Monday, May 31, 2010

President Obama's Memorial Day Complicated by Storms at Home and Abroad

Standing at the presidential podium this afternoon on the stage of a Memorial Day ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, a rain-drenched President Obama raised his left hand in a show of authority, while his right hand held a wind-buffeted black umbrella, and issued an order.

"Excuse me, everybody listen up," the commander in chief told the crowd huddled under umbrellas and plastic bags amid a torrential downpour outside Chicago. "We are a little bit concerned about lightning. This may not be safe. So I know that all of you are here to commemorate the fallen and that's why we're here. What we'd like to do is, if possible, have people move back to their cars."

The president, already facing scrutiny for his decision to skip Memorial Day ceremonies at Washington's Arlington National Cemetery, promised to wait out the storm for 15 minutes before deciding whether to continue, leaving hundreds of onlookers to trudge across flooded fields and muddy parking lots to take shelter in their vehicles in the meantime.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Obama to keep drilling moratorium for 6 months-aide

President Barack Obama will announce a six month extension on a deepwater oil drilling moratorium on Thursday while a special commission studies the reasons for the Gulf of Mexico spill, a White House aide said.

"(Obama) will announce standards to strengthen oversight of the industry and enhance safety, a first step in a process that the independent Presidential Commission will continue," the aide said on Thursday.

"While the commission performs its work to determine how to prevent this from ever happening again, the moratorium on permits to drill new deepwater wells will continue for a period of six months."

The extended moratorium represents a further setback for offshore drilling expansion, a key plank of Obama's proposed energy policy overhaul, which is currently languishing in the U.S. Senate.

Democrats hoped increased drilling would attract Republican support for the bill, which also ramps up domestic production of renewable fuel sources and sets limits on greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar briefed Obama and his advisers about the contents of a report about the spill and the deadly blast aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig, which was leased by BP, on Wednesday night, the aide said.

The president is expected to discuss details of the report and his administration's response to the spill at a 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT) White House news conference.

Obama will announce delays or cancellations of planned exploration in certain areas around the country, the aide said.

Planned exploration off the coast of Alaska in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas will be put off pending the presidential commission's review, he said, while an August lease sale in the western Gulf will be canceled.

"The lease sale off the coast of Virginia will also be canceled due to environmental concerns and concerns raised by the Defense Department," he said.

Obama has come under increasing pressure to stop the spill and halt its environmental and economic consequences for Gulf states. BP, which has been publicly scolded by the president, was working on Thursday to plug the leaking well in a procedure known as "top kill."

Obama's bipartisan presidential commission is modeled after previous panels that looked into the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Obama tours Fremont's Solyndra

President Obama looks at a solar panel as he is given a tour of Solyndra by Executive Vice President Ben Bierman, left, and Chief Executive Officer Chris Gronet, Wednesday, May 26, 2010, at Solyndra Inc. in Fremont, Calif. Solyndra is a solar panel manufacturing facility.

President Obama shakes hands with workers as Solyndra Inc. Chief Executive Officer Chris Gronet, third from left in blue shirt, watches during a tour of Solyndra Inc. in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, May 26, 2010. Solyndra is a solar panel manufacturing facility.

In a trip designed to highlight green jobs created by the Recovery Act and the need for renewable alternatives to oil, President Barack Obama toured solar manufacturer Solyndra on Wednesday morning before speaking to a crowd of about 200 in the Fremont company's new factory.

Obama arrived at Solyndra shortly before 9:30 a.m., making a point of shaking hands with workers in white lab coats and hard hats before a tour with Chris Gronet, Solyndra's CEO, and Ben Bierman, executive vice president of operations and engineering.

Their conversation during the tour was largely drowned out by the noise of the factory, but at one point the president could be heard saying, "This is impressive. It really is."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Obama to lunch with Republican senators, dine with Democratic donors

Good morning. A busy President Obama will start his long day on Eastern time and end it on Pacific time. On tap: a Rose Garden ceremony to honor small businessowners, lunch with GOP senators, a meeting with Giorgio Napolitano, the president of Italy, and a fundraiser for California Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Late yesterday, the White House signed off on a deal to repeal -- albeit slowly -- the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. That sets up votes later this week in the House and in the Senate Armed Services Committee that would permit gays to serve openly in the armed services once a review has been completed. Currently gays are permitted to serve only if they conceal their sexual preference. You can read the White House letter agreeing to the deal here.

