Archive for March 22nd, 2010

22
Mar
10

China says Google breaks promise, totally wrong to stop censoring

NEWS
China says Google breaks promise, totally wrong to stop censoring

Monday, March 22, 2010

••• Google has “violated its written promise” and is “totally wrong” by stopping censoring its Chinese language searching results and blaming China for alleged hacker attacks, a government official said early Tuesday morning.

The official in charge of the Internet bureau under the State Council Information Office made the comments about two hours after the online search service provider announced it has stopped censoring its Chinese-language search engine Google.cn and is redirecting Chinese mainland users to a site in Hong Kong.

“Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering its searching service and blaming China in insinuation for alleged hacker attacks,” said the official.

“This is totally wrong. We’re uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts,” the official said.
Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond made the “stop censoring” announcement in a blog post at about 3 a.m. Tuesday Beijing Time, more than two months after the company said it had been attacked by hackers supported by the Chinese government and was considering pulling out of the Chinese market.

The Information Office official said relevant departments of the Chinese government talked with Google twice at its requests, on Jan. 29 and Feb. 25 respectively, to hear the company’s real intentions and demonstrate sincerity of the government.

“We made patient and meticulous explanations on the questions Google raised (in the talks), …telling it we would still welcome its operation and development in China if it was willing to abide by Chinese laws, while it would be its own affair if it was determined to withdraw its service,” the official said.

“Foreign companies must abide by Chinese laws and regulations when they operate in China, ” the official said.

He noted that the Chinese government encourages the development and promotes the opening-up of Internet.

“Online opinion exchanges are very active in China and e-commerce grows rapidly here. As facts have demonstrated, the environment for Internet investment and development in China is sound,” the official said.

“China will unswervingly adhere to the opening-up principle and welcomes foreign companies’ participation in the development of Internet in the country,” he said.

The official also vowed the government will provide good service to foreign businesses, adding Internet will maintain, as before, rapid growth in China.
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)

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22
Mar
10

Google says its Google.cn site redirected

NEWS
Google says its Google.cn site redirected

Monday, March 22, 2010

••• Google Inc. on Monday said users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk.

The U.S. Internet company said in a blog posting that it intends to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there.

• Google to offer browser plug-in for privacy protection

Google is working on developing a browser plug-in that will let users opt-out of being tracked by Google Analytics.

Google Analytics product Manager Amy Chang said that engineers had been working on the plug-in during the past years and it would become available globally in the coming weeks.

According to a study by University of California, Google Analytics had been used in 71 percent of roughly 400,000 top domains as of March 2009. Google-controlled web bugs are tracking users on 92 of the net’s top 100 sites.

Although widely used in the world, the tool, Google Analytics, has always been criticized for privacy infringement.

“Now, there is a solution to that,”said Chang,”The plug-in will give users the choice to fully opt-out of sending any information back to Analytics”.

Google Analytics is a tool for tracking and analyzing site traffic. If the plug-in is finally installed in a large proportion of netizens’ computers, website builders and advertisers might find it hard to get the accurate data of click rate.
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)
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22
Mar
10

Weak tea? Partiers fear fallout

NEWS
Weak tea? Partiers fear fallout

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ready and eager to transition from opposing health care reform to targeting the members of Congress who made it happen, tea party organizers find themselves grappling instead with reports of ugly behavior at this weekend’s protests in Washington that could stymie efforts to broaden the movement’s appeal.

While the thousands of tea partiers who thronged the Capitol grounds on short notice in advance of Sunday’s House health care vote were proof of the movement’s continuing energy, their impact was undercut by accounts of racist and homophobic epithets directed at Democratic lawmakers by a handful of individuals among this weekend’s crowd.

Tea party organizers have struggled in recent months to clamp down on fringe elements that have sprung up around and sometimes within the movement, including white supremacists and conspiracy theorists who believe that the government played a role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (“truthers”) or that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to be president (“birthers”).

