Monday, 22 December 2008

Barack Obama: Science can provide the answer to many of the world's problems

From a radio address by the US President-elect.
Published in The Independent (UK), 22 Dec 2008

"Over the past few weeks, Vice President-Elect Biden and I have ann-ounced some of the leaders who will advise us as we seek to meet America's 21st-century challenges – from strengthening our security, to rebuilding our economy, to preserving our planet for our children and grandchildren. Whether it's the science to slow global warming; the technology to protect our troops and confront bio-terror and weapons of mass destruction; the research to find life-saving cures; or the innovations to remake our industries and create 21st-century jobs – today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation.

It is time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology. Right now, in labs, classrooms and companies across America, our leading minds are hard at work chasing the next big idea, on the cusp of breakthroughs that could revolutionise our lives. But history tells us that they cannot do it alone.

From landing on the Moon, to sequencing the human genome, to inventing the internet, America has been the first to cross that new frontier because we had leaders who paved the way: leaders like President Kennedy, who inspired us to push the boundaries of the known world and achieve the impossible; leaders who not only invested in our scientists, but who respected the integrity of the scientific process.

Because the truth is that promoting science isn't just about providing resources – it's about protecting free and open inquiry. It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It's about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient – especially when it's inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President. I am confident that if we recommit ourselves to discovery; if we support science education to create the next generation of scientists and engineers right here in America; if we have the vision to believe and invest in things unseen, then we can lead the world into a new future of peace and prosperity".

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Obama unveils team in charge of his environmental programme

Extract from: El Periodico, Spain, 16 Dec 2008

"New Energy Secretary will be a clean fuel expert
By Idoya Noain, New York

During his campaign, Barack Obama promised to invest €110m in renewable energy over the next decade. He also pledged the creation of 2.5m jobs by 2011, many of them due to the development of environmental-friendly policies. He anticipated green measures such as ensuring that at least 10% of the country's energy consumption to stem from renewable sources. Yesterday, at a press conference in Chicago, as the US President Elect unveiled his team in charge of the environment and natural resources, he took the opportunity to publicly renew his green credentials.

Both during the campaign and now, his pledge was seen as one of the most radical breaks with George Bush's administration. And it gained momentum yesterday with the appointment of Nobel prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy, one of the leaders in the research into renewable sources, next generation biofuels and technological solutions to global warming".

(Read the full article here)

Monday, 8 December 2008

Obama recruits critic of Bush's Iraq strategy

Extract from The Guardian, UK, 8 Dec 2008

"Barack Obama chose a general sacked by the Bush administration for doubting its Iraq war strategy for his cabinet yesterday to appeal to leftwing supporters.
Obama, in announcing the selection of Eric Shinseki, as veterans' affairs secretary, made it clear that he saw the choice as vindication of a general whose advice - had it been heeded - could have reduced the toll of the Iraq war.

Shinseki, who was army chief of staff only to be disregarded and later vilified by Pentagon chief at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, and the deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, for telling Congress in February 2003 that keeping order in Iraq after the invasion would need several hundred thousand troops.

"No one will ever doubt that this former army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans," Obama told a press conference in Chicago announcing the appointment yesterday.

The choice of Shinseki could go some way in satisfying opponents of the Iraq war disappointed at the appointment of Hillary Clinton, who voted for the invasion, as secretary of state, and the decision to keep on George Bush's Pentagon chief, Robert Gates.
It was announced on a day when Obama offered his bleakest assessment to date of the economic crisis.


The general earned the wrath of Rumsfeld when he told Congress that it might take several hundred thousand US troops to control Iraq after the invasion.
The deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, said Shinseki's assessment was "wildly off the mark". Both men boycotted Shinseki's retirement ceremony".

Read the full article here.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Obama 'to rebuild crumbling US'

Extract from BBC News, 6 Dec 2008

US President-elect Barack Obama has promised to invest in infrastructure on a scale not seen since the 1950s, when the US highway system was established.
He used his weekly address to outline that the spending would be part of his plan to create at least 2.5m new jobs in the ailing US economy.

