Saturday, March 21, 2009

He reaches out to foreign people and governments

"We have serious differences that have grown over time," Obama said in the video. "My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community."
"This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect," he said.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

He values women, girls and family

“I sign this order not just as a president, but as a son, as a grandson, a husband and a father. I saw my grandmother work her way up to become one of the first women bank vice presidents in the state of Hawaii, but I also saw how she hit a glass ceiling—how men no more qualified than she was kept moving up the corporate ladder ahead of her.”

Obama credited his wife, Michelle, for “juggling work and parenting with more skill and grace than anybody that I know.” But the president said he was also aware that those burdens often weighed on his wife.

“I also saw how it tore at her at times. When she was at work, she was worrying about the girls. When she was with the girls she was worrying about work,” he said.

Obama said the new White House Council on Women and Girls would be chaired by his longtime friend and senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett. The director of public liaison at the White House, Tina Tchen, is to serve as executive director of the group. “It will meet on a regular basis,” the president said, without elaborating. The panel’s mandate will be to make sure that all federal agencies take into account how their policies and actions affect women and girls.

“We need to take a hard look at where we’re falling short,” Obama said.

He acts to enhance America's standing in the world

He respects human rights and international law

The Justice Department on Friday said it would raise the legal standard used to determine who can be held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, basing U.S. authority for detaining terrorism suspects on authority derived from Congress and international law — not just presidential power.

In a memorandum to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, government attorneys abandoned the nebulous phrase "enemy combatant" coined by the Bush administration, but insisting the U.S. has the right to detain suspects who "substantially supported" the Taliban, al-Qaida or associated forces.

"The president has the authority to detain persons who were part of, or substantially supported, Taliban or al-Qaida forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of such enemy armed forces," the government asserted in court documents.

Although the brief maintains that the president still has the authority to hold prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, it also incorporated international law and congressional authorization into its legal basis for doing so. The Bush administration had argued that detention authority was derived from the president's authority as commander-in-chief of the military.

Even as President Obama is moving to close the military prison in Cuba, more than 200 detainees are challenging their detentions by the Defense Department in the courts. The Justice Department brief was filed in response to the March 13 deadline set by the court for the U.S. to explain its detention authority.

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a declaration to the court that the Obama administration is in the process of reviewing the detention policy for individuals detained in armed conflict and counterterrorism operations.

"As we work towards developing a new policy to govern detainees, it is essential that we operate in a manner that strengthens our national security, is consistent with our values, and is governed by law," he said in a statement. "The change we've made today meets each of those standards and will make our nation stronger."

Holder also said the administration reviewing the status of the individual detainees to determine if continued detention is lawful to decide on their disposition.

"The review shall determine whether the continued detention of any such individual is lawful and in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice," Holder told the court.

Holder said a task force of Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, the State and Defense Departments, the office of the director of National Intelligence and the Joint chiefs of Staff is reviewing disposition of individual cases and will make recommendations to senior-level officials.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

He recommends real change to improve education

"Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though we know it can make a difference in the classroom," he said, delivering the first major education speech of his presidency before a meeting of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "Too many in the Republican Party have opposed new investments in early education, despite compelling evidence of its importance."

But he argued that a far-reaching overhaul of the nation's education system is an economic imperative that can't wait despite the urgency of the financial crisis and other matters.

"Despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us," he said. "The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy, and unacceptable for our children. We cannot afford to let it continue. What is at stake is nothing less than the American dream."

He works diligently to implement change

Since entering the White House, Mr Obama has:

Ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp

Outlawed the use of harsh interrogation techniques by the CIA

Enabled states to set tougher car emissions standards

Reversed the ban on federal funding for aid agencies that perform abortions

Removed "conscience" protections for health workers who refuse to issue contraception

He is a world class writer

US president Barack Obama leads the nominations for this year's British Book Awards by making the shortlist for both author and biography of the year.

Obama's political tract, The Audacity of Hope, and his life story, Dreams from My Father, became UK bestsellers during his 2008 run for office.

Dreams from My Father was written before Obama thought of entering politics and was originally published in 1995. It tells of his early life as a black boy growing up with his white grandparents and is frank about his drug use and flirtations with the Black Power movement.

Monday, March 9, 2009

He separates ideology and politics from science

"Let’s be clear: promoting science isn’t just about providing resources – it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda – and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

...That is why today, I am also signing a Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making. To ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions."

He respects and promotes scientific research

"Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield.

... In recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

He controls government waste and corporate greed

President Obama signed a directive Wednesday that changes the way government contracts are awarded and who can get them, a move he said could save as much as $40 billion a year.
The amount the government spends on contracting has ballooned over the past eight years, with outlays for goods and services increasing from $200 billion in 2000 to more than $500 billion in 2008. The president said his plan would make the contracting process more competitive and accessible to independent contractors — and more difficult for contractors to defraud taxpayers.
"It's time for this waste and inefficiency to end," the president said Wednesday morning at the White House. "It's time to invest only in what works."

He acts to control escalating healthcare costs

US President Barack Obama has begun public consultations on how to reform the country's health care system. More than 120 health experts have gathered at the White House to discuss possible ways forward.
The US spends more than $2 trillion a year on health care, although nearly 50m people have no medical insurance.

