Jack On Tuesday, August 31, 2010

With the unwavering support of President Obama, VA is transforming to meet its 21st Century responsibilities. Advocacy, on behalf of every generation of Veterans, is central to this transformation.

Agent Orange was a blend of herbicides used by the U.S. military, during the Vietnam conflict, to deny concealment to enemy forces. More than 19 million gallons of herbicides were sprayed to remove foliage and undergrowth. The most common, Agent Orange, was sprayed in all four military zones of South Vietnam.

Heavily sprayed areas included the inland forests near the Demilitarized Zone; inland forests at the junction of the borders of Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam; inland forests north and northwest of Saigon; mangrove forests on the southernmost peninsula of Vietnam; and mangrove forests along major shipping channels southeast of Saigon.

The issue of Agent Orange’s toxic effects on Veterans, who served in Vietnam, has simmered for decades. Its insidious impact on those exposed to it has become increasingly apparent. That growing awareness has resulted in the Congress’, this Department’s, and the Institute of Medicine’s previous validations of some 12 diseases, which, to date, have been granted presumption of service connection for those exposed to Agent Orange.

Last October, based on the requirements of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 and the Institute of Medicine’s report, “Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2008,” I determined that the evidence provided was sufficient to support presumptions of service connection for three additional diseases: Parkinson’s Disease, Hairy Cell and other Chronic B-Cell Leukemia, and Ischemic Heart Disease. After a public rulemaking process, we are now issuing a final regulation creating these new presumptions.

This action means that Veterans who were exposed to herbicides in service and who suffer from one of the “presumedillnesses do not have to prove an association between their medical problems and their military service. This action helps Veterans to overcome the evidentiary requirements that might otherwise make it difficult for them to establish such an association in order to qualify for healthcare and other benefits needed as a result of their diseases. The “Presumption” simplifies and accelerates the application process and ensures that Veterans will receive the benefits they deserve.

As many as 150,000 Veterans may submit Agent Orange claims in the next 12 to 18 months. Additionally, VA will review approximately 90,000 previously denied claims from Vietnam Veterans for service connection for these three new diseases. All those who are awarded service-connection, and who are not currently enrolled in the VA health care system, will become eligible for enrollment.

Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam, including its inland waterways, between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides. If you know a Veteran who may have been exposed to herbicides in service and who suffers from one of the diseases that may be presumptively service connected, the Veteran or the Veteran's family can visit our website to find out how to file a claim for presumptive conditions related to herbicide exposure, as well as what information is needed by VA to determine disability compensation or survivors’ benefits. Additionally, VA’s Office of Public Health can answer questions about Agent Orange and VA’s services for Veterans exposed to it.

This rule is long overdue. It delivers justice to those who have suffered from Agent Orange’s toxic effects for 40 years. I have been invited to testify before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on 23 September to explain these decisions, and I am happy to do that. It was the right decision, and the President and I are proud to finally provide this group of Veterans the care and benefits they have long deserved.

VA is committed to addressing the health care needs of Veterans from all eras. Forty years from today, a future Secretary of VA should not be adjudicating presumptive disabilities associated with our current conflicts. Change is difficult for any good organization, but we are transforming this Department to advocate for Veterans. We will not let our Veterans languish without hope for service-connected disabilities resulting from their service.

Jack On Saturday, August 28, 2010

In September 2009, the President announced that – for the first time in history – the White House would routinely release visitor records. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were created in May 2010. Today’s release also includes several visitor records created prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public during July 2010 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy. This release brings the grand total of records that this White House has released to over 600,000 records.

Jack On

As we approach the fifth anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it’s important to note how far our nation has come in improving our ability to respond to and recover from disasters and the progress we’ve made in helping our Gulf Coast recover from one of the worst natural disasters in our country’s history.
Since taking office, the Obama administration has made Gulf Coast rebuilding a top priority. Over the past 20 months, we’ve obligated more than $2.5 billion in funding for new schools and universities, fire houses, police stations, and critical infrastructure, including roads, bridges, hospitals, and public health assets across the Gulf.
Earlier this week, we announced an additional $25 million in newly approved funding for rebuilding projects in Louisiana and Mississippi, the latest in a series of Gulf Coast recovery projects. These resources are helping revitalize communities, cut through red tape, and get long-delayed construction projects off the ground.
We’ve also made tremendous progress since Katrina and Rita in improving our country’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from major disasters of all kinds.
An example of this progress is the recovery efforts this summer following the worst flooding in over a century in Nashville, Tenn. These floods took the lives of more than 30 individuals, devastated communities, and threatened the safety and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of residents. Despite this historic damage, our swift and effective response demonstrated what a difference preparation, coordination between federal, state, and local governments, and the quick deployment of resources to local communities can make.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, played a key role in the government’s response. But as our FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate would be the first to say, preparing for – and responding to – disasters truly is a shared responsibility. While we continue to strengthen and streamline efforts to prepare for disasters at the federal level, citizens, families, communities, faith organizations, and businesses all have an important role to play in our collective response to emergencies.
As we remember the tragic events along the Gulf Coast five years ago, please take a moment to visit – learn how to prepare an emergency kit, develop a plan for reuniting with family members after a disaster, and ensure you have plans in place for caring for family and friends.
As the residents of Nashville can attest, we’ve made tremendous progress since August 2005. Working together, we will continue building a stronger and more resilient nation than ever before.