Some tea party and GOP leaders quickly denounced the slurs shouted at House Democrats, pointed out they were not representative of most tea partiers and urged protestors to stay focused on the movement’s core issues of limited government and taxation. Others suggested either that reporters and lawmakers had fabricated the incidents, or said the epithets came from tea party opponents who had infiltrated the crowds. Some even demanded apologies from Democrats who they said falsely accused them.

Regardless of who yelled what, the reports themselves could be problematic for the tea party movement, said Adam Brandon, a spokesman for FreedomWorks, the small government group that helped organize tea partiers’ congressional office visits last week.

“Tattoos last forever,” said Brandon, quoting his boss, FreedomWorks chairman and former House Republican Leader Dick Armey. “If the movement gets tattooed as at all sympathetic to those (racist and homophobic) views, I won’t want to be involved in it anymore. It’s very distracting not only to our side but also to the debate and the country.”

Jenny Beth Martin, an Atlanta-based leader of the influential national umbrella group Tea Party Patriots, has played something of a self-policing role at tea party events, including last weekend’s rallies, urging protesters not to engage with counter demonstrators who at times confronted tea partiers.

Of the reported epithets, she said, “we do not allow that kind of thing to happen within our events because it is wrong and we’re not going to put up with it. I don’t think it’s good for any movement to have reports of crazy people doing things like that. More than the movement, I don’t think it’s good for America for that kind of thing to happen.” Pointing to her group’s denunciation of a self-proclaimed tea party leader photographed with a racist sign, Martin said “if we saw that kind of thing happening, we would kick the people out. We have a history of doing that.”
House Democrats expressed outrage at the treatment some of them received over the weekend, and signaled they will make it an issue for the tea party movement’s Republican allies. Referring to “this crazy stuff the Republicans are doing here,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), said GOP leaders “ought to be ashamed of themselves for bringing these people here to Washington, D.C., and they’re acting like this.”

And Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) took the house floor Saturday to blast “these teabagger protesters who have been out today” and to “call on the Republicans to say shame on the tea party for that type of behavior.”

The conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds responded that it was Clyburn who may “owe the tea party protesters an apology” for playing “the bogus racism card.” And Debbie Gunnoe, a tea party organizer from Navarre, Fla., who was in the House gallery for Ryan’s comments called on him to apologize for “making the generalization that a few rogue people are an example of the rest of the” tea party movement and “for calling all tea party people across the United States ‘tea baggers,’ which is a denigrating word with negative connotations. It’s as bad as calling a black person the N-word.”

Tea party leaders emphasized that racist and homophobic rhetoric is not welcome in their movement but asserted it’s difficult to police large crowds, with some pointing to the comparisons drawn by liberals at anti-Iraq war protests between former President George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler. Other tea partiers interviewed Sunday pointed to video making the rounds in the conservative blogosphere showing other black Democratic lawmakers including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) who said he was called the N-word as he walked by tea partiers into the Capitol Saturday wading through a crowd of protesters outside the Capitol.

The 48-second video, which showed Lewis and others walking through one small stretch of tea partiers booing and chanting “Kill the Bill” but not yelling epithets was posted by Andrew Breitbart’s Big Journalism website as “Video Proof” that the “media (is) lying about racist attacks on black Reps by tea party protesters.”

“There has been a narrative of labeling the entire tea party movement as racist or homophobic that is an attempt to discredit the people who are a part of it,” said Mark Skoda, a Memphis, Tenn., tea party organizer who attended Saturday’s protests and is part of a group called the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition that helped organize a Capitol Hill war room of sorts for activists headed to the House office buildings to lobby publicly undecided lawmakers on the bill.

His team urged tea partiers to be respectful, Skoda said, pointing out that immigration reform advocates and anti-war demonstrators rallied near the tea partiers Saturday and suggesting it was “a possibility” that some may “have tried to infiltrate” the tea party crowd to “portray the movement in a negative light.”

