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Hi, all.  Today's report features:

• Tax cuts and unemployment extension: The President on agreement with Congress to extend tax cuts for all Americans and unemployment benefits; fact sheet.

• "Sputnik Moment": The President: Education is key to stimulating economy, creating new jobs.

• Trilateral meeting: U.S., Japan, South Korea: Statement of solidarity against North Korean provocation.

• Tuesday Talks: Meet online December 7th at 2:20 p.m. EST with Chief Technology Officer  Chopra and others.

• Treasury update: Treasury.gov is overhauled and improved.

• Health insurance latest: Connecticut’s insurance commissioner rejects proposed premium increases in a process supported by the Affordable Care Act.

• Helping children and victims of domestic violence: The White House urges reauthorization of  the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

• Interior news: Celebrating ANWR's 50th anniversary; DOI's investment in solar energy.

• Kennedy Center Honors: The President speaks at a reception for 2010 honorees.

• TAX CUTS AND UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION •  

White House, Dec. 6, 2010:

President Obama on Tax Cuts and Unemployment Extension

The President makes a statement to the press after reaching an agreement with Congress to extend tax cuts for all Americans while also extending unemployment benefits to help those looking for work.

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 6, 2010:

Statement by the President on Tax Cuts and Unemployment Benefits

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Sorry to keep you waiting.

For the past few weeks there’s been a lot of talk around Washington about taxes and there’s been a lot of political positioning between the two parties.  But around kitchen tables, Americans are asking just one question:  Are we going to allow their taxes to go up on January 1st, or will we meet our responsibilities to resolve our differences and do what’s necessary to speed up the recovery and get people back to work?

Now, there’s no doubt that the differences between the parties are real and they are profound.  Ever since I started running for this office I've said that we should only extend the tax cuts for the middle class.  These are the Americans who’ve taken the biggest hit not only from this recession but from nearly a decade of costs that have gone up while their paychecks have not.  It would be a grave injustice to let taxes increase for these Americans right now.  And it would deal a serious blow to our economic recovery.

Now, Republicans have a different view.  They believe that we should also make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.  I completely disagree with this.  A permanent extension of these tax cuts would cost us $700 billion at a time when we need to start focusing on bringing down our deficit.  And economists from all across the political spectrum agree that giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires does very little to actually grow our economy.

This is where the debate has stood for the last couple of weeks.  And what is abundantly clear to everyone in this town is that Republicans will block a permanent tax cut for the middle class unless they also get a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, regardless of the cost or impact on the deficit.

We saw that in two different votes in the Senate that were taken this weekend.  And without a willingness to give on both sides, there’s no reason to believe that this stalemate won't continue well into next year.  This would be a chilling prospect for the American people whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st because of arrangements that were made back in 2001 and 2003 under the Bush tax cuts.

I am not willing to let that happen.  I know there’s some people in my own party and in the other party who would rather prolong this battle, even if we can't reach a compromise.  But I'm not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington.  And I'm not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we're pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.

I'm not willing to see 2 million Americans who stand to lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month be put in a situation where they might lose their home or their car or suffer some additional economic catastrophe.

So, sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do.  The American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories.  They would much rather have the comfort of knowing that when they open their first paycheck on January of 2011, it won’t be smaller than it was before, all because Washington decided they preferred to have a fight and failed to act.

Make no mistake:  Allowing taxes to go up on all Americans would have raised taxes by $3,000 for a typical American family. And that could cost our economy well over a million jobs.

At the same time, I’m not about to add $700 billion to our deficit by allowing a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.  And I won’t allow any extension of these tax cuts for the wealthy, even a temporary one, without also extending unemployment insurance for Americans who’ve lost their jobs or additional tax cuts for working families and small businesses -- because if Republicans truly believe we shouldn’t raise taxes on anyone while our economy is still recovering from the recession, then surely we shouldn’t cut taxes for wealthy people while letting them rise on parents and students and small businesses.

As a result, we have arrived at a framework for a bipartisan agreement.  For the next two years, every American family will keep their tax cuts -- not just the Bush tax cuts, but those that have been put in place over the last couple of years that are helping parents and students and other folks manage their bills.

In exchange for a temporary extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, we will be able to protect key tax cuts for working families -- the Earned Income Tax Credit that helps families climb out of poverty; the Child Tax Credit that makes sure families don’t see their taxes jump up to $1,000 for every child; and the American Opportunity Tax Credit that ensures over 8 million students and their families don’t suddenly see the cost of college shooting up.

These are the tax cuts for some of the folks who’ve been hit hardest by this recession, and it would be simply unacceptable if their taxes went up while everybody else’s stayed the same.

Now, under this agreement, unemployment insurance will also be extended for another 13 months, which will be welcome relief for 2 million Americans who are facing the prospect of having this lifeline yanked away from them right in the middle of the holiday season.

This agreement would also mean a 2 percent employee payroll tax cut for workers next year -- a tax cut that economists across the political spectrum agree is one of the most powerful things we can do to create jobs and boost economic growth.