This morning the president will celebrate National Small Business Week by hosting a White House reception for award-winning business owners. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says it's to recognize "the important role small business plays in our economy" -- and not a moment too soon, as USA TODAY's own Dennis Cauchon points out today in an eye-popping story about the decline in private sector wages.

The president then heads up to Capitol Hill, where he will join Republican senators for their weekly luncheon.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's spokesman, Don Stewart, says the president requested the invitation, which his boss was happy to issue. "The Republican Conference welcomes his visit ,where they will have a wide-ranging discussion on the year ahead," Stewart said.

Later in the afternoon, the president will be heading to California in an effort to prevent McConnell from having to lay an extra plate at his luncheons next year. Obama is working overtime to keep California's Senate seat Democratic, headlining his second fundraiser for Boxer in a little more than one month. Tonight's event is in San Francisco; in April Obama joined the senator at a Los Angeles fundraiser.

Obama to raise cash in California for Boxer

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is helping raise money for Sen. Barbara Boxer's re-election campaign, his second trip to California in as many months to assist the imperiled incumbent.

Obama was to appear at two fundraisers Tuesday night in San Francisco with the liberal Boxer, who is seeking her fourth-term. Though she easily won her last election, the economic woes that have hit California particularly hard have left Boxer facing her strongest challenge since she joined Congress.

Complicating matters for Boxer is an anti-Washington electorate that's been dismissing long-serving politicians with ease in this midterm election year. Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who switched from the Republican to Democratic Party, was ousted in his primary contest last week. Utah's three-term Sen. Bob Bennett failed to make it out of his state's Republican nominating convention earlier this month.

During a trip to Los Angeles last month to headline three fundraisers for Boxer, Obama warned supporters that she could suffer the same fate.

"I don't want anyone here taking this for granted," he said at an April 19th event.

Boxer's opponent will be decided in a June 8 GOP primary that pits former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina against former Rep. Tom Campbell and California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, who has the backing of the tea party movement.

Proceeds from Tuesday's events will be split between Boxer's campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Obama will spend Tuesday night in San Francisco, then head to nearby Fremont, Calif., on Wednesday to tour a solar facility and make remarks on the economy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

President to propose new scheme for cutting congressional spending

President Obama's budget director, Peter Orszag, will be holding a telephone press conference later this morning to discuss a new plan to trim federal spending.

According to a sneak preview issued by the White House, the president plans to send legislation to Congress that would essentially allow him to excise parts of spending bills he doesn't like before signing them. The lawmakers would then vote on whether to accept the president's cuts -- but it would be a take-it-or-leave-it deal; no amendments or changes allowed.

It's the latest chapter in an age-old power struggle between the executive and legislative branches. Members of Congress love to tack pet projects onto "must-pass" bills required to keep the federal budget running, essentially daring the chief executive to veto the measures in order to get rid of the pork. Guess what? It usually doesn't happen.

Presidents have been trying for years to get a so-called "line-item veto" which would allow them to zero in on objectionable provisions without killing an entire bill. But so far, they haven't been successful.

Leading the opposition has been the Senate's senior Democrat, Robert C. Byrd, who argues that it upsets the constitutional balance of powers.

We'll be bringing you more about what the administration has to say in favor of its proposal after this morning's call.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Obama Mandates Rules to Raise Fuel Standards

WASHINGTON — President Obama ordered the government on Friday to develop tougher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, advancing the fight against climate change without waiting for Congress.

Mr. Obama announced the creation of a national policy that will result in less greenhouse gas pollution from medium- and heavy-duty trucks for the first time, and will further reduce exhaust from cars and light-duty trucks beyond the requirements he had already put in place.