Jack On

Small Business California is influence Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign two related bills creating a state health insurance exchange, the single most important component of healthcare improvement for small businesses.
The California government this week passed two landmark health insurance exchange bills, SB 900 and AB1602. This legislation will work to lay the base for California's Health Benefit Exchange. One of the bills establishes the governance of the exchange. It consists of an independent agency with a five person board. The second bill creates the policy that apply inside and outside the exchange. In California, 3 million small businesses will be eligible to purchase insurance through the exchange. This will create maximum competition, improve excellence, increase choice and lower costs.
"It will be the main vehicle for making healthcare reasonable and accessible for California's 3 million small businesses and their employees including 2 million self-employed entrepreneurs," said Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California.

Jack On Friday, August 27, 2010

Today Vice President Biden announced that 200,000 homes have been weatherized under the revival Act. Cathy Zoi, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy shares her feelings:

We're We're still discussion about Weatherization on Facebook and Twitter. Ask questions, share your feelings and we’ll follow-up with tips and answers from our experts in the coming days.

Jack On

In respect of this year’s Women’s Equality Day and the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, I did a live web chat with Shireen Mitchell from the BlogHer community. Shireen and I had a great conversation, in which Shireen asked me a mixture of questions from online participants. Watch the full video or use the links below to jump to the topics that attention you most:

The discussion left me keyed up about the progress women have made, but focused on the challenges in front. There are countless opportunities for the public’s engagement in politics and government. The value of voting and other forms of public participation in government is the foundation of our country. As the Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, I am arrogant to remember Women’s Equality Day and the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment in such an inclusive way.
A special express gratitude you to Shireen Mitchell, the BlogHer community, and all of those who participated for providing me this opportunity.

Jack On Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One of the United States most discernible Muslim-Americans has taken sides in the debate on whether to build a 13-story community center and mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City. Lebanese-born, New York-raised Miss USA Rima Fakih said she is beside the plan.
Following President Obama’s remark in favor of the proposed mosque project last week, Fakih was asked her opinion on the hot national debate by a reporter for “Inside Edition.
“I totally agree with President Obama with the declaration on constitutional rights of freedom of religion,” Fakih, 24, said from Las Vegas, where she is listed to represent the USA at the Miss Universe pageant tonight.
However, she added: “I also agree that it shouldn’t be so close to the World Trade Center. We should be more worried with the tragedy than religion.”
In New York City, sides have been divided — with tempers infrequently flaring — over the future mosque and community center, which would be located just two blocks north of the site of the worst domestic horror attack in the nation’s history.
While New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and a selection of religious organizations have backed the mosque plan, President Obama weighing in on the issue has stirred the debate nationally.
A recent Time magazine poll showed 61 percent of those polled were against a mosque being erected near ground zero. The poll also in particular had 24 percent of respondents believing the president himself is Muslim.
While Miss USA Fakih disagrees with the president on the issue, she’s made it clear she is however a big Obama fan. She showed off a gold lame costume depicting the golden eagle on the presidential fasten that she plans to wear at the Miss Universe competition tonight.
“The imagery of this costume is a tribute to your work to bring peace to the world,” Fakih said in a promotional video for the Miss Universe pageant.
Fakih is believed to be the first Muslim to be crowned Miss USA after winning the pageant in May. She was born in Lebanon and migrated with her family to New York City when she was 8. When she twisted 18, the family relocated to the large Arab-American community in Dearborn, Mich.
Within days of winning Miss USA, Fakih lit a argument of her own when footage showing her claiming first place at a “Stripper 101” pole dancing contest in a Michigan nightclub in 2007 surface. Pageant officials took no corrective action against Fakih, however, and she continues to represent the U.S. as Miss USA.