And we will prevent -- we will provide incentives for businesses to invest and create jobs by allowing them to completely write off their investments next year.  This is something identified back in September as a way to help American businesses create jobs.  And thanks to this compromise, it’s finally going to get done.

In exchange, the Republicans have asked for more generous treatment of the estate tax than I think is wise or warranted.  But we have insisted that that will be temporary.

I have no doubt that everyone will find something in this compromise that they don’t like.  In fact, there are things in here that I don’t like -- namely the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the wealthiest estates.  But these tax cuts will expire in two years.  And I’m confident that as we make tough choices about bringing our deficit down, as I engage in a conversation with the American people about the hard choices we’re going to have to make to secure our future and our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future, it will become apparent that we cannot afford to extend those tax cuts any longer.

As for now, I believe this bipartisan plan is the right thing to do.  It’s the right thing to do for jobs.  It’s the right thing to do for the middle class.  It is the right thing to do for business.  And it’s the right thing to do for our economy. It offers us an opportunity that we need to seize.

It’s not perfect, but this compromise is an essential step on the road to recovery.  It will stop middle-class taxes from going up.  It will spur our private sector to create millions of new jobs, and add momentum that our economy badly needs.

Building on that momentum is what I’m focused on.  It’s what members of Congress should be focused on.  And I'm looking forward to working with members of both parties in the coming days to see to it that we get this done before everyone leaves town for the holiday season.  We cannot allow this moment to pass.

And let me just end with this.  There’s been a lot of debate in Washington about how this would ultimately get resolved.  I just want everybody to remember over the course of the coming days, both Democrats and Republicans, that these are not abstract fights for the families that are impacted.  Two million people will lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month if we don't get this resolved.  Millions more of Americans will see their taxes go up at a time when they can least afford it.  And my singular focus over the next year is going to be on how do we continue the momentum of the recovery, how do we make sure that we grow this economy and we create more jobs.  

We cannot play politics at a time when the American people are looking for us to solve problems.  And so I look forward to engaging the House and the Senate, members of both parties, as well as the media, in this debate.  But I am confident that this needs to get done, and I'm confident ultimately Congress is going to do the right thing.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 7, 2010:

Fact Sheet on the Framework Agreement on Middle Class Tax Cuts and Unemployment Insurance

The framework agreement announced by the President secures vital tax relief and investments in our workers that will create jobs and accelerate economic growth. The plan has three key accomplishments:

• Working families will not lose their tax cut. A typical working family faced a tax increase of over $3,000 on January 1st. That’s avoided under this framework agreement, and working families won’t see their tax cuts go away next year.

• Focused on high impact job creation measures. The framework agreement includes some of the best measures for jumpstarting growth and job creation, including a full year of emergency unemployment insurance benefits, an about $120 billion payroll tax cut for working families and a continuation of tax credits for working families. This is on top of growth generated by extension of the middle-class income tax rates.

• Does not worsen the medium- and long-term deficit.  These are responsible, temporary measures to support our economy that will not add costs by the middle of the decade. The President does not believe it is affordable to make the high-income tax cuts permanent and will continue to have that debate in the years ahead.

Overview of the Framework Agreement:

• Extending the 2001/2003 Income-Tax Rates for Two Years. The framework agreement includes a mutually agreed upon solution to the impasse over taxes by extending the 2001/2003 income tax rates for two years and reforming the AMT to ensure that an additional 21 million households will not be hit with a tax increase. These measures will provide relief to more than 100 million middle-class families and prevent a tax increase of over $2,000 for the typical family.

• Additional Provisions Designed to Promote Vigorous Economic Growth. In addition to the 2001/2003 rates, the Administration secured several provisions that are vital for our economy’s growth, which would not have been possible without this framework agreement: $56 billion in unemployment insurance, an about $120 billion payroll tax cut for working families, about $40 billion in tax cuts for our hardest hit families and students; and 100% expensing for businesses next year.

1. GROWTH-ORIENTED PAYROLL TAX CUT FOR WORKERS:

The framework agreement reached by the administration includes an about 2%, employee-side payroll tax cut for over 155 million workers – providing tax relief of about $120 billion next year. This tax cut will have a major impact on jobs and growth – creating substantial numbers of jobs. It is widely recognized by economists across the political spectrum as a high bang for the buck way to boost growth and was cited by both major deficit reduction commissions as consistent with long term fiscal discipline.

A payroll tax cut has been endorsed by experts and commentators from across the political spectrum. Just last month, both the President’s Fiscal Commission and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force described a payroll tax cut in 2011 as an effective way to spur growth and job creation. The tax cut legislation would provide for a transfer of General Revenues to the Social Security Trust Fund, ensuring no negative impact on Social Security solvency. And, as economist Nouriel Roubini wrote earlier this year, a payroll tax cut would spur growth because "for employees, the increased take-home pay would boost much-needed economic consumption and advance the still-crucial process of deleveraging households."