The end of the debate over the health care overhaul which has emerged as the defining issue of the year-old conservative populist tea party movement marks an important moment for tea party activists as they hurtle toward the critical 2010 congressional midterm elections trying to maintain their energy, recruit new activists, manage their fringe and decide to what extent they can support Republican candidates and causes.
Tea party leaders and activists for weeks have been quietly planning contingencies if Democrats were able to pass a health care bill. Many believe that despite not being able to defeat the bill, final passage could actually help the movement enter a new phase by re-energizing activists, mobilizing new ones and helping shift the focus to the coming congressional midterm elections.

“This thing is only getting stated,” said Gary Armstrong, a tea party organizer in East Tennessee, who helped organize a 50-activist rally Saturday outside the local offices of Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), who was considered one of the last nine Democratic holdout votes.

Armstrong asserted that final passage would be an effective mobilizing tool for tea party activists. “It’s all good publicity for the tea party. The sleeping giant is starting to wake up. Make no bones about it, he ain’t awake yet.”

If Obama signs the overhaul bill, “there will be a nuclear explosion” of tea party activism, predicted Tom Whitmore, a Northern Virginia tea party activist who on Saturday was running the tea party war room. “Over the last year, people have developed this interest in their sovereignty, and they’re not ready to go back or to throw away all their hard work.”

To be sure, many activists don’t appear ready to let go of the health care fight and have announced plans to back state-level efforts to challenge the constitutionality of health insurance mandates in the bill that passed by the House. Others are angling for fights over anticipated congressional proposals to reform the nation’s immigration laws or to limit carbon emissions.

But the overarching focus of tea party organizers is prodding activists to turn their attention to November, and what they hope will be, in effect, “a referendum on the health care vote,” said Matt Kibbe, president of Freedom Works. The group’s political action committee has been providing online tools for activists to put together comparative analyses of candidates and precinct-walking strategies, with a heavy focus on targeting supporters of the health care overhaul.

“I would absolutely rather win the policy than the Congress,” said Kibbe. “But it could be a net plus” for the tea party movement if the health care overhaul passes.

Freedom Works’s PAC and others that have sprung up around the tea party movement have to date mostly focused on supporting primary opponents to Republicans deemed insufficiently conservative.

But Michael Johns, a tea party activist from New Jersey who also is part of Skoda’s Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, said the movement would be wise to turn its attention to targeting Democrats who supported the overhaul and though it seems a harder sell praising those who opposed the measure.

“We are in fact a nonpartisan movement,” he said. “We’re not about getting Republicans elected. And one of the things we’ve communicated is that Democrats who held their ground can expect some tea party support.”

Johns called the period after the health care debate “an important moment for the tea party movement.”

“We want to make sure that those who have been active in the movement over the last year especially those that are new to political engagement understand that there is no permanent victory, nor permanent defeat in politics or public policy.”

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22
Mar
10

Google stops censoring in China

NEWS
Google stops censoring in China
• Google moves Chinese search to Hong Kong

Monday, March 22, 2010

••• Google has stopped censoring its search and news results in China and began redirecting visitors to Google’s Chinese-language service hosted in Hong Kong, making good on a threat in its high-profile standoff over censorship with Chinese officials.

The company said it is not pulling out of China and it will continue to host non-search services in China and intends to keep sales and research operations in China.

A Google spokesman said it is “too early to tell” what will happen to its roughly 600 employees in China, who may be reassigned.

David Drummond, the company’s chief legal officer, wrote in a blog post that the company’s Hong Kong site is “offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong”.

Mr Drummond said Google believes the move is a “sensible decision,” but said Google is “well aware that it could at any time block access to our services”. The company has also set up a site showing users which of its services are available in China and which are being blocked by the government.

“We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement,” Mr Drummond wrote.

The announcement comes after months of suspense over the fate of Google’s Chinese business, which has been in jeopardy since January 12, when the company said it would stop censoring its search results after it was hit by cyber attack it traced to China.

Google said at the time that it was increasingly troubled by China’s attempts to limit free speech.

The White House said it is “disappointed” that Google and China couldn’t settle a months-old dispute over censorship, but respects the company’s decision to stop its censored web-search services in China, Dow Jones Newswires reported later.

