Saturday, July 3, 2010

Obama announces $2 billion for solar power

President Barack Obama announced Saturday the awarding of nearly $2 billion for new solar plants that he said will create thousands of jobs and increase the country's use of renewable energy sources. Obama disclosed the funding in his weekly radio and online address, saying it is part of his plan to bring new industries to the U.S. "We're going to keep competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America," Obama said. The two companies that will receive the funds from the president's $862 billion economic stimulus are Abengoa Solar, which will build one of the world's largest solar plants in Arizona, creating 1,600 construction jobs; and Abound Solar Manufacturing, which is building plants in Colorado and Indiana. The Obama administration says those projects will create more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs. Obama's announcement came a day after the Labor Department reported that employers slashed payrolls last month for the first time in six months, driven by the expected end of 225,000 temporary census jobs. Meanwhile, private-sector hiring rose by 83,000 workers. The unemployment rate dropped to 9.5 percent. Obama said that while it may take years to bring back all the jobs lost during the recession, the economy is moving in a positive direction. He placed some of the blame for the slow pace of recovery on Republicans, saying GOP lawmakers, "are playing the same old Washington games and using their power to hold this relief hostage." Obama has said that to bring the nation's economy back from the brink of a depression, it was necessary to add to the country's debt in the short term. Republicans have tried to capitalize on that growing sum. Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss said in the Republican's weekly address that the country's $13 trillion debt is a national security issue that will leave the U.S. vulnerable and force future generations to "pay higher taxes to foot the bill for Democrats' out-of-control spending."

Clinton Calls for Reflection on US Ideals During July 4 Independence Day Holiday

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is urging people to reflect on the ideals of the founding fathers of the United States this Independence Day as nearly 4,000 people prepare to become U.S. citizens. Americans are readying for the traditional Independence Day festivities of picnicking, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, and watching fireworks and parades this July 4. Clinton, who will be overseas this Independence Day, issued a pre-taped message to celebrate what she called America's Birthday Party. "Every year, Americans gather with friends and family on the Fourth of July to celebrate the values that inspired the founders of our nation more than two centuries ago, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," she said. She urged people to reflect on these ideals, saying they are enshrined in the constitutions of many nations and underscore our common humanity. "We're very proud of our founders. Those brave patriots championed those rights 234 years ago, and they've been inspiring people not only in my country but around the world ever since. I know they inspire me," Clinotn added.On the subject of founding fathers, naturalization ceremonies will be held this July 4th at Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, and George Washington's estate, Mount Vernon, both in Virginia. In fact, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says more than 3,800 people will become U.S. citizens in 55 special ceremonies in the U.S. and abroad this first week of July. Special naturalization ceremonies also include one at Ellis Island in New York Harbor, where more than 12 million immigrants entered the United States between 1892 and 1954. And 110 people took the Oath of Allegiance outdoors before a bevy of rockets when Kennedy Space Center hosted its first naturalization ceremony on July . Plus, the U.S. says more than 500 military service members will become citizens at all-military ceremonies in Seoul, Frankfurt, Baghdad and elsewhere.

Obama: Economy Headed in Right Direction

President Barack Obama says the latest employment figures show the U.S. economy is headed in the right direction, but more needs to be done to put Americans without jobs back to work. The U.S. economy lost 125,000 non-farm sector jobs during the month of June. That figure reflects the end of some 225,000 temporary U.S. census worker jobs. The Labor Department reported a decline in the overall unemployment rate which dropped to 9.5 percent from 9.7 percent, the lowest level since 2009. While the private sector gained 83,000 jobs, the figure was below levels from the previous two months. President Obama recognized the mixed nature of the latest figures. He said they show the economy is headed in the right direction, with the sixth consecutive month of private sector job growth. But he also recognized that for millions of Americans, the economy is not being fixed fast enough. "We're not headed there fast enough for a lot of Americans," he said. "We're not headed three fast enough for me either. The recession dug us a hole of about eight-million jobs deep, and we continue to fight headwinds from volatile global markets," said the president. Saying a lot of work remains to repair the economy and get people back to work, the president announced a new initiative to expand broadband Internet service to U.S. communities with no access. The government estimates that 66 projects involved in this would create about 5,000 short-term construction and installation jobs, with additional longer term economic gains. The head of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, said the latest figures demonstrate the magnitude of the damage from the recession. Addressing Americans still looking for work, President Obama pledged that he and his administration will do everything possible to create jobs and opportunity. President Obama spoke at the beginning of the U.S. July 4th holiday weekend, a time he said should remind Americans that they have never backed down from a challenge and will make it through tough economic times. The president will spend part of the July 4th weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland, but is expected to return to the White House on Sunday.

Obama vows action on immigration

General Petraeus in Afghanistan warns of tough mission

The United States' top field commander, General David Petraeus, warned on Saturday of a tough mission ahead a day after arriving to take command of the 150,000-strong NATO-led foreign force in Afghanistan. Petraeus told hundreds of guests at a U.S. embassy party held to mark U.S. independence day that it was essential to show unity of purpose to solve Afghanistan's problems. "This is a tough mission, there is nothing easy about it," he said at the sprawling and heavily fortified U.S. embassy complex in Kabul, Washington's biggest foreign mission anywhere in the world and boasting 5 ambassadors. Petraeus is charged with not only winning the war against a growing Taliban insurgency, but also with starting a withdrawal of U.S. forces from July next year. Wearing casual camouflage under a scorching Kabul sun, Petraeus and a besuited U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry on Saturday welcomed scores of guests to an embassy compound liberally decorated with Stars and Stripes flags. A brass band played as guests munched on burgers, corn-on-the-cob, popcorn and ice-cream cones. Petraeus's appointment could be a last throw of the dice for Washington to end an increasingly costly conflict that is draining Western budgets as they emerge from one of the worst global recessions in history. APPOINTMENT CONFIRMED He landed in Kabul on Friday after his appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives approved $33 billion in funding for a troop surge he hopes will turn the tide of the war. The surge will bring to 150,000 the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan just as a new strategy takes root. It entails tackling the Taliban in their strongholds while relying on the government to simultaneously improve local governance and development. Petraeus, who is due to formally take command at a ceremony at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters on Sunday, is credited with turning the tide of the war in Iraq using similar tactics. ISAF said on Saturday that a service member had died in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in the south. Nearly 1,900 foreign troops have died in Afghanistan since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001 -- including more than 100 last month, the bloodiest since the war began. The last two weeks have thrown an especially harsh light on the war effort, with new reports of corruption in President Hamid Karzai's government and the change in command of foreign forces. Doubts have also been raised over the commitment of the government to push governance and development alongside the military drive, and also the ability of Afghan forces to take over responsibility for security. At the same time, Karzai has been wooing the Taliban with a series of modest peace overtures, all have which have been rejected by the hardline Islamist movement, which insists all foreign forces must leave before they will end the insurgency.