He also spoke of the need for expanded access to high-speed internet and the modernisation of school buildings.
Unemployment rose by more than 500,000 during November, figures have shown.
That was the biggest monthly rise in job cuts since 1974, and it drove up the jobless rate to a 15-year high of 6.7%, up from 6.5% in October.
The figures came less than a week after the National Bureau for Economic Research said the US economy had been in recession since late 2007.
Mr Obama, who takes office on 20 January, has previously said that his incoming team will be tasked with generating 2.5m new jobs by 2011.

Read the whole article here.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Bill takes vow of silence for sake of Hillary's job

Hillary Clinton to be named today as US Secretary of State. (Extract from The Independent, UK, 2 Dec 2008)

Barack Obama will hold a veto over Bill Clinton's $400,000-a-pop speaking engagements under a detailed legal deal that allows the former president's wife, Hillary Clinton, to become Secretary of State.

The President-elect will unveil his national security team today, gambling that appointing the former first lady as foreign policy chief will restore some heft to American diplomacy.
To prevent the announcement getting bogged down in the Clinton soap opera, aides to Mr Obama revealed details of the agreement with Mr Clinton, whose post-White House business and philanthropic dealings threaten to expose a thicket of conflicts of interest.
The vetting of Mrs Clinton for the State Department job turned into a detailed examination of the funding of Mr Clinton's charitable foundation and of his Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which works to find solutions to Aids, climate change and poverty.

The former president will reveal the names of 200,000 donors to the two institutions and publish details of future contributions. US law does not require such disclosures but Mr Clinton's refusal to do so was exploited by opponents of his wife's bid for the presidency, including Mr Obama, who said during the primaries that the Clintons were "veterans of non-disclosure".
With Mrs Clinton at the State department, her husband's business dealings had threatened to be an even more serious embarrassment.

Read the article in full here.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

"The first glimpse of Obamanomics"

An extract from an article by Stephen Foley, The Independent, UK, 25 Nov 2008

"Obamanomics will be forged, not in the first crisis-busting phase of the new president's administration, but later. And even then, a glance at the people with whom Mr Obama is surrounding himself, and a listen to the chatter of the economists he favours, suggests that his economic philosophy is one of pragmatism rather than ideology".

Read the article in full here.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Obama seeks to create 2.5m jobs

Extract from BBC News, UK, 23 Nov 2008

"US President-elect Barack Obama says he wants his economic team to find ways to generate 2.5 million new jobs during his first two years in office.
In a weekly address on the internet, Mr Obama said he wanted to sign the plan soon after taking office on 20 January. The message came as unemployment claims rose by 540,000 in the US, taking the total to 1.2 million jobs lost in 2008.

Mr Obama, said to have chosen Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary, is due to name his economic team on Monday. Mr Geithner, currently chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has been deeply involved in the efforts to cope with the current financial crisis.
He previously worked in the Bill Clinton White House, where he worked through the fallout of the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s.

US shares rose sharply on Friday as word spread of Mr Obama's reported choice, calming investor fears.

Building jobs

Talking about his desire to put job-creation at the heart of the economic policy of the incoming administration, Mr Obama said new unemployment figures reinforced the impression of an economic crisis of "historic proportions".
He hailed congressional approval of a boost in unemployment benefits, adding that the latest gloomy figures had only reinforced his determination to revitalise the economy.
"We must do more to put people back to work, and get our economy moving again," the president-elect said.

He said his economic priority would be a two-year, nationwide effort to "jumpstart job-creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy".
Ageing public infrastructure would be rebuilt, Mr Obama said, adding that his administration would look quickly at developing and building sources of renewable energy, such as wind farms, designed to "free" the US from its "dependency" foreign oil.