Jack On Thursday, August 12, 2010

From the opening, the Obama administration’s highest priority has been to rescue and rebuild the economy. Few areas were hit as hard as developed – not just in this downturn, but going back years. Investing in 21st century built-up has been a cornerstone of the President’s plan to rebuild the economy stronger than before. And in the past seven months, we have seen the strongest manufacturing job growth in more than a decade -- adding 183,000 jobs so far this year.
The trends are talented and the President wants to keep that way. That’s why today, he is signing a bill into law that will make it cheaper and easier for American manufacturers and workers to do what they do best: build great products and sell them around the world. When the mechanized Enhancement Act of 2010 becomes a law today, it will create more jobs, help American companies compete, and strengthen manufacturing as a key driver of our recovery.

Jack On

As the end of combat operations in Iraq approaches, and the massive drawdown of troops continues, a photo of the President and his national security team meeting on Iraq in the Situation Room.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with the national security team on Iraq in the Situation Room of the White House, Aug. 11, 2010.

Jack On

Before signing the Manufacturing Enhancement Act, the President took a step back to talk about his vision and commitment to American manufacturing. That commitment has helped manufacturing become one of the surprisingly bright spots of the economic recovery. A sector that lost 3,864,000 between 2000 and 2008 has turned around and gained 183,000 jobs so far this year

Jack On

White children and those in poor families are more likely to have repeated ear infections than other children, U.S. researchers have found.
Ear infection (also called otitis media) is one of the most common health problems in children. By the age of 3, more than 80 percent of children have had at least one ear infection. The cost of medical and surgical treatment of these infections is $3 billion to $5 billion a year in the United States.
About 4.65 million U.S. children suffer frequent ear infections each year, defined as more than three infections over 12 months, according to background information in the study by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Harvard University researchers.
The research team analyzed 1997-2006 data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey and found that the rates of frequent ear infections were 7 percent for white children, 6.2 percent for Hispanic children, 5 percent for black children, and 4.5 percent for children of other racial or ethnic groups. The average age of the children in the study was 8.5 years.
The study authors also found that the rate of frequent ear infections among children in households below the poverty line was higher (8 percent) than that for those in families above the poverty line.
"The racial and ethnic disparity was somewhat surprising," study co-author Dr. Nina Shapiro, director of pediatric otolaryngology at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, said in a UCLA news release.
"We are not certain why these gaps exist, but possible explanations could include anatomic differences, cultural factors or disparate access to health care. It could also be that white children are overdiagnosed and non-white children are underdiagnosed," she said.

Jack On Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The President rattled off a couple campaign promises fulfilled -- like ending the War in Iraq and passing health reform – then turned to the economy:

And I said we need an economy that puts Americans back to work, an economy that’s built around three simple words -- Made in America. Because we are not playing for second place. We are the United States of America, and like the Texas Longhorns, you play for first -- we play for first.

From there he honed in even further to his primary focus for the day – education:

I’ve called for doubling our exports within the next five years, so that we're not just buying from other countries, I want us to sell to other countries. We've talked about doubling our nation’s capacity to generate renewable energy by 2012, because I'm actually convinced that if we control the clean energy future, then our economic future will be bright -- building solar panels and wind turbines and biodiesel. And I want us to produce 8 million more college graduates by 2020, because America has to have the highest share of graduates compared to every other nation.

But, Texas, I want you to know we have been slipping. In a single generation, we’ve fallen from first place to 12th place in college graduation rates for young adults. Think about that. In one generation we went from number one to number 12.

Now, that’s unacceptable, but it’s not irreversible. We can retake the lead. If we’re serious about making sure America’s workers -- and America itself -- succeeds in the 21st century, the single most important step we can take is make -- is to make sure that every one of our young people -- here in Austin, here in Texas, here in the United States of America -- has the best education that the world has to offer. That’s the number one thing we can do.

Now, when I talk about education, people say, well, you know what, right now we’re going through this tough time. We’ve emerged from the worst recession since the Great Depression. So, Mr. President, you should only focus on jobs, on economic issues. And what I’ve tried to explain to people -- I said this at the National Urban League the other week -- education is an economic issue. Education is the economic issue of our time.

It’s an economic issue when the unemployment rate for folks who’ve never gone to college is almost double what it is for those who have gone to college. Education is an economic issue when nearly eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or a higher education by the end of this decade. Education is an economic issue when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that countries that out-educate us today, they will out-compete us tomorrow.

He touched on his innovative efforts to challenge states to live up to their potential in K-12 education through Race to the Top, then spoke passionately about higher education:

And this isn’t some abstract policy for me. I understand this personally, because Michelle and I, we had big loans to pay off when we graduated. I remember what that felt like, especially early in your career where you don’t make much money and you’re sending all those checks to all those companies. And that’s why I'm absolutely committed to making sure that here in America, nobody is denied a college education, nobody is denied a chance to pursue their dreams, nobody is denied a chance to make the most of their lives just because they can’t afford it. We are a better country than that, and we need to act like we’re a better country than that.