2. HIGH IMPACT, JOB CREATING TAX CUTS FOR WORKING FAMILIES

Economic studies consistently find that lower-income households are the most likely to spend additional money, creating jobs and helping overall growth. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office, for instance, has concluded that "policies aimed at lower-income households tend to have greater stimulative effects." The President fought to secure a two-year increase of the full Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. These provisions will, together, provide ongoing tax cuts to 12 million lower income families, with a total of 24 million children. In addition, the deal fully extends the American Opportunity Tax Credit for two years.

Lower-Income Working Families Benefited by Expansions in EITC and CTC

(Chart summarized: Of the 12.2 million lower-income working families with 24.3 million children benefited by expansions in EITC and CTC, 5.6 million families are White, with 9.8 children; 3.7 million are Hispanic, with 8.0 million children; 2.2 million are African American, with 4.7 million children, and .7 million are Other, with 1.7 million children.)

Illustrative Family: A working family with three children making $20,000 will continue to receive a tax cut of more than $2,000 as a result of the EITC and Child Tax Credit expansions in this framework agreement. The same family would receive an additional $400 tax cut from the new payroll tax cut.

•Child Tax Credit: The $1,000 child tax credit will be extended for two years with the $3,000 refundability threshold established in the Recovery Act. This extension will ensure an ongoing tax cut to 10.5 million lower income families with 18 million children.

• Earned Income Tax Credit: The Recovery Act included an expansion of the EITC worth, on average, $600 in additional assistance to families with 3 or more children. It also helped working married families by reducing the marriage penalty in the EITC. Continuing this tax cut  for two years will benefit 6.5 million working parents with 15 million children.

• American Opportunity Tax Credit: The Recovery Act included a new, partially refundable tax credit of up to $2,500 to help students and their families cover the cost of college tuition. This deal fully extends AOTC for two years, ensuring that more than 8 million students will continue to receive this tax benefit to help them afford college.

3. UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE:

The framework agreement extended unemployment benefits at their current level for 13 months, through the end of 2011. This will save millions of Americans searching for work from losing their unemployment benefits in the coming months and will help create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

• In December alone, 2 million workers who would have lost benefits will continue to receive them because of this framework agreement. Over the next year, 7 million workers will no longer need to worry that their unemployment benefits could be eliminated as they search for jobs.

• According to the Council of Economic Advisers, passing this provision will create 600,000 jobs in 2011 alone.

4. BUSINESS TAX CUTS TO INCREASE INVESTMENT AND GROWTH:

In September, the President called for temporarily allowing businesses to expense all of their investments in 2011. This growth-oriented tax cut was included in the framework agreement.

• According to the Treasury Department, complete expensing could generate more than $50 billion in additional investment in the U.S. in 2011.

• The provision will provide a crucial incentive to 2 million businesses to invest and create jobs in the U.S and would be the largest temporary investment incentive in American history.

• The framework agreement also includes a 2-year extension of the R&D tax credit and other tax incentives to support business expansion.

• "SPUTNIK MOMENT" •

White House Blog, Dec. 6, 2010:

President Obama in North Carolina: "Our Generation’s Sputnik Moment is Now"

Posted by Jesse Lee

As America fights to recover from the economic catastrophe that began almost three years ago, it’s important to remember that America had already been falling behind, and that as we rebuild, we have to rebuild even better than we were before.  The President talked about his vision and his specific proposals at the Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina this afternoon:

"In 1957, just before this college opened, the Soviet Union beat us into space by launching a satellite known as Sputnik.  And that was a wake-up call that caused the United States to boost our investment in innovation and education -– particularly in math and science....

So 50 years later, our generation’s Sputnik moment is back. This is our moment....

We need to do what America has always been known for:  building, innovating, educating, making things...."

The President chose Forsyth because it’s one of those spots around the country that exemplify not just how America came to lead the world during the 20th Century, but how it can regain that status unambiguously.  As the President pointed out, "In a generation we have fallen from 1st place to 9th place in the proportion of young people with college degrees" – Forsyth is not just getting people degrees, but getting them educated to excel in 21st Century industries....

He put forth an entire agenda of economic proposals that can help our recovery now, build a competitive foundation for the future, and which have traditionally seen bipartisan support.  In addition to preventing the middle class tax hike that would otherwise happen at the end of this year, as well as extending unemployment insurance, the President discussed making college more affordable and supporting community colleges like Forsyth, and his Race to the Top program to reward successful K-12 schools. He discussed making America a more attractive place to invest by making the tax code simpler and more friendly, including his proposal to allow all American businesses to write their investment in 2011 and his proposal for a "bigger, permanent tax credit for companies for all the research and innovation they do here in America."  And he talked about rebuilding America’s infrastructure, not just our roads and airports but high speed rail and high speed internet so we can keep up with other countries growing by leaps and bounds....

Background on Forsyth Tech Community College:

The biotechnology program at Forsyth Tech takes recent high school graduates, dislocated workers, returning students and others and prepares them for careers in biotechnology.  The program started with five students in 2002 and the first graduates of the program completed the curriculum in May 2004.  There is now an estimate of more than 300 students who have enrolled in the program at one particular time....