Mr Obama made public health a key part of his election campaign and has pledged to make quality and affordable care available to everyone in the US.

He told the experts at the health forum - including doctors, nurses, insurance professionals and lawmakers - there would be no "sacred cows" in the discussions.

"In this effort, every voice must be heard. Every idea must be considered. Every option must be on the table," he said. Mr Obama said there could be "no debate" about whether all Americans should have access to decent, affordable health care: "The only question is, how?"

Attempts by previous administrations to reform the massively expensive system have collapsed in disagreements.

But Mr Obama said America's soaring health care costs were now "the biggest threat to our nation's balance sheet" and that anyone seeking to block reforms would "not prevail this time".

He moves to protect the environment and reduce America's addiction to foreign oil

"Because our future depends on our ability to break free from oil that's controlled by foreign dictators, we need to make clean, renewable energy into a profitable kind of energy," Obama said at a news conference Wednesday. "That's why we'll be working with Congress on legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy."

President Obama promised more money for conservation and renewable energy in his budget outline Wednesday, paid for in part by a mandatory cap on greenhouse gases.
The programs, originally laid out in the stimulus bill, include an effort to double the production of renewable energy in three years, primarily through tax breaks and loan guarantees for the industry.
The budget summary also increases funding for energy conservation in government buildings and private homes. It provides more money for cleaner coal-fired power plants, and to transform the country's aging electric grid.

He rebuilds broken foreign relationships

As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the first time on Friday, it is time for the new atmospherics to start being turned into new policies.

The meeting in Geneva follows a decision on Thursday by Nato foreign ministers - Mrs Clinton among them - to resume relations between Nato and Russia. These were broken off after the Russian action in Georgia last year.
The Clinton-Lavrov talks will be followed by the first meeting between Presidents Obama and Medvedev on 2 April in London, where they will both attend the G20 economic summit.
So, as Vice-President Jo Biden recently said it would be, the reset button on US relations with Russia has been pressed. Mrs Clinton has herself spoken of a "fresh start."

He uses soft power to protect American interests

Russia today signalled that it is ready to accept a secret offer made by Barack Obama to drop US plans for a European missile defence system in return for Moscow's help in dealing with Iran.

Obama's move is a bold one aimed at breaking the stalemate, which has lasted years, over attempts at preventing Iran securing a nuclear weapons capability.

Obama made the extraordinary offer last month in a letter to the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, hand-delivered to the Russian government by US officials in Moscow. Officials told the New York Times that while it did not offer a direct quid pro quo, the letter was intended to give Moscow an incentive to join the United States in a common front against Iran.

Medvedev responded today by sayingthat Moscow will cooperate with Washington in dealing with the Iranian nuclear standoff, but confirmed there was no talk about a quid pro quo on missile defense and Iran.

Monday, March 2, 2009

He acts against torture

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ruled out the use of "waterboarding" as an interrogation technique for terrorism suspects on Monday, calling it a form of torture that the Obama administration could never condone.

Holder's declaration underscored President Barack Obama's break with the former Bush administration's anti-terrorist policies, which were condemned around the world by human-rights groups, civil liberties advocates and U.S. allies.

"Waterboarding is torture. My Justice Department will not justify it, will not rationalize it and will not condone it," Holder, who his heading a review of the treatment of terrorism suspects, said in a speech to the Jewish Council of Public Affairs in Washington. His vow was greeted by applause.

He exposes lies and deceit

The Obama administration threw open the curtain on years of Bush-era secrets Monday, revealing anti-terrorism memos that claimed exceptional search-and-seizure powers and divulging that the CIA had destroyed 92 videotapes of interrogations and other treatment of terrorism suspects.

The Justice Department released nine legal opinions showing that following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration determined that certain constitutional rights would not apply during the coming fight. Within two weeks, government lawyers were already discussing ways to wiretap U.S. conversations without warrants.

The Bush administration eventually abandoned many of the legal conclusions, but the documents themselves had been closely held. By releasing them, President Barack Obama continued a housecleaning of the previous administration's most contentious policies.

"Too often over the past decade, the fight against terrorism has been viewed as a zero-sum battle with our civil liberties," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech a few hours before the documents were released. "Not only is that school of thought misguided; I fear that in actuality it does more harm than good."

He chooses hungry children over rich farmers

Vilsack said he already has heard concerns about the Obama administration's plan to redirect subsidy payments for large farmers into nutrition programs as a way to help end hunger by 2015 and stem the rising tide of childhood obesity.

"We will do our best to frame this discussion in that way, so that people understand: 30 million children, 90,000 farmers," Vilsack told Reuters after speaking to people who work with the nation's food banks and anti-poverty groups.

"It is a tough choice, but it's a choice that folks are going to have to make," he said.
President Barack Obama last week outlined what some have called one of the most ambitious agendas for social change ever seen in the United States, pledging to raise taxes on the rich to boost services for those lower on the economic ladder.

For his first budget, he proposed phasing out direct payments to farmers with sales of more than $500,000 a year, to save $9.8 billion over 10 years, or roughly one-fifth of the $5.2 billion spent annually on the payments.