Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gubernatorial Candidate, Georges Marciano, Calls for a California Constitutional Convention

/PRNewswire/ -- Georges Marciano, candidate for Governor of California, called upon every member of California's State Legislature to immediately pass a resolution calling for a constitutional convention. "We are living in the 21st Century; Californians deserve a 21st century constitution," exclaimed Mr. Marciano.

In his letter, dated June 22nd, Mr. Marciano stated, "It is time for this to occur. For too long now, our Constitution has produced gridlock, delay and injustice, rather than promote a responsive and accountable government."

Pursuant to California's Constitution, Article 18, Section 2, the legislature may vote on the question of whether to call a convention to revise the constitution. Upon passage by two-thirds of the membership of each house, the Legislature shall provide for the convention within 6 months. Mr. Marciano hopes for a strong and immediate response coming within the next 20 days.

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Burger: It is Time to Seat Al Franken in the U.S. Senate

/PRNewswire/ -- Change to Win chair and SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger issued the following statement on today's decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court that Al Franken is entitled to a certificate of election as Minnesota's next U.S. Senator:

"Now that the Minnesota Supreme Court has made its final ruling, it is time to recognize Al Franken as the duly elected Senator from Minnesota. As is appropriate after any extremely close election, Minnesotans took the time to conduct an extensive and thorough recount process, but now that all reasonable legal options have been exhausted, Minnesota deserves its full representation in Congress. We call on Governor Pawlenty to pursue the state's best interests and end this contest instead of favoring those who would allow the recount to continue for purely partisan reasons.

"During the election, Senator-elect Franken made clear he will work hard to rebuild our economy through real healthcare reform and the Employee Free Choice Act, as well as tackling the long-term challenges we face on the environment, keeping college education affordable and fixing our broken immigration system. Working families need him in the United States Senate to help restore the economy, rebuild the middle class and renew the American Dream for all workers."

During the 2008 election, Change to Win affiliates and members knocked on more than 85,000 doors, made more than 100,000 phone calls and sent 265,000 pieces of direct mail to targeted Minnesota households on the importance of access to quality affordable healthcare, jobs and economic justice. Members also held rallies, house parties and other earned media events throughout the election to complement the one-on-one work done in the community.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Oregon Passes Hemp Bill

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, by a vote of 46 to 11, the Oregon House passed SB 676, a bill that permits production and possession of industrial hemp and trade in industrial hemp commodities and products. "I am glad that Oregon has joined the list of states that have agreed that American farmers should have the right to re-introduce industrial hemp as an agricultural crop," says SB 676 sponsor, Sen. Floyd Prozanski. "By passing SB 676 with strong bi-partisan support, the Oregon Legislature has taken a proactive position to allow its farmers the right to grow industrial hemp, to provide American manufacturers with domestically-grown hemp, and to profit from that effort." The Oregon Senate passed the bill by an overwhelming majority vote of 27 to 2 on June 19. Vote Hemp is optimistic that Governor Kulongoski will sign the bill. Oregon would become the ninth state to authorize regulated hemp farming under state law.

"The time has come for the federal government to act and allow farmers to once again grow hemp, so American companies will no longer need to import it and American farmers will no longer be denied a profitable new crop," comments Vote Hemp President, Eric Steenstra. "Under current federal policy, industrial hemp can be imported, but it cannot be grown by American farmers. Hemp is a versatile, environmentally-friendly crop that has not been grown in the U.S. for over fifty years because of a misguided and politicized interpretation of the nation's drug laws by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). While a new bill in Congress, HR 1866, is a welcome step, the hemp industry is hopeful that President Obama's administration will recognize hemp's myriad benefits to farmers, businesses and the environment," adds Steenstra.

Many businesses in Oregon manufacture, market and sell hemp products, including Living Harvest, The Merry Hempsters, Wilderness Poets, Earthbound Creations, Sweetgrass Natural Fibers, Sympatico Clothing, Mama's Herbal Soaps and Hempire. Living Harvest of Portland was recently ranked the third-fastest-growing company in Oregon, as awarded by The Portland Business Journal's "Fastest-Growing Private 100 Companies" annual award.

"We are looking forward to the opportunity to invest in hemp processing and production locally," says Hans Fastre, CEO of Living Harvest. "This bill represents another step towards heightening the hemp industry's profile within mainstream America and making hemp products more accessible to businesses and consumers."

These Oregon-based companies have been on the leading edge of the growing hemp food and body care markets, which are currently estimated to be $113 million in North American annual retail sales by the Hemp Industries Association (HIA). The HIA estimates the 2008 annual retail sales of all hemp products in North America to be about $360 million. By allowing U.S. farmers to once again grow hemp, legislators can clear the way for a "New Billion-Dollar Crop."

On June 9, with little fanfare, Maine Governor John Baldacci signed the Maine hemp farming bill, LD 1159, into law. Maine's House had previously passed the bill without objection, and the Senate later passed it by a strong vote of 25 to 10. The bill establishes a licensing regime for farming industrial hemp, although the licensing is contingent upon action by the federal government. Maine had previously passed a study bill that also defined industrial hemp.

During the 2009 legislative session, Montana, New Mexico, Vermont and North Dakota all passed resolutions or memorials urging Congress to allow states to regulate hemp farming. Sixteen states have passed pro-hemp legislation to date, and eight states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia) have removed barriers to its production or research. North Dakota has even issued state licenses to would-be hemp farmers for two years running.

Judicial Watch Statement on the Ricci Reversal

/Standard Newswire/ -- Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton issued the following statement today in response to the reversal of a decision that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge:

The Ricci decision today is further confirmation that Judge Sotomayor should not be confirmed for the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found that Judge Sotomayor helped uphold an action that was in violation of our nation's anti-discrimination laws. The question for the United States Senate is whether to confirm someone who thinks it is appropriate to discriminate based on race simply to protect oneself from a lawsuit. Justice Alito, in a concurring opinion, noted that New Haven firefighters have "a right to demand...evenhanded enforcement of the law--of Title VII's prohibition against discrimination based on race. And that is what, until today's decision, has been denied them." Judge Sotomayor did not apply our nation's anti-discrimination laws in an evenhanded way and her confirmation should be

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American Iron and Steel Institute Says Climate Bill as Passed by House Puts Steel Industry at Competitive Disadvantage

American Iron and Steel Institute Says Climate Bill as Passed by House Puts Steel Industry at Competitive Disadvantage; Bill Must Have Important Modifications as it Heads to the Senate

/PRNewswire/ -- The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) expressed its disappointment today over the House passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

"We believe this bill has moved at a rushed pace that has not allowed for full debate of provisions that are critical to the steel industry, which was clearly underscored by the fact that the bill passed in the House by only seven votes," said Thomas J. Gibson, AISI president and CEO. "The bill, as passed, will need important modifications as it moves through the Senate.