Backgrounder on the economic climate in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

White House, Dec. 6, 2010:

Education, Innovation & The Economy

President Obama talks about the role innovation and education can play in stimulating the economy and creating new jobs and calls on Congress to extend tax cuts for middle-class Americans as well as unemployment insurance during a visit to Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, NC.

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 6, 2010:

Remarks by the President on the Economy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

THE PRESIDENT:  

.... Some of you know I traveled through Asia several weeks ago. You’ve got a billion people in India who are suddenly plugged into the world economy.  You’ve got over a billion people in China who are suddenly plugged into the global economy.  And that means competition is going to be much more fierce and the winners of this competition will be the countries that have the most educated workers, a serious commitment to research and technology, and access to quality infrastructure like roads and airports and high-speed rail and high-speed Internet.  Those are the seeds of economic growth in the 21st century.  Where they are planted, the most jobs and businesses will take root....    

When global firms were asked a few years back where they planned on building new research and development facilities, nearly 80 percent said either China or India -- because those countries are focused on math and science, and they’re focused on training and educating their workforce....

We need to do what America has always been known for:  building, innovating, educating, making things....

So I came to Forsyth today because you’ve shown what this future can look like....

As a national leader in bioscience and innovation, North Carolina is now the country’s third largest employer in biotechnology.  (Applause.)  And when Caterpillar recently decided to build a plant in this community, they told President Green one of the main reasons was "...they were convinced that Forsyth Tech had the capability of providing them with the technical workforce that they need."  (Applause.) ....

To invest in the basic research and development that helped jumpstart North Carolina’s biotech industry; to invest in new buildings and laboratories and research facilities that make your work possible -- these are the kinds of investments we need to keep making in communities across America -– investments that will grow our economy and help us to stay competitive in the 21st century.

Now, I want to emphasize I say this knowing full well we face a very difficult fiscal situation.  I’m looking at the books back in Washington, and folks weren’t doing a real good job with their math for the last decade.  (Applause.)  So now that the threat of a depression has passed, and a recovery is beginning to take hold, reducing our long-term deficit has to be a priority.  And in the long run, we won’t be able to compete with countries like China if we keep borrowing from countries like China.  (Applause.)  ....

So we’ve already started making some tough decisions.  And they’re unpopular and people get mad, but we’ve got to make some decisions....

But here’s where there's going to be a debate in Washington over the next year and over the next couple of years and maybe over the next five years, because I will argue and insist that we cannot cut back on those investments that have the biggest impact on our economic growth because -- (applause.)

I was talking with (Forsyth Technical Community College) President Green, and he said much of the equipment here would not be here if it hadn’t been for the assistance of the Recovery Act, the assistance of the Department of Labor.  (Applause.)  All this stuff that we’ve done over the last couple of years that people were questioning, you can see it translated in the classrooms right here.  The work that we’re doing on student loans and Pell Grants, you can see it in the students who are able to finance their retraining right here.  (Applause.)

So we can’t stop making those investments.  The best antidote to a growing deficit, by the way, is a growing economy. To borrow an analogy, cutting the deficit by cutting investments in areas like education, areas like innovation -- that's like trying to reduce the weight of an overloaded aircraft by removing its engine.  It’s not a good idea.  (Applause.)  There may be some things you need to get rid of, but you got to keep the engine.  (Laughter.)....

So to get there, we’re making college more affordable for millions of students.  We’ve made an unprecedented investment in community colleges just like this one.  And just like Forsyth, we’ve launched a nationwide initiative to connect graduates that need a job with businesses that need their skills.

We’re reforming K-12 education –- not from the top down, but from the bottom up....  We call it Race to the Top....

And to boost our recovery, I’ve already proposed that all American businesses should be allowed to write off all the investments they do in 2011.  We want to jumpstart, starting next year, plants and equipment investment right here in Winston-Salem and all across North Carolina, and all across the United States of America.  (Applause.)

To encourage homegrown American innovation we should make it easier to patent a new idea or a new invention.  And if you want to know one reason why more companies are choosing to do their research and development in places like China and India, it’s because the United States now ranks 24th out of 38 countries in the generosity of the tax incentives we provide for research and development.  So that’s why I’ve proposed a bigger, permanent tax credit for companies for all the research and innovation they do right here in America.  All of it.  (Applause.)

Now, what’s also true is a lot of companies don’t invest in basic research because it doesn’t pay off right away.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not essential to our economic future....

That’s why I’ve set a goal of investing a full 3 percent -- not 2 percent, not 2.5 percent -- a full 3 percent of our Gross Domestic Product into research and development....

I also want to make it easier for our businesses and workers to sell their products all over the world.... And that’s why I’m pleased that last week, we came closer to meeting that goal by finalizing a trade agreement with our ally, South Korea.  This is a nation that offers one of the fastest-growing markets for American goods.

