Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nation's Governors: Rasmussen Poll Shows Meg Whitman with 8 Pt Lead Over Jerry Brown in CA Gov's Race

The tie is broken for now, with Republican Meg Whitman, coming off last weekend’s state GOP Convention, moving out to her best showing yet in the race to be the next governor of California.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in California finds Whitman earning 48% support, while Democrat Jerry Brown picks up 40% of the vote. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and six percent (6%) are undecided.

These new numbers move California from a Toss-Up to Leans GOP in the Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 Gubernatorial Scorecard.

Early this month, Brown was slightly ahead 43% to 41% in a contest that has been neck and neck since last September. Brown, currently the state’s attorney general, bounced briefly ahead immediately following the state Democratic Convention in April, but the race tightened again in June after Whitman's Republican primary win.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

CRAINS REPORTS: IL Teachers' Retirement System Sells Assets to Pay Current Benefits

(Crain's) — Illinois Teachers' Retirement System, Springfield, plans to sell $3 billion in investments, or about 10% of its $33.1 billion in assets, in the current fiscal year to pay pension benefits, according to Dave Urbanek, public information officer.

The system is the fifth Illinois statewide defined benefit plan to sell off investments this fiscal year to pay benefits.

Illinois State Universities Retirement System, Champaign, expects to sell $1.2 billion in investments from its $12.2 billion defined benefit fund this fiscal year to raise liquidity to pay benefits to participants.

The Illinois State Board of Investment, Chicago, could sell $840 million investments from its $9.9 billion fund to pay benefits of the Illinois State Employees' Retirement System, Illinois Judges' Retirement System and Illinois General Assembly Retirement System. ISBI oversees the investments of the three systems.

The liquidity stress from the investment sales at the five plans could force each of them to restructure their strategic asset allocations, terminate investment managers and search for new managers.

Illinois Teachers sold $290 million in investments so far this month and $200 million last month because of a lack of state contributions.

“Without the monthly state contribution, TRS estimates sales of roughly $3 billion for the entire fiscal year, or approximately $250 million every month,” Mr. Urbanek said in a statement in response to an inquiry.

So far, TRS has accomplished the investment liquidation through “appropriate rebalancing,” Mr. Urbanek said in the statement. “As the year progresses, this approach will no longer be sufficient to cover the total amount of benefit payments and more targeted asset sales will need to be considered.

“TRS staff continues to study the impacts of the current liquidity situation on the total portfolio and recommendations will be made as necessary to adjust targets. These changes could include revisions to the system's target asset allocation and termination of investment manager relationships as 10% or more of the portfolio is liquidated to pay benefits this fiscal year,” he said.

Mr. Urbanek said the investment sales could force changes in the system's current asset allocation impacting whether it could meet its current 8.5% target rate of return.

“In the current market environment, there are significant market opportunities to institutional investors with available capital. In the absence of the required contribution from the state, TRS and the other Illinois pension systems will no longer be able to participate in these opportunities,” he said.

R.V. Kuhns, the system's investment consultant, is evaluating possible allocation changes for liquidity needs as they arise, Mr. Urbanek added. He said it was “impossible” to know details of possible searches or terminations at this time.

Since the start of the fiscal year on July 1 through Aug. 20, the system has received only $8.1 million in contributions from the state. For the current fiscal year, ending June 30, 2011, the system requested $2.35 billion in contributions from the state, Mr. Urbanek said.

In the last fiscal year, the system sold $1.3 billion in assets to pay pension benefits; it received $170.4 million in employer contributions and $899 million in member contributions, while requesting $2.08 billion in employer contributions alone.

TRS' current asset allocation is U.S. equities, 30.5%; international equities, 20.3%; fixed income, 17.5%; real estate, 9.6%; real return, 9.3%; private equity, 8.3%; absolute return, 3.6%; and short-term investments, 0.9%.

Gov Quinn Picks Michelle Saddler as His New Chief of Staff


Governor Pat Quinn today named Michelle R.B. Saddler as his Chief of Staff. Saddler previously served as the Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). Prior to serving as Secretary of DHS, Saddler was the Director of Policy for the Quinn Administration and has held a number of key management and policy positions in the public and private sectors.

“Michelle Saddler is one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated members of my cabinet, and I look forward to having her serve as my Chief of Staff,” said Governor Quinn. “There is no one better-suited to continue my mission of creating jobs, supporting Illinois’ economic recovery and protecting our most vulnerable residents.”
Saddler was appointed by Governor Quinn to be Secretary of DHS on Oct. 11, 2009. The agency, one of the state’s largest, provides integrated services to individuals, families and communities for developmental disabilities, mental health, rehabilitation services and alcoholism and substance abuse, among others.

While at DHS, Saddler was charged with implementing a number of Governor Quinn’s top initiatives, including the Put Illinois to Work program. The program was one of the largest and most successful in the nation and has put more than 26,000 people to work in subsidized temporary jobs. Additionally, under Saddler’s leadership, the agency drew down an additional $250 million in federal funds for human services.
Before being named policy chief for the Quinn Administration, Saddler served in a number of policy and management positions in both the public and private sectors. Her past positions include Vice President for International Adoptions for the Lifelink Corporation and Executive Director of the Illinois Metropolitan Investment Fund. She also served as Director of Investments with then-Illinois State Treasurer Quinn and is a Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Protestants for the Common Good.
Saddler earned her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and has a master’s in management from Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, where received the F.C. Austin Scholarship – the school’s highest merit award. (Additional background information is attached.)

“I look forward to continuing to serve and care for the people of Illinois as Governor Quinn’s Chief of Staff,” said Saddler. “I will work to continue the important partnerships with our legislators, employees, providers and advocacy groups.”

Current DHS Assistant Secretary Grace Hou will serve as the agency’s Acting Secretary. Prior to her work at DHS, Hou was Executive Director of the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, a non-profit social service agency that serves Chinese immigrants and refugees.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pictures of This Week's Political Rallies at the State Fair


Atty-General Lisa Madigan Chides her father, Speaker Mike Madigan, for his feeding ice cream to her children for breakfast. This was one of the lighter moments, as Illinois Democrats tried to lift their spirits in the wake of Rod Blagojevich's conviction the day before, and polls showing Republicans ahead in a number of key races.


Republicans were far more upbeat this year, where they believe they have a strong opportunity to pick up Barack Obama's US Senate seat, and to win back the Governor's office, and several other statewide offices. Steve Kim, is one of those with a very difficult race -- running against Sec of State Jesse White. But he told the crowd of his pride in being the first Asian-American to be nominated for a statewide office.

BELOW: A Massive Confetti spray fell upon the GOP rank 'n file, and visually captured their mood as the Republicans launch their fall campaigns.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gov Quinn Speaks on Gov Blagojevich's Conviction

 Gov Quinn responds to conviction of Blagojevich by Urging Passage of Recall Amendment on Fall ballot for IL Constitution. Says Honesty is the ONLY policy that counts in the Governor's office.

Quinn says it was shocking at some of what Gov Blagojevich said on tape. Quinn says he thinks the people know he fights for honesty everyday, and that he continues to fight for those principles. He wants stronger ethics laws in Illinois, giving the people reforms that are needed.

GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Brady on Blago Conviction

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady today released the following statement in response to the Blagojevich trial verdict;

“The people of Illinois are grateful to the men and women of the jury for their hard work. While we hoped this decision would mark the end of an unfortunate chapter and put this embarrassing episode behind us, today’s conviction of Rod Blagojevich for lying to federal law enforcement officials will likely result in further action in the pursuit of justice.

But one thing is clear - the people of Illinois are rightly frustrated about the unchecked power of politicians like Rod Blagojevich who put the special interests before taxpayers. This important election in November marks the single best opportunity in our lifetime to finally clean house in Springfield.”

Statement of IL GOP Chair Pat Brady, on Blago's Conviction

CHICAGO - Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady issued the following statement today regarding the decision of the jury in the trial of Rod Blagojevich:

“We extend our gratitude to the men and women of the jury for their sacrifice and hard work. They had a difficult job, as demonstrated by their many days of deliberations. The fact that Rod Blagojevich was convicted on only one of the counts against him does not take away from his serious breach of the Public’s trust.

“From his infamous “bleeping golden” remark to his attempt to shake down Children’s Memorial Hospital, Blagojevich was all about pay-to-play. The lack of any real defense and Blago’s refusal to testify spoke volumes.

“The entire case was a black eye for Illinois, but made even worse by the fact that Pat Quinn, Mike Madigan and the Democrats stood by this man, supported his re-election and later denied the public the right to a special election for the U.S. Senate seat Blagojevich had tried to sell. The trial also showed that Blago’s scheming was going on in the earliest days of his administration, and yet Quinn, Madigan and the Democrats were silent.”

# # #

Sen Brad Burzynski (R) Statement on Blago's Conviction

SYCAMORE, Ill. – State Senator Brad Burzynski (R-Rochelle) gave this statement in response to the outcome of the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial on Tuesday, August 17:

“While the outcome of the trial is disappointing, I am glad to hear the prosecution plans to pursue a retrial and it is important to remember that Blagojevich is now a convicted felon. However, most importantly, we as legislators and public officials must now make an even greater effort to bring true and effective ethics reforms to state government and hold ourselves to a higher standard than ever before. We must send the signal to the people of Illinois that accepting actions like those of Blagojevich and his enablers as ‘business as usual’ is unacceptable. This isn’t a time to succumb to apathy or disenfranchisement, but rather an opportunity to realize how greatly we need to set a new standard for those who represent the people’s interests.”

Fed Judge Says Laws Prohibiting Demonstrations at Funerals are Unconstitutional

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A federal judge ruled Monday that Missouri laws restricting protests near funerals are unconstitutional.

Missouri legislators passed two laws in 2006 in response to protests at soldiers’ funerals by members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. The church contends soldiers’ deaths are God’s punishment on the U.S. for tolerating homosexuality.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan on Monday ruled that the Missouri law violates the right of free speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The primary law had barred protests near any funeral, procession or memorial service from an hour before until an hour after the service. The secondary measure specifically stated protesters needed to stay back at least 300 feet. Both provisions levied the same penalty: up to six months in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense and up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine for repeat offenders.

Gaitan’s ruling affected both laws. State lawmakers said they approved two laws so there was a fallback position in case one was challenged in court.
Numerous states have passed laws restricting protests at funerals, and some have been challenged. Missouri’s law was sponsored by two St. Joseph lawmakers after members of the Kansas church protested outside the 2005 funeral of a soldier from their legislative district.

Monday, August 16, 2010

President Obama's Remarks on Manufacturing Jobs in Clean Energy Field

Remarks of President Barack Obama-As Prepared for Delivery

Clean Energy Manufacturing

Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin

It’s good to be here with the folks of ZBB Energy. I just had the chance to see some of the batteries you’re manufacturing here – and talk to the men and women who build them. The reason I’m here today is because, at this plant, you’re doing more than just making high-tech batteries. You’re pointing the country towards a brighter economic future.

That’s not easy. We’ve been through a terrible recession – as bad as we’ve seen since the Great Depression. And this recession was the culmination of a decade that fell like a sledgehammer on middle-class families. For the better part of ten years, people faced stagnant incomes, sluggish job growth, skyrocketing health care costs and tuition bills, and declining economic security.

Few parts of the economy were hit harder than manufacturing. Over the last ten years, the number of people working in manufacturing shrank by a third. This has left millions of skilled, hardworking people sitting idle as the plants that they once worked in shut their doors. And that was before the recession left them and millions of others struggling in ways they never imagined.

Now, there are some who suggest this decline is inevitable. But I don’t see it that way – and neither do you. Yes, times are tough. But we have been through tough times before. And we’ve made it through because we’re resilient – because we have never given in to pessimism or cynicism. We fight for our future and we shape our own destiny. Well, that’s what we’ve been doing over the past year and half. We have been fighting on all fronts – inch by inch, foot by foot, mile by mile – to get this country moving forward again, going after every job we can.

We’re investing in 21st century infrastructure – in roads and bridges, in faster internet access and high-speed railroads – projects that will lead to hundreds of thousands of private-sector jobs. We’ve cut taxes for small businesses that hire unemployed workers, and I’ve signed seven other small business tax cuts to help folks expand, buy new equipment, and add employees. And we’ve taken emergency steps to prevent layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other critical public servants in our communities. These are folks who would have otherwise lost their jobs because of state and local budget cuts.

At the same time, we’ve been jumpstarting a homegrown, clean energy industry – building on the good work of your governor and others in this state. That’s why I’m here today. Because of the steps we’ve taken to strengthen the economy, ZBB received a loan that’s helping to fund an expansion of their operations. Already, it’s allowed ZBB to retain nearly a dozen workers. Over time, the company expects to hire about 80 new workers, too. And this is leading to new business for your suppliers, including MGS Plastics, another manufacturer here in Wisconsin.

ZBB is also planning to take advantage of a special tax credit to build another factory in Southeastern Wisconsin to create more jobs. They are confident they can expand because they are seeing rising demand for advanced batteries. This is in part a result of steps we’ve taken in clean energy – steps that have led to jobs manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels, building hybrid and electric vehicles, and modernizing our electric grid so that it can use more renewable sources of energy.

We expect our commitment to clean energy to lead to more than 800,000 jobs by 2012. And this isn’t just creating work in the short term – it’s helping to lay a new foundation for lasting growth. Just a few years ago, for example, American businesses made only 2 percent of the world’s advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles. But in just a few years, we’ll have up to 40 percent of the world’s capacity. Here at ZBB, you’re building batteries to store electricity from solar cells and wind turbines. And you’ve been able to export batteries around the globe, helping us to lead in this new industry. For years, we’ve heard about manufacturing jobs disappearing overseas. Companies like this one are showing us how manufacturing jobs can come back.

Now, obviously, the progress we’ve made isn’t nearly enough to undo all the damage that was done by the recession. Too many of our family members, our friends, our neighbors are still unable to find work – often for long stretches of time. I’ve said since I took office that my administration will not rest until every American who is able and willing to work can find a job, and a job that pays a decent wage with decent benefits to support a family.

