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Aug. 16, 2010 at 5:06 PM
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Obama touts U.S. clean energy industry

MENOMONEE FALLS,, Wis., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Monday called clean energy "a new foundation for lasting growth" to revive the manufacturing industry in the 21st century.

Obama made the remarks at ZBB Energy Corp., a Menomonee Falls, Wis., company that makes batteries and power-storage systems using renewable energy sources.

"At this plant, you're doing more than just making high-tech batteries; you're pointing the country towards a brighter economic future," Obama told workers at ZBB.

He said the administration's "commitment to clean energy" would create more than 800,000 U.S. 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."

ZBB received a $1.3 million federal stimulus loan that will help fund a $4.5 million factory renovation. That will create 80 jobs and eliminate the need to cut 12 at ZBB, which makes and exports throughout the world batteries and systems to store electricity from solar cells and wind turbines.

"For years, we've heard about manufacturing jobs disappearing overseas," Obama said. "Companies like this one are showing us how manufacturing jobs can come back."

The president said U.S. companies have made significant inroads in the international market for batteries used in hybrid and electric vehicles and other clean-energy industries.

The ZBB loan is part of $55.5 million in stimulus funds to Wisconsin to transform its industrial sector through clean-energy manufacturing, Obama said.

The president was to speak later Monday at a fundraiser for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the state's gubernatorial race.

Gates indicates he'll retire next year

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested in a magazine interview he would retire next year.

"I think sometime in 2011 sounds pretty good," Gates told Foreign Policy magazine. "It would be a mistake to wait until January 2012," he said, because that would force President Barack Obama to fill the defense post in the heat of his re-election campaign.

"I just think this is not the kind of job you want to fill in the spring of a presidential election," Gates said.

Gates, who turns 67 next month, will lead a strategic review on the Afghan war and the decision to begin withdrawing U.S. troops in July 2011. In December, the Pentagon is expected to oversee the move to allow gays to serve openly in the military.

White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters in Wisconsin Gates had agreed to stay in the position longer than he had intended.

"The president is gratefully thankful for that service, but any announcement will come from him," Burton said during Obama's visit to a Wisconsin clean-energy plant that received a $1.3 million federal stimulus loan, .

Noting Gates has said publicly he could retire next year, Burton said, "It's not a surprise to see him discussing his plans to move on."

The New York Daily News reported Monday potential Gates successors include Michele Flournoy, the Defense Department policy undersecretary who would become the first woman to head the department, CIA Director Leon Panetta and former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, who advised Obama on national security during the president's 2008 campaign.

High court won't block 'birther' fine

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to block the fine of a "birther" movement leader who refuses to recognize President Obama was born in the United States.

Orly Taitz, born in the old Soviet Union, is a lawyer and dentist in Orange County, Calif., who claims Obama was born in Kenya, the homeland of his father, despite documents from a Hawaiian hospital that show he was born in that state.

Taitz was fined $20,000 by U.S. District Judge Clay Land in Columbus, Ga., for abuse of the judicial process. The lawyer was trying to block the deployment of her client, an Army physician, to Iraq, saying since Obama purportedly was not born in the United States, he was serving as president illegally.

When Land refused to issue a restraining order, Taitz accused him of treason, SCOTUSBLUG.com reported, and continued to file motion after motion, even after being warned not to do so.

A federal appeals court refused to block the penalty, and Land's court began proceedings to put a lien on her property.

In asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block the penalty, Taitz called it a "political hit" designed to protect Obama. Her request first went to Justice Clarence Thomas, who refused, then to Justice Samuel Alito, who referred the request to the full court.

The full Supreme Court rejected her request Monday in a one-line order without comment.

Support for Fla. ban on drilling sinks

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- With oil no longer gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, support for a state constitutional ban of drilling in Florida waters is waning, poll results indicate.

Forty-one percent of Florida voters support an offshore drilling ban, while 49 percent said they opposed, results indicated in a poll conducted for The Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times and two cable-based news television stations. The poll was released Monday.

In May, the poll indicated 44 percent supported the ban and 44 percent opposed.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased by BP exploded April 20, killing 11 workers, and sank two days later, spilling millions of barrels of oil into the gulf until a temporary cap contained the spill July 15.

Support faded mainly in the North Florida-Panhandle area, which endured the bulk of the months-long oil spill's effects. In May, 52 percent of voters in the region said they supported a ban; the backers now number 36 percent.

The results put Florida back in line with much of the country, where expanding oil drilling generally is viewed as necessary, pollster Julia Clark said.

The telephone survey of 602 registered voters was conducted Aug. 6-10 by Ipsos Public Affairs, an independent, non-partisan research company in Washington. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

In Pakistan, 6 million at risk of disease

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- About 6 million people, most of them infants and children, are at risk of lethal diseases transmitted through dirty water in flooded Pakistan, officials said.

As the death toll from the flooding climbed to more than 1,400, the United Nations said it had received only a third of the $460 million it sought in an emergency appeal for donations, The New York Times reported.

"Clean water is an urgent need," Maurizio Giuliano, a U.N. spokesman, told the newspaper. "There was a first wave of deaths caused by the floods themselves. But if we don't act soon enough, there will be a second wave of deaths caused by a combination of lack of clean water, food shortages and water-borne and vector-borne diseases.

"The picture is a gruesome one."

Costs for essential aid are expected to continue increasing even after the rains stop.

More than two weeks of rain has destroyed more than 895,000 homes, government officials said Monday. Pakistan's Disaster Authority said about a fifth of the country was underwater, CNN reported.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who toured the country with President Asif Ali Zardari, said the monsoon-driven flooding in Pakistan was worse than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2005 Pakistani earthquake combined.

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