"We appreciate the hard work of Congressmen Doyle and Inslee and we look forward to continuing our work with them as this legislation moves through the process," said Gibson. "However, we can say - with certainty - that if this bill is enacted as it presently stands, U.S. steelmakers and our workers will be at a significant competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace. Several modifications must be made to achieve the bill's stated purpose of avoiding job loss and emission migration to overseas markets."

One area of the bill that needs to be modified, Gibson said, relates to recognizing the challenges of energy intensive industries.

"With this bill, all forms of energy - coal, natural gas, biomass and electricity - have the potential to suffer a dramatic cost increase due to fuel switching, deployment of waste gas capture/regeneration technology, carbon capture and sequestration technology, and wind, solar and other clean energy technologies. Energy intensive industries should be rebated allowances to recover consequential cost increases resulting from this legislation, and not just emissions costs," he said.

"Currently, the bill does not contain a meaningful border adjustment mechanism and has a significant lag before any assessment of comparable action by our trading partners is made," Gibson said. "The legislation would clearly be inadequate to ensure that the new costs placed on steel and other trade-sensitive manufacturers would also be borne by imports," he said. "As currently written, the border mechanism would be wholly ineffective and would simply lead to the substitution of imported products (from countries with no or far lesser environmental standards) for domestic production - undermining both the environmental objective of the bill and the competitiveness of U.S. products."

Another area of concern in the House bill, Gibson said, is the arbitrary formula used to lower the emissions allowance schedule to energy-intensive manufacturers below 15 percent after beginning in 2015. This deprives energy-intensive manufacturers of nearly one billion allowances over the life of the program, he said. Energy-intensive manufacturers should receive the same emissions allowance schedule that is applied to every other recipient of emission allowances, he noted.

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Congressional Support for 'Right to Repair Act' Reaches 30

/PRNewswire/ -- Congressional support for the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act (HR 2057) has reached 30 sponsors, it was announced today by Kathleen Schmatz, president and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA).

The pending legislation gained six more co-sponsors in recent days. The new legislators supporting Right to Repair are Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Lewis (D-GA), Donald M. Payne (D-NJ) and David E. Price (D-NC).

"We applaud these six members of Congress for supporting this critical piece of legislation which ensures that local auto repair remains available to car owners throughout the country," said Schmatz. "Right to Repair has gained more importance as many motorists seek new neighborhood repair shops because a dealership has closed in their area. This bill ensures equitable access to repair information, protecting consumers' right to select the repair facility of their choice, while also protecting car company trade secrets. With all the uncertainty in the automotive industry these days, it is clear that the time to pass Right to Repair is now."

Because vehicles are becoming increasingly sophisticated with virtually every system either monitored or controlled by computers, servicing these vehicle systems to keep them in safe working condition requires ready access to complete and accurate information from the car companies. The Right to Repair Act (HR 2057) was introduced in Congress to ensure that car owners and their trusted repair shops have the same access to safety alerts and repair information as the franchised new car dealer network.

A complete list of co-sponsors and a copy of the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act (HR 2057) can be found by visiting www.righttorepair.org.

About Right to Repair:

The Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act, which was introduced by Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and George Miller (D-CA), would require car companies to make the same service information and tools capabilities available to independent repair shops that they provide to their franchised dealer networks. The legislation further provides car companies with strong protections for their trade secrets unless that information is provided to the franchised new car dealers. The bill clarifies the responsibilities of the Federal Trade Commission in enforcing the bill's requirements. For more information about the Right to Repair Act, visit www.righttorepair.org.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Boehner Statement on Speaker Pelosi’s National Energy Tax

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) today strongly opposed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) national energy tax and the impact it would have on middle-class families and small businesses across the country. Boehner earlier spoke on the House floor in a marathon, hour-long speech in which he read portions of the legislation to underscore its real consequences for American jobs and the economy. Following is Boehner’s statement on the legislation:

“Today, in what will be remembered as the defining vote of the 111th Congress, House Democrats passed a 1,500-page national energy tax bill that no one even had the chance to read. The American people have the right to know what is in this legislation and, more importantly, what impact it will have on middle-class families and small businesses. In just an hour, we raised serious questions about the true consequences of this legislation for Americans’ jobs and all of our economy.

“Speaker Pelosi’s national energy tax is a bureaucratic nightmare that will cost families more than ever for electricity, gasoline, food, and other products, and cost millions of American workers their jobs. This is a tax on anyone who drives a car, buys an American-made product, or flips on a light switch. It will drive up energy costs, send millions of jobs overseas to countries like China and India, and place an especially heavy burden on rural America. Republicans believe there is a better way. Our American Energy Act is the fastest route to a cleaner, more reliable energy future. By increasing environmentally-safe energy production, promoting alternatives like nuclear and clean-coal technologies, and encouraging increased efficiency, this alternative legislation will create more jobs, lower energy costs, and clean up our air and water.

“There’s a big difference between the heartland and San Francisco when it comes to Speaker Pelosi’s national energy tax. Today, House Democrats made the decision to stand with left-wing special interests rather than with families and small businesses in their districts that will lose so much because of this national energy tax. The American people will not forget this vote.”

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ACCCE Statement in Regards to the Passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2998). In response to passage of this legislation, Steve Miller, CEO and President of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), released the following statement:

"ACCCE supports the timely adoption of federal carbon management legislation that could include a mandatory cap and trade program. Accordingly, over the past several months, ACCCE has offered constructive proposals to members of the House of Representatives concerning how H.R. 2998 should be changed. The House did make important improvements to H.R. 2998. However, ACCCE cannot support this bill, as it is written, because the legislation still does not adequately protect consumers and the domestic economy or ensure that the American people can continue to enjoy the benefits of affordable, reliable electricity, which has been so important to our nation.

"We look forward to working with the U.S. Senate and other stakeholders during the coming months to make additional, vital modifications to H.R. 2998 so the legislation ultimately adopted by Congress and signed by the President ensures greater energy independence, produces environmental benefits, and promotes economic prosperity for millions of Americans."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Libertarians reach out to gay, lesbian Democrats picketing DNC fundraiser

Representatives from America’s third-largest party greeted Democrats protesting the Obama administration’s legal arguments defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) outside a Thursday Democratic National Committee fundraiser aimed at gay and lesbian donors, and shared with them information on the Libertarian Party’s advocacy for marriage equality.

