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The Fourth of July, 2010: Independence Day

John Trumbull's 1818 painting of the signing of the Declaration of IndepenceOn July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The birthday of the United States of America—Independence Day—is celebrated on July 4, the day the wording of the Declaration was approved by Congress.  See an image of the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives.

As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the nation. In 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly-independent nation was 2.5 million. This year, the Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau estimate is 309.6 million.

For fascinating figures on the Fourth’s fireworks, flags, fanfares, firings (grills) and more, see the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features.

Secretary Locke Addresses Symposium on Copyright Policy in the Internet Economy

Secretary Locke on the podiumU.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke discussed the relationship of copyright policy, creativity, and innovation in the Internet economy at a Commerce Department symposium today. The day-long symposium is part of an ongoing series of events sponsored by the Department’s Internet Policy Task Force. The encourages public discussion of online copyright policy in the United States and seeks comment and input from all interested stakeholders--rights holders, Internet service providers, and consumers--on the impact of current copyright laws, the common and emerging techniques used to illegally distribute and obtain protected works, the extent of such infringement and its effects on creativity and innovation in relevant technologies.

Recognizing the vital importance of the Internet to U.S. innovation, prosperity, education and political and cultural life, the Commerce Department has made it a top priority to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation.  The newly created Internet Policy Task Force will identify leading public policy and operational challenges in the Internet environment.  The Task Force leverages expertise across many of the Department’s bureaus, including those responsible for domestic and international information and communications technology policy, international trade, cyber security standards and best practices, intellectual property, business advocacy and export control.  For more information, including the agenda and webcast information, go to the Internet Policy Task Force Web site (whttp://www.ntia.doc.gov/category/internet-policy-task-force?type=All&field_month_list_value_many_to_one=February&date_filter%5Bvalue%5D%5Byear%5D=) or (www.uspto.gov).  Secretary remarks

NOAA, FDA, and Gulf Coast State Officials Affirm Commitment to Ensuring Safety of Gulf Coast Seafood

Federal and state agencies will use joint protocol for reopening closed waters

Image of tubs of shrimpGulf Coast state health and fisheries officials joined with senior leaders from several federal agencies to affirm a shared commitment to ensuring the safety of seafood coming out of the Gulf of Mexico, through closures of affected waters, surveillance, and with an eye toward reopening closed waters as soon as possible, consistent with public health goals.

Representatives from Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency met last week in New Orleans with state health officers and state fisheries directors from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to coordinate implementation of a joint protocol for sampling and reopening that will apply to both state and federal waters.  

Together, they will implement a comprehensive, coordinated, multi-agency program to ensure that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe to eat. This is important not only for consumers who need to know their food is safe to eat, but also for fishermen who need to be able to sell their products with confidence.

Read more  |  Official statement of acceptance of protocol  |  Summary of the reopening protocol

Secretary Locke Blog: Help Now Available for Employers Offering Early Retiree Health Insurance

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services began accepting applications for a program that provides much needed financial relief for employers – as well as unions and state and local governments – providing coverage to early retirees.

The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program will provide $5 billion in financial assistance to help maintain coverage for early retirees age 55 and older who are not yet eligible for Medicare - another example of how health care reform is, and will continue to be, good for business.

As health care costs have skyrocketed, it has become harder for employers to provide health insurance not only to their current employees but also their retirees. A survey found that over the past several decades the percent of firms offering retiree health insurance has dropped by more than half. In 1988, two-thirds of large firms provided health benefits to retiring workers. In 2009, less than a third did so.  See the Secretary's White House blog

For applications and more information about the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program visit www.hhs.gov/ociio.

Secretary Locke Lauds New National Space Policy as Pro Business

Image of rocket launchPresident Obama’s new National Space Policy sets goals and guidelines for American space activities and promotes a robust and competitive U.S. commercial space sector, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said today.  The policy also puts increased emphasis on space-based environmental observations and international cooperation, both critical functions of the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The policy, released today, is the Obama administration’s first comprehensive policy guiding our endeavors in space. It addresses commercial space by directing government agencies to encourage and facilitate the growth of a U.S. commercial space sector through increased U.S. purchases of commercial space goods, reducing the regulatory impact on the space industry and actively promoting the export of U.S. space products.  Read more   White House fact sheet

Find additional information about the National Space Policy at www.space.commerce.gov.

