a schedule, I know. But when we've tried to do that, we've had to cancel or postpone a few too many times. But I would have to say, that if you look at the past year's guests, we've done a pretty good job in keeping this section of the site updated.

Our goal, a guest every single day of the week. Not quite there yet, but we're moving in the right direction.

August 9 2004 | 3:12 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Stanley from Phoenix, AZ:
President Bush has Air Force One. Does the Vice President have an airplane or does he fly commercial airlines?

A: Kevin Kellems, Assistant to the Vice President for Communications:
The Vice President travels on a plane known as Air Force Two. The plane is a modified Boeing 757-200 known in the Air Force as a C-32. This plane also is used by other senior officials such as the First Lady and members of the President's Cabinet, but it is only called Air Force Two when the Vice President is on board.

The aircraft has an interior that is designed to accommodate the working needs of the Vice President, his staff, Secret Service, and Air Force personnel. The Vice President has a stateroom on the airplane that includes a desk, telephone, and television. Air Force Two can travel long distances without refueling due to its enhanced fuel efficiency.

August 5 2004 | 5:11 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Lynn from Novato, CA:
What is the United States planning to do about the situation in Sudan?

A: Jim Wilkinson, Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications:
Thanks for the question, Lynn. I invite you to read this column by Secretary Powell which discusses what the U.S. has done and is doing in Darfur, Sudan. It appeared in this morning's Wall Street Journal.

August 4 2004 | 3:42 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Joseph from Port Huron, MI:
Is it true that Lincoln's bedroom is haunted? I have heard many stories about his ghost being seen in the room at night.

A: Sara Steele, White House Deputy Internet Director:
We interviewed White House Residence staff about White House ghost stories last Halloween. Check out

August 4 2004 | 2:26 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Melinda from Kansas City, MO:
Is there a way to receive the Barney picture of the day via email? Is there a distribution list I could subscribe to? It would be great to have one.

A: Jimmy Orr, White House Internet Director:
We have received many emails on this topic. I just checked with the technical folks and they tell me that this feature will be available next week.

August 4 2004 | 12:01 p.m.(EDT)

Q: James from Toledo, Ohio:
How do i get tickets to vist the whitehouse in late september?

A: Sara Armstrong, Director, White House Visitor's Office:
Thank you for your question about visiting the White House. Public tours of the White House are available for groups of 10 or more people and can be arranged through your Member of Congress. Tours are scheduled on a first come, first served basis approximately one month in advance of the requested date. I would suggest that you submit your request through your Member of Congress as soon as possible, since we are already scheduling tours for the month of September and there are a limited number of tours available. All White House tours are free of charge and are scheduled from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information about White House tours, click here We hope you enjoy your visit to our nation's capital.

August 3 2004 | 3:31 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Vicki from California:
I'm a teacher in a small, private middle-school and represent many home-schooled students. Are there any Presidential Academic Awards or Honors that deserving students can be nominated for? Where could I find out more?

A: Nina Rees, Deputy Under Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, Dep. of Education:
Yes, the Dept. has a President's Education Awards Program and a Presidential Scholars Program that recognize students, whether they are in homeschools, private schools, or public schools. The programs are administered by the recognition section of OIIA.

1. The President's Education Awards Program (formerly, Presidential Academic Fitness Program). Schools decide what children will get awards, based on program criteria, and apply to the program for certificates and pins. In the case of homeschooled children, the homeschool must be approved for its curriculum by a LEA or SEA. The homeschool parent can then apply to the program for certificates and pins. Information on the program is at

2. The Presidential Scholars Program. This program is administered by OIIA, under a Presidential commission. Homeschooled and private school students, along with public school students, are eligible, and several have won. This is a very selective program. Students are not nominated. Rather, they are automatically considered if they score exceptionally high on the SAT or ACT. Information on the Presidential Scholars Program is at

August 2 2004 | 10:29 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Molly from Washington, DC:
My English Bulldog Sasha loves to go for rides in the car. Does Barney ever go for rides in the car with the President?

A: Blake Gottesman, Personal Aide to the President:
The President likes to go for rides around his ranch in his pickup truck (it's the only place he can really drive himself) and Barney often goes with him in the truck. This photo was recently taken of the President with Barney at the ranch.


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