“The Obama administration extends their hand for donations from the LGBT community, and then slaps us in the face with the other hand with the defense of DOMA,” said Catherine Sumner, Libertarian National Committee Gay and Lesbian Policy Adviser.

“Libertarians agree that government should stay out of the marriage issue, and that DOMA should be repealed,” said Sumner. “We welcome Democrats who agree with us to join the only party that will defend their rights, the Libertarians.”

The activists voiced their disappointed over a legal brief filed by the Obama administration asking a federal court to uphold the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. Standing outside the Madarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C., which hosted a DNC fundraiser featuring Vice-President Joe Biden aimed at collecting funds from gay and lesbian donors.

While the Obama administration has voiced its opposition to marriage equality and support for DOMA, and the DNC refuses to call on the administration to change its policy, Libertarians have no qualms about their support for marriage equality.

“White House lawyers take over two pages of documentation, citing case law, purposely not citing Loving vs. Virginia, that in so many words, indicates that gay marriage is not natural and thereby not an inherent constitutional right,” said Sumner.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Libertarians urge “no” vote on $1.9 trillion Waxman-Markey tax hike

America’s third largest party urged the U.S. House Tuesday to defeat plans for a $1.9 trillion energy tax hike over eight years. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is attempting to rush H.R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey energy tax bill, to a vote this week.

“With unemployment rising above and beyond what President Obama said it would be with the multi-hundred billion dollar stimulus bill, now is not the time to dismantle our economy with a multi-hundred billion dollar energy tax hike,” said William Redpath.

“Libertarians urge House members to defeat this job-killing tax hike on Americans,” said Redpath. “Libertarian candidates are out there every day proposing proven solutions to create the jobs we need and restore our prosperity. This $1.9 trillion tax hike would destroy millions of jobs and impose dramatically higher prices for everything.”

At nearly 1,000 pages, H.R. 2454, sponsored by Democrat Reps. Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, imposes new taxes on any economic activity that produces carbon dioxide. Pelosi hopes to rush the bill to a vote, despite no net temperature increase globally over the last decade, significant research showing man-made carbon dioxide isn’t changing the climate and opposition from thousands of scientists.

The economic impact would be harsh. According to research from the independent, non-partisan Heritage Foundation, the bill would have devastating impacts on the average American family.

The research found that by 2035, gasoline prices would increase 58 percent, natural gas prices would increase 55 percent, prices for home heating oil would increase 56 percent, and worst of all, electricity prices would jump 90 percent.

While the average American would pay the tax once in the form of higher energy prices, they also pay it again in higher costs for goods that must be manufactured and services that must be provided using energy.

The average family of four could see $2,979 in higher prices per year, paying $4,609 more in 2035 alone. The total costs to the average family in higher prices, from 2012 to 2035, reach $71,493.

The bill would also destroy millions of jobs, even taking into account Obama administration promises of new “green” jobs. The research finds an average annual job loss of 1,145,000 jobs per year because of Waxman-Markey. In the worst years, 2,479,000 Americans will lose their jobs annually under Waxman-Markey.

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Libertarians recommend Senate defeat Koh nomination

America’s third largest party Tuesday recommended the Senate defeat the nomination of Harold Koh to be State Department legal adviser, citing a history of opposition to gun rights and national sovereignty.

“The State Department legal adviser is supposed to protect our national sovereignty in treaty negotiations and negotiate pacts that uphold the Constitution and protect Americans’ rights. Under no circumstances should the Senate confirm someone who believes the Constitution should give way to what he calls ‘the global rules,’” said Donny Ferguson, Libertarian National Committee Communications Director.

“That alone disqualifies him from representing the United States in treaty negotiations,” said Ferguson.

If confirmed, Koh would play a major role in negotiating treaties such as the proposed “Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials” (CIFTA.)

The treaty -- backed by Obama and Koh -- requires all guns to be marked and tracked by the government. Obama has urged the Senate to adopt it.

In a lecture titled “A World Drowning In Guns,” reprinted in the May 2003 “Fordham Law Review,” Koh praised CIFTA as “the best model” for international gun control.

More troubling, Koh claims it requires signers “to standardize national laws,” that “the only meaningful mechanism to regulate illicit transfers is stronger domestic regulation,” and that “control measures within the United States” must be adopted.

In the lecture, Koh urges the creation of “a global system of effective controls on small arms and light weapons” and a “global gun control regime,” specifically targeting the kinds of weapons many persecuted peoples must own to protect themselves from aggression. He blames international violence and the rising numbers of refugees, not armed governments, but on “men with guns.”

Koh’s solution? Strip people of their guns and trust weapons to the corrupt governments often responsible for the very violence Koh cites.

Koh has also repeatedly demanded the United States submit to “transnational legal processes” and “transnational jurisprudence,” in which laws intended to protect our national sovereignty and constitutional rights could be overruled by international authorities.

That clashes sharply with the Libertarian Party, who upholds both the Second Amendment and the United States’ national sovereignty.

“Libertarians believe that what makes America safe and free are our constitutional rights and our hard-fought freedoms. While the Constitution guarantees those freedoms from infringement by our federal government, it is now up to the Senate to protect that Constitution from other countries who view our constitutional freedoms as deviations that must be eliminated through the kinds of treaties and global laws Koh has promised to fight for,” said Ferguson.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled a Wednesday vote on the Obama nominee, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in the Clinton Administration.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rural America's Opposition Grows to Speaker Pelosi's National Energy Tax

As House Democrats scramble for votes for Speaker Pelosi’s national energy tax on anyone who drives a car, buys an American-made product, or flips on a light switch, opposition among family farmers and small businesses in rural America continues to grow stronger. That’s because, as Agriculture Committee Ranking Republican Frank Lucas (R-OK) noted during a hearing earlier this year, rural Americans would be disproportionately impacted by this burdensome, jobs-killing tax. They travel 25 percent further than urban residents to go to work and run errands. They spend 58 percent more on fuel than urban residents as a percentage of their income. And electricity is far more costly to deliver to rural households than to urban homes across America. The end result: if Speaker Pelosi’s national energy tax becomes law, rural Americans will pay much, much more. Here is just the latest collection of groups that are opposing Speaker Pelosi’s national energy tax because of its consequences for family farmers and small businesses:

Agribusiness Association of Iowa
Agricultural Retailers Association
Agrium Inc.
Alabama Farmers Federation
American Agri-Women
American Farm Bureau Association
American Farmers & Ranchers
American Frozen Food Institute
American Meat Institute
American Plant Food Corporation
Associated Industries of Florida
Beck’s Superior Hybrids
Brandt Consolidated
CF Industries
Chemical Industry Council of Illinois
CHS Inc.
Corn Producers Association of Texas
D.B. Western, Inc.
Far West Agribusiness Association
Florida Chamber of Commerce
Florida Farm Bureau Federation
Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association
Florida Strawberry Growers Association
Food Industry Environmental Council
Hardee County Farm Bureau (FL)
Hillsborough County Farm Bureau (FL)
Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association
Indiana Beef Cattle Association
Indiana Farm Bureau
Indiana Grain & Feed Association
Indiana Grain and Feed Association
Indiana Office of Energy Development
Indiana Plant Food & Ag Chemicals Association
Indiana Plant Food & Agricultural Chemicals Association
Indiana Pork Producers Association
Indiana Professional Dairy Producers
Indiana State Department of Agriculture
Indiana State Poultry Association
International Raw Materials, Ltd.
J.R. Simplot Company
Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association
Kansas Grain and Feed Association
Minnesota Agri-Growth Council
Minnesota Corn Growers Association
Minnesota Crop Production Retailers
Missouri Agribusiness Association
Missouri Farm Bureau
Montana Agricultural Business Association
National Chicken Council
National Corn Growers Association
National Grain and Feed Association
National Grange
National Meat Association
National Pork Producers Council
National Turkey Federation
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Nebraska Agri-Business Association
Nebraska Farm Bureau
New Mexico Peanut Growers Association
North Carolina Peanut Growers Association
North Dakota Agricultural Association
North Dakota Barley Council
North Dakota Farm Bureau
North Dakota Grain Dealers Association
North Dakota Grain Growers Association
North Dakota Soybean Growers Association
North Dakota Stockmen’s Association
North Dakota Wheat Commission
Northern Canola Growers Association
Northern Pulse Growers Association
Ohio Corn Growers Association
Ohio Farm Bureau
Ohio Poultry Association
Ohio Wheat Growers Association
Oklahoma Ag Retailers Association
Oklahoma Grain & Feed Association
Oklahoma Peanut Commission
Oklahoma Seed Trade Association
Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association
Panhandle Peanut Growers Association
Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association
Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association
Polk County Farm Bureau (FL)
Rocky Mountain Agribusiness Association
Sarasota County Farm Bureau (FL)
Society of American Florists
South Carolina Fertilizer & Agrichemicals Association
South Carolina Peanut Growers Association
South Dakota Agri-Business Association
South Dakota Farm Bureau
South Dakota Grain & Feed Association
Southern Crop Production Association
Southwest Council of Agribusiness
Terra Industries Inc.
Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council
Texas Farm Bureau
Texas Grain & Feed Association
Texas Peanut Producers Board
Texas Sheep & Goat Raisers Association
Texas Wheat Producers Association
The Andersons, Inc.
The Fertilizer Institute
The McGregor Company
Todd Staples, Commissioner, Texas Department of Agriculture
Tom Farms (Kip Tom, CEO)
United Egg Producers
Virginia Peanut Growers Association
W.B. Johnston Grain Co.
Western Peanut Growers Association
Western Plant Health Association
Wyoming Stock Growers Association

House Republicans believe there is a better way – one that can lower energy costs, create jobs, and clean up the environment in rural America and everywhere else. Led by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), the House GOP American Energy Solutions Group has crafted the American Energy Act to increase environmentally-safe energy production; promote alternative fuels to reduce carbon emissions; and encourage increased efficiencies and technologies to maximize America’s energy potential. When will Democrats listen to family farmers and small businesses and work with Republicans on real bipartisan solutions to secure a cleaner, more reliable energy future?

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Monday, June 22, 2009

New Federal Transportation Bill Connects Needed Reforms to Fighting Climate Change

/PRNewswire/ -- Implementing the goals and reforms of the $450 billion transportation reauthorization bill, if accompanied by real accountability and performance measures, will move America's transportation system in a direction that supports our national economic, energy, and environmental goals, according to Environmental Defense Fund.

The bill, formally called The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009, was introduced today by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN), and cosponsored by the top ranking GOP member on the Committee John Mica (R-FL), Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and the top ranking GOP member of the Subcommittee John Duncan (R-TN).

"Chairman Oberstar, Chairman DeFazio, and Ranking Members Mica and Duncan have put forward a clear vision for transportation policy that shines a spotlight on both environmental and economic sustainability," said Environmental Defense Fund's Climate and Infrastructure Policy Director Colin Peppard. "Their vision seeks to reduce the substantial greenhouse gas pollution produced by the transportation sector, supporting ongoing efforts to fight climate change by capping carbon emissions."

"However, more work needs to be done to ensure that these forward-thinking goals are fully supported by the policies, programs, and funding laid out in this critical piece of legislation," concluded Peppard. "Questions remain as to whether state and local governments will truly be held accountable for delivering better transportation, economic, and environmental performance. Environmental Defense Fund is looking forward to working with the leadership and members of the Transportation Committee to craft a bill that will yield the concrete results and performance that justify an increased investment of taxpayer dollars in our nation's transportation infrastructure."

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Anxiety Rises Over Democrats' Unchecked Spending, Historic Deficits

The Democrats’ spending binge in Washington is catching up with them. After five months of unfettered spending, taxing, and borrowing, the American people have grown weary of an agenda that is plunging the nation into deeper debt and sticking our children and grandchildren with the tab. Two new national polls are making news this morning by detailing Americans’ increasing concerns about the deficit – and Democrats’ lack of any plan to deal with it. Here are the highlights:

Wall Street Journal/NBC News: “President Barack Obama faces new concerns among the American public about the budget deficit and government intervention in the economy as he works to enact ambitious health and energy legislation, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds. A solid majority – 58% – said that the president and Congress should focus on keeping the budget deficit down.”

New York Times/CBS News: “The poll highlights the political and governing challenges on the horizon for Mr. Obama, including the towering federal budget deficit, which is expected to push the national debt to levels that many economists say could threaten the economy’s long-term vitality. Six in 10 people surveyed said the administration has yet to develop a clear plan for dealing with the deficit, including 65 percent of independents.”