He spoke about the landmark reforms of student loans passed earlier this year that will cut out big banks as middlemen and redirect those resources to our students:

So as a result, instead of handing over $60 billion in subsidies to big banks and financial institutions over the next decade, we’re redirecting that money to you, to make college more affordable for nearly 8 million students and families across this country. Eight million students will get more help from financial aid because of these changes.

He spoke about Pell Grants, which so many students have come to rely on:

We’re tripling how much we’re investing in the largest college tax credit for our middle-class families. And thanks to Austin’s own Lloyd Doggett that tax credit is now worth $2,500 a year for two years of college. And we want to make it permanent so it’s worth $10,000 over four years of college -- $10,000.

He spoke about community colleges and HBCUs:

So that’s why we’re upgrading our community colleges, by tying the skills taught in our classrooms to the needs of local businesses in the growth sectors of our economy. And we’re giving companies an assurance that the workers they hire will be up to the job. We’re giving students the best chance to succeed. We’re also that way giving America the best chance to thrive and to prosper. And that’s why we’re also reinvesting in our HBCUs and Hispanic Serving Institutions like Huston-Tillotson and St. Edwards.

And finally, he spoke about lifting graduation rates:

Over a third of America’s college students and over half of our minority students don’t earn a degree, even after six years. So we don’t just need to open the doors of college to more Americans; we need to make sure they stick with it through graduation. That is critical.

Jack On

South Korea finds itself required to make a choice between two equally competing priorities over Iran. At the instant, it looks to be a matter of time before it goes after the branch of an Iranian bank in Seoul.

Seoul has establish evidence of wrongdoing at the Seoul branch of Bank Mellat, Iran’s state commercial bank, but is biding its time over punishing the Iranian bank, an official at the finance ministry said.
The United States has provided useful information to Korean auditors, the administrator said. In return, Korea notified the United States what it found during the audit. But it is not going to use the result to punish Bank Mellat right now.

“The United States wants us to follow their lead to impose strong sanctions, but we told them that the evidence is not well-built enough to order a shutdown,” he said.

Jack On Sunday, August 8, 2010

The USA President discusses a new Medicare Trustees report viewing Medicare to be on much stronger footing as a result of the reforms in the reasonable Care Act. In count, seniors are also already getting help with instruction drug costs when they fall into the infamous “donut hole.”

Jack On Friday, August 6, 2010


WASHINGTON - US SECRETARY of State Hillary Clinton said, on Thursday the United States and the United Arab Emirates will seize talks on BlackBerry use as she moved to ease a row over a UAE ban on key services.
'We are taking time to check with and analyse the full range of interests and issues at stake because we know that there is a legitimate security concern,' Mrs Clinton told reporters.
'But there is also a lawful right of free use and access. So I think we will be pursuing both technical and expert discussions as we go forward,' the chief US envoy said. The UAE, a Gulf business center, said on Sunday it will halt BlackBerry messenger, web browsing and email services that breach laws and raise security concerns. The delay would start on Oct 11 and last until a legal solution was reached.
The row centres on concerns that BlackBerry's encrypted services - which engage data being routed through secure servers in Canada where manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) is based - could be used by militants or criminals.

Jack On Thursday, August 5, 2010

Today, a panel of government scientists released a report which said that the vast majority of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered from the wellhead or dispersed much of which is in the process of being degraded. A significant amount of this is the direct result of the federal government’s aggressive response to the spill.

The chart below outlines the breakdown of what has happened to the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico since the oil spill began in April:

Jack On Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This morning the President signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduces the disparity in the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine required for the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences and eliminates the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine. It also increases monetary penalties for major drug traffickers.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the legislation in his daily press briefing and responded:

MR. GIBBS: Well, let me see if there’s any guidance on it. I will say this, April, I think the signing of today’s bill into law represents the hard work of Democrats and Republicans coming -- this is a good example -- of coming together and making progress on something that people had identified as a glaring blight on the law.

Look, I think if you look at the people that were there at that signing, they’re not of the political persuasions that either always or even part of the time agree. I think that demonstrates the, as I said, the glaring nature of what these penalties had -- the glaring nature of what these penalties had done to people and how unfair they were. And I think the President was proud to sign that into law.

Jack On

This afternoon the President held a town hall with 115 young leaders from more than 40 countries across Africa -- it was the kind of White House event under this President that surprises you, catching you off guard with its honesty.

