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Please begin with an informative title:

Hi, all. Today's report features:

• West Wing Week: A video look at the past week.

• Afghanistan-Pakistan Review: The President reports on progress toward disrupting and dismantling Al-Qaeda.

• Press briefing: Statements and Q&A with Secretaries Clinton and Gates, General James Cartwright and the Press Secretary.

• State Department: Secretary Clinton on State's part in the review.

• White House Tribal Nations Conference: The President discusses achievements and future plans in the opening session.

• DREAM Act: USDA Secretary: Rural communities need DREAM Act.

• Labor Department: Secretary Solis's message to the International Museum of Women; DOL reports on international child labor and forced labor.

• DOE: Reports on tribal energy, vehicle R&D, delivery of first Leafs and Volts.

• 'Twas a Night in December: Holiday greetings from servicemembers and families stationed around the world.

Intro

You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

• WEST WING WEEK •
White House, Dec. 16, 2010:

West Wing Week: 12/17/10 or "All These Pens"

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Walk step by step with the President as he signs a landmark childhood nutrition bill, urges passage of the compromise on tax cuts and unemployment insurance, discusses the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review, and more.


• AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN REVIEW •

White House, Dec. 16, 2010:

President Obama on Afghanistan-Pakistan Review

The President says that we have made significant progress towards the goal of disrupting and dismantling Al-Qaeda in a statement to the press after participating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review. December 16, 2010.

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 16, 2010:

Statement by the President on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  When I announced our new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan last December, I directed my national security team to regularly assess our efforts and to review our progress after one year.  That’s what we’ve done consistently over the course of the past 12 months —- in weekly updates from the field, in monthly meetings with my national security team, and in my frequent consultations with our Afghan, Pakistani and coalition partners.  And that’s what we’ve done as part of our annual review, which is now complete...

It’s important to remember why we remain in Afghanistan.  It was Afghanistan where al Qaeda plotted the 9/11 attacks that murdered 3,000 innocent people.  It is the tribal regions along the Afghan-Pakistan border from which terrorists have launched more attacks against our homeland and our allies.  And if an even wider insurgency were to engulf Afghanistan, that would give al Qaeda even more space to plan these attacks.  

And that’s why, from the start, I’ve been very clear about our core goal.  It’s not to defeat every last threat to the security of Afghanistan, because, ultimately, it is Afghans who must secure their country.  And it’s not nation-building, because it is Afghans who must build their nation.  Rather, we are focused on disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and preventing its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.  

In pursuit of our core goal we are seeing significant progress.  Today, al Qaeda’s senior leadership in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan is under more pressure than at any point since they fled Afghanistan nine years ago.  Senior leaders have been killed.  It’s harder for them to recruit; it’s harder for them to travel; it’s harder for them to train; it’s harder for them to plot and launch attacks.  In short, al Qaeda is hunkered down.  It will take time to ultimately defeat al Qaeda, and it remains a ruthless and resilient enemy bent on attacking our country.  But make no mistake -- we are going to remain relentless in disrupting and dismantling that terrorist organization.  

In Afghanistan, we remain focused on the three areas of our strategy:  our military effort to break the Taliban’s momentum and train Afghan forces so they can take the lead; our civilian effort to promote effective governance and development; and regional cooperation, especially with Pakistan, because our strategy has to succeed on both sides of the border.  

Indeed, for the first time in years, we’ve put in place the strategy and the resources that our efforts in Afghanistan demand.  And because we’ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, and brought home nearly 100,000 of our troops from Iraq, we’re in a better position to give our forces in Afghanistan the support and equipment they need to achieve their missions.  And our drawdown in Iraq also means that today there are tens of thousands fewer Americans deployed in harm’s way than when I took office.  

With those additional forces in Afghanistan, we are making considerable gains toward our military objectives.  The additional military and civilian personnel that I ordered in Afghanistan are now in place, along with additional forces from our coalition, which has grown to 49 nations.  Along with our Afghan partners, we’ve gone on the offensive, targeting the Taliban and its leaders and pushing them out of their strongholds.  

As I said when I visited our troops in Afghanistan earlier this month, progress comes slowly and at a very high price in the lives of our men and women in uniform.  In many places, the gains we’ve made are still fragile and reversible.  But there is no question we are clearing more areas from Taliban control and more Afghans are reclaiming their communities.

To ensure Afghans can take responsibility, we continue to focus on training.  Targets for the growth of Afghan security forces are being met.  And because of the contributions of additional trainers from our coalition partners, I’m confident we will continue to meet our goals.  