Think about the rather dubious fiscal record Washington Democrats have amassed this year. The trillion-dollar “stimulus” spending bill, the $400 billion “omnibus” spending bill loaded with 9,000 unscrutinized earmarks, the $3.6 trillion budget, and the seemingly endless bailouts bankrolled by overburdened taxpayers. And what have families and small businesses gotten for these multi-trillion dollar investments? Aside from a hefty tab, not much. For example, the Administration promised that unemployment would not rise above eight percent if Congress passed its trillion-dollar “stimulus” spending bill. The bill is now law, yet unemployment tops nine percent, with the President now admitting that it’s likely to increase above 10 percent too. Where are the jobs? Is it any wonder why Americans are fed up with the borrowing and spending?

House Republicans proposed a better solution to create twice as many jobs as the Democrats’ “stimulus” bill promised at half the cost, as well as a budget alternative that would curb spending, create jobs by cutting taxes, and control the debt. Unfortunately, Democrats balked at both, choosing a go-it-alone approach that has plunged our nation into historic debt.

Now, as Democrats barrel ahead with a costly government takeover of health care – with a price tag of at least $1 trillion and an impact of at least 23 million Americans being kicked off their current health care plan – and a national energy tax on anyone who drives a car, buys an American-made product, or flips on a light switch, House Republicans are proposing better solutions once again. House Republicans yesterday outlined a health care reform plan to reduce costs, expand access, and increase the quality of care in a way that Americans can afford. And last week, they rolled out the American Energy Act to clean up the environment, reduce energy costs, and create more American jobs.

As Americans’ anxiety over spending deepens, will Democrats finally admit that their arrogant culture of spending, taxing, and borrowing cannot continue and work with Republicans on responsible plans to create jobs and control the deficit? Or will they continue marching forward with even more irresponsible plans that drown future generations in more red ink?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sotomayor Served as the "Top Policy Maker" on the Board of Directors of the Leftist PRLDEF for 12 Years

/Standard Newswire/ -- Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released a new special report on Supreme Court Nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor and her connection to the leftist Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). Sotomayor served as the "top policy maker" on the PRLDEF's Board of Directors for twelve years, 1980-1992, until she became a federal judge.

According to the Special Report: "The PRLDEF bills itself as an organization that provides legal services to the Latino community. However, the organization's activities reflect a commitment to the worst aspects of liberal judicial activism: identity politics, race baiting, and ethnic favoritism."

The following is a partial list of the PRLDEF's activities during Judge Sotomayor's tenure as described in Judicial Watch's Special Report:

· In 1990, the PRLDF attacked then-New York Mayor David Dinkins after the mayor labeled three Puerto Rican "nationalists" who shot five members of Congress in 1954 "assassins." The radicals were members of a violent Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de LiberaciĆ³n Nacional). The PRLDF said the mayor's comments "lacked sensitivity." Reuben Franco, President of the PRLDF said: "[Mayor Dinkins] doesn't recognize that to many
people in Puerto Rico, these are fighters for freedom and justice..."

· In 1988, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund engaged in a battle with the New York City Police Department over its "racist" promotion exam, ultimately presiding over a radical redesign to allow more minorities to achieve a passing grade. According to The New York Times: "The new test, a four-part exam prepared with the help of an expert designated by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund... involved changes in format, including the addition of open-book questions and a video portion."

· In 1981, the PRLDEF filed a complaint against Elizabeth, New Jersey Mayor Thomas Dunn following a City Hall directive requiring staff to speak English while on the job. In 1990, the organization also opposed a law to require merchants to post an English sign in the storefront explaining the nature of business.

· In a March 1981 memo to the directors of the PRLDEF, Sotomayor and two colleagues argued
against the death penalty because it is, "associated with evident racism in our society" and because it "creates inhuman psychological burdens for the offender." The memo, which Sotomayor initially failed to turn over to the Senate Judiciary Committee, argued that the PRLDEF should oppose the restoration of the death penalty in New York State.

· In 1981, the PRLDEF applauded a decision by a federal judge forced teachers at an Ann Arbor
Michigan elementary school to undergo "consciousness raising" about a dialect spoken by young black children called "Black English." The training program cost taxpayers $44,000.

During her 12-year tenure, according to one former staff lawyer, "Sonia [Sotomayor] displayed an increasing amount of leadership on the board." The New York Times, meanwhile, characterized Sotomayor as the "top policy maker" on the PRLDEF Board of Directors, who "was an involved and ardent supporter of [the PRLDEF's] various legal efforts during her time with the group."

"In Judge Sotomayor, Obama offers the personal embodiment of his liberal judicial activist philosophy that places 'empathy' above the rule of law. Judge Sotomayor's leadership positions with the PRLDEF suggest she is more than willing to advance a liberal, race-based agenda through the court system. And for this Judge Sotomayor owes an explanation to the American people," stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ethics Violation Filed Against Commissioner Robert Horgan

6/15/09 Two Fayette County residents have filed a Code of Ethics complaint with the Board of Commissioners against Commissioner Robert Horgan. Additionally and independently, Fayette Citizens for Open Government has issued a press release stating they will initiate a recall petition if Horgan has not resigned prior to July 15th. (Click here to read release)

Horgan was arrested for possession of marijuana and cited for driving a vehicle with an expired tag on May 23. When pulled over he first denied having anything illegal in his truck, then gave permission for a search in which a pill bottle was discovered under his car seat containing marijuana (under one ounce). Horgan admitted to smoking marijuana while driving. After being arrested Horgan asked one of the Deputies "Is there anything that we could do to resolve this right here, right now?". (Click here to read arrest report)

David Cree and Patrick Hinchey filed the Ethics complaint earlier today. In the official complaint they focus on three areas: 1) Horgan violated Georgia State Law by being in possession of an unlawful substance, he used an unlawful substance and he lied to the Sheriff's Deputy; 2) he solicited treatment that would "place his personal interests ahead of the public's right to know" and 3) he breached the public trust by 'conducting himself in a manner that was unbecoming to an official of the County".

After receiving the complaint the County should appoint a county attorney from outside Fayette County to investigate the facts. If he / she deems that there are violations of the ethics ordinance he / she will recommend that the County Commission pursue it further. The Commission would then appoint three attorney's in the region to hear the case and determine appropriate punishment, if any. The hearing would be public. At most the Board of Commissioners may give a written reprimand or public censure and impose a fine not to exceed $1,000. Click here to read the Code of Ethics.

Ethics Complaint filed by Patrick Hinchey and David Cree:

Clerk of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners
140 Stonewall Avenue, Suite 100
Fayetteville, GA 30214
To: Carol Chandler:

We Patrick J. Hinchey and David W. Cree, residents of Fayette County, GA, do hereby submit a complaint that Fayette County Commissioner Robert E. Horgan did knowingly violate the Fayette County Code of Ethics.