For those interested in Africa and its development, or for that matter this President's engagement with not just heads of state, but with people all over the world, the video is well worth watching (for info on America's diplomatic progress see our fact sheet as well). Here's the transcript of the final Q&A:

Q Good afternoon, Mr. President, your excellencies. I am from Somalia. I came all the way here with one question, and that is, living in conflict in a country that has confused the whole world, and being part of the diaspora that went back to risk our lives in order to make Somalia a better place, especially with what we’re going through right now -- how much support do we expect from the U.S.? And not support just in terms of financially or aid, but support as an ear, as a friend, as somebody who hears and listens to those of us who are putting our lives and our families at risk to defend humanity.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think you will have enormous support from the people of the United States when it comes to trying to create a structure and framework in Somalia that works for the Somali people.

Now, the history of Somalia over the last 20 years has been equally heartbreaking, if not more so. You have not had a effective, functioning government that can provide basic services. It’s been rife with conflict. And now the entire region is threatened because of radical extremists who have taken root in Somalia, taking advantage of what they perceive to be a failing state, to use that as a base to launch attacks, most recently in Uganda.

And obviously the United States expresses its deepest condolences to the lives that were lost in Kampala -- at the very moment of the World Cup. And it offered two contrasting visions. You have this wonderful, joyous celebration in South Africa at the same time as you have a terrorist explosion in Kampala.

So we desperately want Somalia to succeed. And this is another example of where our interests intersect. If you have extremist organizations taking root in Somalia, ultimately that can threaten the United States as well as Uganda, as well as Kenya, as well as the entire region.

So right now you’ve got a transitional government that is making some efforts. I don’t think anybody expects Somalia anytime in the next few years to suddenly be transformed into a model democracy. Whatever governance structures take place in Somalia have to be aware of the tribal and traditional structures and clan structures that exist within Somalia. But certainly what we can do is create a situation where people -- young people are not carrying around rifles, shooting each other on the streets. And we want to be a partner with Somalia in that effort, and we will continue to do so.

And some of it is financial, some of it is developmental, some of it is being able to help basic infrastructure. In some cases, we may try to find a portion of the country that is relatively stable and start work there to create a model that the rest of the country can then look at and say, this is a different path than the one that we’re taking right now.

But in the end, I think that this metaphor of the success of the World Cup and the bombing shows that each of you are going to be confronted with two paths. There’s going to be a path that takes us into a direction of more conflict, more bloodshed, less economic development, continued poverty even as the rest of the world races ahead -- or there’s a vision in which people come together for the betterment and development of their own country.

And for all the great promise that’s been fulfilled over the last 50 years, I want you to understand -- because I think it’s important for us to be honest with ourselves -- Africa has also missed huge opportunities for too long. And I’ll just give you one example.

When my father traveled to the United States and got his degree in the early ’60s, the GDP of Kenya was actually on partner, maybe actually higher than the GDP of South Korea. Think about that. All right? So when I was born, Kenya per capita might have been wealthier than South Korea. Now it’s not even close. Well, that’s 50 years that was lost in terms of opportunities. When it comes to natural resources, when it comes to the talent and potential of the people, there’s no reason why Kenya shouldn’t have been on that same trajectory.

And so 50 years from now, when you look back you want to make sure that the continent hasn’t missed those opportunities as well. We want to make sure of that as well. And the United States wants to listen to you and work with you. And so when you go back and you talk to your friends and you say, what was the main message the President had -- we are rooting for your success, and we want to work with you to achieve that success, but ultimately success is going to be in your hands. And being a partner means that we can be there by your side, but we can’t do it for you.

Jack On Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We invest in our country’s small businesses because small businesses invest back in our economy. With small businesses creating nearly two out of every three net new jobs, you probably have a friend, neighbor or family member who makes their livelihood by working for a small business. These employees enter an environment that supports innovation and ingenuity, as small businesses invest in research and new programs to spur economic growth and reduce our country’s energy usage.

Last week, I wrote about our Phase III awards, $30 million in funding available to be awarded to help qualified small businesses bring their ideas to the marketplace. Today, we are showcasing the results of our Phase II awards - over 200 awards totaling $188 million have been awarded to qualified small businesses in 34 states. These awards will be used to develop clean energy technologies that have the potential to be commercialized, thus continuing to allow the small businesses to create new jobs in their communities. These awards will provide funding at a key stage in the technology development cycle, helping innovators develop prototype technologies that can then be manufactured, creating clean energy jobs and economic opportunity.

Awards include an investment in a Colorado small business working towards creating a smarter “smart grid,” a California small businesses making new strides in solar power usage, and a small business in a small town in Massachusetts, developing a CO2 monitor that can help companies change the way they use carbon.