I would add that much of this progress —- the speed with which our troops deployed this year, the increase in recruits -- in recruiting and training of Afghan forces, and the additional troops and trainers from other nations —- much of this is the result of us having sent a clear signal that we will begin the transition of responsibility to Afghans and start reducing American forces next July.  

This sense of urgency also helped galvanize the coalition around the goals that we agreed to at the recent NATO summit in Lisbon —- that we are moving toward a new phase in Afghanistan, a transition to full Afghan lead for security that will begin early next year and will conclude in 2014, even as NATO maintains a long-term commitment to training and advising Afghan forces.  Now, our review confirms, however, that for these security gains to be sustained over time, there is an urgent need for political and economic progress in Afghanistan.    

Over the past year, we’ve dramatically increased our civilian presence, with more diplomats and development experts working alongside our troops, risking their lives and partnering with Afghans.  Going forward, there must be a continued focus on the delivery of basic services, as well as transparency and accountability.  We will also fully support an Afghan political process that includes reconciliation with those Taliban who break ties with al Qaeda, renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution.  And we will forge a new strategic partnership with Afghanistan next year, so that we make it clear that the United States is committed to the long-term security and development of the Afghan people.

Finally, we will continue to focus on our relationship with Pakistan.  Increasingly, the Pakistani government recognizes that terrorist networks in its border regions are a threat to all our countries, especially Pakistan.  We’ve welcomed major Pakistani offensives in the tribal regions.  We will continue to help strengthen Pakistanis’ capacity to root out terrorists.  Nevertheless, progress has not come fast enough.  So we will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with.  

At the same time, we need to support the economic and political development that is critical to Pakistan’s future.  As part of our strategic dialogue with Pakistan, we will work to deepen trust and cooperation.  We’ll speed up our investment in civilian institutions and projects that improve the lives of Pakistanis.  We’ll intensify our efforts to encourage closer cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And, next year, I look forward to an exchange of visits, including my visit to Pakistan, because the United States is committed to an enduring partnership that helps deliver improved security, development, and justice for the Pakistani people.

Again, none of these challenges that I’ve outlined will be easy.  There are more difficult days ahead.  But as a nation, we can draw strength from the service of our fellow Americans.

On my recent visit to Afghanistan, I visited a medical unit and pinned Purple Hearts on some of our wounded warriors.  I met with a platoon that had just lost six of their teammates.  Despite the tough fight, despite all their sacrifice, they continue to stand up for our security and for our values that we hold so dear.

We’re going to have to continue to stand up.  We’ll continue to give our brave troops and civilians the strategy and resources they need to succeed.  We will never waver from our goal of disrupting, dismantling, and ultimately defeating al Qaeda.  We will forge enduring partnerships with people who are committed to progress and to peace.  And we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure the security and the safety of the American people.

So, with that, Vice President Biden and myself will depart, and I’m going to turn it over to Secretaries Clinton, Gates, as well as Vice Chairman Cartwright, and they will be able to answer your questions and give you a more detailed briefing.  

Thank you very much.

• PRESS BRIEFING •

White House, Dec. 16, 2010:

Press Briefing on Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman General James Cartwright hold a press briefing after participating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review with the President at the White House. December 16, 2010.

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 16, 2010:

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates and General Cartwright

SECRETARY CLINTON:  ....  This administration, I think it’s fair to remind us all, inherited an extraordinarily difficult situation.  There was no coherent strategy to unify America’s efforts in the region.  There was no clearly defined mission.  And our people, both our military and our civilian forces, lacked the resources they needed to get any progress accomplished.

Today we have a very different story to tell.  President Obama announced a strategy a year ago that defined a clear mission and committed the resources needed to accomplish it.  Today’s review shows that while we face serious challenges, as the President has just outlined, key parts of our strategy are indeed working well.

In Pakistan, we have moved beyond a purely transactional relationship dominated by military cooperation.  We now have broad engagement on both the civilian and military sides.  

Through the strategic dialogue that we established last year, Pakistan and the United States have begun a long-term commitment to work together not just on security but on energy, agriculture, education, health and other areas that directly affect the daily lives of the Pakistani people.

There have been, there will continue to be obstacles and setbacks, but our conclusion is that our partnership is slowly but steadily improving.  We have greater cooperation and understanding, and that is yielding tangible results on the ground.  

In Afghanistan, our surge is not simply military.  We have expanded our presence from 320 civilians less than two years ago to 1,100 today.  Accomplishing our mission requires close cooperation between our civilians, our troops and our international and Afghan partners.  We have worked together to arrest the momentum of the Taliban.