Complaint 1. In that Robert E. Horgan did, on or about May 23, 2009, in Fayette County, GA, violate Article VIII, Section 2-209 (1) of the Code:

Specification 1: In that Robert E. Horgan did possess an unlawful substance, to wit: less than one ounce of marijuana, in violation of Georgia state law.
Specification 2: In that Robert E. Horgan did use an unlawful substance, to wit: smoke marijuana while operating a motor vehicle, in violation of Georgia State law.
Specification 3: In that Robert Horgan lied to Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Storm’s question if there was anthing illegal inside his (Horgan’s) vehicle, Horgan replied that there was not.

Complaint 2: In that Robert E. Horgan, on or about May 23, 2009, in Fayette County, GA, solicit treatment that would place his personal interests ahead of the public’s right to know, to wit: ask Fayette County Sheriff’s Deputies J. Davidson and Justin Storm “Is there anything that we could do to resolve this right here, right now?” or words to that effect. This is a violation of Article VIII, Section 2-209 (6).

Complaint 3: In that Robert E. Horgan did, on or about May 23, 2009, in Fayette County, GA, breach the public trust by conducting himself in a manner that was unbecoming to an official of the County, to wit: possess an unlawful substance, use an unlawful substance while operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, lie to a law enforcement officer, and solicit special treatment that would place his personal situation ahead of the public’s right to know. This is a violation of Article VIII, Section 2-209 (8).

Patrick J. Hinchey David Cree


Fayette County Sheriff’s Department “Fayette County Supplemental Report, case number 0904859

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LNC Chairman statement in response to President Obama's AMA address

Libertarian National Committee Chairman William Redpath issued the following statement Tuesday in response to President Obama's address to the American Medical Association:

"There is no question our health care system is broken and in need of serious reform. Americans deserve health care that is affordable, effective and universally available. However, President Obama’s $1 trillion government takeover of hospitals and doctor’s offices is not the answer.

The Obama plan makes health care more expensive, less effective and less accessible through rationing and bureaucratic inefficiency. The fact is government-run health care systems are more expensive and less effective than systems run by doctors and health care professionals.

When President Obama told the story of Laura Klitzka, a Wisconsin mother suffering from breast cancer, he conveniently neglected to tell the audience that in nations with a government-run health care system much like the one he proposes, breast cancer is deadlier than in the United States.

According to health care policy expert Dr. John Goodman, among women diagnosed with breast cancer, like Laura, only one in five die in the United States. That death rate escalates to one in three in France and Germany and nearly half in the Britain and New Zealand. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2004 the deaths from cancer in the United States were 157.8 per 100,000 people. In Canada the rate was 169.0 and in the United Kingdom it was 175.6. Allowing more women to die from breast cancer is hardly the kind of reform we need in the United States.

The main causes of those increased deaths are the long waiting lists for treatment, the decreased amount of time a doctor can spend with the patient and the shortages of advanced medical equipment that are a hallmark of rationing – the method by which government-run systems attempt to cut skyrocketing costs.

The White House brushed on that topic in an April 19 appearance on “Meet The Press” in which economic advisor Lawrence Summers promised a government-run health care would cut costs by simply denying treatments and procedures to patients until the government decided it was acceptable.

President Obama once again touched on the promise of rationed health care in yesterday’s speech, blaming the rising costs of medical care not on government interference, but on the claim that Americans get too many medical tests and procedures.

For too many breast cancer patients in nations like Britain and France, the Obama model of government control and rationing has already a deadly failure. Doctors, not politicians and government accountants, should decide what tests a patient needs.

We need health care reform and we need it now. But the Obama plan – a federal government takeover – isn’t reform. It’s simply a plan to take the worst aspects of our current problems, namely the high costs and increasingly limited access, and magnify them. The Obama plan for a federal takeover of the health care system cuts costs, not through innovation or improved care, but by rationing access, putting the sick and suffering on waiting lists and denying Americans the medical care they need.

Libertarians have a better idea. Cut the costs of prescription drugs, insurance and technology by removing barriers put up by health care lobbyists in the form of protectionist laws and unneeded FDA regulations intended to price out the competition and block competing drugs and technologies from the market.

It is no coincidence that America’s health care system, once the best in the world, has become more unaffordable and ineffective as government has seeped further and further into it. The only way to make health care affordable, effective and universally available as the many other services we enjoy in the United States is to defeat the Obama plan for a government takeover and restore a competitive and efficient health care system."

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Libertarians say “cancel stimulus spending”

America’s third largest party Wednesday called on Congress to terminate the remainder of stimulus spending citing new polling data showing plurality of Americans now believe what Libertarians have said since January – Obama’s stimulus package is too big, too expensive and doesn’t help the economy.

“Despite a Jan. 10 White House report that the Obama spending explosion would keep unemployment under eight percent, it instead grew to 9.4 percent,” said William Redpath, Libertarian National Committee Chairman, citing both a January White House report selling the "stimulus" package, and new Labor Department statistics released last week placing unemployment at a 26-year-high, with 14.5 million workers now jobless.

“It’s no surprise that 45 percent of Americans now agree with the Libertarian Party. They know Big Government cannot create wealth and they want the stimulus spending canceled,” said Redpath.

The independent, non-partisan polling firm of Rasmussen Reports released data Wednesday morning showing 45 percent of Americans say the rest of the new government spending authorized in the $787-billion economic stimulus plan should now be canceled.

Thirty-six percent (36%) disagreed and 20 percent were not sure. Fifty-five percent (55%) want the tax cuts preserved, a position they share with the Libertarian Party. Thirty-nine percent (39%) say the increased spending will be good for the economy, but 44% say it will be bad.

“The best way to create the jobs Americans need is to cut taxes for families and employers, cut or eliminate taxes on savings and investments and begin to repeal the twisted jungle of federal regulations that employers had to spend $1.17 trillion to comply with in 2008,” said Redpath.

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Top 10 Facts About House Democrats' Health Care "Reform" Legislation

House Democrats have begun rolling out their long-awaited health care “reform” legislation, and it turns out there’s not much “reform” to it after all. Instead, it would increase taxes, raise health care costs, ration care, and leave key medical decisions to government bureaucrats, rather than patients and their doctors – a proposal that House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) warned in an op-ed published on Townhall.com could cause more than 100 million Americans to “be forced out of their current health care plan and onto the government rolls.” With a debate on health care reform slated to begin in Congress, here are the top 10 facts about the House Democrats’ health care proposal:

1. A Government Takeover of Health Care. The House Democrats’ plan will create a new government-run program, will make health care more expensive, limit treatments and ration care, and put bureaucrats in charge of medical decisions rather than patients and doctors. Translation: higher costs, lower quality, and fewer choices for patients.