The 201 small businesses selected today, which include $73 million in Recovery Act investments, are now among many past SBIR and STTR recipients who have successfully scaled their innovations to market. For example, past SBIR recipient A123 Systems has grown into a leading manufacturer of cutting-edge lithium-ion batteries and is now expanding its manufacturing base in Michigan, and another past SBIR winner, Amonix, is growing its concentrating PV manufacturing capacity in Nevada, which is expected to employ hundreds of workers. The goal of DOE’s SBIR program is to help innovative small businesses succeed. In keeping with the goals of the Recovery Act, the Department’s SBIR efforts have incorporated a fast-track process for applications, increased emphasis on job creation and commercialization potential in the review and selection process, and provided business incubator funding.

The $188 million will have a long-lasting impact on the work of these qualified innovative small businesses. The 201 award selections will support the development of prototype and pilot operations for new technologies that have already passed the Phase I proof of concept stage. These Phase II awards cover 76 technology areas – including advanced renewable energy sources, cleaner fossil power, energy-efficient buildings, high performance computing and industrial energy use.

Jack On

This morning the President discussed the great honor he felt to be speaking at the national convention of Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta, Georgia -- one of the great organizations carrying on the values of America's proud military. The occasion was all the more meaningful because yet another momentous turning point in that history is upon us:

Today, your legacy of service is carried on by a new generation of Americans. Some stepped forward in a time of peace, not foreseeing years of combat. Others stepped forward in this time of war, knowing they could be sent into harm’s way. For the past nine years, in Afghanistan and Iraq, they have borne the burdens of war. They, and their families, have faced the greatest test in the history of our all-volunteer force, serving tour after tour, year after year. Through their extraordinary service, they have written their own chapter in the American story. And by any measure, they have earned their place among the greatest of generations.

Now, one of those chapters is nearing an end. As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. (Applause.) Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. (Applause.) And that is exactly what we are doing -- as promised and on schedule. (Applause.)

Already, we have closed or turned over to Iraq hundreds of bases. We’re moving out millions of pieces of equipment in one of the largest logistics operations that we’ve seen in decades. By the end of this month, we’ll have brought more than 90,000 of our troops home from Iraq since I took office -- more than 90,000 have come home. (Applause.)

The White House has released a fact sheet detailing just how extensive this drawdown has been, and what it will mean for our broader security. It brings toward a close a war that was at the center of passionate debate in America for much of the last decade, including the last election. But as the President pointed out, support for our troops was -- and will continue to be -- a great unifying force:

These men and women from across our country have done more than meet the challenges of this young century. Through their extraordinary courage and confidence and commitment, these troops and veterans have proven themselves as a new generation of American leaders. And while our country has sometimes been divided, they have fought together as one. While other individuals and institutions have shirked responsibility, they have welcomed responsibility. While it was easy to be daunted by overwhelming challenges, the generation that has served in Iraq has overcome every test before them.

And just as Vice President Biden made clear last week, the President spoke to the fact that while we should all salute those who have served -- and who will continue to serve -- our government owes it to them to keep our country's commitment in deeds as well as words. At the very beginning of his remarks, he recounted a visit from DAV's Commander Roberto Barrera:

Now, there’s another visit I won’t forget. I was in the Oval Office expecting a visit from the DAV. And in comes Bobby carrying a baseball bat. (Laughter.) Now, it’s not every day that somebody gets past the Secret Service carrying a baseball bat. (Laughter.) You may have heard about this. It turns out it was a genuine Louisville Slugger -- (applause) -- a thank you for going to bat for our veterans on advanced appropriations.

Jack On

 President Obama explains, the new consumer website that helps you take control of your health care coverage. This first-of-its-kind website makes it easier to find health care coverage and clearly explains how the Affordable Care Act will benefit you, your family, or your business.

Jack On Sunday, August 1, 2010

President Obama praises the successes of the auto industry restructuring as good news for our economy, and calls on Republican leaders in the Senate to “stop holding America’s small businesses hostage to politics” by blocking a vote to help them create jobs.

Jack On Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thanks for checking out the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This week, walk step by step with the President as he fights for campaign finance reform, boosts small business, meets with Space Shuttle Atlantis astronauts, commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, welcomes the 2009 Softball World Series champions, makes an appearance on The View and much more. 

Jack On

In a speech at the National Urban League yesterday, President Obama talked about the importance of getting students enthused about education and the particular importance of science and mathematics education.

Well, there is no better example of how to generate that kind of enthusiasm—all the while helping to make renewable-energy vehicles more practical—than the recently completed American Solar Challenge. Students from 13 universities in the United States, Canada, Germany, and Taiwan competed in the challenge, which requires students to design, construct, and then race a vehicle over 1,100 miles, powered only by the sun.