He suggested he would need cross-party support to get his plan through, despite his Democratic party holding a majority in both houses of Congress.
"Right now there are millions of mothers and fathers who are lying awake at night wondering if next week's pay check will cover next month's bills.
"There are Americans showing up to work in the morning only to have cleared out their desks by the afternoon. These Americans need help and they need it now," Mr Obama said".

Saturday, 22 November 2008

How should we read Obama's Cabinet choices?

Extract from, 22 Nov 2008

"The most intriguing choice for me is to see Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano recommended for Secretary of Homeland Security. Whilst she is eminently qualified, and as a border-state Governor will bring expertise to the role, some Democrats have noted that she was the only candidate who could beat John McCain in the Senate race of 2010 that this week he announced he would compete. This appointment hands him re-election on a plate".

Clinton signs for Obama's dream team

From The Independent, UK, 22 Nov 2008

"Hillary Clinton has finally agreed to become President-elect Barack Obama’s Secretary of State and spearhead efforts to restore America’s credibility in the world.
Once confirmed, Mrs Clinton will be the highest-ranking cabinet official in the next administration and she is expected to become a powerful diplomatic force, dealing with some of the international community’s most intractable problems, including terrorism and climate change.

News of her readiness to accept the job came as the Obama transition team said that the new Treasury Secretary will be Timothy Geithner, a decision that sent stocks soaring. He is highly respected and will replace Hank Paulson. This transition is the most sensitive because of the magnitude of the credit crisis, and markets have become increasingly concerned that there is a power vacuum at the heart of economic policy, just when new initiatives are needed to stop the world sliding into a deep recession.

The Dow Jones index jumped 6.5 per cent on the news that Mr Obama was ready to announce his economic team next week. New Mexico’s Governor, Bill Richardson, is to be named Commerce Secretary. Mr Obama passed over Larry Summers, a former Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, whose subsequent tenure as president of Harvard University ended in controversy over remarks about women’s aptitude for the sciences. However, Mr Summers will be an economic adviser to the White House and was tipped last night as a future chairman of the Federal Reserve, the US central bank.

Expectations are already building that a combination of Mrs Clinton’s experience and the force of her personality could achieve what her husband failed to do and lay the foundations for a Middle East peace settlement. She has shown herself to be extremely hawkish on the subject of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and on the campaign trail for the presidency once threatened the regime with nuclear annihilation".

Friday, 21 November 2008

U.S. Muslim leaders denounce al Qaeda's slur toward Obama

Extract from CNN News, 21 November 2008

"Spiritual leaders of New York's African-American Muslim communities lashed out Friday at a purported al Qaeda message attacking President-elect Barack Obama and, using racist language, comparing him unfavorably to the late Malcolm X.

The imams called the recorded comments from al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri "an insult" from people who have "historically been disconnected from the African-American community generally and Muslim African-Americans in particular."

"We find it insulting when anyone speaks for our community instead of giving us the dignity and the honor of speaking for ourselves," they said in a statement read during a news conference at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial, Educational and Cultural Center".

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Obama 'plans Daschle health post'

From BBC News, 19 November 2008

"US President-elect Barack Obama will appoint senior Democrat Tom Daschle as Health and Human Services Secretary, according to US media reports.

Mr Daschle was the Democrats' Senate Majority Leader from 2001 until 2003.
As head of the health and human services department, Mr Daschle will oversee Mr Obama's proposed reforms to the US healthcare system.
Mr Obama's transition team has confirmed a number of other key advisers and top administration posts.

Senate heavyweight

The BBC's Adam Brookes, in Washington, says the decision to appoint Mr Daschle shows that Mr Obama feels he needs a Senate heavyweight to help him persuade Congress to back major reforms.

During the election campaign, Mr Obama pledged to offer a new state-administered health insurance plan to people who are currently uninsured, while assuring people who were satisfied with their existing employer-provided coverage that they would not be forced to give it up.
The details of his reform package could change, however, as Mr Obama attempts to push legislation through Congress.

The news of Mr Daschle's probable appointment follows reports that Mr Obama has decided to appoint Eric Holder as his attorney-general, and may ask former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination Hillary Clinton to serve as secretary of state".

