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The latest take on the ludicrous saga as to Obama’s true nationality. When everything else failed – in the effort to stop Obama from becoming president – the last straw to clutch – on the side of this rushing river to inauguration – seems to be various versions of the reason why Obama is not a natural born US citizen – though I hadn’t heard this particular version before. This is the British citizen version. And then there is the Indonesian version – which is usually combined with the born in Kenya mix. Never mind that Obama’s birth certificate was confirmed in Hawaii’s Department of Health director – for these guys the conspiracy will go on.

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Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate confirmed

The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health confirmed on Friday what Barack Obama has been saying all along: the presidential candidate was born in Honolulu.

“There have been numerous requests for Sen. Barack Hussein Obama’s official birth certificate,” said Chiyome Fukino. “State law prohibits the release of a certified birth certificate to persons who do not have a tangible interest in the vital record.”

Citing her statutory authority to oversee and maintain Hawaii’s vital records, Fukino said she has “personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.

“No state official, including Gov. Linda Lingle, has ever instructed that this vital record be handled in a manner different from any other vital record in the possession of the State of Hawaii,” Fukino added.

Lingle, a Republican, has been campaigning on the Mainland for Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Obama, a Democratic senator from Illinois, was born Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu. He graduated high school at Punahou School in 1979.

Source: Pacific Business Journal

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Worried – definitely! To many in the Islamic world Obama would be seen as one who has left Islam – or an apostate – simply because his father was a Muslim – under their laws – he would have no choice but to be a Muslim as well. The penalty for leaving Islam – in their eyes is harsh – there will undoubtedly be those who wish to act on this. It is therefore  doubtful that Obama – if he does choose to address an Islamic Nation – at whatever time he chooses it is unlikely that he would be able to make the same kind of speech – made in Berlin. Perhaps if he were to address an Islamic nation it would be in a smaller more secure setting.   

Yesterday The Times’s Helene Cooper had the scoop that Barack Obama is thinking of giving a speech from a major Muslim capital in his first 100 days in office.

Ben Smith of the Politico makes an educated guess:

    Barack Obama told a group of donors in California early last year that his first international trip would be to Muslim Indonesia, a supporter who was present recalled today.
    Obama promised during the campaign to convene a Muslim summit, and the New York Times speculated today on where he would deliver a major, early address to a Muslim audience, settling on Egypt as the likeliest.
    The Obama donor, Los Angeles real estate executive Ted Leary, recalled that Obama spoke of his plan to donors at a February 20, 2007 breakfast fundraiser at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, soon after announcing his run for president.
    “Obama told the 20 or so of us at breakfast that ‘his first trip as President would be to Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim country,’” Leary recalled.

Most the reaction has been from the right. Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard’s Blog feels there’s only one good candidate:

    If one believes that there is some potential benefit to such a speech, and I’m skeptical but open to the possibility, is there a more compelling location for that speech to take place than in Baghdad? Who cares if it validates the war in Iraq? Obama is to be the President of the United States — and he’s already validated the war by packing his administration with those who supported it. In any event, doesn’t Obama now share President Bush’s objectives for Iraq, if not the same strategy for getting there. A speech in Baghdad would be a chance to make bipartisan this country’s commitment to a stable and democratic Iraq. It would be a chance for Obama to assure those Iraqis who were hostile to President Bush and those who fear a new approach. And most of all, if Obama believes that his words may win hearts and minds, a speech in Baghdad could have the effect of saving American lives by further reducing the strain in relations between U.S. forces and the Iraqi people.

Meanwhile, Abe Greenwald at Commentary thinks that no matter where it occurs, the speech is a bad idea:

    The global problems generating from within the Muslim world today are so odious and so obviously self-inflicted that any honest speech on the matter would offend and enrage Muslims the world over. At the same time, because of these very problems, a softball speech about Islam’s current role in global affairs would look like cowardly capitulation. If Obama splits the difference and mixes lukewarm praise with lukewarm condemnation, the stunt will be seen rightly as meaningless.
    Obama gives great speeches, and this has encouraged an unwarranted faith in the utility of the medium. No matter how dazzling, oratory is the least effective weapon in the counterterrorism arsenal. If anything, a foreign policy speech aimed at resolving the conflict between the West and radical Islam would give enemies hope that the U.S. is shifting to a less proactive stance, and returning to the more symbolic approach of the pre-Bush days.