Think about -- there are a lot of Hyundais on the road.  (Laughter.)  But there aren’t a lot of Fords in Seoul, because the formula has been:  Let’s sign any trade agreement, let’s cut any deal, without thinking ahead about how this is going to impact America.  What this deal does is boost our annual exports to South Korea by $11 billion.  That means it will support at least 70,000 American jobs -- 70,000 American jobs.  (Applause.)

Now, the final area where greater investment will lead to more jobs and economic growth is in America’s infrastructure -– our roads, our railways, our runways, our information superhighways.  Over the last two years, our investment in infrastructure projects -- yes, through the Recovery Act -- have led to thousands of good private sector jobs and improved infrastructure here in North Carolina and all across the country.

But we’ve got a long way to go.  There is no reason that over 90 percent of the homes in South Korea have broadband Internet access, and only 65 percent of American households do.  Think about that.  There’s no reason why China should have nearly 10,000 miles of high-speed rail by 2020, and America has 400.  Think about that number.  They’ve got 10,000; we’ve got 400.  They’ve got trains that operate at speeds of over 200 mph -- and I don't know how fast our trains are going.  (Laughter.)....

And throughout history, the investments I’ve talked about –- in education and innovation and infrastructure -– have historically commanded the support from both Democrats and Republicans.  It was Abraham Lincoln who launched the Transcontinental Railroad and opened the National Academy of Sciences.  He did it in the middle of a war, by the way.  But he knew this was so important we had to make these investments for future generations.  Dwight Eisenhower helped build our highways. Republican members of Congress worked with FDR to pass the G.I. Bill....

So those of us who work in Washington have a choice to make in the coming weeks and months.  We can focus on what’s necessary for each party to win the news cycle or the next election.  We can do what we’ve been doing.  Or we can do what this moment demands, and focus on what’s necessary for America to win the future....

• TRILATERAL MEETING: U.S., JAPAN, REPUBLIC OF KOREA •

VOA, Dec. 6, 2010:

US, South Korea, Japan Want Conciliatory Steps from Pyongyang Before New Talks

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara on Monday called for conciliatory steps by North Korea before six-party talks with Pyongyang can resume. The three diplomats met in Washington in the wake of North Korea's shelling attack on a South Korean island last month. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Department of State, Dec. 6, 2010:

Remarks with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Good afternoon.  I am delighted to have both Minister Maehara of Japan and Minister Kim of the Republic of Korea here for these consultations and this historic trilateral meeting that underscores the strength of our shared commitment to advancing regional peace, prosperity, and stability.  These discussions illustrate the importance of the deep bilateral relationships that the United States has with Japan and South Korea, as well as the value of the partnership between Japan and South Korea.  Such strong relationships are the foundation for the unified position that our countries are taking with respect to North Korea.

We all agree that North Korea’s provocative and belligerent behavior jeopardizes peace and stability in Asia. We are deeply concerned by its unprovoked attack on the island of Yeonpyeong, resulting in the loss of South Korean lives.  On behalf of the American people, I would like to convey our sympathies to the victims and their families.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you.  We want the people of South Korea to know that we are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you, and we are deeply committed to your defense.

The minister and I share the view that the attack by the North Koreans violates the Armistice Agreement of 1953; that North Korea’s provocative and belligerent behavior threatens us all, and that it will be met with solidarity from all three countries.

The attack is the latest in a series of North Korean provocations.  It has disclosed a uranium enrichment program that violates UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, as well as North Korea’s commitments under the September 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks.  And the sinking of the Cheonan, killing 46 South Korean sailors, deepened North Korea’s international isolation.

From day one of the Obama Administration, we have made clear that North Korea needs to change.  The international community has repeatedly presented North Korean leadership with a path toward greater engagement and integration, but thus far they have chosen the path of confrontation and isolation.  The path to a better relationship and a secure and prosperous future is still open to North Korea if it makes the right choices.  We remain committed to seeking opportunities for dialogue.  But we will not reward North Korea for shattering the peace or defying the international community.

This trilateral meeting reaffirmed the steps that North Korea must take in order for a resumption of Six-Party Talks to produce results.  North Korea must improve relations with the Republic of Korea and cease its provocative behavior.  North Korea must also comply with its international obligations and take concrete steps to implement its denuclearization commitments under the September 2005 Joint Statement.

As part of our comprehensive strategy going forward, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen will lead a delegation to South Korea tonight to enhance coordination on strategic deterrence.  He will then visit Tokyo.  Next week, I will be sending a high-level team to Asia to follow up on today’s meeting.  

The ministers and I are also in close consultation with China and Russia.  I have emphasized to my Chinese colleagues that China, as a vital partner in maintaining regional stability, a country with unique and strong ties with North Korea, and chair of the Six-Party Talks, has a special role to play in helping to shape North Korea’s behavior.  We will continue to work closely with Beijing, Moscow, and the rest of the international community to fully implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874.