Civilians have been particularly instrumental in the progress we’ve seen in Helmand and Kandahar, and they will be critical in helping us consolidate the gains we’ve made in the last year as we move toward a transition to Afghan responsibility.

Our strategy also recognizes that rebuilding Afghanistan is a global commitment.  The ISAF coalition continues to grow.  Today it stands at 49 countries.  NATO and our partners, including the many OIC, the Organization of Islamic Countries, that have recently joined the International Contact Group, know that helping the Afghan people and standing up against violent extremism is essential for the region and the world.

This alignment of our international effort was on full display at the NATO summit in Lisbon last month where the coalition committed to a long-term partnership with Afghanistan while laying out a plan for the Afghan government to take responsibility for its own security.  The transition will begin in 2011 and conclude in 2014.

Now, of course we are clear-eyed about the way ahead.  The review emphasized the need for a political process in Afghanistan, including reconciliation and expanded regional and international diplomacy.  It needs to complement the continued military presence and to leverage the consensus that we reached in Lisbon.  

In Pakistan, it will be important to keep making progress in eliminating sanctuaries for extremists, and we must continue to close the gap between Kabul and Islamabad.

Now, we know we won’t accomplish the goals that the President has set forth today, tomorrow or next month, but we are committed and believe we are progressing in our core goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda in the region, and becoming strong partners with both countries for the long term.  

We will not -- in fact, we dare not -- repeat history.  We will continue to support the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan as they work to build their future -- one that is secure, prosperous and free, and does not pose a threat to the people of the United States.

SECRETARY GATES: .... I just returned a week ago from another trip to Afghanistan where I saw firsthand our efforts across the country, and met with troops and commanders on the ground.  I saw personally how international and Afghan forces have halted Taliban momentum throughout the country and are reversing it in their traditional strongholds of Kandahar and Helmand.  

The sense of progress among those closest to the fight is palpable.  In my last visit last week with troops at a forward operating base near Kandahar, I met with our brave young men and women and their Afghan army partners, who have taken new territory, cleared it, secured it and held it; and who are now in the process of linking their newly established zone of security with those in Helmand province.

As we expected and warned, U.S. coalition and Afghan forces are suffering more casualties as we push into these areas long controlled by the Taliban.  Fighting in the east, where I saw how our troops are focused on disrupting Taliban insurgents and preventing them from gaining access to population centers, has also picked up.

But as a result of the tough fight underway, the Taliban control far less territory today than they did a year ago.  The bottom line is that the military progress made in just the past three to four months since the last of the additional 30,000 U.S. troops arrived has exceeded my expectations.

Central to these efforts has been the growth of the Afghan security forces in both size and capability.  And they are ahead of schedule.  More than 65,000 new recruits have joined the fight this year, and virtually all of them are now rifle qualified, as opposed to only a third of them in November of 2009.

Afghan troops are already responsible for security in Kabul, and are increasingly taking the lead in Kandahar, where they make up more than 60 percent of the fighting forces.  They are performing well in partnership with coalition troops and will continue to improve with the right training, equipment and support.

The growth of local security initiatives is helping communities protect themselves against the Taliban, while denying insurgents sanctuary and freedom of movement.  At the same time, Pakistan has committed over 140,000 troops to operations in extremist safe havens along the border in coordination with Afghan and coalition forces on the Afghan side.  

Though we believe the Pakistanis can and must do more to shut down the flow of insurgents across the border, it is important to remember that these kinds of military operations in the tribal areas would have been considered unthinkable just two years ago.  And the Pakistani military has simultaneously been contending with the historic flooding that has devastated much of the country....

(Q&A follows.)

Q: .... when and for how long will those -- will the bulk of the troops be there?

SECRETARY GATES: ....  But just as the Afghans are already in control of security in the Kabul area and, as I mentioned, are taking the lead in the Kandahar area, this is really the path out for everybody.  As the Afghans -- the whole idea in the military strategy is to halt the momentum of the Taliban, reverse it, degrade their capabilities and deny them control of major population centers.  At the same time, you build the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces to take on a degraded Taliban.

In terms of when the troops come out, the President has made clear it’ll be conditions-based.  In terms of what that line looks like beyond July 2011, I think the answer is we don’t know at this point.  But the hope is that as we progress, that those drawdowns will be able to accelerate....

So this is going to be a process that goes on and we’ll be evaluating it on a continuing basis.

Q: Can you win this if militants continue to have free passage into Pakistan...?