“Today’s announcement is an essential part of our energy strategy, but it’s not a substitute for other necessary steps,” Mr. Obama said in a Rose Garden ceremony on Friday, flanked by auto and truck manufacturers. He repeated his hope that Congress would pass an energy bill by the end of the year. “In the meantime,” he added, “I’m going to take every sensible, responsible action that I can take using my authority as president.”

Mr. Obama said that reducing fuel use would save money for businesses and consumers, and he linked his new policy to the enormous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “The disaster in the gulf only underscores that, even as we pursue domestic reduction to reduce our reliance on imported oil, our long-term security depends on the development of alternative sources of fuel and new transportation technologies,” he said.

The executive memorandum the president signed on Friday orders the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department to develop new fuel and emissions standards more strict than those formalized last month, but the memorandum did not propose specific fuel-economy figures.

Under last month’s rules, new cars must get at least 35.5 miles to a gallon of fuel, on average, by 2016, in combined city and highway driving. The president’s new plan would order further improvements in fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks made in 2017 and beyond, and in medium and heavy trucks made in 2014 through 2018.

In addition, Mr. Obama’s directive orders more federal support for the development of new vehicles like advanced electric cars, and it instructs the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce emissions of other kinds of pollutants by motor vehicles, besides greenhouse gases.

Environmentalists hailed the move. “President Obama’s oil savings proposal will reduce our dependence on oil,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research organization. “More efficient cars and trucks will help to protect families’ budgets as well as America’s shores.”

Senate passes U.S. financial reform bill

The U.S. Senate passed landmark legislation on Thursday night to further regulate banks and Wall Street in what is considered the largest attempt to overhaul the U.S. financial system since the 1930s. The bill, which passed by a 59-39 vote, must now be merged with a House of Representatives version.

Earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama said financial industry lobbyists failed in their attempt to block the vote. Obama said there is more work ahead but he will ensure the final bill will be effective and responsive.

"Our goal is not to punish the banks but to protect the larger economy and the American people from the kind of upheavals that we've seen in the past few years," Obama said.

The bill is seen a major victory for Obama, coming two months after his health-care overhaul was signed into law.

The legislation is the most sweeping tightening of the rules for Wall Street since the Great Depression. It calls for new ways to watch for risks in the financial system and makes it easier to liquidate large, failing financial firms.

It also writes new rules for complex securities blamed for helping precipitate the economic crisis in 2008 and creates a new agency assigned to protect consumers from potentially dodgy financial products, including mortgages.

Only two Democrats voted against the bill. Four Republicans broke ranks with their party to support it. Twice the Senate had to beat back efforts by Republicans to delay the bill before achieving final passage.

"The decisions we've made will have an impact on the lives of Americans for decades to come," said Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, who voted against the legislation.

"Judgment will not be rendered by self-congratulatory press releases, but rather by the marketplace. And the marketplace does not give credit for good intentions."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kagan known for openness, assertiveness at Harvard

Elena Kagan, President Barack Obama's pick for the Supreme Court, gets high marks as a peacemaker for the fractious faculty of Harvard Law School while she was dean. But even her supporters here say she also has a temper.

Professor Charles Fried, while calling Kagan "masterful" for her ability to work well with the diverse faculty at Harvard, recalled how she once blew up at him after some students said there were pages missing from a constitutional law exam.

Fried said he sent an e-mail to students explaining a resolution he thought had been approved. But, in fact, Kagan had worked out a different resolution.

"She came steaming into my office and said, 'Why have you done that? It's a confusing situation and you've made it worse.' She screamed and shouted at me and slammed the door and stormed out," Fried said.

"Two minutes later, she came back and said, 'I'm sorry I shouted.' I said, 'Elena, don't apologize, you were right.' "

"She was dynamic, aggressive, sometimes abrasive," said Detlev Vagts, a professor who clashed with Kagan over the appointment of Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush administration. "There was quite a turnover of her top management group when she was named dean," he said.