Last night, President Obama spoke with Chinese President Hu.  They reaffirmed the importance of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.  And we appreciate Beijing’s initiative to propose an emergency Six-Party gathering.  However, we first need an appropriate basis for the resumption of talks.  Any effort, of course, must start with North Korea ceasing all provocative and belligerent behavior.

The U.S. treaty alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea have been the foundation for peace and stability in Asia for decades, and the Japan-South Korea partnership helps form a triangle of stability and cooperation.  The ministers and I reaffirmed our steadfast commitments under our respective defense treaties.  In addition, on Friday, the Republic of Korea and the United States, completed negotiations on a landmark Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement that will further strengthen the bonds between our two countries.

These strong bilateral relationships are now enhancing our trilateral cooperation, as well as all of our countries’ relationships with China.  The United States is encouraged by steps that China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea have taken to deepen their bilateral ties, because we believe that strong relationships among all four countries are an essential element of peace and stability in Asia.

The ministers and I also released a joint trilateral statement that provides a framework to enhance regional cooperation and collaboration.  It articulates key principles for expanding trilateral cooperation not only on the Korean Peninsula, but in the Lower Mekong, supporting Middle East – the Middle East peace process, enforcing UN sanctions to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  And most importantly, we are in agreement to continue working closely together and to hold additional regular trilateral interactions.  There is a lot at stake and we are committed to working through all the challenges that we face together....

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 6, 2010:

Statement by NSC Deputy Spokesman Ben Chang on the meeting between National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara of Japan, and Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan of the Republic of Korea

Today, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon met with Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara of Japan and Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan of the Republic of Korea as part of the historic Trilateral meetings between our three countries.  Mr. Donilon expressed the President’s support and personal interest in this Trilateral process, and he emphasized its timeliness in the wake of the two recent North Korean provocations.  Consistent with our efforts to strengthen these core alliances over the course of the last two years, Mr. Donilon underscored U.S. solidarity with our South Korean and Japanese allies and noted that these consultations demonstrate the strength of our shared commitment to advancing regional security and stability.  The three officials pledged to remain fully coordinated in sending a clear message to North Korea – that if it chooses the path of denuclearization, the road to reintegration into the international community will be open, but if it chooses further provocations and threats, it will further isolate itself.
Mr. Donilon and the Foreign Ministers also discussed further ways to enhance collaboration and cooperation across a range of issues, both regional and global.

•  TUESDAY TALKS •

White House Blog, Dec. 6, 2010:

Tuesday Talks: One-Year Anniversary Of The Open Government Directive

Posted by Kori Schulman

On December 8, 2009, the White House issued an unprecedented Open Government Directive requiring federal agencies to take steps to achieve key milestones in transparency, participation, and collaboration. On the one-year anniversary of the Directive, we’re answering your questions on the Administration’s progress and the ideas and practices that are being implemented at the White House and across the agencies in a live video chat on WhiteHouse.gov.

Join us for a talk with on Tuesday, December 7th at 2:20 p.m. EST with Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein.

Here’s how you can participate in advance:

• Ask your questions in advance on WhiteHouse.gov

• Ask your questions in advance on Facebook

And join us live on Tuesday, December 7th at 2:20 p.m. EST:

• Join the discussion live through the White House Facebook application

• Watch the chat through WhiteHouse.gov/live

Visit WhiteHouse.gov/open to learn more about the open government initiative.

•  TREASURY UPDATE •

Department of the Treasury, Nov. 24, 2010:

Imagine Yourself Working at Treasury

Real employees talk about working for Treasury.

White House Blog, Dec. 6, 2010:

The New Treasury.gov

Posted by Dan Tangherlin, Assistant Secretary for Management, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Performance Officer

Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the Department of Treasury's blog, 'Treasury Notes'.

I’m proud to announce the launch of the completely rebuilt and redesigned online home of the Department of the Treasury.  We’ve worked hard to make it easier for citizens like you to find the information you need while upgrading the technology that powers the site so that we can offer more while saving taxpayers money.  

Our goal wasn’t just to make the site look better; we wanted to make improvements that citizens like you were looking for at Treasury.gov.  We used feedback from site visitors, usability tests, focus groups, and website traffic logs to figure out how we could better serve our site users.  For example, site visitors said we had a wealth of raw data but that it was unintelligible to citizens looking for answers, so we created data visualizations. We heard that we often had out-of-date material accumulating on the site so we freshened up and streamlined our content.  And we wanted to make the site more cost-efficient, so we moved our hosting structure to the "cloud," where we will be able to save taxpayer money.

Here are just a few of the many improvements you can see on the new Treasury.gov today.

• Data Visualizations – Treasury has deployed an infrastructure that supports interactive data visualizations including interest rate data and Recovery Act data. With this new infrastructure in place, Treasury will continue to expand its data visualization offerings moving forward.

• Design and Information Architecture – The new Treasury.gov design organizes information in a user-centric manner and eliminates the dual site designs that previously existed.

• Web 2.0 – Treasury has launched its first-ever blog, Treasury Notes, and has integrated YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites into the new Treasury.gov.