“We are disappointed that Google and the Chinese government were unable to reach an agreement that would allow Google to continue operating its search services in China on its google.cn Web site,” National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said.
Google said earlier that it will rout users to uncensored versions of Google Search, Google News and Google Images hosted in Hong Kong (Google.com.hk). The firm, which said in January that it was hit by a cyber-attack it traced to China, said it isn’t pulling out of the country, however.

Mr Hammer said in an email that the NSC was informed by Google shortly before its announcement.

“Google made its decision based on what it believed was in its interest,” Mr Hammer said. “We respect Google’s decision and refer you to the company for details. We have previously raised our concerns about this issue directly with the Chinese government.”

The matter is the latest in a series of disputes between Washington and Beijing, a list that includes the US’s concerns over China’s currency and China’s fury over a US arms deal with Taiwan.

Mr Hammer said US-Sino ties are “mature” enough to cope with differences of opinion.

• Source(s): The Wall Street Journal & Dow Jones

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22
Mar
10

Health Reform Now

NEWS
Health Reform Now
• This is What Change Looks Like

Monday, March 22, 2010

After a historic vote in the House to send health reform to the President, he speaks to all Americans on the change they will finally see as they are given back control over their own health care:

Good evening, everybody. Tonight, after nearly 100 years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying, and a year of sustained effort and debate, the United States Congress finally declared that America’s workers and America’s families and America’s small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here, in this country, neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.

Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics. We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didn’t give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges. We proved that this government — a government of the people and by the people — still works for the people.

I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality. And I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote. I want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn for their commitment to getting the job done. I want to thank my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, and my wonderful Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, for their fantastic work on this issue. I want to thank the many staffers in Congress, and my own incredible staff in the White House, who have worked tirelessly over the past year with Americans of all walks of life to forge a reform package finally worthy of the people we were sent here to serve.

Today’s vote answers the dreams of so many who have fought for this reform. To every unsung American who took the time to sit down and write a letter or type out an e-mail hoping your voice would be heard — it has been heard tonight. To the untold numbers who knocked on doors and made phone calls, who organized and mobilized out of a firm conviction that change in this country comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up — let me reaffirm that conviction: This moment is possible because of you.

Most importantly, today’s vote answers the prayers of every American who has hoped deeply for something to be done about a health care system that works for insurance companies, but not for ordinary people. For most Americans, this debate has never been about abstractions, the fight between right and left, Republican and Democrat — it’s always been about something far more personal. It’s about every American who knows the shock of opening an envelope to see that their premiums just shot up again when times are already tough enough. It’s about every parent who knows the desperation of trying to cover a child with a chronic illness only to be told “no” again and again and again. It’s about every small business owner forced to choose between insuring employees and staying open for business. They are why we committed ourselves to this cause.

Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party — it’s a victory for them. It’s a victory for the American people. And it’s a victory for common sense.

Now, it probably goes without saying that tonight’s vote will give rise to a frenzy of instant analysis. There will be tallies of Washington winners and losers, predictions about what it means for Democrats and Republicans, for my poll numbers, for my administration. But long after the debate fades away and the prognostication fades away and the dust settles, what will remain standing is not the government-run system some feared, or the status quo that serves the interests of the insurance industry, but a health care system that incorporates ideas from both parties — a system that works better for the American people.

If you have health insurance, this reform just gave you more control by reining in the worst excesses and abuses of the insurance industry with some of the toughest consumer protections this country has ever known — so that you are actually getting what you pay for.

If you don’t have insurance, this reform gives you a chance to be a part of a big purchasing pool that will give you choice and competition and cheaper prices for insurance. And it includes the largest health care tax cut for working families and small businesses in history — so that if you lose your job and you change jobs, start that new business, you’ll finally be able to purchase quality, affordable care and the security and peace of mind that comes with it.

This reform is the right thing to do for our seniors. It makes Medicare stronger and more solvent, extending its life by almost a decade. And it’s the right thing to do for our future. It will reduce our deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade, and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that.

So this isn’t radical reform. But it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.

