must see Vid …President Obama responds to White House petition

President Obama Responds to We the People Petitions Related to Gun Violence.

In the days since the tragedy in Newtown, Americans from all over the country have called for action to deter mass shootings and reduce gun violence, and hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions on‘s We the People platform. In this video message, President Obama responds, explaining a comprehensive effort to come up with a broader set of serious proposals and encouraging Americans to continue their participation in this important process.

discover Spain’s Jewish Heritage : Santa Tracker launches on 12/24


Explore Spain’s Jewish heritage online

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 08:25 AM PST

You can now discover Spain’s Jewish heritage on a new site powered by comprehensive and accurate Google Maps:
Using the Google Maps API, Red de Juderías de España has built a site where you can explore more than 500 landmarks that shed light on Spain’s Jewish population throughout history. By clicking on a landmark, you can get historical information, pictures or texts, and a 360º view of the location, thanks to Street View technology. You can also use the search panel on the top of the page to filter the locations by category, type, geographic zone or date.

Toledo, Synagogue Santamaría la Blanca
Information is included on each landmark

This project is just one of our efforts to bring important cultural content online. This week, we worked with the Israel Antiquities Authority to launch the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of more than 5,000 scroll fragments, and last year we announced a project to digitize and make available the Yad Vashem Museum’s Holocaust archives. With the Google Art Project, people around the world can also view and explore more than 35,000 works of art in 180 museums.
Read more about this project on the Europe Blog. We hope this new site will inspire you to learn more about Spain’s Jewish history, and perhaps to visit these cities in person.
Posted by William Echikson, External Relations, Europe, Middle East and Africa

Count down to Christmas Eve with Google Santa TrackerPosted: 18 Dec 2012 11:59 PM PST

While millions of people eagerly await Christmas Day, Santa and his elves are keeping busy at the North Pole. They’re preparing presents, tuning up the sleigh, feeding the reindeer and, of course, checking the list (twice!) before they take flight on their trip around the world.
While we’ve been tracking Santa since 2004 with Google Earth, this year a team of dedicated Google Maps engineers built a new route algorithm to chart Santa’s journey around the world on Christmas Eve. On his sleigh, arguably the fastest airborne vehicle in the world, Santa whips from city to city delivering presents to millions of homes. You’ll be able to follow him on Google Maps and Google Earth, and get his stats starting at 2:00 a.m. PST Christmas Eve at

Simulating Santa’s path across the world—see it live Dec 24

In addition, with some help from developer elves, we’ve built a few other tools to help you track Santa from wherever you may be. Add the new Chrome extension or download the Android app to keep up with Santa from your smartphone or tablet. And to get the latest updates on his trip, follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

Get a dashboard view of Santa’s journey on Google Maps

The Google Santa Tracker will launch on December 24, but the countdown to the journey starts now! Visit Santa’s Village today to watch the countdown clock and join the elves and reindeer in their preparations.

You can even ask Santa to call a friend or family member.
We hope you enjoy tracking Santa with us this year. And on behalf of everyone at Google—happy holidays!
Posted by Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps and Google Earth

Official Google blog – African entrepreneurship

GOOGLeCloud computing enabling entrepreneurship in Africa

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 09:30 AM PST

In 2007, 33-year-old Vuyile moved to Cape Town from rural South Africa in search of work.  Unable to complete high school, he worked as a night shift security guard earning $500/month to support his family.  During the rush hour commute from his home in Khayelitsha, Vuyile realized that he could earn extra income by selling prepaid mobile airtime vouchers to other commuters on the train.
In rural areas, it’s common to use prepaid vouchers to pay for basic services such as electricity, insurance and airtime for mobile phones. But it’s often difficult to distribute physical vouchers because of the risk of theft and fraud.
Nomanini, a startup based in South Africa, built a device that enables local entrepreneurs like Vuyile to sell prepaid mobile services in their communities. The Lula (which means “easy” in colloquial Zulu), is a portable voucher sales terminal that is used on-the-go by people ranging from taxi drivers to street vendors. It generates and prints codes which people purchase to add minutes to their mobile phones.
Today, Vuyile sells vouchers on the train for cash payment, and earns a commission weekly. Since he started using the Lula, he’s seen his monthly income increase by 20 percent.