Barack Obama picks Eric Holder as first black attorney general

From the Telegraph, UK, 19 November 2008

"Mr Obama's transition team did not officially comment on the reports, which broke earlier than it wanted. "Obama offered Holder the job and he accepted," Newsweek magazine said on its website, adding that "the announcement is not likely until after Obama announces his choices to lead the Treasury and State departments".

Mr Holder, 57, whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate, was deputy attorney general for four years under former president Bill Clinton and was co-chairman along with Caroline Kennedy of Mr Obama's vice-presidential selection process.
He is respected in Washington by both Republicans and Democrats, although his record is marred by agreeing to pardon the fugitive Marc Rich at the end of the Clinton administration.
At the time Mr Holder said he was "neutral, leaning towards favourable" on the subject. Mr Clinton later cited that as among the factors that persuaded him to issue the pardon.

Mr Holder has publicly apologised for what he said was a snap decision to which he should have paid more attention. Had he taken more time to review the case, he would have advised against a pardon, he said.

Members of Mr Obama's vetting team have asked Senate Republicans in the past week whether they would support Mr Holder at his confirmation hearings and have been assured that, although questions will be asked, the Rich controversy would not derail his appointment.
Mr Holder is the most prominent African American among the appointments made so far by Mr Obama. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, by immigrants from Barbados, he has spent most of his career in the Justice Department.

Always among the favourites for the post, he has a strong personal rapport with Mr Obama – the two men, both graduates of Columbia University in New York, spoke almost every day during the presidential campaign".

Monday, 17 November 2008

President-elect Barack Obama will close Guantanamo Bay

From the Herald Sun, Australia, 17 November 2008

GUANTANAMO Bay will close and America will regain its moral authority, president-elect Barack Obama has pledged in an interview.
US President-elect Barack Obama says he will shut down the "war on terror'' internment camp at Guantanamo Bay and rebuild "America's moral stature in the world,'' in a major interview aired overnight.

"I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that,'' the Democrat, who takes office on January 20, told the CBS program 60 Minutes.
"I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture. And I'm going to make sure that we don't torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world,'' Senator Obama said.

For the first time, there will also be weekly Pesidential addresses on YouTube, rather than just on the radio. Senator Obama has presented his first (below), even before taking office.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

"Handover turns ugly as car industry bailout row flares"

Extracts from The Independent, UK, 12 November 2008

"An ideological battle has erupted between George Bush and Barack Obama, with the outgoing President baulking at proposals to prop up General Motors, once the world's largest car maker, which could go bust by Christmas".

"According to one account of their Oval Office discussions, Mr Obama asked Mr Bush to use some of the billions of dollars in the financial bailout package to prop up the car industry. Economists are already warning that if GM goes broke it could bring down the rest of the economy and tip the world into a much-feared depression".

"As Mr Bush sees it, he has one last opportunity to secure a legacy as a champion of free trade, and he reportedly tied the Democrat's request for billions of taxpayer dollars for the failing car industry to a controversial trade deal with Colombia".

"Mr Obama has already voted to block the Colombia deal in the Senate because of widespread human rights abuses against union workers".

"Last week, Mr Obama called the car sector "the backbone of American manufacturing". The three big makers, GM, Ford and Chrysler, have operations across America and if they collapse, it would devastate the economy. The estimates are that three million jobs would be lost, counting the car-workers, their suppliers and even the hot-dog sellers outside the factories".

"Even Mr Obama's generosity towards the car companies has its limits. As part of his energy and environmental plans being drafted with the help of Al Gore, he wants to ensure taxpayers' money is spent wisely in a way that helps reduce dependence on imported oil and fights climate change. He asked Mr Bush to quickly release $25bn which has already been agreed to help companies retool to make more fuel-efficient cars. Mr Gore is advising that "we should help America's automotive industry to convert "quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run off renewable energy that will be available".