Now as momentous as this day is, it’s not the end of this journey. On Tuesday, the Senate will take up revisions to this legislation that the House has embraced, and these are revisions that have strengthened this law and removed provisions that had no place in it. Some have predicted another siege of parliamentary maneuvering in order to delay adoption of these improvements. I hope that’s not the case. It’s time to bring this debate to a close and begin the hard work of implementing this reform properly on behalf of the American people. This year, and in years to come, we have a solemn responsibility to do it right.

Nor does this day represent the end of the work that faces our country. The work of revitalizing our economy goes on. The work of promoting private sector job creation goes on. The work of putting American families’ dreams back within reach goes on. And we march on, with renewed confidence, energized by this victory on their behalf.

In the end, what this day represents is another stone firmly laid in the foundation of the American Dream. Tonight, we answered the call of history as so many generations of Americans have before us. When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge — we overcame it. We did not avoid our responsibility — we embraced it. We did not fear our future — we shaped it.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

• Source(s): The White House
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22
Mar
10

Indifference, uncertainty cloud Google’s China threat

NEWS
Indifference, uncertainty cloud Google’s China threat

Monday, March 22, 2010

••• As the world’s largest search engine Google has been reported to announce its plan of leaving China on Monday, most Chinese Internet users believe they will be ok with a no-Google Internet despite all predictable inconvenience.

In a survey conducted by http://www.huanqiu.com, the official website of the Global Times newspaper, an affiliate of the People’s Daily, Internet users were asked “What’s your opinion of Google’s pulling out of China?”

Up to 84 percent of more than 27,000 respondents answered the “Don’t care” option.

“If Google wants to leave, just do it, and I will turn to Baidu. For sure we can survive without Google,” said an anonymous comment from Shandong Province on the news portal Xinmin.cn.

Google stirred up controversy in the world’s media and on the Internet in January when the company’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, said in a blog that Google might shut down google.cn and its China office due to disputes with the Chinese government and unidentified cyber attacks against its Chinese users.

The drama has continued for more than two months, during which its senior executives reiterated the company’s threat to stop “censoring search results in China,” while at the same time revealing the company was “negotiating with the Chinese government.”

The Chinese government has insisted that it maintains its regulation of the Internet and that foreign companies must abide by Chinese laws and regulations.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said earlier in mid March that the company’s course of action would be announced “soon”.

“At first I felt sorry for Google, but after so many disputes, many of us get sick of it,” said a posting by “Caidao Rouqing” on the popular Tianya website.

Google has had problems in other countries too, ranging from lawsuits to disputes with governments in Germany, Britain, France, the Republic of Korea and its homeland, the United States.

However, Chinese users fear they will be unable to use the English-language google.com and other Google services, such as Gmail and Gtalk, if Google shuts down google.cn.

The worst but also likely scenario would be “an absolute pulling out” of all Google services, said Peter M. Herford, former producer of the U.S. current events show, “60 Minutes,” and journalism professor with Shantou University in south China’s Guangdong Province.

“Chinese searchers have Baidu and a few minor search engines, and English searchers will have Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo,” Herford said, who is a long-term Google user and Internet observer.

“Google search in China is a minor player, and China is a very small part of Google’s search business. This is not the end of the world by any means,” Herford said.

Still, some netizens do regret the loss of services tailored for Chinese users on google.cn, such as maps, videos, music and translation.

Chinese blogger Ding Wenqiang said people would feel uncomfortable using alternative services at first, but would soon get over it.

“It’s like breaking up with boyfriends or girlfriends. People will find new ones soon,” Ding said.

Internet users in China who rely on Google for business also have their own worries.

Although Google’s threat to pull out did not mention its Internet advertisement businesses in China such as Google AdWords and AdSense, website operators who profit from the business-to-business tools still worry about the uncertainty.

“Google’s advertising services have created a lot of job opportunities in the Chinese Internet market, which has not been noticed by ordinary Internet users,” said Huang Haowen, an I.T. blogger who proclaims to be a loyal google fan.

Li Zhi, an analyst with Analysys International, said that AdSense was the main source of Google’s profit in China and a major competitor among tailor-made advertisement publishing tools in China’s market.