But what’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction. Just a year and a half ago, the economy was shrinking rapidly. Now the economy is growing. We were bleeding 750,000 jobs each month. Now the economy has added private-sector jobs for seven months in a row. The worst mistake we could make now would be to turn back. We’ve got to keep moving forward.

But some folks in Washington argue we should abandon these efforts. These are the same folks in Washington who made the political calculation that it was better to stand on the sidelines than work as a team to help the American worker. They said no to small business tax cuts, no to rebuilding infrastructure, no to clean energy projects. They even voted against getting rid of tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas.

Well, my answer to the folks who have played politics the past year and a half is to come to this plant. They should go to any of the dozen new battery factories, or the new electric vehicle manufacturers, or the wind turbine makers, or solar plants that are popping up all over this country. I want them to explain why they think these clean energy jobs are better off in other countries instead of right here in the United States.

See, when folks lift up the hoods on the cars of the future, I want them to see engines stamped “Made in America.” When new batteries to store solar power come off assembly lines, I want to see printed on the side, “Made in America.” And when new technologies are developed with the potential to unleash new businesses – and even whole new industries – I want those products to be made in America. That’s how we’ll create jobs. That’s how we’ll strengthen this economy.

These have been a very hard couple of years for America. And there will be some more difficult days ahead. It would a mistake to pretend otherwise. But we are headed in the right direction. And I am confident about our future. Because of what I have seen at this plant. Because of what I have seen taking place across this country. And because, when the chips are down, it is always a mistake to bet against the American worker.

This nation is home to the most skilled and industrious people on this earth. There is nothing we cannot achieve when we set our minds to it. All we need to do is harness the potential that has always been central to our success. That’s not only how we’ll come through these storms – that’s how we’ll emerge stronger than ever before.

Thank you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

VP Biden Statement on the Death of former Sen Ted Stevens of Alaska

"My thoughts and prayers go out to Catherine and all the Stevens children, as well as to the families of those also lost today in Alaska. Jill and I had genuine affection for Ted. As Senators, he and I bonded over shared similar family tragedies, but we also celebrated life's great moments together too, like the births of our daughters a few days apart. We served together for more than 30 years, but more than that, he was my friend and I will miss him."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

EDITORIAL: Let the Debates Begin Shall We ?

The Illinois Channel does not take sides in partisan elections. Our role is to connect elected officials or candidates for office to citizens, so we may facilitate a greater understanding among the electorate of the issues and candidates' positions.

But we do take sides on whether candidates should or should not debate. THEY SHOULD. Now we hear that there is much foot dragging among the various political camps about getting their candidate to appear in a debate. We hear that behind the scenes the candidates for the US Senate are still dilly-dallying, hemming and hawing, and offering delay upon delay as to whether they will or will not meet in a public forum to debate their opponent.

As we sit here with one former governor in prison, and another awaiting his fate at the hands of a jury. When the state and nation are facing bankruptcy and citizens are marching in the streets for new leadership -- We would hope that anyone who says they are a leader, that they are motivated by a call to public service, would be willing and eager to share their ideas on what they would do if elected.

This is a critical time. It therefore is a critical election. Among the items citizens should consider when looking at a candidate's qualifications for office -- is how much they believe in your right to know where they stand. If they won't bother to debate their positions before the election, how open will they be after the election?

So woe to those who fail to debate. We'll be watching, and reporting on those dragging their feet, instead of signing up to debate.

State Treasurer Giannoulias Proposes Greater Transparency on Banks


Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias today will recommend tougher federal accountability and transparency measures for banks to meet community reinvestment act guidelines.

Giannoulias will submit written testimony, telling federal bank and thrift regulators that when the Community Reinvestment Act ratings of banks were first made public in 1990, one in 10 financial institutions failed their CRA exam. Today, the number is less than 2 percent, yet millions of Americans are still unbanked or victims of predatory lending.

“On one hand, we have almost every bank in the nation receiving a ‘Satisfactory’ rating when it comes to community reinvestment, while on the other hand we have millions of Americans who have no access to safe mortgages or low-cost checking accounts,” Giannoulias wrote. “CRA ratings may look good on paper, but in reality they are falling short.”

Giannoulias will submit testimony during the third of four national public hearings jointly sponsored by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Office of Thrift Supervision.

“While there is much to do on the legislative side of this important law, including passage of a fair, safe, and more relevant version as proposed in the Community Reinvestment Modernization Act of 2009, (H.R. 1479), my focus today is the importance of establishing transparency within CRA, specifically with regard to qualifying activities, ratings, and reporting,” Giannoulias added.

He recommended regulators improve transparency and accountability in three ways:

Give banks a numeric grade on a scale of 1 to 100 so that consumers can tell if a bank is fully committed to community reinvestment or barely passing, just like a standard report card. Currently, banks are ranked on a 0 to 24 scale which is less intuitive for consumers.

Modernize the weighting system for various financial products, so that it is clear how banks are being measured. Products and services that complement a bank’s lending activities, such as low-cost checking accounts and payday alternative loans, should count toward CRA, but should be weighted according to their impact.
Make it easier for the public to acquire full-length CRA reports from bank and thrift regulatory agencies on a single, searchable online database on the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council website. This level of transparency is not available today.

The State Treasurer’s Office only wants to do business with financial institutions that show commitment to their communities, so it took matters into its own hands last year, Giannoulias said.

Since June 2009, the Treasurer’s Office has required all banks that received or renewed state deposits to pledge to provide non-predatory foreclosure prevention products, conventional banking services to the unbanked and small business loan products.

“We’re doing what we can at the state level to hold financial institutions accountable to their neighborhoods,” Giannoulias wrote. “But federal reforms are needed to clearly differentiate between the financial institutions that are going the extra mile and those that achieved ‘Satisfactory’ by the skin of their teeth.”

Sen. Durbin Has Surgery for Intestinal Tumor -- Noncancerous

CHICAGO, IL] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today underwent surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center to have a small gastro-intestinal stromal tumor (GIST) removed from his stomach. The tumor was not present in the lining cells of the stomach; it was completely removed and preliminary biopsy results demonstrate a favorable prognosis. According to Durbin’s doctors, there was no evidence that the tumor had spread beyond the site from which it was removed.

Durbin discovered the problem a few weeks ago during a routine medical check-up. Subsequent examinations of Durbin’s esophagus and stomach showed no cancer. The small size of the abnormality on the senator’s stomach lent itself to complete removal through a procedure known as laparoscopic partial gastric resection. Following his recovery from surgery, doctors do not expect Durbin to require further treatment.

“Senator Durbin went through today’s surgical procedure with flying colors and is resting comfortably,” said Durbin spokesman, Joe Shoemaker. “He expects to be released from the hospital and resume a light schedule in the next couple days, and should be able to resume a full schedule as soon as next week.”