Critics initially balked at Goldsmith's appointment, questioning whether he had helped write memos authorizing the torture of suspected terrorists. In a book published in 2007, Goldsmith said he had rescinded two memos — written by attorneys who previously ran the Office of Legal Counsel — that gave the military and the CIA broad latitude in interrogating prisoners.

Kagan was able to win strong support for Goldsmith and the faculty easily approved his appointment.

Vagts said Kagan, 50, was "dismissive" of him when he tried to express his concern over Goldsmith's appointment and later when he objected to Kagan's plan to group retiring professors near one another in a set of offices.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mexico's President Blasts Arizona Immigration Law During White House Visit

Mexican President Felipe Calderon seized the opportunity to blast Arizona's controversial immigration law on Wednesday after President Obama welcomed him to the White House.

Arizona's law, which takes effect in July, will call for state and local police to determine if people are in the country illegally.

At the start of Wednesday's state visit to Washington, Calderon said the law discriminated against Mexicans and called for the two countries to work together to develop an immigration policy that did not force people to live in the shadows "with such laws as the Arizona law, which is forcing our people to face discrimination."

Calderon, whose remarks were translated from Spanish, said "We can do so if we create a safer border -- a border that will unite us instead of dividing us.

"We can do so with a community that will promote a dignified life in an orderly way for both our countries, who are some of them still living here in the shadows," he said. "If we are divided we cannot overcome these problems. We can only do this if we actually face our mutual problems."

Sprinkling in a bit of Spanish, Obama went to great lengths to greet Calderon, who is fighting an escalating, bloody battle against drug cartels in his country and facing pressure to get results on immigration reform. Around the White House grounds, Mexican and U.S. flags waved together, while cheering school children and military in their finest dress uniforms gathered on the South Lawn to embrace the pageantry.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Obama Blasts Republicans for Not Supporting Economic Recovery Plans

Distancing himself from today's Democratic primaries in which two his party's incumbent U.S. Senators are running for the political lives, President Obama dropped in on the rust belt to trumpet administration recovery efforts and blast Republicans for sitting on the sidelines.

"I saw the 85-ton electric arc furnace," the president told workers at V & M Star, a manufacturer of pipe and other tubular steel products. "I know you're building Iron Man's suits somewhere in here," he joked about current hit movie, eliciting polite laughter from his audience.

Here in a state where the unemployment rate stands at 11 percent, above the national average of 9.9 percent, Mr Obama tried to put Republicans on the defensive for not supporting his economic recovery plans.

"I think those critics who have been trying to bad mouth these efforts - they know its working," said the president.

He accuses some of them of opposing the programs but then taking credit for the progress, even attending the ribbon cuttings.

"If the just-say-no crowd had won out - if we had done things that way - we'd be in a deeper world of hurt," said Mr. Obama.

"Just imagine how much farther along we could be if we worked together - if I'd gotten a little help," he told his audience.

He said despite all "the naysayers in Washington, who are always looking for the cloud in every silver lining; the fact is our economy is growing again."

In a cavernous plant filled with the pipes manufactured here, including some for the oil drilling industry, Mr. Obama said his programs have helped companies such as V & M Star to expand - and will bring other dormant factories to life.

"We could sit back, do nothing, make a bunch of excuses, play politics and watch America's decline - or we could stand up and fight for our future," said the president.

Mr. Obama announced a new agreement to help other communities like Youngstown revitalize and redevelop "shuttered GM facilities, preparing them for new industries, new jobs, and new opportunity."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Obama signs press freedom act, declines to take questions

President Obama welcomed Daniel Pearl's family to the Oval Office today for the signing of the Freedom of Press Act named in honor of the Wall Street Journal reporter who was killed by terrorists in 2002.

The law requires the State Department to list countries that threaten press freedoms and permit violence against journalists. It "puts us clearly on the side of journalistic freedom," Obama said. That was a cue for reporters in the room.

"Speaking of press freedoms," began Chip Reid of CBS before launching into a question about the Gulf Coast oil spill. Obama didn't bite.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Two arrested in connection with Times Square bombing

Two people have been arrested in connection with the failed Times Square car bomb after a series of morning raids in Massachusetts and New York. Police cordoned off a small house in Watertown, a suburb about 10 miles west of Boston, where a neighbour reported seeing an FBI raid.

