Obama also gave awards for excellence in teaching and mentoring to more than 100 educators — and joked about putting them to work.
"I believe so strongly in the work that you do," Obama said at a ceremony in the . "And as I mentioned to some of you, because I've got two girls upstairs with math tests coming up, I figure that a little extra help from the best of the best couldn't hurt.
"So you're going to have assignments after this," he said. The audience laughed. "These awards were not free," he added.
Obama said teacher quality is the most important single factor that influences whether students succeed or fail in the "STEM" fields of science, technology, engineering and math. But, he said, U.S. students trail their peers around the world.
He said a substantial shortage of teachers in these subject areas will deepen unless steps are taken to reverse the trend, and that doing so requires outside help because the federal government cannot do it alone.
Obama said the $250 million in public and private investments for his "Educate to Innovate" campaign will help train more than 100,000 teachers and prepare more than 10,000 new educators in the next five years.
Support is expected from Intel Corp., the National Math and Science Initiative, PBS and the , the and the presidents of more than 75 of the country's largest public universities.
Obama also called on the 200,000 scientists who work for the federal government to help by speaking at schools and participating in hands-on projects to help stoke a youngster's curiosity in science.
"Make no mistake: Our future is on the line," he said. "The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow."
Obama, who has included students in several science events at the White House, said he would do his part, too. Planning is under way for a White House science fair to honor student winners of national science and technology competitions, he said.
Cuba for distributing satellite communications equipment to dissidents worked for American " " and is being investigated, a top Cuban official said on Wednesday. Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon shed no light on what the government plans to do with the prisoner, who President has cited as evidence that the United States continues its five-decade long campaign to subvert the island's communist system. The man, arrested in early December, has never been publicly identified. U.S. diplomats were permitted to visit him on December 28, but they have provided little information about the meeting. He worked for a Maryland-based company called Development Alternatives Inc. that said he was involved in a U.S. government program to strengthen civil society and promote democracy in Cuba. "This is a man hired by a company that contracts for the American secret services and that is the object of investigation," Alarcon told reporters after a meeting of Cuba's National Election Commission. He said the contractor was part of trend toward "privatization of war" by the United States, which hires people to be "agents, torturers, spies." Asked if the prisoner was in good condition, Alarcon said, "I can assure you that he is much better -- much, much better -- than the victims of those contractors all over the world." TURN FOR WORSE The man's arrest comes as part of a turn for the worse in U.S.-Cuban relations, that had thawed slightly under Obama, who said he wanted a "new beginning" with Cuba after 50 years of hostilities that followed the island's 1959 revolution. Cuban leaders who spoke well of Obama early in his presidency have begun to harshly criticize him for not moving faster to end the U.S. trade embargo against the island, imposed since 1962 to undermine the Cuban government. , who replaced his ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2008, referred to the arrested contractor in a December 21 speech to the National Assembly, saying it was evidence that despite Obama's hopeful words, "The enemy is as active as ever." Cuba restricts satellite communications, including satellite television, because of fears they can be used against the government. Cuba again signaled its anger with Washington on Tuesday, when it summoned the top U.S. diplomat in Havana to protest increased air security measures for U.S.-bound passengers from Cuba. Cuba was one of 14 countries selected by the U.S. for extra security following the botched Christmas Day bombing of a Delta jet plane en route to Detroit by a Nigerian believed to be an al Qaeda operative. Cuba is on a U.S. State Department list of countries considered "state sponsors of terrorism," which Cuban leaders have protested for years. (Editing by Jeff Franks and Anthony Boadle)
Christmas Plane Bomb Suspect Indicted by U.S. Grand Jury
Wednesday, January 06, 2010DETROIT — A grand jury indicted a Nigerian man on Wednesday on charges of attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas Day by trying to use a weapon of mass destruction. The federal grand jury also charged Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with attempted murder, possession of a firearm and other counts. Authorities say Abdulmutallab, 23, was traveling to Detroit from Amsterdam when he tried to blow up the plane carrying nearly 300 people by injecting chemicals into a package of pentrite explosive concealed in his underwear. The failed attack caused popping sounds and flames that passengers and crew rushed to extinguish. Since then, airlines and the Transportation Security Administration have boosted security in airports in the U.S. and around the world. There is no specific mention of terrorism in the seven-page indictment, but President Barack Obama considers the incident a failed strike against the United States by an affiliate of Al Qaeda. Abdulmutallab has told U.S. investigators he received training and instructions from Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen. His father warned the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria that his son had drifted into extremism in the Al Qaeda hotbed of Yemen, but that threat was never fully digested by the U.S. security apparatus.