Vuyile prints a voucher from his Lula

Nomanini founders Vahid and Ali Monadjem wanted to make mobile services widely available in areas where they had been inaccessible, or where—in a region where the average person makes less than $200/month—people simply couldn’t afford them.  By creating a low-cost and easy-to-use product, Nomanini could enable entrepreneurs in Africa to go to deep rural areas and create businesses for themselves.
In order to build a scalable and reliable backend system to keep the Lula running, Nomanini chose to run on Google App Engine. Their development team doesn’t have to spend time setting up their own servers and can instead run on the same infrastructure that powers Google’s own applications. They can focus on building their backend systems and easily deploy code to Google’s data centers. When Vuyile makes a sale, he presses a few buttons, App Engine processes the request, and the voucher prints in seconds.
Last month, 40,000 people bought airtime through the Lula, and Nomanini hopes to grow this number to 1 million per month next year. While platforms like App Engine are typically used to build web or smartphone apps, entrepreneurs like Vahid and Ali are finding innovative ways to leverage this technology by building their own devices and connecting them to App Engine.  Vahid tells us: “We’re a uniquely born and bred African solution, and we have great potential to take this to the rest of Africa and wider emerging markets. We could not easily scale this fast without running on Google App Engine.”
To learn more about the technical implementation used by Nomanini, read their guest post on the Google App Engine blog.
Posted by Zafir Khan, Google App Engine


capitol33the Senate Convenes: 1:00pmET December 21,2012

  • Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will begin consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R.4310, the National Defense Authorization Act with up to one hour of debate equally divided and controlled between the two Leaders or their designees.
  • The filing deadline for all 2nd degree amendments to the substitute amendment and to H.R.1, the legislative vehicle for the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill is 1:30pm.
  • At approximately 2:00pm, there will be at least one roll call vote on adoption of the conference report to accompany H.R.4310, NDAA.
  • We are working on an agreement on the Supplemental Appropriations bill.  If no agreement is reached prior to 2pm, following disposition of the conference report to accompany H.R.4310, the Senate will then conduct up to 2 roll call votes: the first vote will be on the motion to invoke cloture on the Reid substitute amendment #3395 and if cloture is not invoked, there will be a 2nd cloture vote on H.R.1.
  • Additional votes are expected Friday.  We hope to reach an agreement on the Supplemental and FISA tomorrow

At approximately 2:20pm today the Senate will proceed to a roll call vote on the motion to adopt the conference report to accompany H.R.4310, the National Defense Authorization Act.

Following the vote, the Senate will resume consideration of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill. We are working on an agreement to consider amendments to Supplemental. Senators should expect a cloture vote on the Reid substitute amendment #3395 this afternoon, as well as additional roll call votes.

We are also working on an agreement to consider the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) extension.

Another message will be sent when any agreement is reached or additional votes are scheduled.

2:06pm The Senate began a roll call vote on adoption of the conference report to accompany H.R.4310, the National Defense Authorization Act;

Adopted: 81-14

3:34pm The Senate began a roll call vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the Reid substitute amendment #3395 (Supplemental) to H.R.1;

Invoked: 91-1

The Senate has reached an agreement on amendments to the Supplemental Appropriations that results in up to 2 roll call votes now. The first vote will be on the motion to invoke cloture on Reid substitute amendment #3395 (Supplemental Appropriations). If cloture is invoked and Senator Toomey raises a point of order, the next vote would be on a motion to waive the budget point of order with respect to Reid substitute amendment #3395 (Supplemental).The first vote is a 10 minute roll call vote.

The agreement is as follows:

H.R.1, Supplemental for Sandy

Leader:            I ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by the Majority Leader, after consultation with the Republican Leader, the Senate proceed to the cloture vote with respect to the substitute amendment to H.R.1; that if cloture is not invoked, the Majority Leader be recognized; that if cloture is invoked, Senator Toomey, or designee, be recognized for the purpose of raising a budget point of order against the pending substitute amendment; that if the point of order is raised, Senator Leahy, or designee, be recognized to move to waive the budget point of order; that there be up to ten minutes of debate prior to a vote in relation to the motion to waive;  that no other budget points of order be in order to the substitute or the underlying bill; further, that notwithstanding rule 22, the following amendments be in order:

Cardin #3393 (surety bonds);

Grassley #3348 (DOJ – vehicles);

Feinstein #3421 (Army Corps projects), as modified with changes at the desk;

Harkin #3426 (technical – grants);

Landrieu #3415 (emergency reimbursement);

Leahy #3403 (U.S. embassy security);

McCain #3384 (Amtrak), as modified with changes at the desk;

Bingaman #3344 (Palau);

Coburn #3368 (cost sharing – Army Corps);

Coburn #3369 (notification triggers);

Coburn #3370, as modified and with two divisions – delinquent tax debts and fisheries);

Coburn #3371 (severe disasters);

Coburn #3382 (Merit based recovery contracts);

Coburn #3383 (strike certain studies – Army Corps);

Tester #3350 (Fire management);

Paul #3376 (Non-application of Davis-Bacon);

Paul #3410 (Offset)

McCain #3355 (strike emergency forest restoration);

Merkley #3367 (extend Agriculture disaster assistance programs), as modified;

Lee #3373, as modified (special rules – retirement funds); and

Coats #3391 (Republican alternative).