The searches were a result of evidence gathered in the investigation into Faisal Shahzad's alleged bombing attempt, but FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said that there was "no known immediate threat to the public or any active plot against the United States."

A Mobil petrol station in Brookline, another Boston suburb, was raided, along with several locations in Long Island, New York.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the two people arrested were being held on alleged immigration violations, but he would not provide more details.

Shahzad, who is accused of trying to detonate a bomb-laden car in Times Square on May 1, has not yet appeared in court. Federal investigators say he has been co-operating and has told them he received weapons training in Pakistan.

Vinny Lacerra, 50, who lives across the street from the house raided in Watertown, said he was in his living room about 6am when he heard somebody say: "FBI! Put your hands up!"

Mr Lacerra said he looked out his windows and saw 15 to 20 FBI agents with their guns drawn surrounding the house.

He said about 15 minutes later, the agents went inside and came out with one man handcuffed and took him down the street. He also said he saw an agent from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Sestak opening up a lead on Sen. Arlen Specter

As the days count down to Tuesday's primary, there seems to be a new poll a day on Pennsylvania's nail-biter of a Democratic Senate primary.

Today's, conducted by Suffolk University, shows Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., opening a nine percentage point lead over incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter. But the poll indicates there's still some hope for Specter, who switched from the Republican party last year.

Among the factors that could break in the veteran lawmaker's favor: 12% of the voters remain undecided and Specter is running better among minority voters than Sestak. We already told you that Specter is on the airwaves with a lavish endorsement from President Obama.

Sestak, who is 58 and has great hair, brags about his surge in the polls in his latest ad, which touts him as representing a "new generation" of leadership. The ad features a photo of the 80-year-old Specter that seems to have been several years ago when the senator was nearly bald from chemotherapy treatments. Specter has since recovered. The accompanying photo shows how he looks now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Obama says taking the fight to the Taliban is paying off

Barack Obama warned today that coalition forces in Afghanistan faced months of hard fighting, but said they had started to "reverse the momentum of the insurgency" by taking the fight to the Taliban.

Speaking after a meeting at the White House with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, Obama said the deployment of thousands more troops was paying off.

"There are many difficult days ahead in Afghanistan. We face a determined and ruthless enemy but we go forward with confidence," he said.

Obama said the Afghan government and its allies could not hope to win through military means alone but that keeping up the fight against what he called a brutal insurgency was essential as part of a strategy to encourage Taliban supporters to abandon the conflict.

"The incentives for the Taliban to lay down arms and make peace with the Afghan government in part depends on our effectiveness in breaking their momentum militarily, and that's why we put in the additional US troops," he said.

The two leaders papered over the bitter public differences of recent months, in which the Americans made it clear they considered corruption under the Karzai government was alienating much of the population and undermining the fight against the Taliban. The Afghan leader accused the west of wanting a puppet government in Kabul.

Following on from the tone of Karzai's meeting with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, on Tuesday, Obama sought to underplay the divisions.

"A lot of them were simply overstated," said Obama "Obviously there are going to be tensions in such a complicated, difficult environment, in a situation in which on the ground both Afghans and Americans are making enormous sacrifices. "We've had very frank discussions, and President Karzai agrees with me that we can't win through a military strategy alone. That we're going to have to make sure that we have effective governance, capacity building, economic development, in order for us to succeed."

Karzai responded that there had been differences and would continue to be so but that the relationship was strong.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Elena Kagan Takes Center Stage in 2010 Campaign Battles

In what is sure to be a heated midterm election year, Republicans and Democrats alike are already seizing on President Obama's nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court as a campaign issue.

"The nomination will be used for two things: raising funds and energizing the base to vote in 2010," an unnamed Republican source told the Hill. "It's all about turnout at this point."

The general consensus is that Kagan will ultimately be confirmed to the Court. Yet before she was officially nominated, a GOP strategist recently advised the party to prolong the confirmation process as long as possible, regardless of who was the nominee, Talking Points Memo reports.

