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Obama Links Science Agenda to Swine Flu Battle

President Barack Obama on Monday emphatically declared his commitment to funding scientific research, using dramatic language to describe science as an imperative to secure the nation’s future prosperity — and even its survival.

Obama, who spoke before the National Academy of Sciences, also addressed concerns about the swine flu, seeking to reassure the nation that the government is on top of the situation. He said the new flu strain was reason for a “heightened state of alert— but was “not a cause for alarm.— The president said he is being updated regularly on issues related to the disease and that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will be reporting regularly to the country.

Obama used the outbreak of swine flu as a hook for his science agenda, citing it as “one more example— of why the government and the nation need to be strongly behind science.

“We know that our country is better than this,— Obama said as he detailed what he described as the federal government’s lagging commitment to science.

Obama offered vivid rhetoric never heard from former President George W. Bush on greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our future on this planet depends upon our willingness to address the challenge posed by carbon pollution,— he said. “And our future as a nation depends upon our willingness to embrace this challenge as an opportunity to lead the world in pursuit of new discovery.—

The president repeated his commitment to put a cap on carbon emissions, but he did not set a timetable for action. Doubts have grown in recent weeks about whether legislation is possible this year.

He touted alternative energy development as a cause for the nation.

“Energy is our great project — this generation’s great project,— he said.

While he rattled off a long list of commitments he has made to funding energy and science projects, Obama asserted that he sees a role for the private sector, too, noting that he backs a permanent extension of the research and development tax credit.

And he suggested there is no turning back from his determination to put “science— over “ideology,— a commitment exemplified earlier this year by his decision to allow federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

“Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over,— he declared. “Our progress as a nation — and our values as a nation — are rooted in free and open inquiry. To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy. It is contrary to our way of life.—

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