SECRETARY GATES:  Well, first of all, they don’t have a free pass at this point.... In terms of people coming across, one of the areas of progress has been not only the 140,000 Pakistani troops working some of these safe havens in Swat and South Waziristan and elsewhere, but it is the fact that there is increasing cooperation on both sides of the border in coordinating their military operations....  

Q: (On earmarks in the omnibus legislation.)

SECRETARY GATES:  ....  But what I have to look at is the alternative to the omnibus... a year-long continuing resolution, as far as I’m concerned, for the Department of Defense is the worst of all possible worlds.  The omnibus is not great, but it beats a year-long continuing resolution.

MR. GIBBS: And, Jim, I would just add to this.  The President would strongly prefer a piece of legislation that doesn’t contain any of those earmarks....

Q: ....  Secretary Clinton....  how can the Obama administration continue to wage this war with so little public support? ....

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Well, first, Jake, I think it’s important to remember, as the President reminded us once again, why we’re fighting this war....

But it is our assessment, backed up by 49 other nations that are also committing their troops, their civilians, their taxpayer dollars, that this is critical to our national security.

Obviously, if we had concluded otherwise, we would have made different decisions.  But having inherited what we did, and having spent an intensive period of time in 2009 reviewing every possible approach and, frankly, listening to quite contrasting points of view about the way forward, the President and we agreed that this was a commitment that we had to not only continue, but we had to adopt a new strategy, we had to resource it more, and we had to pursue it.  And the diagnostic review that we have just undertaken, that we’ve described to you, has concluded that we are making gains on that strategy....  

....  But the question I would ask is, how do you feel about a continuing American commitment that is aimed at protecting you and your family now and into the future?....

SECRETARY GATES:  First of all, let me just add to Secretary Clinton’s response to you that I think if you look at polling in almost all of our 49 coalition partners’ countries, public opinion is in doubt.  Public opinion would be majority -- in terms of majority, against their participation.  I would just say that it’s obviously the responsibility of leaders to pay attention to public opinion, but at the end of the day their responsibility is to look out for the public interest and to look to the long term....  

SECRETARY CLINTON: ....  If you had -- when we came into this administration, we had very little in the way of an understanding with Pakistan that the extremists who threatened us were allied with extremists who threatened them, and that in effect they were creating a syndicate of terrorism.  And in fact, when we came into office, the Pakistanis had agreed to an ill-conceived peace agreement with the Pakistani Taliban that was consistently and persistently expanding their territorial reach.  And we pointed out firmly that this was not a strategy that would work for them, and in fact we had very strong objections to it because it would provide greater and greater territory for al Qaeda and their allies to operate in.

So what happened?  The Pakistanis took an entirely different approach.  They moved, what, 140,000 troops off the Indian border.  They waged an ongoing conflict against their enemies who happen also to be the allies of our enemies.  They began to recognize what we see as a mortal threat to Pakistan’s long-term sovereignty and authority.  That was not something that was predicted two years ago that they would do....

(On START.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: On START, we were encouraged by the vote yesterday to proceed to START.  We have good reason to believe that there is a growing willingness on the Republican side to look at the merits of this treaty, to understand what it means to not only American security but the continuing effort to create the relationship with Russia that has brought us a lot of benefits in the last two years, including agreements for transiting Russia to resupply our troops....

GENERAL CARTWRIGHT: .... on START, for me, all of the Joint Chiefs are very much behind this treaty, because of the transparency, because of the reality that both the United States and Russia are going to have to recapitalize their nuclear arsenals, both the delivery vehicles and the weapons.  To have transparency, to understand the rules by which to put structure to that activity, we need START and we need it badly.

I think the last piece of that that oftentimes gets overlooked when you’re thinking about START is that this is a relationship between our countries.  And in the context that Secretary Clinton just put forward, much more than just the nuclear is relying on this treaty.  This is no prohibitions to our ability to move forward in missile defense, which gives us a much better deterrent when combined with the offensive side as we move to the future.  A single mutual assured destruction approach to deterrence is just not relevant as we move into the 21st century.  We need this treaty in order to move in that direction....

Q: Do you think you’d be getting your defense budget if this were a Republican administration?

SECRETARY GATES: I think that they would be wrapped around the axle on a lot of the same issues they’re tied up with now....

(On terrorism.)

Q: .... And I’m wondering if any of you can comment on how serious the threat picture is heading into this Christmas season?....