"[I]t wouldn't take much GOP resistance to push a final vote into early August," said Curt Levey, director of the conservative Committee for Justice. "And, look, the closer we could get it to the election, frankly, the better. It would be great if we could push it past the August recess because that forces the red and purple state Democrats to have to go home and face their constituents."

He added, "There's everything to be gained from making the Supreme Court vacancy a campaign issue in 2010." Levey confirmed his sentiments with the Washington Post, saying, "If I think we get political advantage from this, why wouldn't we get an advantage from a longer nomination process?"

However, the confirmation process could put a couple of Republicans in an uncomfortable position. Seven Republicans voted to confirm Kagan as solicitor general this year and may feel pressured to reverse course.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has conferred with Mr. Obama over his nomination and is largely seen as a reasonable voice on the committee. He called Kagan an "excellent lawyer" during her solicitor general confirmation hearings and was one of the GOP senators to vote in her favor.

Yet the political climate has changed for Hatch, who has voted for every Supreme Court nominee in his 33-year Senate career, except for Mr. Obama's first pick, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

His GOP colleague from Utah, three-term Sen. Bob Bennett, was recently denied re-nomination by his own local party because he has worked with Democrats on a few issues. Hatch, who is up for re-election in 2012, may try to avoid the same fate by tacking right.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Obama nominates Elena Kagan to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Monday nominated former U.S. solicitor general Elena Kagan to the United States Supreme Court - a selection that could give the top court the highest number of female justices in its history.In naming the 50-year-old former Harvard Law School dean, Mr. Obama also broke with decades of tradition by choosing a candidate who has never been a judge.

The move could help Mr. Obama avoid a potentially nasty election-year nomination fight with Republicans, largely because Ms. Kagan lacks a judicial record that could be parsed for controversial rulings and opinions.

Not since 1972 has a Supreme Court justice been seated on the bench without having prior experience as a judge - all eight current justices have served on the U.S. federal appeals court.

Mr. Obama described Ms. Kagan as "one of the nation's foremost legal minds" and stressed her record of seeking a diversity of conservative and liberal views as dean at Harvard. "She believes, as I do, that exposure to a broad array of perspectives is the foundation . . . for a successful life in law," Mr. Obama said.

If confirmed, Ms. Kagan would become the third woman on the current Supreme Court and only the fourth in history. She would join Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who Mr. Obama selected last year as his first high court nominee. Ms. Kagan has been considered the frontrunner to win the nomination almost from the moment 89-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens retired last month.

At the time, Mr. Obama said he wanted a Supreme Court nominee who had "a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people" - a quality he sought last year in picking Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic-American high court justice.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Obama says health care law already helps millions

The new health care law already is helping millions of people through tax breaks for small businesses and assistance for families with young adults, President Barack Obama said Saturday.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama promoted his top domestic priority, which passed Congress with no Republican votes and continues to stir strong emotions nationwide. He acknowledged that many provisions will not take effect for years. But he said others are doing some families good now.

Some 4 million small-business owners and organizations have been told of a possible health care tax cut this year, Obama said. On June 15, some older people with high prescription drug costs will receive $250 to help fill a gap in Medicare's pharmaceutical benefits.

"Already we are seeing a health care system that holds insurance companies more accountable and gives consumers more control," the president said.

Obama said Anthem Blue Cross dropped a proposed 39 percent premium increase on Californians after his administration demanded an explanation. He said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote to all states "urging them to investigate other rate hikes and stop insurance companies from gaming the system."

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Michigan school wins Obama as graduation speaker

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- A school in western Michigan has won a contest to have President Barack Obama make its commencement address this spring.

Kalamazoo Central High School was one of three finalists in the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the winner Tuesday.

The school said Obama will speak June 10.

Kalamazoo Central High is part of Kalamazoo Public Schools, which provides scholarships covering 65 percent to 100 percent of a student's college tuition for four years.

The two other finalists were Cincinnati's Clark Montessori Junior High and High School and the Denver School of Science and Technology.