That no amendments be in order to any of these amendments prior to votes in relation to the amendments; that the amendments be subject to a 60 affirmative vote threshold; that there will be 30 minutes of debate equally divided in the usual form on each amendment with the exception of the following:

– 20 minutes equally divided on each of the Coburn amendments or divisions and the Lee amendment;

– 40 minutes equally divided on each of the Paul amendments; and

– one hour equally divided on the Coats amendment.

That upon the use or yielding back of time, the Senate proceed to votes in relation to the amendments in the order listed; that there be two minutes of debate, equally divided, between the votes; that all after the first vote, be ten minute votes; further, that upon disposition of the pending amendments listed, the Senate proceed to vote in relation to the pending substitute amendment, as amended, if amended; that upon disposition of the substitute, the cloture motion on the underlying bill be withdrawn, the bill be read a third time and the Senate proceed to vote on passage of H.R.1, as amended, if amended.

4:03pm The Senate began a roll call vote on the Mikulski motion to waive the Toomey point of order.

Not Waived: 57-34

This will be the last vote of the week. Senator should expect the next roll call vote to occur as early as noon on Thursday, December 27.

The Senate has reached an agreement that notwithstanding cloture having been invoked and at a time to be determined by the Majority Leader, after consultation with the Republicans Leader, the Senate will proceed to the consideration of Calendar #510, J.R.5949. The only first degree amendments in order to the bill are the following:

–          Leahy (Judiciary committee reported substitute);

–          Merkley (declassificiation of FISA court opinions);

–          Paul (4th Amendment-searches/seizures); and

–          Wyden (public reporting)

There will be 30 minutes for debate equally divided between the proponents and opponents on each amendment and 5 hours of debate equally divided on the bill. Upon the use or yielding back of time, the Senate proceed to votes in relation to the amendments in the order listed. No second degree amendments are in order prior to the votes. Upon disposition of the amendments, the bill will be read a third time and the Senate proceed to vote on passage of the bill, as amended, if amended.

Prior to consenting to the agreement listed above, Senator McConnell objected to Senator Reid’s request and asked that the amendments and passage of the bill be subject to 60 affirmative vote thresholds. Senator Reid agreed to McConnell’s request for 60 vote thresholds.


1)      Adoption of the conference report to accompany H.R.4310, the National Defense Authorization Act; adopted: 81-14

2)      Motion to invoke cloture on the Reid amendment #3395 (substitute) to H.R.1, the legislative vehicle for the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill; invoked: 91-1

3)      Motion to waive the Budget Act with respect to the Reid substitute amendment #3395; not waived: 57-34


Passed H.R.1339, To designate the City of Salem, Massachusetts, as the Birthplace of the National Guard of the United States.

Passed H.R.4212, the Drywall Safety Act of 2012 with a Vitter substitute amendment.

Passed H.R.5859, to repeal an obsolete provision in title 49, United States Code, requiring motor vehicle insurance cost reporting.

Passed H.R.6364, the World War I Centennial Commission Act with a McCaskill-Blunt amendment.

Passed S.3709, to require a Government Accountability Office examination of transactions between large financial institutions and the  Federal Government, and for other purposes, with the Vitter/Brown (OH) substitute amendment.

Discharged the Foreign Relations committee and adopted S.Res.613, urging the governments of Europe and the European Union to designate Hizballah as a terrorist organization and impose sanctions, and urging the President to provide information about Hizballah to the European allies of the United States and to support the Government of Bulgaria in investigating the July 18,2012, terrorist attack in Burgas.

Passed H.R.1845, the Medicare IVIG Access Act.


Confirmed the following:

Executive Calendar #834 Matthew W. Brann, of PA, to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Executive Calendar #835 Malachy Edward Mannion, of PA, to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Executive Calendar #877 Jon S. Tigar, of CA, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of California

Discharged the Veterans’ Affairs committee and confirmed PN2024, William S. Greenberg, of New Jersey, to be a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims for the term of fifteen years.


Watch Most Recent House Floor Activity

The next meeting is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on December 21, 2012.