2. Forcing More than 100 Million Out of their Health Care. The House Democrats’ plan will force more than 100 million Americans out of their current health care plan and onto the government rolls. A Lewin Group study confirms that under a new government-run health plan millions will lose their current health care coverage.

3. Rationing Health Care Treatments. The House Democrats’ plan establishes an “advisory committee” that will put bureaucrats and politicians in charge of deciding patient treatments and cures. Translation: The government will make health care treatment decisions rather than doctors and patients.

4. A New Mandate on Individuals. The House Democrats’ plan mandates that every American buy health insurance or pay a hefty tax to Washington. This would force more Americans into government-run system that will make health care more expensive, ration care, and put bureaucrats in charge of medical decisions.

5. A New Mandate on Employers. The House Democrats’ plan would impose employer mandates and cost jobs by requiring some employers – especially small businesses – to pay a new tax to Washington. The plan would also slap employers that are unable to offer coverage the government deems adequate with another new tax to Washington. These two new taxes will make it more difficult than ever for small business owners to reinvest in their businesses and create and retain good paying jobs.

6. Harming Small Businesses. The House Democrats’ plan doesn’t yet define “small businesses,” which is troubling news for millions of Americans who depend on these engines of economic growth. One Democratic draft plan revealed to date only provides assistance to ease employer mandates for small businesses with an average of 27 or fewer employees. This leaves a huge number of small businesses to deal with the onerous and expensive mandates of the Democrats’ government defined health benefit plan (“small businesses” are traditionally defined as employing less than 500 people).

7. Expanding Entitlements. The House Democrats’ plan expands the Medicare and Medicaid programs without reform, ignoring the pending insolvency of programs that millions of seniors and families rely upon. These policies will result in benefit cuts and premium increases for many Americans who depend on these programs.

8. Unfunded Mandates on States. The House Democrats’ plan creates new unfunded mandates for already cash-strapped states by expanding Medicaid, forcing both the federal government and states to pay more to finance this entitlement expansion. This will leave states no choice but to raise taxes or reduce services for citizens of those states.

9. How Many Taxes Will Democrats Raise? The House Democrats’ plan expands benefits and includes massive new subsidies and government-dictated benefits, but it doesn’t identify any significant savings to help pay for the new scheme, nor does it acknowledge the massive new costs it will impose on individuals, employers, and states. In the past, Democrats promised a series of new tax hikes to pay for their plan. How many will there be? When do Democrats plan to reveal them?

10. Shifts Massive New Costs onto Taxpayers. The House Democrats’ plan represents a bait-and-switch that will make health care more expensive and hit the middle class particularly hard with higher taxes, rationed care, and new health costs. As millions of middle-class families are struggling to make ends meet while making responsible choices, this plan forces those that make responsible decisions to foot the bill for those who don’t.

House Republicans believe there is a better way, and led by Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and his Health Care Reform Solutions Group, they are crafting better solutions to expand access to affordable, quality care regardless of pre-existing conditions; protect Americans from being forced into a government-run plan, making certain that medical decisions are made by patients and their doctors, not Washington bureaucrats; and let Americans who like their health care coverage keep it, while giving all Americans the freedom to choose the plan that best meets their needs. Will Democrats finally agree to work with Republicans on a plan to expand access to high-quality, affordable health care without raising taxes and rationing care? Or will they barrel ahead with their government-run plan? Middle-class families and small businesses are awaiting the answer.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Isakson Co-Sponsors Legislation to Require Treasury to Distribute Stock in GM and Chrysler to Taxpayers

Also Prohibits Treasury from Spending More TARP Funds to Bailout Automakers

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today announced that he is co-sponsoring legislation to require the Treasury Department to distribute to individual taxpayers all its stock in General Motors (GM) and Chrysler within one year following the companies’ emergence from bankruptcy proceedings.

“I believe it was obvious back in December 2008 that a structured bankruptcy was the correct path for GM and Chrysler to restructure their debt and contracts. By giving these companies taxpayer funds from TARP, the administration only delayed the inevitable, but worse created a situation where the government became a part owner of private business,” Isakson said. “This common-sense legislation I am co-sponsoring would get the government out of the American auto business and put this stock back in the hands of the American people.”

The Auto Stock for Every Taxpayer Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., would require Treasury to distribute its common stock holdings in both companies evenly to every American who paid taxes on April 15.

The legislation also would prohibit the Treasury from using any more TARP funds to bailout GM or Chrysler and would require that the Secretary of the Treasury and his designee have a fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayer to maximize the return on that investment as long as the government holds stock in the companies.
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Insurance Leader Praises Senator Kennedy for Promoting Long-Term Care Aid for All Americans as Part of Health Reform

/PRNewswire/ -- The traditionally conservative insurance industry can come to terms with a Democratic Congress on health reform, according to one insurance leader, Denise Gott, who today heaped praise on Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) for his crusading efforts. "He sees more clearly than anyone the need to reform not only acute health care, but long-term care, which affects the quality of life and pocketbooks of virtually every American family," she says. Gott is Chairman of the Board of LTC Financial Partners LLC (LTCFP) -- http://www.ltcfp.com/ -- one of the nation's largest and most experienced long-term care insurance agencies.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which Kennedy chairs, is now working on a comprehensive health bill, the "The American Health Choices Act," that is expected to include key provisions covering long-term care. "I agree with the major thrust, that we need a program embracing the long-term care needs of all Americans," Gott says, "but have concerns on two points." They are --

1. The "public option" which would create a government-run program insuring people in competition with private carriers.

GOTT'S CONCERNS: "Instead of competing with insurance companies, unfairly I believe, I'd rather have the government offer new tax incentives to make long-term care policies more affordable." She points to recently-introduced bills, H.R. 2096 and S. 702, that would allow LTC insurance to be included in employer-sponsored cafeteria plans and flexible spending accounts, enabling people to pay their LTC premiums using pre-tax dollars. "These bills, with bipartisan sponsorship, show the way to go," she says.

"However, if Kennedy and Congress are determined to offer a public option for long term care, competing with the private plans, there's a way it could work. Instead of automatically enrolling everyone in the public LTC option, the government would have people make one of the following choices: the public option, or a private plan (which they could choose from any state-certified carrier), or the public option plus a supplemental private plan." The benefit amount of the public option is expected to be $50 to $100 a day depending on the degree of disability. "This isn't enough to cover all one's care needs. A minimal private plan pays $200 a day."