Partial gastric resections are seen as safe and appropriate treatments for patients with gastro-intestinal stromal tumors. The procedure involves the removal of part of the stomach, completely excising the potentially affected area. As in the case of Sen. Durbin’s surgery, many of these operations can be performed through a minimally invasive procedure known as laparoscopy.

GIST occurs in approximately 4,000-6,000 people each year in the United States and account for about 1% of tumors of the stomach and small intestine; more than 150,000 gastric resections were performed in the United States in 2009.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gov Quinn Signs New Law Prohibiting Credit Checks on Job Applicants

CHICAGO – August 10, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today signed a bill into law that prohibits Illinois employers from discriminating based on a job seeker or employee’s credit history. The new law will remove a significant barrier to employment for the growing segment of the population whose credit history has been affected by the historic national recession.

“A job seeker’s ability to earn a decent living should not depend on how well they are weathering the greatest economic recession since the 1930s,” said Governor Quinn. “This law will stop employers from denying a job or promotion based on information that is not an indicator of a person’s character or ability to do a job well.”

House Bill 4658, sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) and Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), creates the Employee Credit Privacy Act. Under the act, Illinois’ employers may not use a person’s credit history to determine employment, recruiting, discharge or compensation.

The new law forbids employers from inquiring about an applicant or employee’s credit history or obtaining a copy of their credit report. The law does not affect an employer’s ability to conduct a thorough background investigation that does not contain a credit history or report.

Employers who violate the new law can be subject to civil liability for damages or injunctive relief.

Under the new law, employers may access credit checks under limited circumstances, including positions that involve: bonding or security per state or federal law; unsupervised access to more than $2,500; signatory power over businesses assets of more than $100; management and control of the business; access to personal, financial or confidential information, trade secrets, or state or national security information.

Pre-employment credit screenings are on the rise throughout the nation. The Society for Human Resources Management recently found that 60 percent of employers run a credit check on at least some applicants. That is an increase from the 42 percent in 2006 and 25 percent in 1998.

The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Monday, August 9, 2010

White House Press Officer Takes Questions Aboard Air Force One on President's Policies



Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release August 9, 2010



Aboard Air Force One

En Route Texas

10:29 A.M. EDT

MR. BURTON: All right, thank you for joining us on our trip to Texas. Any questions?

Q Bill, I do -- a couple quick questions about today. How does the President view a day like this, in which he spends a lot of his time raising political cash? Does he actually enjoy fundraising, or is this more of just a necessary part of the job?

MR. BURTON: I would say the President -- a couple things. For starters, the President is doing a couple different things today. He’s going to be raising some money. He’s going to be talking about the importance of education for our long-term economic outlook.

And as it pertains to campaigning, I would say that the President -- what the President does like about it is having the opportunity to go out to the American people and explain the choice that they’re going to have this November between some of the policies that the President and Democrats have been putting forward to get our economy back on track, and what the Republicans stand for, which is the same policies that got us into the economic crisis to begin with.

So he does like talking plainly to the American people about the issues that we face and the choices that they have. But he’s President of the United States, so every day there’s something new and several different challenges he has to take on, and he takes them on as they come.

Q As for the education speech itself, from the White House perspective, will the education community, will college students hear anything today from the President that they haven't heard before?

MR. BURTON: What they’ll hear is the President talking about the goal to, by 2020, to get America -- to have America as the country with the largest share of college graduates of any country in the world. He'll talk about some of the steps that we've taken to get there, for example, taking $60 billion that would have gone to big banks and lending institutions and putting it towards -- directly towards helping students complete their college educations. And he'll talk about Race to the Top. He'll talk about what we need to do in order to improve community colleges, where a lot of students are getting their higher education.

So in that sense, yes, there will be some new things that maybe folks have not heard before.

Q Bill, two quick questions. Can we expect the President to make an announcement on Christy Romer’s replacement before he goes to Martha’s Vineyard? And two, who are the candidates? Who’s on your short list?

MR. BURTON: There’s no -- the timeline that we're on is that by September 3rd, when Dr. Romer leaves her post is to have that position filled. She’ll obviously have a big say in who gets that position.

Q She’ll have a big say in it?

MR. BURTON: Yes, she’ll have a big say. But right now the President is examining candidates and taking a look at who the right person is.

Q So we don't expect an announcement before Martha’s Vineyard then?

MR. BURTON: I don't know about that necessarily. There won’t be one this week, though.

Q On the Texas visit, what do you make of the fact that Bill White, the nominee for governor, is making himself scarce? What does that say about the President’s coattails and image and popularity?

MR. BURTON: I don't think that it says anything broadly about the President’s coattails. I think it says that Bill White had something else going on today that he would rather do than campaign with the President.

Q Well, does the President take that as an insult?

MR. BURTON: No, he thinks that candidates should make their own decisions about how best to spend their time. He definitely does not take that as an insult.

Q How do you respond to the Republican argument coming out of Texas that Texas is in such better shape than most of the country because it has lower taxes, lower spending, run by Republicans? I mean you’re not going into friendly political turf today exactly.

MR. BURTON: Well, Texas is obviously a great state, one of the greatest states in the country. But like every other state, they’ve gone through this economic crisis, and they’ve lost a lot of jobs, which the President is doing everything he can to help create an environment where more jobs are being created.

They're a state that also has had a very tough time with the issue of health insurance. I know it has one of the lowest rates of health insurance in the country. So health insurance reform that the President signed into law this year I know will have a big impact on helping Texans get insured.

So I would say that you can have different competing economic philosophies, but the President is doing everything he can to help the Texas economy, just like the United States economy, get back on track.

Q Bill, the President has told Democratic candidates that he’ll do what he can for them, and if you want me by your side, I’ll be there with you, but if you want me to stay away, I’ll also stay away. Is he sort of reconciled to the fact that some Democrats like Bill White just really don't want to be seen with him?

MR. BURTON: I think that there has never been a President in the history of this great country who has been wanted by every single candidate across the country to come and campaign for them. President Obama has said plainly that he is going to go out and be helpful where he can be most helpful and spend his time doing things that are helping Democratic candidates across the country. And in the sense that he’s come to grips with that, it’s a historic fact of life.

Q But how does he balance those needs? Because he’s being helpful by raising money for Democrats in Texas, but he may also, in fact, be hurting the White campaign by showing up there at this time. So how do you sort of balance those competing needs?

MR. BURTON: I don't think anybody’s campaign is being hurt by the funds that the President is raising for the effort today. The President balances his time by taking a look at a map and seeing where he can be most helpful and when.

Q The President this morning at his event talked about the success of the cement plug. Who is briefing him? Did he receive his briefings over the weekend or this morning on the cement plug?

MR. BURTON: He -- I missed the last part of your question, but if I don’t answer it just let me know. He’s been briefed regularly by Carol Browner and other staff, and he continues to receive updates every single day even on the weekends.

Was there any other part to your question?

Q Well, a food-related Gulf question. Number one, he -- there’s two events where they’ve served seafood from the Gulf -- the shrimp last night and then I guess po’ boys at an event today. Can you tell us like where exactly those two things came from?

MR. BURTON: I had that same question and I’m tracking it down. I will let you know as soon as I hear.