Over the course of one week last month—during the daylight hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.—teams traveled over the rolling hills of the West, through the Mississippi River Valley, and across the flats of the Midwest. Speed was not the main determinant of victory, as the top competitors were generally able to travel close to the speed limit for the duration of the race. The race really came down to the mechanical endurance and reliability of the student-built solar cars.

Each team was limited to the use of only six square meters of silicon or space-grade gallium arsenide solar cells. So the main overarching challenge was the relatively modest amount of energy available to run the cars. This forced students to be extremely conscientious about their vehicles’energy management. Students worked to optimize every component to be as energy-efficient as possible, by using low rolling resistance tires, highly efficient in-hub electric motors, aerodynamic body construction, and high-capacity battery packs, among other features.

First prize went to the University of Michigan’s vehicle, Infinium, which ran the course in just over 28 hours. This marks the third consecutive year that UM has won the national Challenge. The second-place team, from the University of Minnesota, finished two hours later. And the third-place team, from Germany’s Hoshchule Bochum, finished shortly thereafter.

Professional and university teams from across the Globe also compete biannually in the World Solar Challenge. This race last took place in 2009 and ran 1,800 miles across the Australian Outback. Several teams that completed the American Solar Challenge are now looking ahead to improve their vehicle designs and race against the world’s best in October 2011.

Jack On

In September 2009, the President announced that – for the first time in history – the White House would routinely release visitor records. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were created in April 2010. Today’s release also includes several visitor records created prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public during June 2010 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy. This release brings the grand total of records that this White House has released to well over half a million records. You can view them all in our Disclosures section.

We note that January 2010 records were inadvertently posted twice. That error has been corrected.

Jack On

Washington — Senior U.S. officials are traveling in August to East Asia, the Middle East and South America seeking compliance with obligations in the U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran and North Korea over nuclear weapons development programs.

Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, said during a recent congressional hearing that the goal now is to ensure that the most aggressive implementation of the sanctions is possible. “We’re not alone; the European Union has acted strongly to follow up by endorsing a series of significant steps, as have Australia and Canada,” Einhorn testified.

Einhorn and Daniel Glaser, deputy assistant Treasury secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, will travel to South Korea and Japan August 2–4 to hold talks with officials. They will travel later in August to China, and Stuart Levey of the Treasury Department will travel to the United Arab Emirates in coming weeks. Visits are also being scheduled for South America, they said.

Both testified July 29 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the impact sanctions are having on Iran. The sanctions have been imposed against Iran and North Korea to convince their regimes to abandon nuclear weapons development.

The United States embarked on a major diplomatic effort to engage with Iranian officials last year, a pledge President Obama had made during his campaign for president, Einhorn said. But those efforts have been rebuffed by Iranian officials and they have not demonstrated convincingly that their program is intended entirely for peaceful energy-generation purposes, he added.

“Iran’s intransigents left the international community no choice but to employ a second tool of diplomacy, namely pressure,” Einhorn said. “Our view is that sanctions are not an end in themselves. They’re a vehicle for changing Iran’s behavior.”

The Security Council sanctions adopted in June provided a first step in the campaign to force Iran to halt uranium enrichment and development. “It bans transfers of major conventional weapon systems to Iran. It bans all Iranian activities related to ballistic missiles that could deliver a nuclear weapon,” Einhorn said.

The sanctions also target directly the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is believed to be in control of Iran’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile development programs, Einhorn said. These U.N. Security Council multilateral actions are supplemented by a number of important actions taken by the United States and others to increase pressure on Iran to halt its programs, he added.

“Our efforts have yielded significant results: At least $50 [billion] to $60 billion in oil and gas development deals have either been put on hold or have been discontinued in the last few years, due in part of our conversations with companies about the threat of [U.S.] sanctions,” Einhorn said.

“Our aim has been to use these tools of pressure to sharpen the choice that the Iranian government faces and to press it to negotiate seriously with the international community,” he added.

Glaser said the objective over the next few months will be to broaden and deepen the existing sanctions framework. East Asia, the Middle East and South America are the three regions where most of the work toward enforcement of sanctions is needed, he told the committee. “Recent actions have demonstrated that the international community is increasingly united in its efforts to apply financial pressure on Iran,” Glaser said.

Jack On Friday, July 30, 2010

Today the President was in Detroit visiting workers at a Chrysler plant and a GM plant that have not only survived, but found success after critics looking to score political points claimed there was no hope for them. For those critics the President offered a lesson: "Don't bet against the American worker."

During the two years since the economy took its hard downward turn, millions of Americans have had to fight with everything they had to stay afloat, to keep food on the table, to keep their businesses in business – and nowhere has that been more true than in Detroit.