• Search – To make the wealth of information that exists on Treasury.gov easy to find, Treasury added FAST search technology so that users can easily get the information they need.

And for those of you interested in some of the improvements we made under the hood, here are some additional facts about the new site.

• Cloud Infrastructure – Treasury is now the first cabinet-level agency to have its website fully hosted in a public "cloud," a substantially more cost-efficient hosting solution.

• Content Management System (CMS) – For the first time, Treasury will be using a content management system to dynamically display information and data on the site.

So, take a look around and let us know what you think. Thanks for visiting Treasury.gov and please visit again soon.

• HEALTH INSURANCE LATEST •

White House, Dec. 6, 2010:

Health Insurance Premium Hike Rejected

Posted by Nancy-Ann DeParle, Director of the White House Office of Health Reform

On Friday, consumers in Connecticut got some good news when the state insurance commissioner rejected Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s plan to raise insurance premiums by 20 percent.  The premium increase would have raised rates for 48,000 consumers.  After a thorough look at the facts, Connecticut officials determined that the rate hike was "excessive" and that no rate increases would be necessary. You can read media coverage of the Connecticut decision here.

The work in Connecticut shows the power of premium review – a process used by states to evaluate and approve proposed health insurance premium increases. Today, some states have stronger premium review processes than others, so the Affordable Care Act included $250 million in grants to states that will help them strengthen their premium review efforts and protect consumers. We’ve already seen premium review hold down rate hikes in California, Massachusetts, Maine and now, Connecticut and we expect to hear more good news from other states in the months ahead.

Supporting state efforts to crack down on premium hikes is just one of the steps the Affordable Care Act takes to help control health care costs for families nationwide. In addition to setting up exchanges -- new competitive health insurance marketplaces where Americans can shop for affordable coverage options – the law:

• Requires insurance companies to publicly justify any unreasonable premium increases beginning in 2011.

• Requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care instead of overhead, salaries or administrative expenses, in 2011. If they don’t, they will be required to provide a rebate to consumers.

• Insurance companies who unreasonably raise rates between now and 2014 may be denied the opportunity to participate in the new exchanges.

The Affordable Care Act is making our health care system more transparent, giving consumers new rights and benefits and helping states control costs for families. We are committed to implementing the law quickly and carefully and delivering the benefits of reform to the American people.

• HELPING CHILDREN AND VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE •

Council on Women and Girls, Dec. 6, 2010:

Helping Children and Victims of Domestic Violence:

Posted by Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

In October, President Obama and Vice President Biden announced unprecedented coordination across the federal government to protect victims of domestic violence and help break the cycle of abuse. Last week, the U.S. Senate took an important step towards the same goal by reauthorizing the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) which also included the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). This important legislation has broad bi-partisan support, and will help states both improve child safety and continue critically needed services for victims of domestic violence.

CAPTA helps states strengthen the efforts of child protective service agencies to prevent and treat child abuse. By providing states and local communities with new tools to identify and treat abuse and neglect, CAPTA-funded services will continue to protect our youngest victims. And, CAPTA will help parents get the help they need by addressing high risk factors like substance abuse, mental illness and domestic violence.

In spite of all the progress we have made, domestic violence still affects 1 in 4 women, and these women are not strangers - they are our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members.  The emergency services provided under FVPSA are a lifeline for victims fleeing violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline answers more than 22,000 calls for help each month, and connects many of these callers to their local battered women’s shelter. FVPSA helps keep those shelter doors open, and links victims with the resources they need to rebuild their lives.

Taken together, CAPTA and FVPSA will help end abuse, give hope to victims, and build strong families. We commend the Senate for taking the important step of passing this legislation, and urge the U.S. House of Representatives to act quickly to make these protections and services a reality.

• INTERIOR: CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF ANWR; ASK DOI: INVESTING IN SOLAR PROJECTS •

U.S. Forest Service Midwest, April 7, 2010:

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 50th Anniversary Video Trailer

White House, Dec. 6, 2010:

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Turns 50

Posted by Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change

Today, I join with the President, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and countless Americans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Few places in America retain the natural beauty of the Refuge, which protects a broad swath of northeast Alaska and its shoreline.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has a long bipartisan history. Following the efforts of countless conservationists, in 1960 President Eisenhower signed an executive order to establish the Arctic National Wildlife Range "for the purpose of preserving unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values" and followed many years of efforts by conservationists to protect our wild lands. These conservationists, including Olaus and Margaret Murie, sought to protect this unique American landscape. In 1980, under President Carter’s leadership, the area was renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expanded to further recognize and protect the variety of wildlife found in the area.

Visitors to the Refuge can see roaming herds of caribou and muskoxen, and even grizzly bears, polar bears, and wolf packs. The 19.6 million acres of wild lands that make up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge also protect culturally significant areas, including important lands for the Inupiat and Gwich’in people. For thousands of years, the resources of the Refuge have sustained these populations and protected their indigenous culture and way of life.