Q Do you have any update on who will head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? And what’s the White House’s reaction to Senator Dodd last week saying that Elizabeth Warren will cause a fight if she’s the nominee?

MR. BURTON: Well, for starters, I would say that there is no update on the timing. It’s not going to happen this week.

But in terms of Senator Dodd, I think that we’ve litigated what he has had to say, and a lot of folks have opinions about Elizabeth Warren and other candidates. It’s the White House’s view that Elizabeth Warren would be confirmable. And I think that -- I think we’ve addressed that.

Q Can we expect an announcement before -- again, before he goes to Martha’s Vineyard?

MR. BURTON: Check back at the beginning of next week.

Q And of the actions of North Korea firing 110 rounds of ammo in disputed waters, any White House reaction?

MR. BURTON: Well, obviously the President wants to make sure that everybody is doing what they can to make sure that region is stable and there’s security for folks all over the region. But on that particular incident, no, not particularly.

Q The President is going to have a brief conversation with Governor Perry about border security. What is he going to tell the governor, and does he feel like -- that enough is being done to secure the border?

MR. BURTON: For starters, the President has done -- the President has put more assets on the border to secure the border than has ever previously been there. That includes National Guard troops, technology, things he has done on enforcement. That’s something that he is working very hard on.

I think that -- you know these tarmac greets with elected officials, Governor Perry will be there. It will probably be a very brief conversation.

Q Why not a substantive conversation of an issue of tremendous importance to border states?

MR. BURTON: This is something the President has been working hard on. And we’ve been in contact with Governor Perry. I know that our staff has contacted him for meetings and briefings to discuss the matter, and it’s something that we will continue to work on with them. Today, the schedule just didn’t allow it.

Q Any other announcements for Texas, anything specific? We’re still waiting for U.S. Attorneys.

MR. BURTON: No, nothing in particular on that, not at this point.

Q What’s the holdup?

MR. BURTON: I think we’re working with the delegation on the appropriate nominees.

Q And one last question. In some of his fundraising speeches, the President has been quite critical of George W. Bush. Can we expect him to criticize the former President today again on his home turf?

MR. BURTON: I think you’ll hear from the President on a lot of the messages that you’ve heard in the past about the kind of policies that he and Democrats have been promoting, and about what Republicans have been promoting, which are some of the same policies that got us into the situation that we’re in right now. So I don't think that there will be a marked difference from what you’ve heard in some of the other events.

Q Why no meeting with President Bush? He’ll only be a couple of miles away.

MR. BURTON: You know -- I think that the President will obviously see him at some point in the future. I don't know if there was a request for a meeting.

Q The Justice Department says negotiations with BP had been completed to establish the $20 billion fund. Do you have any details on those arrangements?

MR. BURTON: There’s going to be some more details this morning, maybe even happening on the ground right now, but I would check in with the Department of Justice on that.

Q Anything you could tell us?

MR. BURTON: Not at this point.

Q Bill White had suggested that if the President wants to talk to him he can call him. Does the President have any plans to call Bill White, or has he called him?

MR. BURTON: There are no plans to call him, no.

Q Okay. And can you talk a little bit about why the choice of education as the topic today?

MR. BURTON: Sure. Education is a critically important issue as it relates to the competitiveness of our country with other countries. And as the President has said before, people who out-educate us today are going to out-compete us tomorrow, and we simply are not going to be in a position where the United States is falling behind other countries as it relates to higher education. So the President thinks this is an important economic issue, and thought it was important to talk about it today.

Q I’m just wondering, is there a feeling that it’s gotten kind of lost in the shuffle with all the talk we’ve had this year about health care reform and financial regulatory reform, that people haven’t been paying attention?

MR. BURTON: Well, there’s a lot of things that the President focuses on every single day that the average American probably doesn’t have the time to pick up the newspaper and read about every single thing that’s happening. And reporters don’t even have time to cover all the things that we’re doing every single day. And we’re respectful of the fact that people are busy and average Americans are trying to get their bills paid on time, get their kids ready for school in the fall, and this is just an opportunity for the President to talk about something that's very important to him.

Q Thanks.

MR. BURTON: All right, thank you.

END 10:41 A.M. EDT

Friday, August 6, 2010

Disappointing Jobs Report Shows Loss of 131,000 Jobs in July, Leaving Unemployment Rate 9.5%



Total nonfarm payroll employment declined by 131,000 in July, and the unem-
ployment rate was unchanged at 9.5 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statis-
tics reported today. Federal government employment fell, as 143,000 temporary
workers hired for the decennial census completed their work. Private-sector
payroll employment edged up by 71,000.

Household Survey Data

Both the number of unemployed persons, at 14.6 million, and the unemployment
rate, at 9.5 percent, were unchanged in July. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult men (9.7 per-
cent), adult women (7.9 percent), teenagers (26.1 percent), whites (8.6 per-
cent), blacks (15.6 percent), and Hispanics (12.1 percent) showed little or no
change in July. The jobless rate for Asians was 8.2 percent, not seasonally
adjusted. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

In July, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and
over) was little changed at 6.6 million. These individuals made up 44.9 per-
cent of unemployed persons. (See table A-12.)

The civilian labor force participation rate (64.6 percent) and the employment-
population ratio (58.4 percent) were essentially unchanged in July; however,
these measures have declined by 0.6 percentage point and 0.4 point, respec-
tively, since April. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes re-
ferred to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged over
the month at 8.5 million but has declined by 623,000 since April. These in-
dividuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or
because they were unable to find a full-time job. (See table A-8.)

About 2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in July,
an increase of 340,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally ad-
justed.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were avail-
able for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They
were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the
4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)

Among the marginally attached, there were 1.2 million discouraged workers
in July, up by 389,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally ad-
justed.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because
they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.4 million persons
marginally attached to the labor force had not searched for work in the 4 weeks
preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsi-
bilities. (See table A-16.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 131,000 in July, reflecting the
departure of 143,000 temporary Census 2010 workers from federal government pay-
rolls. Total private employment edged up over the month (+71,000). Thus far this
year, private sector employment has increased by 630,000, with about two-thirds
of the gain occurring in March and April. (See table B-1.)

Manufacturing employment increased by 36,000 over the month. Motor vehicles and
parts had fewer seasonal layoffs than normal for July, contributing to a season-
ally adjusted employment increase of 21,000. The industry had added 32,000 jobs
in the first 6 months of the year. In July, employment in fabricated metals rose
by 9,000. Manufacturing employment has expanded by 183,000 since December 2009.

Health care added 27,000 jobs in July. Over the past 12 months, health care em-
ployment has risen by 231,000.

In July, employment in transportation and warehousing edged up by 12,000. Since
a recent low in February, transportation and warehousing has added 56,000 jobs.

Mining employment rose by 7,000 in July, with the gain concentrated in support
activities for mining. Mining has added 63,000 jobs since October 2009.

Employment in professional and business services was little changed (-13,000)
in July. The number of jobs in temporary help services showed little movement
(-6,000) over the month.