Secretary Locke Joins Presidents Obama and Medvedev for U.S.-Russia Business Summit

Photo of Medevev, Obama and Locke at table.Commerce Secretary Gary Locke participated in the U.S.-Russia Business Summit today alongside President Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russia’s Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Talking with both U.S. and Russian business and association leaders, Locke discussed further developing bilateral commercial relations and highlighted examples of new plans for cooperation between U.S. and Russian companies. Locke and Nabiullina co-chair the U.S.-Russia Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group and together solicited input from Summit participants. Read more  White House "Reset" fact sheet   DOC Fact sheet  White House blog   Press conference video

Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Commerce's Economic Development Administration Launches Interactive Web Site

Satellite image of Florida

The Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development has launched an interactive Web site to encourage public comment on ways to promote economic growth and sustainability in the Space Coast region as it adapts to changes in America’s space program. The site offers valuable information about the work the Obama administration is doing to create jobs in the region by fostering a more supportive entrepreneurial environment.  Full release   Secretary Locke visit to Space Coast blog

Commerce's NIST Team Advances in Translating 'Language' of Nanopores

Image of nanopresScientists from Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have moved a step closer to developing the means for a rapid diagnostic blood test that can scan for thousands of disease markers and other chemical indicators of health. The team reports it has learned how to decode the electrical signals generated by a nanopore—a "gate" less than two nanometers wide in an artificial cell membrane. 

Nanopores are not new themselves; for more than a decade, scientists have sought to use a nanopore-based electrical detector to characterize single-stranded DNA for genetic sequencing applications. More recently, NIST scientists turned their attention to using nanopores to identify, quantify and characterize each of the more than 20,000 proteins the body produces—a capability that would provide a snapshot of a patient's overall health at a given moment. But while nanopores permit molecules to enter into them one at a time, determining what specific individual molecule has just passed through has not been easy.  Read more here

Secretary Locke Joins Vice President Biden for Intellectual Property Enforcement Strategy Event

Photo of officials at White House meeting.U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke joined Vice President Joe Biden and other administration officials today at the White House to introduce the U.S. Government’s intellectual property enforcement strategy. Participants included U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk and U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel. In her White House Blog, Espinel wrote,

“I am pleased to announce that today we unveiled the administration’s first Joint Strategic Plan to combat intellectual property theft.  The U.S. economy leads the world in innovation and creativity thanks to American inventors, artists and workers.  Our ability to develop new technology, designs and artistic works supports jobs and allows us to export great new products and services around the world. Our citizens need to feel confident that they can invest in new innovation and intellectual property, knowing it will be safe from theft.  Ensuring that our ideas and ingenuity are protected helps us create jobs and increase our exports.”

Intellectual property refers to the ideas behind inventions, the artistry that goes into books and music, and the logos of companies whose brands we have come to trust that must be protected. Intellectual property represents the hard work, creativity, resourcefulness, investment and ingenuity of the American public.  White House Intellectual Property Website   White House video

Commerce's Carribean Trade Mission Yields Positive Results for U.S. Firms

Dominican Republic and Jamaica offer small- and medium-sized companies opportunity

Wrapping up the administration’s first trade mission to the Caribbean, Commerce Department senior adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Wade stressed that geographical proximity and shared historical and cultural ties make the Dominican Republic and Jamaica prime destinations for U.S. goods and services. Wade led a 10-company U.S. trade mission to the region to promote export opportunities June 13-19.

“In today’s global marketplace, it is critical for companies to establish alliances with partners in other markets in order to be competitive,” Wade said. “Because of its close proximity and a favorable trading relationship over time, the Caribbean is a natural area for U.S. firms to explore new export opportunities that will result in more jobs for American workers.”

The United States is the primary trading partner for both countries. In 2009, U.S. exports to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica totaled $5.27 billion and $1.45 billion, respectively.  Read more  Upcoming trade missions