Today, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge remains one of the most pristine lands in America and deserves continued protection.

On the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, let us be reminded to take the time to recognize the beauty and remarkable diversity of our country’s public lands.  As a lifelong advocate for the environment, I am thankful to know that a place as wild as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is protected in America.

You can learn more about the 50th Anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Fast Facts

• With over 19 million acres, it is the nation's largest and most northerly National Wildlife Refuge; South Carolina could almost fit inside its borders.

• The Refuge is home to over 250 species of mammals, birds, and fish

• The Refuge is the only place in America where polar bears can be found in their natural habitat.

• It is open to public use year-round, offering unparalleled opportunities to experience solitude, challenge, and adventure.

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 6, 2010:

Presidential Proclamation--50th Anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Our public lands represent the American spirit and reflect our history, culture, and deep respect for wild and beautiful places.  As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we remember that this breathtaking terrain holds great significance to our Nation.  Stretching from the plains of the Arctic Sea to the soaring mountains of the Brooks Range and lush boreal forests of the Alaskan lowlands, the rugged splendor of the Arctic Refuge is among the most profoundly beautiful places in America.

Following the efforts of visionary conservationists, the Arctic National Wildlife Range was created in 1960 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower "for the purpose of preserving unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values."  In 1980, under President Jimmy Carter, the area was renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expanded to further recognize and protect the stunning variety of wildlife in the area.  For 50 years, the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior has managed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, carefully balancing the needs of wildlife and their vital habitats.

In the decades since its establishment, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has continued to be one of our Nation's most pristine and cherished areas.  In the decades to come, it should remain a place where wildlife populations, from roaming herds of caribou to grizzly bears and wolf packs, continue to thrive.  The 19.6 million acres that comprise the Arctic Refuge are also home to Native American tribes, including the Inupiat and Gwich'in, and the resources of the Refuge sustain these populations and protect their indigenous traditions and way of life.

Today, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge remains distinct in the American landscape, and we must remain committed to making responsible choices and ensuring the continued conservation of these wild lands.

Our Nation's great outdoors, whether our stunning national parks and refuges or cherished green spaces in our local communities, are truly a hallmark of our American identity.  In commemorating five decades of protection and conservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, I encourage all Americans to recognize the beauty and diversity of all of America's open spaces.  We are all stewards and trustees of this land, and we must ensure that our treasured wilderness and other natural areas will be part of our national heritage for generations to come.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 6, 2010, as the 50th Anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  I call upon all Americans to observe this anniversary with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.

BARACK OBAMA

Department of the Interior, Dec. 3, 2010:

Ask Interior: Solar Energy Projects

The Department of the Interior is starting a new video series and we would like your help.

"Ask Interior" is your opportunity to ask a question and have it answered by an expert.

We welcome your feedback and ideas. Contact DOI via YouTube http://www.youtube.com/... Facebook, Twitter and e-mail at askinterior@ios.doi.gov.

• KENNEDY CENTER HONORS •

Associated Press, Dec. 5, 2010:

Obama: Kennedy Center Honorees Gave Gift of Arts

President Obama says this year's Kennedy Center Honorees have "given the nation the extraordinary gift of the arts." They are: Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, dancer-choreographer Bill T. Jones, Merle Haggard and Broadway composer Jerry Herman.

Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 5, 2010:

Remarks by the President at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception

THE PRESIDENT: .... Happy holidays, everybody.  And on behalf of Michelle and myself, I want to welcome all of you to the White House.

And I want to start by giving special thanks to Speaker Pelosi and all the other members of Congress who are here.  Nobody has done more for our country over the last couple of years than Nancy Pelosi.  (Applause.)....

This is a season of celebration and of giving.  And that’s why it’s my great privilege as President to honor the five men and women who have given our nation the extraordinary gift of the arts....

Being here with tonight’s honorees, reflecting on their contributions, I’m reminded of a Supreme Court opinion by the great Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.  In a case argued before the Court in 1926, the majority ruled that the state of New York couldn’t regulate the price of theater tickets, because, in the opinion of the majority, the theater was not a public necessity. They argued, in effect, that the experience of attending the theater was superfluous.  And this is what Justice Holmes had to say.  "To many people -- he wrote in his dissent --  "the -- let me start that over.  "To many people, the superfluous -- it’s this lip that's -- (Laughter.)  It’s hard to say.  (Laughter.)  You try it when you’ve had 12 stitches.  (Laughter.)   "The superfluous" -- thank you.  (Applause.)  All right.  "To many people the superfluous is necessary."

The theater is necessary.  Dance is necessary.  Song is necessary.  The arts are necessary -- they are a necessary part of our lives.

The men and women here tonight embody that idea.  Their work has enriched our lives.  It has inspired us to greatness.  And tonight, it is my honor to offer them the appreciation of a grateful nation.

Thank you very much, all five of you.  God bless you.  Thank you.

Originally posted to Kat 4 Obama on Tue Dec 07, 2010 at 08:23 AM PST.

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