MR. GIBBS:  Merry Christmas, right.  (Laughter.)  Look, obviously -- and this is true in the counterterrorism meetings that the President has and the President’s daily briefing, obviously we’re not going to get into commenting on the specific intelligence.  We know that al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates want to, and seek to do, harm and damage in Europe and in the United States.  We have good relationships with those governments and information sharing.  And we’re taking all the steps that are necessary to ensure that we’re doing all that we can.  As we did earlier this year with AQAP’s attempt in using the computer printers, obviously we will continue to remain vigilant on this topic.

Q: ....  if the goals are being achieved... will that dictate the direction after July of 2011, the pace of withdrawal, and the strategy ahead?

SECRETARY CLINTON: .... This is, by necessity, an overview.  Certainly from our perspective, the what you call counterterrorism successes are part of the overall effort and cannot be separated out.  That was one of the very vigorous discussions that we had in the review of ‘09.  And I think General Cartwright and Secretary Gates can add to this, but it’s hard to separate out what is necessary on the ground in order to support counterterrorism efforts and to say that you can do one without the other.  So I would caution that conclusion because I think it’s much more complex than just the shorthand overview.

GENERAL CARTWRIGHT:  I think also that you have to look at that integrated strategy.  It is a balance, and that balance is something that the commander on the ground is constantly adjusting.  And we have seen increases in our focus on counterterrorism -- at times, when maneuver forces, our forces that came from sanctuary, came in, whether they be Taliban or al Qaeda -- to be able to get at them, to stop them, to thwart them, to reduce their ability to plan....  

SECRETARY GATES:  Well, first of all, I would say that the Pakistanis have indicated their willingness to move into other areas in addition to South Waziristan and Swat.  But as I mentioned in my opening remarks and as Secretary Clinton referred to, it’s hard to overstate the impact of the flooding in Pakistan and the role of -- and the degree to which the military -- military assets were drawn off the border to be able to deal with the flooding....

I would say, though, that this underscores the importance of the broader strategic dialogue between ourselves and the Pakistanis.  I think that they are coming to have a better understanding of the threat that is posed to them by this syndicate of terrorists that’s not just the Pakistani Taliban that’s a problem for them.  And I think that the degree of cooperation and bilateral cooperation on both sides of the border is a manifestation.

This is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time.  We’re now doing it.  We’ve wanted the Pakistanis to be on that border for a long time.  Eighteen months ago I would have thought the idea of 140,000 troops on that border was an impossibility....

(On DADT.)

Q: (On the President’s and Senator Reid’s efforts on DADT repeal.)

MR. GIBBS: ....   Let’s be clear, we would not be at this point if it wasn’t for the President’s leadership in bringing this issue to the forefront.  You mentioned, I believe, we have the votes.  You will also notice -- and you brought START up -- yesterday there was going to be -- there was -- Senator DeMint had an effort to read a treaty and its attachments that had been available to the public for eight months.  I would -- there’s time to do this if there are those on the other side of the aisle that wish to get this done.  And it is clear that whether it’s Senator Brown or Senator Murkowski or Senator Snowe or others, there’s an effort to get this done if we have time to do it....

• STATE DEPARTMENT BRIEFING •

Department of State, Dec. 16, 2010:

Secretary Clinton Gives a Special Briefing on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joins U.S. Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Frank Ruggerio and USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Alex Their to brief the press on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., December 16, 2010.


• WHITE HOUSE TRIBAL NATIONS CONFERENCE •

White House, Dec. 16, 2010:

White House Tribal Nations Conference: Opening Session

President Obama speaks to leaders of American Indian and Alaska Native communities in the opening session of the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, DC. December 16, 2010.

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 16, 2010

Remarks by the President at the White House Tribal Nations Conference

THE PRESIDENT:  .... Our strategy begins with the number one concern for all Americans right now -- and that’s improving the economy and creating jobs.  We’ve heard time and again from tribal leaders that one of the keys to unlocking economic growth on reservations is investments in roads and high-speed rail and high-speed Internet and the infrastructure that will better connect your communities to the broader economy.  That’s essential for drawing capital and creating jobs on tribal lands.  So to help spur the economy, we’ve boosted investment in roads throughout the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Reservation Road Program, and we’ve offered new loans to reach reservations with broadband.

And as part of our plan to revive the economy, we’ve also put billions of dollars into pressing needs like renovating schools.  We’re devoting resources to job training -- especially for young people in Indian Country who too often have felt like they don’t have a chance to succeed.  And we’re working with you to increase the size of tribal homelands in order to help you develop your economies.

I also want to note that I support legislation to make clear -- in the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision -- that the Secretary of Interior can take land into trust for all federally recognized tribes.  (Applause.)  That’s something that I discussed yesterday with tribal leaders.