 

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Even Without That Task, Huge Agency Poses Challenges

With Thomas A. Daschle, as secretary of health and human services, focused health-care legislation, the agency will need strong deputies, experts said. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)

With Thomas A. Daschle, as secretary of health and human services, focused health-care legislation, the agency will need strong deputies, experts said. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)

Under the best of circumstances, overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services is an enormous undertaking. With 65,000 employees and a budget of $707.7 billion, it accounts for nearly one-quarter of all federal spending, second only to the Defense Department.

But in the Obama administration the job is taking on a second, perhaps more daunting, responsibility: shepherding health-care reform legislation through Congress.

Unlike his predecessors, Thomas A. Daschle, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for HHS secretary, will be given an expanded role, leading administration efforts to overhaul the U.S. health system.

“This really creates a new type of secretary,” said Charles N. “Chip” Kahn III, president of the Federation of American Hospitals. In the past, “HHS was more or less a service organization to the White House,” while White House advisers drove policy initiatives.

In broad terms, Obama campaigned on the idea of reducing medical costs, improving quality and eventually achieving universal insurance coverage. He promised to cover every child and to reduce the average family’s medical bill by $2,500 a year. He advocated a greater emphasis on prevention and expanding participation in the government-subsidized Medicare and Medicaid programs.

“There are two aspects to the challenge of pushing for health reform,” said Dan Mendelson, a budget and health adviser in the Clinton administration. “One is to get the right concepts together with what Congress wants to do, and the other is managing the disparate concepts and generous egos.”

A serious restructuring of the health system will require extensive data and analytic capabilities to dissect the proposed changes and the impact they might have, said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a private, nonpartisan research foundation. “Right now, there’s nothing other than the Office of the Actuary to do back-of-the-envelope estimates,” she said.

With the expectation that Daschle, a former Senate majority leader, will focus heavily on crafting and pushing legislation, there will be an even greater need for a strong No. 2. HHS is a collection of 11 agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“He’ll need to have deputies who are well-versed in the agency as a whole and who can manage the ongoing operation of HHS while he leads the health reform discussions,” said Len Nichols, director of health policy at the New America Foundation. One of those will likely be Jeanne Lambrew, a veteran of the Clinton administration and a co-author of Daschle’s book “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.”

Lambrew, in a chapter of a book published by the liberal Center for American Progress outlining a proposed agenda for the incoming president, agreed that fixing the health system is a top priority. However, she noted, “these urgent problems overshadow persistent, neglected and potentially deadly infrastructure gaps in the system.”

According to her assessment, the nation’s ability to respond to natural or man-made crises is weak, as evidenced by the poor response to Hurricane Katrina. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes have been given short shrift, and little has been done to prepare for the long-term health needs of an aging population.

The Commonwealth Fund, after interviewing two dozen health leaders, issued its own set of recommendations. It urged the next administration to make a “real focus on what it takes to improve health outcomes,” as opposed to secondary issues related to insurance markets, Davis said. That means tackling childhood obesity, racial disparities and preventable illnesses.

Read on…

President-elect Barack Obama, right, with Budget Director-designate Peter Orszag, left, during a news conference in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama, right, with Budget Director-designate Peter Orszag, left, during a news conference in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008

With the economy deteriorating rapidly, the nation’s employers shed 533,000 jobs in November, the 11th consecutive monthly decline, the government reported Friday morning, and the unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent.

The decline, the largest since December 1974, was fresh evidence that the economic contraction accelerated in November, promising to make the current recession, already 12 months old, the longest since the Great Depression. The previous record was 16 months, in the severe recessions of the mid-1970s and early 1980s.

“We have recorded the largest decline in consumer confidence in our history,” said Richard T. Curtin, director of the Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers, which started its polling in the 1950s. “It is being driven down by a host of factors: falling home and stock prices, fewer work hours, smaller bonuses, less overtime and disappearing jobs.”

The employment report increased the likelihood that Congress, with the support of President-elect Barack Obama, will enact a stimulus package by late January that could exceed $500 billion over two years. More than half that money would probably be channeled into public infrastructure spending. Many economists consider such investments an effective way to counteract, through federally financed employment, the layoffs and hiring freezes spreading through the private sector.

“Basically $100 billion of public investment in such things as roads, bridges and levees would generate two million jobs,” Robert N. Pollin, an economist at the University of Massachusetts, said. “That would offset the two million jobs that we are now on track to lose by early next year.”

