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A mishmash to follow.

First, the president went to Florida today to lay out his vision of American space exploration. The media promised a hostile crowd, and lo-and-behold, the media failed again. Once people actually heard the plan from the president's mouth, the extra budget, extra jobs, extra inspiration...oh well.
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President Obama gave a very interesting interview to Australian TV, ranging on issues from Afghanistan to financial reform, from climate change to the future of America. Nice to see an interviewer actually treat the president like he is, well, the president.

Full transcript and video here.

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On Afghanistan:

"What I have said is that we need to begin drawing down our troops in 2011, and start handing over more and more responsibility to the Afghans, we can’t be there in perpetuity neither the American people nor the Australian people should be asked to carry that burden any longer than it needs to be carried".

On financial regulatory reform:

"We’re going to get a very strong financial regulatory reform bill and as part of the G20 we’ll be coordinating with Australia and other countries to make sure that these reforms are not just taking place on Wall Street but they’re taking place in London, they’re taking place in Hong Kong, all across, all around the world we’ve got to recognise that capitalism is absolutely the best system for producing wealth but there’s got to be a regulatory framework put in place to make sure that excessive risks don’t end up bringing the entire system down.

KERRY O’BRIEN: SO WHY ARE YOU SO CONFIDENT THAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO GET YOUR REGULATORY SYSTEM THROUGH CONGRESS?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m always confident.

KERRY O’BRIEN: WELL IT WORKED ON HEALTH EVENTUALLY.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes.

On his legacy:

"If looking back on my Presidency whether it’s one term or two, I can say that I was able to wind down the war in Iraq successfully, I was able to stabilise Afghanistan in a way that keeps the American people safe. That we were able to create an economy that works for all Americans and not just some Americans and that we’ve provided a little more security with respect to having a healthcare system that works. You know I think those would be goals that I came into office espousing and being able to deliver on my promises I think is the best thing that a politician can do".

KERRY O’BRIEN: AND LAST QUESTION, WHAT WILL IT MEAN TO YOU, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE SEEN AS A TRANSFORMATIONAL PRESIDENT?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know I don’t tend to think of myself in those terms. What I tend to think about is the job in front of me, what I need to do today, tomorrow, the next day. I assume that I’ll have a lot of leisurely time after the Presidency to look back and see what kind of impact I had.

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Yet another Bush mess that must be cleaned:
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Obama launches sweeping federal mine safety review

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama ordered an exhaustive federal review of coal mine safety Thursday and asked Congress to strengthen existing laws "riddled with loopholes."

"We can't just hold mining companies accountable. We have to hold Washington accountable," the president said in response to the April 5 underground explosion at a Massey Energy Co. mine in West Virginia where 29 miners were killed.

"We need to take a hard look at our own practices and our own procedures," Obama told reporters in the Rose Garden.

"I refuse to accept any number of miner deaths as simply a cost of doing business," he said.

The president directed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to work closely with Congress to strengthen existing laws and to work with the Justice Department "to ensure that every tool in the federal government is available in this investigation."

"Owners responsible for conditions in the Upper Big Branch mine should be held accountable for decisions they made and preventive measures they failed to take," Obama said...

...This tragedy was triggered by a failure at the Upper Big Branch mine — a failure first and foremost of management, but also a failure of oversight and a failure of laws so riddled with loopholes that they allow unsafe conditions to continue," Obama said.

He said the government would act to quickly get inspectors into mines across the nation that have "troubling safety records."

"If a tragedy can be prevented, it must be prevented," Obama said.
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Russia shuts plutonium arms plant

The move came after a pledge this week from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a 47-nation nuclear security summit in Washington.

Plant bosses pressed the red "stop" button to commence decommissioning process at 0400, the official Russian news agency reported.

The ADE-2 reactor opened in 1964 in Zheleznogorsk, then a secret city known as Krasnoyarsk-26.

Some 2,500 miles east of Moscow, the military production complex was founded in 1950 on the orders of Joseph Stalin.

Two other reactors there were closed in 1992, said Yelena Golovinkina, spokeswoman for the Mining-Chemical Complex, which houses the reactor.

Russia's defence ministry stopped using the plutonium for military needs in 1995, and the plant was used mainly to heat the city of Zheleznogorsk, she added.

The closure of the reactor came after Mr Obama and Mr Medvedev signed a nuclear disarmament treaty, described by both sides as a major step towards improving strained US-Russian relations.