Employment in financial activities continued to trend down in July, with a
decline of 17,000. So far this year, monthly job losses in the industry have
averaged 12,000, compared with an average monthly job loss of 29,000 for all
of 2009.

Construction employment changed little (-11,000) in July; 10,000 construction
workers were off payrolls due to strike activity.

Employment in other private-sector industries, including wholesale trade, re-
tail trade, information, and leisure and hospitality showed little change in

Government employment fell by 202,000 in July, largely reflecting the loss of
143,000 temporary workers hired for Census 2010. Employment in both state and
local governments edged down over the month.

In July, the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls
increased by 0.1 hour to 34.2 hours. The manufacturing workweek for all em-
ployees increased by 0.1 hour to 40.1 hours, following a decrease of 0.5 hour
in June. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on
private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 33.5 hours in July.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

US Dept of Energy Moves Forward with Scaled Back FutureGen Clean-Coal Project

CHICAGO – August 5, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today responded to Secretary of the Department of Energy Steven Chu’s announcement that the Department will be moving forward with FutureGen 2.0 in Illinois. FutureGen 2.0 will be a cutting-edge, clean coal repowering program and a carbon dioxide (CO2) storage network that can be a model for the nation.

Governor Quinn and Senator Durbin released the following statement:

“Three years ago, Illinois was announced as the national winner, today we are announcing that Illinois will still be in the lead when it comes to cutting-edge coal research and creating jobs.

Secretary Chu today confirmed that more than $1 billion in federal Recovery Act funding will be invested in Illinois to break ground on FutureGen 2.0 – a project centered in Mattoon with new projects in Meredosia and other parts of the state.

Advances in other large scale carbon sequestration projects since then have required the Department of Energy to re-tool the project in order to keep the United States on the cutting-edge of clean coal technology.

The people of Illinois have overcome attempts to kill this program, delays and extensions since FutureGen was originally proposed six years ago.

FutureGen 2.0 allows Illinois to remain a leader in innovative technology that will serve as a model for the nation. The new project stays true to the original goal of 90 percent CO2 capture and will provide thousands of good paying jobs in our state.

We would like to thank Coles Together, the Department of Energy, the FutureGen Alliance, Congressman Tim Johnson and the Illinois Congressional Delegation for working hard with us to keep this project alive for so many years.”

FutureGen 2.0 will bring more than 1,000 construction jobs to downstate Illinois and another 1,000 jobs to suppliers across the state. The technology for repowering and retrofitting plants derived from FutureGen 2.0 will lead to a decade-long project of repowering and retrofitting many coal-fired power plants in Illinois, creating more than 30,000 jobs in our state over the next ten years.

Across the country, 594 coal-fired plants could be candidates for retrofitting and repowering and thousands more globally. The technology and the training center for those efforts will be centered in Illinois.

The more than $1 billion that was set aside for the original FutureGen project will be reprogrammed and awarded to the FutureGen Alliance, Babcock & Wilcox, Ameren and Air Liquide Process & Construction, Inc. to build FutureGen 2.0. The funding will support four primary areas of work in the state of Illinois:

1) The Department of Energy and its partners will establish a regional deep saline injection CO2 storage facility in Mattoon, Illinois;

2) The Department of Energy, in cooperation with the Department of Labor and the Illinois Building Trades Council, also plan to develop a regional training center on the Mattoon site to train workers in building and repowering coal-fired power stations with advanced technologies;

3) The Department of Energy’s partners will retrofit and repower Ameren’s idle coal-fired power plant in Meredosia, Illinois with advanced Oxy–combustion technology, which will dramatically reduce CO2, and other pollutants and create 700 construction jobs and more than 50 permanent jobs; and

4) The Department of Energy will support the construction of a first-of-its-kind Midwest regional CO2 transportation pipeline from the Meredosia facility to Mattoon, Illinois for sequestration.

President's Remarks on the Confirmation of Elena Kagan to the US Supereme Court

Renaissance Hotel

Chicago, Illinois

3:56 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I am very pleased that the Senate has just voted to confirm Elena Kagan as our nation’s 112th Supreme Court Justice. And I want to thank the Senate Judiciary Committee, particularly its Chairman, Senator Leahy, for giving her a full, fair and timely hearing.

Over the past two months, the committee has scrutinized Elena’s record as a scholar, as a law school dean, as a presidential advisor, and as Solicitor General. And after 17 hours of testimony during which she answered more than 540 questions, I’d say they got a pretty good look at Elena Kagan. They’ve gotten a good sense of her formidable intelligence, her rich understanding of our Constitution, her commitment to the rule of law, and her excellent -- and occasionally irreverent -- sense of humor. And they have come to understand why, throughout her career, she has earned the respect and admiration of folks from across the political spectrum -- an achievement reflected in today’s bipartisan vote.

But today’s vote wasn’t just an affirmation of Elena’s intellect and accomplishments. It was also an affirmation of her character and her temperament; her open-mindedness and even-handedness; her determination to hear all sides of every story and consider all possible arguments. Because Elena understands that the law isn’t just an abstraction or an intellectual exercise. She knows that the Supreme Court’s decisions shape not just the character of our democracy, but the circumstances of our daily lives -- or, as she once put it, that “behind the law there are stories -- stories of people’s lives as shaped by the law, stories of people’s lives as might be changed by law.”

So I am confident that Elena Kagan will make an outstanding Supreme Court Justice. And I am proud, also, of the history we’re making with her appointment. For nearly two centuries, there wasn’t a single woman on our nation’s highest court. When Elena takes her seat on that bench, for the first time in our history, there will be three women.

It is, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently stated, “one of the most exhilarating developments” -- a sign of progress that I relish not just as a father who wants limitless possibilities for my two daughters, but as an American proud that our Supreme Court will be more inclusive, more representative, and more reflective of us as a people than ever before.

Thanks very much, everybody.

Monday, August 2, 2010

President Obama's Speech on the US Policy in Iraq


Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

Disabled American Veterans

Hyatt Regency Atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia

Monday, August 2, 2010

As Prepared for Delivery—

Good morning. Thank you Commander Barrera for your kind introduction and your lifetime of service—in the Marines in Vietnam and as a tireless advocate for your fellow disabled veterans. Thank you Bobby.

I want to thank your great leadership team for welcoming me today—Chairman Ray Dempsey; incoming commander Wally Tyson; national adjutant Art Wilson; Judy Hezlep of the D-A-V Auxiliary; and your Executive Director in Washington, Dave Gorman. And I’m pleased to be joined by a decorated Vietnam veteran, wounded warrior and a lifetime member of the D-A-V—my outstanding Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki.

Disabled American Veterans, I valued your advice and counsel when I was a senator, when I co-sponsored the Post-9/11 GI Bill. You were one of the first veterans organizations that I called upon when I began my presidential campaign.

And as President, it’s been my pleasure to welcome you to the White House—to make sure America is serving our veterans as well as you’ve served us; and, most recently, to sign advanced appropriations into law so that veterans health care will never again be held hostage to the budget battles of Washington

There’s another visit I won’t forget. I was in the Oval Office expecting a visit from the D-A-V. And in comes Bobby carrying a baseball bat. Now, it’s not every day that somebody gets past the Secret Service while wielding a baseball bat. I think you heard about this. Turns out it was a genuine Louisville Slugger—a thank you for going to bat for our veterans on advanced appropriations.