Read it all…

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President-elect Barack Obama brought in nearly $750 million for his presidential campaign, a record amount that exceeds what all of the candidates combined collected in private donations in the previous race for the White House, according to a report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

Underscoring the success of his fund-raising, Mr. Obama reported that he had nearly $30 million in the bank as of Nov. 24, despite spending furiously at the end of his campaign.

Mr. Obama, who became the first major-party nominee to bypass public financing since the system began in the 1970s, spent more than $136 million from Oct. 16 to Nov. 24, the period covered in the report. By comparison, his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, who was limited to the $84 million allotted to him from the Treasury under public financing, spent $26.5 million during that time, according to his latest campaign finance report. Although Mr. McCain had $4 million left over, he had $4.9 million in debt, the report said.

Mr. Obama reported taking in $104 million in contributions. Assuming most of that money came in before Election Day, Nov. 4, it appears his fund-raising stepped up significantly as the campaign drew to a close. In the first half of October, he raised just $36 million.

An exact figure is difficult to calculate because of vagaries in the way fund-raising numbers are reported. But it appears that Mr. Obama raised over $300 million for the general election alone — more than triple what Mr. McCain had at his disposal from public financing.

Read on…

Thousands of people watched President Bush’s final Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the White House. The holiday tradition dates back to the 1920s. AP

A Florida Congresswoman has apologized to Barack Obama for hanging up on him twice after thinking she was being pranked. AP

President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush have purchased a home in an affluent home north of Dallas. The couple will move their after the president’s second term ends in January. AP

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The San Francisco Wax Museum has announced that a figure of President-elect Barack Obama will be among a collection of new celebrities to join the ranks at the San Francisco Wax Museum.

The new wax figure of Obama is expected to cost between $15,000 and $40,000 to produce, according to museum owner Rodney Fong.

Joining Barack Obama will be the winner of an online popularity contest, singer Justin Timberlake, who beat out Dale Earnhardt and Tupac Shakur to be one of hew wax figures in 2009.

The wax museum will also be adding figures of Queen Elizabeth II, Miley Cyrus, Mother Teresa, Prince William and Mariah Carey.

The museum, located at Fisherman’s Wharf, was first opened by Rodney Fong’s grandfather in 1963.

There are currently more than 200 figures and scenes on display in the wax museum.

Source: AP

Moscow, Russia (AHN) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday Moscow has received positive signals from U.S. president-elect Barack Obama’s circle and his government can respond accordingly to improve Russia-U.S. relations.

In a televised question-and-answer meeting with Russian citizens in Moscow, Putin referred to the positive signals as the indications made by people close to Obama about two main issues that have strained relations between the two countries: the U.S. missile defense shield to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic and the NATO expansion in Europe

Citing the circle, Putin said the incoming president is considering re-evaluating the Bush administration’s plan to deploy anti-missile batteries in Europe near the Russia border.

Another positive signal, according to Putin, is Obama’s apparent position not to hurry in admitting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO.

“If these are not just words and translate into real actions, we will respond in kind and our American partners will immediately feel this,” Putin said, according to Agence France-Presse. “We hope very much there will be positive changes.”.

After President-elect Barack Obama announced the selection of Hispanic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson into his cabinet, many Latinos are calling for more diversity.

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President-Elect Barack Obama was named the most fascinating person of the year in “Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2008.”

The list also included many actors, a broadcaster, an Olympic record holder, a second political figure, a singing superstar and a pregnant man.

10. Will Smith, actor
Smith was chosen because, according to Walters, “no one has created a string of blockbusters like him.” His last eight movies made more than $100 million, making him a huge success in Hollywood terms. Smith says that he is successful because he cares about people and always considers his audience. Another topic was marriage. Smith, who was divorced earlier in his life and career, believes that for him and his wife divorce is not an option so they better learn to have some fun together. Smith says his new character is “probably the darkest character I’ve ever played.” He wouldn’t give away too much about “Seven Pounds” though. We also learned that President-Elect Barack Obama has hand selected Will Smith to play him in a movie, should they ever make one, which we all know they will.

9. Michael Phelps, Olympic swimmer

In case you were a cave this summer, Phelps will forever be remembered as a super human and a swimming marvel. At the 2008 summer Olympics he took home a record 14 medals. Phelps said that he believes swimming helped him with his ADHD when he was younger and that his goal has always been to win an Olympic gold medal.