The powers pledged to dispose of 34 tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium each, enough to make 17,000 weapons.

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A flattering story from the Washington Post, no lees, Looking into the dynamic between the president and other world leaders during the nuclear summit this week:
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During his first year in office, President Obama was often best overseas when he was behind a lectern or onstage before a crowd with a microphone in his hand.
But in convening his first international summit -- the largest on a single issue in Washington history -- he focused more squarely on his relationship with world leaders. He slapped backs, kissed cheeks and met one on one with more than a dozen heads of state, leavening his appeal to shared security interests with a more personal diplomacy.

...."He's in charge, he's chairing the meetings, and this is where his personality plays a big part," said Pierre Vimont, the French ambassador to the United States, who compared Obama's role during the summit to the way he led the bipartisan health-care meeting at Blair House in February.

"He does it very well," Vimont continued. "And he feels very comfortable doing it." ...

...."He's never better than when he's the teacher," said a European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly. "Many of those who attended were just happy to be in the picture with Obama. I mean, he did get 46 leaders to Washington on a boring issue. That's pretty good."

....German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom administration officials describe as high on the list of the European leaders Obama most admires, received a kiss on each cheek at the final bilateral meeting...

...David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary, said such personal diplomacy is "quite important" at summits, especially one about an issue he said is "often seen as administrative."

"When Obama stands up and says 'My friend Dmitry Medvedev' or 'My friend Nicolas Sarkozy,' he's right, and that's important," Miliband said. "He's made a number of friends of world leaders, and I think that's a testament to why so many arrived to take part in this."...

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Here's a fun little video of Obama greets 47 world leaders in 1 min and 38 secs
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U.S. Leads New Bid to Phase Out Whale Hunting

WASHINGTON — The United States is leading an effort by a handful of antiwhaling nations to broker an agreement that would limit and ultimately end whale hunting by Japan, Norway and Iceland, according to people involved with the negotiations...

...The compromise deal, which has generated intense controversy within the 88-nation International Whaling Commission and among antiwhaling activists, would allow the three whaling countries to continue hunting whales for the next 10 years, although in reduced numbers...

...In exchange, the whaling nations — which have long exploited loopholes in an international treaty that aims to preserve the marine mammals — would agree to stricter monitoring of their operations, including the placing of tracking devices and international monitors on all whaling ships and participation in a whale DNA registry to track global trade in whale products....

..."This is one of the toughest negotiations I’ve been involved in in 38 years," said Cristián Maquieira, the veteran Chilean diplomat who is the chairman of the commission. "If this initiative fails now, it means going back to years of acrimony..."

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Obama Bicycle Policy Wins Love From Cyclists, But Guess Who Is Not Happy

WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a weekend bicyclist, might consider keeping his head down and his helmet on. A backlash is brewing over his new bicycling policy.

LaHood says the government is going to give bicycling — and walking, too — the same importance as automobiles in transportation planning and the selection of projects for federal money. The former Republican congressman quietly announced the "sea change" in transportation policy last month.

"This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized," he wrote in his government blog.

Not so fast, say some conservatives and industries dependent on trucking. A manufacturers' blog called the policy "nonsensical." One congressman suggested LaHood was on drugs...

...The new policy has vaulted LaHood to superstar status in the bicycling world. Bike blogs are bubbling with praise. A post on Ridemonkey.com calls him "cycling's man of the century." The Adventure Cycling Association's Web site calls LaHood "our hero."

"LaHood went out on a limb for cyclists," Joe Lindsey wrote on Bicycling.com. "He said stuff no Transportation secretary's ever said, and is backing it up with action."

The policy has also been embraced by environmentalists and many urban planners.

Word of the policy change is still filtering out beyond the bicycling and transportation communities, but the initial reaction from conservatives and industry has been hostile.

The National Association of Manufacturers' blog, Shopfloor.org, called the policy "dumb and irresponsible."

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Mrs. Obama in Mexico. All photos by AP.
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And, finally, the president in Florida. Please, please, don't hot-link.
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President Barack Obama talks with Garth Brooks, who was presented with the "Grammy on the Hill Award" for his leadership in advancing the rights of music makers, in the Oval Office, April 14, 2010. The President was also presented with the 2007 Grammy Award for best spoken word album for his book "The Audacity of Hope." (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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Originally posted to blackwaterdog on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 02:24 PM PDT.

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