So I’m grateful for that symbol of our partnership, and I’m proud of the progress we’ve achieved together.

In the life of our nation, not every generation has been summoned to defend our country in its hour of need. But every generation to answer that call has done so with honor and courage.

Among you are members of that generation that saved the world from fascism. I was honored to stand with our World War II veterans at Normandy last year for the anniversary of D-Day. And this year, as we mark the 65th anniversary of our victory in that war, we once again salute our veterans of the Second World War.

Others among you faced a brutal foe on a cold Korean peninsula. This year, as we mark the 60th anniversary that conflict, I will be proud to travel to the Republic of Korea in November to pay tribute to our veterans of the Korean War.

Many of you served in the jungles of Vietnam. You also served with honor, but were often shunned when you came home. That was a national disgrace, and it must never happen again. That’s s why we’re making sure our veterans from today’s wars are shown the respect and dignity that they deserve.

And whether you served in the Gulf to free a captive Kuwait, fought in the streets of Mogadishu or stopped an ethnic slaughter in the Balkans, you too are part of an unbroken line of service stretching across two centuries.

For you, coming home was the beginning of another battle—the battle to recover. You fought to stand again, to walk again, to work again. You fought for each other—and for the benefits and treatment you had earned. And you became leaders in our communities, companies and country, including a former Vietnam vet and senator, Max Cleland, who reminded us that America’s disabled veterans are “strong at the broken places.”

Today, your legacy of service is carried on by a new generation of Americans. Some stepped forward in a time of peace, not foreseeing years of combat.

Others stepped forward in this time of war, knowing they could be sent into harm’s way. For the past nine years, in Afghanistan and Iraq, they have borne the burdens of war. They – and their families – have faced the greatest test in the history of our all-volunteer force—serving tour after tour, year after year. Through their extraordinary service they have written their own chapters in the American story, and by any measure have earned their place among the greatest of generations.

Now, one of those chapters is nearing an end. As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31, 2010 America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing—as promised, on schedule.

Already, we have closed or turned over to Iraq hundreds of bases.

We’re moving out millions of pieces of equipment in one of the largest logistics operations that we’ve seen in decades. By the end of this month, we’ll have brought more than 90,000 of our troops home from Iraq since I took office—more than 90,000.

Today – even as terrorists try to derail Iraq’s progress – because of the sacrifices of our troops and their Iraqi partners, violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it’s been in years. And next month, we will change our military mission from combat to supporting and training Iraqi security forces. In fact, in many parts of the country, Iraqis have already taken the lead for security.

As agreed to with the Iraqi government, we will maintain a transitional force until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of next year. During this period, our forces will have a focused mission—supporting and training Iraqi forces, partnering with Iraqis in counterterrorism missions, and protecting our civilian and military efforts. These are dangerous tasks. And there are still those with bombs and bullets who will try to stop Iraq’s progress. The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq.

But make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing—from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats. And as we mark the end of America’s combat mission in Iraq, a grateful America must pay tribute to all who served there.

For our nation has had vigorous debates about the Iraq War. There are patriots who supported going to war, and patriots who opposed it.

But there has never been any daylight between us when it comes to supporting the more than one million Americans in uniform have served in Iraq—far more than any conflict since Vietnam.

These men and women from across our country have done more than meet the challenges of this young century. Through their extraordinary courage, confidence and commitment, these troops and veterans have proven themselves as a new generation of American leaders. While our country has sometimes been divided, they have fought together as one. While other individuals and institutions have shirked responsibility, they have welcomed it. And while it is easy to be daunted by overwhelming challenges, the generation that has served in Iraq has overcome every test before them.

They took to the skies and sped across deserts in the initial charge into Baghdad. And today we’re joined by an infantryman who was there as part of the 101st Airborne Division—Sergeant Nicholas Bernardi.

When invasion gave way to insurgency, our troops persevered, block by block, city by city, from Baghdad to Fallujah. As a driver in a transportation company, this soldier endured constant attacks but never waivered in his mission—and we thank Sergeant Dan Knabe.

And when terrorists and militias plunged Iraq into sectarian war, our troops adapted and adjusted—restoring order and effectively defeating al Qaeda in Iraq on the battlefield. And among those who served in those pivotal days was a scout with the 1st Cavalry Division—Specialist Matt Seidl.

For each of these men and women there are countless others. And we honor them all. Our young enlisted troops and non commissioned officers who are the backbone of our military. The National Guardsmen and Reservists who served in unprecedented deployments. And more women tested by combat than in any war in American history, including a Marine here today—Sergeant Patricia Ruiz.

And we salute the families back home. They too have sacrificed in this war. That is why my wife Michelle—and the Vice President’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden—have made it their mission to make sure America takes care of our remarkable military families, including our veterans.

Now, this summer, tens of thousands of our troops in Iraq are coming home. Last week, Vice President Biden was at Fort Drum to help welcome back members of the legendary 10th Mountain Division. Families are being reunited at bases across the country, from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to Fort Riley in Kansas to Fort Lewis in Washington.

In this season of homecomings, every American can show their gratitude to our patriots who served in Iraq.

As we do, we are humbled by the profound sacrifice that has been rendered. Each of the veterans I have mentioned carries with them the wounds of this war. And as a nation, we will honor forever all who gave their lives in service in Iraq. Soldiers. Sailors. Airmen. Marines. Coast Guardsmen. Active. Guard. Reserve.

But even as we end the war in Iraq, even as we welcome home of so many of our troops, others are stilled deployed in Afghanistan.

Let us never forget—it was Afghanistan where al Qaeda plotted and trained to murder 3,000 innocent people on 9/11. It is Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan where terrorists have launched other attacks against us and our allies. And if Afghanistan were to be engulfed by an even wide insurgency, al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates would have even more space to plan their next attack. And as President of the United States, I refuse to let that happen.

That is why, after years in which the situation had deteriorated in Afghanistan, I announced a new strategy last December—a military effort to break the Taliban’s momentum and train Afghan forces so they can take the lead for security; a civilian effort to promote good governance and development that improves the lives of the Afghan people; and deeper cooperation with Pakistan to root out terrorists on both sides of the border.

We face huge challenges in Afghanistan. But it’s important that the American people know that we are making progress and we’re focused on goals that are clear and achievable.

On the military front, nearly all the additional forces that I ordered to Afghanistan are now in place. Along with our Afghan and international partners, we’re going on the offensive against the Taliban– targeting their leaders, challenging them in regions where they’d had free reign, and training Afghan National Security Forces.

And today our thoughts are prayers are with all our troops risking their lives for our safety in Afghanistan.

On the civilian front, we’re insisting on greater accountability, and the Afghan government has taken concrete steps to foster development; to combat corruption; and to put forward a reintegration plan that allows Afghans to lay down their arms.

