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Obama: $2B grants to two solar companies

WASHINGTON, July 3 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama announced Saturday the U.S. Department of Energy will award nearly $2 billion in Recovery Act funds to two solar companies.

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In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said Abengoa Solar will build one of the world's largest solar plants in Arizona, and Abound Solar Manufacturing will build solar panel construction plants in Colorado and Indiana.

One day after the Labor Department reported the private sector added 83,000 jobs but the economy overall lost 125,000 jobs in June, the president noted that the economy has created private sector jobs for six straight months, following 22 consecutive months of job losses.

"That's a positive sign," he said. "But the truth is, the recession from which we're emerging has left us in a hole that's about 8 million jobs deep. And as I've said from the day I took office, it's going to take months, even years, to dig our way out -- and it's going to require an all-hands-on-deck effort."

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The president again urged Republicans in the Senate to allow passage of unemployment insurance extension for the long-term unemployed. He also called for expanded small business loans and aid to states facing budget gaps.

He said the solar energy grants represent an attempt to compete "aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America."

The Arizona project is expected to create about 1,600 construction jobs and more than 70 percent of construction components and products will be manufactured in the United States. The projects in Colorado and Indiana are expected to create more than 2,000 construction jobs, and more than 1,500 permanent jobs producing solar panels.


Oil tanker explosion kills 230 in Congo

BUKAVU, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 3 (UPI) -- At least 230 people died in a blast sparked by a cigarette near an overturned oil tanker truck in the Republic of the Congo, officials said Saturday.

The dead included five United Nations peacekeepers, U.N. officials said.

The tanker's driver had been trying to pass a bus in Sange, in South Kivu province, on the country's eastern border, when it flipped over Friday afternoon, Mende Omalanga, the country's minister of communications, told CNN.

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When oil began pouring from the overturned truck, residents tried to collect it, Omalanga said, and one was smoking a cigarette, which caused the explosion.

Omalanga said the biggest group of victims was sitting in a nearby bar watching the World Cup soccer match between the Netherlands and Brazil.

The fire was still burning Saturday morning, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country said.

Most of those injured went to the nearby town of Uvira for treatment, Omalanga said.

The driver, whose truck is owned by a company called GINKI, escaped the inferno, CNN said.


12 arrested in Lahore bombing

LAHORE, Pakistan, July 3 (UPI) -- A dozen suspects have been arrested in suicide bombings that killed more than 40 people and injured hundreds at a packed Sufi shrine, an official said Saturday.

"They are key members of a number of gangs involved in major incidents of terrorism in the province," a Punjab government spokesman said, Press Trust of India reported.

Law enforcement officials seized weapons and explosives in the arrests of "suicide bombers and their handlers," a Punjab government spokesman said.

The suspects included terrorists and accomplices allegedly involved in attacks on other places of worship, authorities said.

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The Lahore shrine is largely attended by members of the Barelvi sect, regarded as heretics by the Taliban, whose members mostly belong to the rival Deoband Sunni sect.

No one claimed responsibility for Thursday's suicide bombings, but Taliban militants and their Punjabi Jihadi allies have been involved in several such bombings lately, officials said.

The Punjab government called the arrests of the "terrorists and saboteurs" a "big achievement" that will help in curb terrorism, the spokesman said.


Obama: U.S. faces 'daunting' challenges

WASHINGTON, July 3 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama, in a July Fourth message to the nation, said America faces "daunting" but not "insurmountable" challenges.

In a message posted on the White House Web site, the president said the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence -- when Americans "gather in town centers and wave flags in parades" -- is a time to "recall this history we share, but also to honor the vibrant and enduring spirit of America established on this day."

He said the founders' "tenacity, resolve, and courage in the face of seemingly impossible odds became the bedrock of our country" and "the foundation of the American dream."

Recalling the "farmers and tradesmen who served in militias during our American Revolution" and citing servicemen and women serving around the world today, Obama said "the sacrifices of our Armed Forces have been extraordinary."

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"Today we pay tribute to our service members, many of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice," he said. "We also acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of their loving families."

The president said the Fourth of July is a reminder of what he called "the solemn duty we share to ensure our Nation lives up to its promise."

"America again faces a daunting set of challenges, yet our history shows these are not insurmountable," he said. "We need only to draw upon the perseverance of those before us, our Founders who declared and fought for their ideals; our ancestors who emigrated here and struggled to build a better future for their children; and our pioneers and entrepreneurs who blazed trails that have continually expanded our horizons."

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