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

What a Colombian Indigenous Group Wants from Obama

Extracts from Vivir Latino, Colombia, 10 Nov 2008

"During a pre-election debate, Barack Obama made a clear point about one of the reasons he did not support the Colombian Free Trade agreement, the violence against workers. The Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN, were appreciative of Obama's position, but wanted to shed light on their specific struggle and the struggles of other Native peoples in Colombia. So they, like so many others are doing, sent a letter to the President-Elect. From the letter released yesterday:

First, please accept our sincerest congratulations. We congratulate you for having won because of the noblest aspirations of your people. We believe your election expresses the deep desire for change felt by the majority of the American people: change in the economy and society, change in international relations, and from there, we hope, a change in the relation between the United States of America and the indigenous peoples of the world.

During your historic campaign, you publicly noted some of what Colombians currently face: you acknowledged the murders of trade unionists by the regime and stated your reservations about a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia, which our people have decided against through a democratic referendum, about which we have written before. We thank you for this, and now want you to know about the specific situation facing Colombia's indigenous peoples.

In the past six years we have lost 1,200 people to assassinations by armed groups, both legal and illegal: right-wing paramilitaries, guerrillas, police, and members of the Armed Forces. These murders have created insecurity, and this insecurity has been used to strip us of our rights with what we call the 'Laws of Disposession', legislation and other institutional norms that legalize the loss of our lands, our fundamental freedoms, and our rights"

(Letter from: Association of Indigenous Couincils of Northern Cauca ACIN (Cxab Wala Kiwe-Territory of the Great People) Cauca, Mother Earth, November 10th, 2008 Santander de Quilichao)

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Obama Highlights Colombia Trade Union Deaths in US Presidential Debate

Extracts from Justice for Colombia, 16 Oct 2008

"Wednesday night's US presidential debate in New York City saw Barack Obama again criticise Colombia for the "targeted assassination" of trade unionists. The Democrat candidate said that "there have not been prosecutions" for the killings, which he described as occurring on a "fairly consistent basis".

Obama made his remarks after Republican candidate John McCain accused him of not supporting a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia – an Agreement that Democrats in the US Congress have refused to pass due to Colombia's appalling human and labour rights record.

"The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis and there have not been prosecutions," said Obama in response to McCain during the debate which was watched by tens of millions of TV viewers. "We have to stand for human rights and we have to make sure that violence isn't being perpetrated against workers who are just trying to organise for their rights," continued Obama.

The Democrat candidate has already spoken out against the ongoing violations perpetrated against Colombian trade unionists on several occasions this year. In February he said he was concerned by reports from Colombia "of the involvement of the administration with human rights violations and the suppression of workers", and in June he told a rally that he would oppose a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia "until I am certain they are not killing union leaders."

However, perhaps the harshest criticism of the Colombian regime has come from former Democrat Vice-President Al Gore who last year refused to share a platform with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Gore cited allegations of "deeply troubling" links between Uribe and paramilitary death squads as his reason for pulling out of a conference that boh men were due to speak at".
* Since 2001, more than 700 union representatives have been assassinated, at a rate higher than the yearly murder rate in the rest of the world.

Find out more about the topic here.

Monday, 10 November 2008

About this site

Remember the happy days of the 1997 elections? Weren't you convinced Tony Blair's victory was the beginning of a new era? Well, we all know how it ended. In fact it hasn't ended yet, but it sure went pear-shaped right from the start. With their determination to out-Tory the Tories in both policies and rhetoric, New Labour's roll call of lies, privatisations, tuition fees and the Iraq war (as well as much more) won't be easily forgotten.

Fast forward to 2008 and Barack Obama's victory in the US Presidential elections is also being hailed as 'history in the making' and the start of a new dawn. At Hagley Road to Ladywood we actually think he's a more genuine article than Saint Tony. This time, however, we've decided to keep a close track of his decisions and actions in office, week by week. Will Obama keep his promises and bring change? This website will offer a record of his first term in office.