In Pakistan, we’ve seen the government begin to take the fight to violent extremists within its borders. Major blows have been struck against al Qaeda and its leadership.

Because in this region and beyond, we will tolerate no safe for al Qaeda and their extremist allies. We will disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately defeat al Qaeda. And we will give our troops the resources and equipment to get the job done and keep our country safe.

At the same time, every American who has ever worn the uniform must also know this—your country is going to take care of you when you come home. Our nation’s commitment to our veterans—to you and your families—is a sacred trust. And to me and my administration, upholding that trust is a moral obligation.

That’s why I’ve charged Secretary Shinseki with building a 21st century VA. That includes one of the largest percentage increases to the VA budget in the past 30 years. Yes, we will cut the deficit, and I’ve proposed a freeze on discretionary domestic spending. But what I haven’t frozen is the spending we need to keep our military strong, our country safe and our veterans secure. So we’re making an historic commitment to our veterans.

For about 200,000 Vietnam vets who may have been exposed to Agent Orange and who now suffer from three chronic diseases, we’re making it easier for you to get the health care and benefits you need. And or our Gulf War veterans, we’ve declared that nine infectious diseases are now presumed to be related to your service in Desert Storm.

For our disabled veterans, we’ve eliminated co-pays for those of you who are catastrophically disabled.

We’ve kept our promise on concurrent receipt by proposing legislation that would allow severely disabled retirees to receive your military retired pay and your VA disability benefits. It’s the right thing to do.

We’ve dramatically increased funding for veterans health care across the board. That includes improving care for rural veterans and women veterans. For those half-million vets who had lost their eligibility—our Priority 8 veterans—we’re restoring your access to VA health care.

And since the rumors continue to fly, let me say it as clearly as I can. The historic health care reform legislation that I signed into law does not—I repeat, does not—change your veterans benefits. The VA health care and benefits that you know and trust are safe, and that includes prosthetics for our disabled veterans.

Thanks to advanced appropriations, the days of delayed funding for veterans medical care are over. And just as those delays were unacceptable, so too are long delays in the claims process.

So we’re working hard to create a single lifetime electronic record that our troops and veterans can keep for life.

Today, I can announce that for the first time ever, veterans will be able to go to the VA website, click a simple “blue button” and download or print your personnel health records so you have them when you need them and can share them with your doctors outside the VA. That’s happening, this fall.

We’re hiring thousands of new claims processors to break the backlog once and for all.

And to make sure the backlog doesn’t come back, we’re reforming the claims process itself, with new information technologies and paperless systems.

As a result of the innovation competition that I announced last summer, our dedicated VA employees suggested more than 10,000 new ways to cut through the red tape and bureaucracy. And we’re already putting dozens of these innovative ideas into action. Additionally, we’re enabling more veterans to check the status of their claims on-line and from their cell phone.

As a next step, we’re opening this competition to entrepreneurs and academics so the best minds in America can help us develop the best technologies to serve our vets, including those of you with multiple traumatic injuries. And we’re going to keep at this until we meet our commitment to cut those backlogs, slash those wait times, and deliver your benefits sooner. This is a priority, and we’re going to get it done.

We’re making progress in ending homelessness among our veterans. Today, on any given night, there are about 20,000 fewer veterans on the streets. But we’re not going to be satisfied until every veteran who has fought for America has a home in America.

Finally, we’re keeping faith with our newest veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. We’re offering more of the support and counseling they need to transition back to civilian life. That includes funding the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which is already helping more than 300,000 veterans and family members pursue their dream of a college education.

For veterans trying to find work in a very tough economy, we’re helping with job training and placement. I’ve directed the federal government to make it a priority to hire more veterans, including disabled veterans. And every business in America needs to know—our vets have the training, they’ve got the skills, and they’re ready to work. Our country is stronger when we tap the incredible talents of our veterans.

For those coming home injured, we’re continuing to direct unprecedented support to our wounded warriors in uniform—more treatment centers, more case managers and delivering the absolute best care available. For those who can, we want to help them get back to where they want to be—with their units. And that includes service members with a disability, who still have so much to offer our military.

We’re directing unprecedented resources to treating the signature wounds of today’s wars—Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I recently signed into law the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. It not only improves treatment for T-B-I and P-T-S-D, it gives new support to many of the caregivers who put their lives on hold to care for their loved one.

As so many of you know, P-T-S-D is a pain like no other—the nightmares that keep coming back, the rage that strikes suddenly, the hopelessness that has led too many of our troops and veterans to take their own lives. Today, I want to say to anyone who is struggling—do not suffer in silence. It’s not a sign of weakness to reach out for support; it is a sign of strength. Your country needs you. And we are here to help you stand tall again.

We’re making major investments in awareness, outreach and suicide prevention; hiring more mental health professionals; and improving care and treatment. For those of you suffering from P-T-S-D, we’re making it a whole lot easier to qualify for VA benefits. From now on, if a VA doctor confirms a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress, that’s enough—no matter what war you served in.

These are the commitments my administration has made. This is the sacred trust we have pledged to uphold—to you and all who serve, including a truly inspiring American, Staff Sergeant Cory Remsburg. He was at Bethesda during one of my visits to see our wounded warriors. As I walked into his room, I saw a picture on the wall—a picture of the two of us together. It turns out I had met Cory before, back at the D-Day anniversary in Normandy. A proud Army Ranger, he had joined in a reenactment of that historic paratrooper jump.

Soon after, Cory served on his 10th deployment since 9/11—that’s right, his 10th. And that’s when an I-E-D nearly took his life. The traumatic brain injury was severe. Cory was in a coma for months, and it seemed possible that he might never wake up. But then something happened. His doctors can’t explain it. His parents call it a miracle. Cory opened one of his eyes. A few weeks later, he moved a leg, then an arm.

Now, there at Bethesda, we were meeting again. Cory still couldn’t speak. But he looked me in the eye. He lifted his arm and shook my hand firmly.

And when I asked how he was feeling, he held up his hand, pulled his fingers together and gave a solid thumbs up.

Today, Cory is at a VA hospital in Florida. With the support of his family and VA staff, he’s working hard every day to regain his strength. He’s learning to speak again. And he’s grateful for the visits he’s received from friends and supporters—including the Disabled American Veterans.

Cory is only 27 years old. He knows he has a long and hard road ahead. But he pushes on, and he’s determined to get back to his fellow Rangers. And when someone at the hospital said, “Cory, you’re going to walk out of here someday,” he said “No, I’m going to run out of here.”

Staff Sergeant Cory Remsburg, Disabled American Veterans—you are the very essence of America, the values that sustain us a people, and the virtues our nation needs most right now.

The resilience that, in the face of great loss, lets us pick ourselves up and keep pushing on.

The sense of purpose that tells us to carry on, not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard, even when the odds seem overwhelming.

The confidence that our destiny is never written for us, it is written by us.

And the faith—that fundamental American faith—that there are brighter days ahead; and that we not will not simply endure, we will emerge from our tests and trials even stronger than before.

That is your story. That is America’s story. And I’m proud to stand with you as we write the next proud chapter in the life of the country we love.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.