We’re also breaking down bureaucratic barriers that have prevented tribal nations from developing clean energy like wind and solar power.  It’s essential not just to your prosperity, but to the prosperity of our whole country.  And I’ve proposed increasing lending to tribal businesses by supporting community financial institutions so they can finance more loans.  It is essential in order to help businesses expand and hire in areas where it can be hard to find credit.

Another important part of our strategy is health care.  We know that Native Americans die of illnesses like diabetes, pneumonia, flu -- even tuberculosis -- at far higher rates than the rest of the population.  Make no mistake:  These disparities represent an ongoing tragedy.  They’re cutting lives short, causing untold pain and hardship for Native American families.  And closing these gaps is not just a question of policy, it’s a question of our values -- it’s a test of who we are as a nation.

(Last year)... I signed health reform legislation into law, which permanently authorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act -- permanently.  (Applause.)  It’s going to make it possible for Indian tribes and tribal organizations to purchase health care for their employees, while making affordable coverage available to everybody, including those who use the Indian Health Service -- that’s most American Indians and native -- Alaska Natives.  So it’s going to make a huge difference.

Of course, there are few steps we can take that will make more of a difference for the future of your communities than improving education on tribal lands....  Your communities can’t afford it, and our country can’t afford it.  And we are going to start doing something about it.  (Applause.)  

We’re rebuilding schools on tribal lands....

We’re also working to improve the programs available to students at tribal colleges.... And these schools are not only helping to educate Native Americans; they’re also helping to preserve rich but often endangered languages and traditions.  I’d also like to point out last year I signed historic reforms that are increasing student aid and making college loans more affordable.... (Applause.)

Now, all these efforts -- improving health care, education, the economy -- ultimately these efforts will not succeed unless all of our communities are safe places to grow up and attend school and open businesses and where people are not living under the constant threat of violence and crime.  And that threat remains real, as crime rates in Indian Country are anywhere from twice to 20 times the national average.  That’s a sobering statistics -- represents a cloud over the future of your communities.

So the Justice Department, under the leadership of Eric Holder, is working with you to reform the way justice is done on Indian reservations.  And I was proud to sign the Tribal Law and Order Act into law, which is going to help tribes combat drug and alcohol abuse, to have more access to criminal databases, and to gain greater authority to prosecute and punish criminals in Indian Country.  That’s important.  (Applause.)

We’ve also resolved a number of longstanding disputes about the ways that our government has treated -- or in some cases mistreated -- folks in Indian Country, even in recent years.  We’ve settled cases where there were allegations of discrimination against Native American farmers and ranchers by the Department of Agriculture.  And after a 14-year battle over the accounting of tribal resources in the Cobell case, we reached a bipartisan agreement, which was part of a law I signed just a week ago.  We’re very proud of that and I want to thank all the legislators who helped make that happen.  (Applause.)....

And as you know, in April, we announced that we were reviewing our position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  And today I can announce that the United States is lending its support to this declaration.  (Applause.) ....

.... The truth is, for a long time, Native Americans were implicitly told that they had a choice to make.  By virtue of the longstanding failure to tackle wrenching problems in Indian Country, it seemed as though you had to either abandon your heritage or accept a lesser lot in life; that there was no way to be a successful part of America and a proud Native American.

But we know this is a false choice.... It’s a matter of upholding an ideal that has always defined who we are as Americans.  E pluribus unum.  Out of many, one.

That’s why we’re here.  That’s what we’re called to do.  And I’m confident that if we keep up our efforts, that if we continue to work together, that we will live up to the simple motto and we will achieve a brighter future for the First Americans and for all Americans.

So thank you very much.  God bless you.  Thank you. (Applause.)

• DREAM ACT •

White House Blog, Dec. 16, 2010:

Ed. Note: This is the sixth in a series of posts from top Administration Officials on the importance of the DREAM Act.  Read Education Secretary Arne Duncan's post here, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis's contribution here, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's post here, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's here, and the post from Dr. Clifford L. Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, here.

The DREAM Act for Our Rural Communities and Our Nation

Posted by Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture

From 2000 to 2006, while I was Governor of Iowa, approximately 60 percent of the total population increase in the state was directly attributable to immigrants.  Our economy thrived.  The new population contributed to local economies, paid taxes, became valued and productive members of their communities and helped lead an economic revitalization in the state.

To continue this progress, I established ‘welcome centers’ to help newly arrived families get settled, work with local schools and civic institutions, and offer workforce development programs and English language courses.  And we selected three ‘model cities’ and gave them resources to be more receptive to immigrants.  

