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President Barack Obama, joined by Washington-area middle school students and members of Congress, held a video conference call with astronauts from the space station and from the shuttle Discovery in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

“We’ve got a crew of wonderful schoolchildren here, who are all interested in space, and we’ve got some members of Congress, who are like big kids when it comes to talking to astronauts,” President Obama said, according to a transcript from the White House.

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Todd Heisler/The New York Times

The students and the president quizzed the 10 astronauts on what they eat, how fast they are traveling, how they exercise in space, the number of stars in the sky, what they do besides working on experiments and how weightlessness affects their sleep.

“Can you play video games in space?” one student asked.

“What things did you have to study to be a astronaut?” asked another.

“Do you guys still drink Tang up there?” asked President Obama to laughter. “I’ve got Bill Nelson here, and he says that’s been taken off the menu. That’s, by the way, before the time of you young people. We used to drink Tang.”

Source: The New York Times

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President-elect Barack Obama will name Arne Duncan, the superintendent of schools in Chicago, to be his Secretary of Education, a senior Democratic official and a second person close to the decision said.

Mr. Duncan is a Harvard graduate whose friendship with Mr. Obama began on the basketball court and flowered into frequent discussions of education policy.

He has seven years’ experience as chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, where he has earned a solid reputation for confronting pressing issues in public education, like how to raise teacher quality, how to transform weak schools and when to shutter those that are irredeemably failing.

Word of the selection comes as Mr. Obama’s transition team said Monday that he would make an important announcement on Tuesday morning at the Dodge Renaissance Academy, an elementary school that Mr. Duncan and Mr. Obama visited together in October 2005.

Source: The Caucus