8. Miley Cyrus, singer & television star

Did anyone know that 16-year-old Miley Cyrus just signed a seven-figure book deal? Wow! Cyrus said sometimes it’s hard to be a role model, but she seems to be doing OK with it. Walters combated rumors of no more Hannah Montana and reminded everyone of the upcoming Hannah Montana. Cyrus said that sometimes she thinks about the fact that she could be just a phase, as so many young stars are, but right now she is just living in the moment.

7. Tina Fey, actress & writer

Fey calls the Sarah Palin situation a “strange storm” and “a stroke of luck.” She’s always been funny and a favorite, but this year’s political race really put her on the map. Not to mention the fact that she recently won multiple Emmys and had a huge movie come out. Fey said she never felt she was being mean because most of the time she was saying things Palin had actually said. In fact, the show even showed a perfect split screen showcasing the exact wording of both speeches.

6. Rush Limbaugh, broadcaster

He is called the most powerful conservative radio broadcaster, and he is probably most known for his argumentative nature. Walters started with the hard questions – In this economic recession, are you worth the millions of dollars you’re paid? Limbaugh’s answer – Of course I am, and I choose not to participate in the economic recession. Limbaugh said that Palin will be a great Republican candidate in four years. There was even a little argument between Walters and Limbaugh because he didn’t agree with her about a comment Limbaugh made about aging women in politics and on television. He ended the interview by saying, after being asked of course, that he hopes our new president is as sincere as he claims to be.

5. Thomas Beatie, pregnant man

While he isn’t the first pregnant man, he is the most public. His announcement has been one of the most controversial stories in the past decade. Beatie was born female and when he crossed over to being a man he kept his female parts, minus the breasts of course. Recently Walters did an hour-long special on the couple and was shocked to learn that the Beatie was pregnant again.

4. Frank Langella, actor

In 1979 he was Dracula, and even thought he has done a million things since then, he seems to have always been overlooked as a big star. Now stardom has finally hit for Langella as the role of Richard Nixon in “Frost/Nixon.” Walters said this the role of a lifetime for any actor. Langella said that at first he didn’t want to play Nixon, but after watching film after film after film of Nixon he began to feel connected to the former president.

3. Sarah Palin, Alaskan governor and former VP candidate

Sarah Palin seems to have really done it all. She started out as a beauty queen, then took on television, followed by PTA, city council, being mayor and finally being the governor. When she became the Republican running mate things seemed to be looking up, but things took a huge turn for the worse after Palin began speaking to the media. She was called “a drag” for her presidential candidate.

2. Tom Cruise, actor

Walters asked Cruise what he regrets since meeting with her three years ago, and although he admitted he could’ve done things differently, he didn’t seem to regret anything. Premiering soon will be “Valkyrie,” Cruise’s new movie about a man that plotted to kill Adolph Hitler. Cruise said he decided to do this movie because he found it inspiring. And even though he has already won the most prestigious German award for the movie, there was much controversy early on. Cruise said that there are probably more kids in he and wife Katie Holmes’ future, but right now they’re just enjoying the ones they have. He also said that he has definitely grown up and learned through all of the mistakes he has made and successes he has had over the years.

1. Barack Obama, president-elect

He is the first black president for the United States, and he signifies change and hope. He also seems to be one of the most popular presidential candidates in history. Obama said that even though the expectations are high he believes he can meet the expectations of an honest and confident government. Obama said that when he was a child he wanted to be everything from a judge, to an architect to a basketball player, but he never expected to be president of the United States.

Final Thoughts: This was very obvious, but what did you expect, it being an election year and all? Plus, who better to choose as the most fascinating person of the year than a person who literally made history. Hopefully, he will continue to make history.

Source: SeaCoast

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The TV talk queen says Palin still hasn’t granted her an interview.

The TV talk queen is publicly saying she got dissed by the former Republican VP nominee, who chose to grant post-election interviews instead to Greta Van Susteren, Matt Lauer and Larry King.

It probably doesn’t help that Oprah is Barack Obama’s No. 1 fan. She even plans to take her show to Washington D.C. next month for the inauguration. And rumor has it she’s had her dress picked out since before the election.

But apparently there are no hard feelings. Oprah seems to have left the door open for Palin: “Maybe she’ll talk to me now that she has a book deal.”

Source: film.com

GM CEO makes case at bailout hearing

Chrysler CEO lays out plan

Auto workers union fate tied to GM

Car execs grilled by Congress on transport to hearing

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