I am proud of this work, and I think we can do more to encourage and recognize the positive impact that legal immigrants have on communities.  But today our nation is failing a different group of immigrants who should have an opportunity to make a difference too.

These are the children of undocumented immigrants who did not choose to come here – but who were raised in our communities and educated in our schools.  These young people should help make up the next generation of leaders – our future doctors, teachers, and scientists – but their legal status prevents them from going to college, or getting a good job.

To reap the benefits they will offer our nation – and give them the fair shake they deserve – Congress should pass the DREAM Act, which allows the best and the brightest young people to earn their legal status after a rigorous process.  Only children who arrived before they were 16, get a high school degree, and complete two years of college or join the military will qualify for the DREAM Act.  The U.S. House of Representatives approved the measure last week in a bipartisan vote that included the support of eight Republicans.  Now all eyes are on the Senate.

Our rural communities have a particular stake in this legislation.  Far too many are losing population.  And many of the best minds in their high school classes choose to pursue opportunities away from home.

Think of the message we can send to the children of immigrant farm workers – for example – by inviting them to be active and productive citizens in the rural communities where they grew up.  They might become future partners of USDA and make the transition from farm workers to farm owners who help feed this nation.  The values they learned in rural America – the importance of hard work and of giving back – may lead them to be a teacher, an entrepreneur, or serve our nation in the military.

We must act now.  Rural America and the nation should not have to wait any longer.  We should not punish children and young adults for decisions their parents made – our values and our best interests tell us otherwise.

The Obama administration will continue to fight for a comprehensive immigration solution that includes AgJobs and a stable workforce for our farms.  But in the meantime, the DREAM Act embodies many of those same values – by giving folks the opportunity they deserve to work hard, strengthen our economy, and contribute to our great nation.

• LABOR DEPARTMENT •

International Museum of Women, Dec. 13, 2010:

A Message from Hilda Solis

A message of support from Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who discusses the DOL’s Women’s Bureau, which “develops policies and standards and conducts inquiries to safeguard the interests of working women; (advocates) for their equality and economic security for themselves and their families; and (promotes) quality work environments,” and International Affairs Bureau, whose mission is to “improve working conditions, raise living standards, protect workers’ ability to exercise their rights, and address the workplace exploitation of children and other vulnerable populations. “

Department of Labor, Dec. 15, 2010:

Department of Labor Issues Reports on International Child Labor and Forced Labor

DOL today released three reports on child labor and/or forced labor in foreign countries. Included in the release is the newly redesigned, ninth annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, a report mandated by the Trade and Development Act of 2000 that provides information on the efforts of certain U.S. trade beneficiary countries to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. This year's report highlights the major findings related to each government's efforts and includes country-specific suggestions for government action to combat these problems.

DOL also released ILAB's update to its List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor, which is mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (TVPRA List). The update adds 6 new goods and 12 new countries for a total of 128 goods from 70 countries that ILAB has reason to believe are produced by forced labor, child labor or both, in violation of international standards. Finally, DOL released ILAB's proposed revision to the current List of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor pursuant to Executive Order 13126 of 1999. The revision removes one product from the list and adds another, for a total of 29 products from 21 countries. These proposed changes will be available for public comment beginning December 16th.

Read the news release

[Read the Secretary's remarkshttp://www.dol.gov/... ]

View the full reports:

The Department of Labor's 2009 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor under the Trade and Development Act

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor

Executive Order 13126 Initial Determination

Read the Frequently Asked Questions:

ILAB Reports on International Child Labor and Forced Labor

The Trade and Development Act

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005

Executive Order 13126

View the Reports Diagram

Read about DOL’s efforts to enforce child labor laws in the United States

• ENERGY DEPARTMENT •

Department of Energy, Dec. 16, 2010:

Strengthening Our Commitment to Tribal Energy

Posted by John Schueler, New Media Specialist with the Office of Public Affairs

Today the White House is hosting a Tribal Nations Conference, which will provide leaders from the 565 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with the President and representatives from the highest levels of his Administration. As part of this gathering, the Department of Energy will announce the establishment of an Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs in order to more effectively engage tribal governments in our national energy priorities and promote tribal energy development.

Led by Tracey A. LeBeau, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, this new office will complement the valuable work that is already being done by the Department’s Tribal Energy Program, which invests in projects to improve energy efficiency and develop geothermal, solar, bio-mass and wind energy on tribal lands.