The President has also been fighting alongside America’s workers – from the Recovery Act that’s saved or created about 3 million jobs, to the fight today over small business lending – and of course for the workers in Detroit and across America who contribute to the decades-old craft of American cars. When political opponents said that helping the American auto industry survive was a lost cause, and tried to turn public frustration against the President, he stepped in and made the hard choices anyway. There couldn’t necessarily be a life raft for everybody, but he was not going to let a million American jobs fall by the wayside simply because it opened him up for cheap political attacks.

Jack On

NASA research project studies blow of climate change

Washington — The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy docked in Seward, Alaska, July 21 after a five-week scientific expedition sponsored by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) amassed a wealth of data about the effects of climate change on Arctic seas and the polar ice cap.

The expedition was part of NASA’s $10 million, multiyear project formally known as Impacts of Climate Change on the Eco-systems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment, or ICESCAPE for short. ICESCAPE is an interdisciplinary project that combines field-based observations of Arctic Ocean biology and biogeochemistry, such as those conducted aboard the Healy, with satellite sensing and numerical modeling to produce a better understanding of the ecosystem of the Arctic Ocean.
ICESCAPE’s central mission is to determine the impact of climate change, caused by both human and natural factors, on the ecology and biogeochemistry of the Arctic Ocean.
Such research has gained increased importance with the retreat of the summer ice cap and the resulting decline of Arctic sea ice and an earlier, longer lasting melting season. These changes, already evident in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas that lie north of the Bering Strait, have consequences for the entire ecosystem of the Arctic Ocean.
“The Arctic Ocean has undergone some pretty big changes in recent decades,” said Kevin Arrigo of Stanford University in an interview with He was the chief scientist aboard Healy during its mission. “Biological productivity has ratcheted up, and the timing of many key events is shifting.” That is significant, he said, because many animals key their migration to be in the Arctic when it is at its biologically most productive.
After departing from the Aleutian Islands port of Dutch Harbor June 15, the Healy crossed through the Bering Strait, traveled across the southern Chukchi Sea, and then headed into the Beaufort Sea along the ocean shelf of northern Alaska on an expedition that totaled 5,430 nautical miles, or slightly more than 10,000 kilometers.

During the Healy’s five-week deployment, 50 scientists in disciplines as varied as oceanography, microbiology, chemistry and optical physics took samples both within and beneath the thick sea ice, captured more than 1.5 million digital images of phytoplankton cells living in the ocean, and analyzed water samples to measure temperature as well as biological and optical properties.
“I can’t imagine things going better than they did for us during ICESCAPE,” Arrigo said. “We managed to make physical, chemical and biological measurements at 140 stations, about twice the number we expected to be able to complete.” The sampling stations covered an expanse from the coast of Alaska westward to the U.S.-Russian border, and from the Bering Strait north to Barrow, Alaska.
“There undoubtedly will be many other discoveries to make, and many papers to write,” Arrigo said. “By any measure, ICESCAPE 2010 was an unqualified success.”

Jack On Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Australian dollar opened lesser today as concerns about the recovery in the US economy weighed on financial markets. At 7am east-coast time, Australian dollar was trading at 89.28 US cents, down 0.19 per cent from yesterday's close of 89.47 US cents. It also buying 78.12 yen, 68.71 euro cents and 57.22 pence. Since at 5pm yesterday, the domestic dollar traded between 89.08 and 89.76 US cents. Wall Street closed lower overnight subsequent a sombre outlook from the US Federal Reserve and orders for durable goods surprisingly fell in June.
The central bank released its regional survey of the US economy, a report identified as the "beige book." The central bank said, Economic growth had been stable during the US summer in Cleveland and Kansas City, but had slowed in Atlanta and Chicago, while economic activity was modest in other regions. Also, new orders for manufactured robust goods - items such as planes, cars, refrigerators and computers - fell by one per cent in June, the US Department of Commerce said. The Bank of New Zealand currency strategist, Mike Jones, said a mild paring of risk appetite on concerns about economic growth in the US hampered risk-sensitive assets such as equities and the Australian dollar.

Mr Jones said a lesser than expected inflation report on Wednesday had knocked the prospect of the Reserve Bank of Australia lifting the cash interest rate next Tuesday, August 3. The headline consumer price index rose 0.6 per cent in the June quarter, for an yearly rate of 3.1 per cent, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the basic rate of inflation rose by 0.5 per cent in the quarter to an annual rate of 2.7 per cent, to fall within the RBA's target band of two to three per cent. The median market project for headline CPI was a quarterly rise of 1.0 per cent for a yearly rate of 3.4 per cent.

But the local currency lost around 0.75 US cents within minutes of the CPI report as investors reduced the likelihood of RBA rate rises in 2010. Mr Jones forecast the Australian dollar to trade between 89 and 89.5 US cents through today's Asian session.