2. New "insurance exchanges" where people would shop for a policy from multiple carriers.

GOTT'S CONCERNS: "This might be a good idea but could turn bad if the government itself designs and runs it. As an analogy, imagine -- before the days of YouTube -- Washington creating a video-sharing service. How good would it be with bureaucratic coders and no competition to assure constant improvement?" Gott might approve, however, of a plan that offers guidelines and incentives for entrepreneurs to create insurance-selection exchanges.

"There are many complexities that government employees aren't likely to take into account," she says. "Selecting the right long-term care policy is much more important and complex than buying a car. And who would buy their car just by going to a website? Also, a government exchange would probably send people directly to insurance carriers, as the online prescription-drug system did. This would be like sending people to auto manufacturers for their cars, when auto agencies, with their hand-holding and value-added services, are the right destination." In Gott's view, a proper exchange for long-term care insurance would send people to independent agents who know which carriers are soundest, and can advise on the right policy features at the lowest cost.

"With the online system for choosing a prescription-drug plan, people went crazy with all the complexity," Gott says. "They'd really tear their hair out with a long-term care choice system. An informed, unbiased advisor is absolutely essential."

When rectified with another plan being crafted by the Senate Finance Committee, Kennedy's plan could gain momentum. But will it find enough bipartisan support to pass? "With the right adjustments, I think so," says Gott. "With the tweaks I suggest, I believe it would be much more acceptable to Republicans and conservative Democrats."

On the central point she agrees 100% with Senator Kennedy: "We desperately need reform, for long-term care as well as acute health care. About 46 million Americans lack regular health insurance, but many times that number lack long-term care insurance. Only about 9 million have it out of a population of more than 300 million; and among those at greatest risk, 45 and older, more than 90% go uncovered."

Gott encourages concerned citizens to make their views known to their representatives in Congress. Legislators' phone numbers and fill-in forms may be found at -- http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml. "Women in particular should speak up," Gott says. "They're at risk even when they themselves stay well and fit. Typically they're the ones forced into unpaid care giving when a family member suddenly develops a care need."

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Statement of Governor Sonny Perdue Regarding U.S. Supreme Court Photo ID Ruling

Governor Sonny Perdue issued the following statement today regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of the Plaintiffs’ petition for a writ of certiorari in Common Cause v. Georgia, which concludes the federal lawsuit:

“The Supreme Court’s decision today is a victory for ensuring fair elections. It properly defers to Georgia’s policy makers, and it recognizes that the Voter ID Act we passed in 2006 does not impede the right to vote. By rejecting the Plaintiffs’ appeal, the highest court in the United States rejected a key argument still being argued in a state court lawsuit filed against Georgia’s elected officials by the Democratic Party of Georgia. I am optimistic that the state courts will agree with the Supreme Court and protect the integrity of the voting process.”

Libertarians condemn Obama’s still-skyrocketing unemployment numbers

With unemployment exploding to 9.4 percent in May instead of decreasing as Obama promised with passage of his “stimulus” package, America’s third-largest party urges Congress to instead consider tax and regulatory relief to give the nation “the jobs Americans need.”

“There is no doubt our economy will recover. Americans have always overcome adversity with our tenacity, creativity and optimism,” said Donny Ferguson, Libertarian National Committee Communications Director. “But as unemployment continues to rise when it should be falling by now, it begs the question of how long will recovery be delayed by Obama’s Big Government agenda?”

“The Libertarian Party seems to be the only party promoting a smart program of tax and regulatory relief aimed at freeing up capital,” said Ferguson. “History shows it’s the most effective way to give those 14.5 million unemployed the jobs Americans need.”

“Sadly, Obama instead chose to exploit this tragic situation to advance his personal agenda of bigger, more expensive government – which has unemployment now skyrocketing to its highest levels in a quarter-century,” said Ferguson. “Because of Obama, our economic recovery has been seriously stunted and delayed.”

Figures released Friday by the Labor Department show unemployment rose to 9.4 percent in May from 8.9 percent in April as the number of unemployed persons increased by 787,000 to 14.5 million. Unemployment is highest among blacks (14.9 percent) and Hispanics (12.7 percent.) The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 268,000 over the month to 3.9 million according to the Labor Department.

“Unfortunately, it looks like the Libertarian Party was proven right when we said back in January that Obama’s explosive growth of government and out-of-control spending would delay our economic recovery. We should be further along in our recovery, but Republican and Democrat spending and bailouts are delaying that,” said Ferguson.

“History has proven time and time again that decreasing the size of government, cutting taxes and freeing up people to create jobs and business are the best way to stimulate growth,” said Ferguson. “Libertarian urge Congress and the White House to take these real, proven measures, instead of exploiting people’s misfortune to inflate the size of government.”

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama's Speech in Cairo

Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I'm grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And I'm also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu alaykum. (Applause.)

We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world -- tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles -- principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there's been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today -- to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I'm a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam -- at places like Al-Azhar -- that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities -- (applause) -- it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.)

I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they've excelled in our sports arenas, they've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers -- Thomas Jefferson -- kept in his personal library. (Applause.)

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words -- within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum -- "Out of many, one."

Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores -- and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. (Applause.)

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it. (Applause.)

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations -- to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.) That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes -- and, yes, religions -- subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared. (Applause.)

Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: We must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security -- because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I'm aware that there's still some who would question or even justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military -- we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

And that's why we're partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths -- but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as -- it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism -- it is an important part of promoting peace.

Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been displaced. That's why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. (Applause.) Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future -- and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people -- (applause) -- I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. And that's why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. (Applause.) We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. (Applause.)

So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.)

For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It's easy to point fingers -- for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. (Applause.)

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. (Applause.) The obligations -- the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them -- and all of us -- to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel's legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra -- (applause) -- as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It's about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)

I know -- I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments -- provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it's being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld -- whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. (Applause.) And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit -- for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

In fact, faith should bring us together. And that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That's why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action -- whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue -- the sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights. (Applause.) I know –- I know -- and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now, let me be clear: Issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we've seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity -- men and women -- to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. And that is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams. (Applause.)

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations -- including America -- this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities -- those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century -- (applause) -- and in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I'm emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We'll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I'm announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek -- a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

I know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort -- that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There's so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country -- you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort -- a sustained effort -- to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) This truth transcends nations and peoples -- a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us: "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Applause.)

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)