Department of Energy, December 16, 2010:
Secretary Chu Announces up to $184 Million Available for Advanced Vehicle Research and Development

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced today the Department is accepting applications for up to $184 million over three to five years to accelerate the development and deployment of new efficient vehicle technologies that will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, save drivers money, and limit carbon pollution.  Projects will span the broad spectrum of technology approaches, including advanced materials, combustion research, hybrid electric systems, fleet efficiency, and fuels technology.

"These awards will help ensure America leads the world in the development of advanced vehicle technologies that support cost-competitive, convenient, and comfortable fuel-efficient vehicles," said Secretary Chu.   "Investments in the next generation of vehicle technologies are laying the groundwork for a sustainable transportation sector in America that strengthens our economy and improves our economic competitiveness."
The Funding Opportunity Announcement addresses the development of key technologies required to achieve large scale adoption of advanced vehicles such as plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs).  Although the first of a new generation of electric drive vehicles is now entering the market, advancements in batteries, power electronics and lightweight materials are required to be fully competitive.  In addition, extremely efficient vehicles utilizing improved combustion technologies, fuels, and waste heat recovery offer significant near-term improvements to conventional vehicles.  

The Department is seeking applications from industry, laboratory and university teams to address our transportation challenges. The solicitation seeks to fill gaps in the existing program through the development of enabling technologies that will remove barriers and create new paradigms in vehicle design.

The Funding Opportunity Announcement released today focuses on eight approaches to improving vehicle efficiency:

• Advanced fuels and lubricants:  Improve today's vehicle fuels and lubricants to enable optimal performance of advanced combustion engines.

• Light weighting materials:  Accelerate commercial availability of lighter weight vehicles using advanced materials like magnesium and carbon fiber to dramatically reduce vehicle weight.

• Multi-material light weight material prototype:  Design, build, and test a light-weight vehicle that is 50 percent lighter than a baseline light-duty vehicle.

• Advanced cells and design technology for electric drive batteries: Develop high energy or high power electric vehicles that significantly exceed existing state-of-the-art technologies in terms of performance and/or cost.

• Advanced power electronics and electric motor technology: Develop the next generation of power inverters and electric motors to meet demanding performance targets while achieving significant reductions in cost.

• Thermoelectric and enabling engine technology:  Improve the efficiency of thermoelectric devices to convert engine waste heat to electricity.  Develop early-stage enabling engine technologies to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

• Fleet efficiency: Develop and demonstrate fuel efficient tire and driver feedback technologies that will positively affect efficiency of the fleet of passenger cars and commercial vehicles.

•Advanced vehicle testing and evaluation: Conduct laboratory and field evaluations of advanced technology vehicles and related infrastructure, while developing new or modified test procedures.

Applications for the solicitation are due February 28, 2011. Applications must be submitted through Grants.gov to be considered for awards.  The Department of Energy expects to announce the selections by summer 2011.

Read more information on the Vehicle Technologies Program website.

Vehicle Technologies Program, Dec. 15, 2010:
First Leaf Delivered, First Volts Shipped to U.S. Customers as EVs Advance

Nissan made the world's first delivery of its new electric vehicle (EV), the Leaf, to a San Francisco Bay area resident on December 11. Olivier Chalouhi, the first person in the United States to place a Leaf order, received his car at a Petaluma dealership. Other primary launch markets for the new vehicle, designed to travel 100 miles on an average battery charge, include Southern California, Arizona, Oregon, Seattle, and Tennessee. Nissan said it is aiming to roll out EVs to Hawaii and Texas next in early 2011. The Leaf is among the highest-profile cars in the expected wave of alternative vehicles, including hybrids and EVs.

General Motors' Chevy Volt hybrid is also expected to be in showrooms this month. GM said on December 13 that the first Volts left the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant for initial retail launch markets. Customers in California, New York, Texas, and Washington D.C., could receive their vehicles in a matter of few days, part of 350 vehicles to be shipped this week. The Volt runs for the first 35 miles on a single battery charge, then can go another estimated 340 miles on gas.

Nissan USA, Dec. 13, 2010:

Second Nissan LEAF delivery in San Diego

A Southern California family receives their new electric car.


• 'TWAS A NIGHT IN DECEMBER •

Department of Defense, Dec. 15, 2010:

'Twas a Night in December

Servicemembers stationed from Antarctica to Afghanistan lent their talents and time to craft, "'Twas a Night in December," based on the popular holiday story but rewritten with a military twist. More than 40 commands around the world, representing every branch of the military service, participated. Along with the military people who contributed to this creative effort, country music star Toby Keith introduced the video, reinforcing his long-term support for military and their families stationed around the world.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Kat 4 Obama on Fri Dec 17, 2010 at 07:50 AM PST.

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