“If Google also pulls out AdSense, Baidu will be more dominant in online advertising business, and that might raise the costs for Chinese advertisers,” Li said.

As of 7 p.m. Monday, Google has yet to make any announcement on its plan of quiting China.
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)

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22
Mar
10

Triumph: The Man Who Dared to Dream

NEWS
Triumph: The Man Who Dared to Dream

Monday, March 22, 2010

Barack Obama has hailed a historic vote on healthcare reform in the US Congress, saying the $940 billion revamp represented ”another stone firmly laid in the foundation of the American dream”.

The President, triumphant after hard-fought weeks promoting the changes, said they ensured for American families and workers that ”neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve”.

The measures, which are expected to extend health insurance to an extra 32 million people and for the first time oblige Americans to take out some cover, are the biggest makeover for the US healthcare system since the introduction in the mid-1960s of government-funded Medicare for those aged over 65.

Mr Obama saluted the House of Representatives after an exhaustive 12-hour special Sunday sitting which toiled through rancorous debate and points of order before approving the bill by 219 votes to 212. In the end, 34 Democrats voted against the bill. There were suggestions that some of them, representing conservative constituencies, had been given the OK to vote no by Democrat heavyweights confident of a majority and with one eye on November’s midterm elections.

It will now go to Mr Obama to be signed into law.

The house also passed by 220 to 211 a package of amendments in a so-called ”reconciliation” bill that will go directly to the Senate for approval.

”At a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics,” Mr Obama, side-by-side with the Vice-President, Joe Biden, said in a televised address from the White House just before midnight. ”We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didn’t give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges.

”We proved that this government – a government of the people and by the people – still works for the people.”

“This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform.”

”This is what change looks like,” he said in reference to his campaign slogan. It could also have been a rebuff to Republicans, including Sarah Palin, who goaded Democrats last month by asking, ”How’s all that hopey, changey stuff workin’ for ya?”.

Victory in the year-long push for healthcare reform was delivered finally by a bloc of about half-a-dozen anti-abortion Democrats who agreed to support the bill on receiving assurances from Mr Obama that a ban on taxpayer funds being used for abortion would stay.

The first bill – essentially, the Senate’s version of healthcare reform passed on Christmas Eve – may have allowed the channelling of some federal subsidies into abortion services. But the Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, speaking on behalf of the bloc, said the President’s promise of an executive order reaffirming the existing ban on federal funds supporting abortions, had clinched the deal.

Republicans argued that an executive order did not carry the force of law and could be overturned. They later goaded Mr Stupak, some shouting ”baby killer” across the chamber, after he rejected eleventh-hour efforts to reopen debate on the bill.

The victory would immediately enhance Mr Obama’s presidency, commentators argued, after months of near-constant criticism that he was aloof and too cerebral for Americans, and probably overburdened by pressing issues, not least the sluggish economic recovery.

In recent weeks, however, the President has found renewed voice in his push to win backing for healthcare reform, a key plank of his election platform that promised change.

Other measures among the reforms, which preliminary analysis suggests could slice more than $143 billion off the budget deficit over 10 years, include the creation of a consumer exchange where individuals and small businesses can shop for insurance policies. It also provides for penalties if people do not buy some cover or if a business evades its responsibilities to its workers.

Introduction of the measures will be gradual, taking three to four years. Some tax imposts on wealthy Americans are not scheduled to kick in until 2018.

The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, marked the historic moment in Congress by describing the reform as ”an American proposal that honours the traditions of our country”.

She cited the late Edward Kennedy, as a longtime driving force, for his role in the triumph.

Shortly before his death last August, Senator Kennedy had written to Mr Obama saying that ”access to healthcare was the great unfinished business of [American] society”.

”Until today,” Mrs Pelosi added.

Lamenting what he said was a compromised bill and the fact that polls revealed a deeply divided nation over healthcare reform, the Republican leader, John Boehner, said the chamber had ”failed to listen to America, and we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents”.

”Shame on each and every one of you who substitutes your will and your desires above those of your fellow countrymen,” the House Minority Leader said.

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