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October 2009 Archives

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world series 1_1.jpg (White House photo) Jill Biden, Michelle Obama at Game One of the 2009 World Series at the new Yankee Stadium.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released on Thursday the 1,990-page House Democrats' health reform legislation, which includes the controversial government sponsored health plan that has come to be called a public option. It would mandate everyone to buy health insurance and ban insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Read the bill here.

The bill is expected to go to the House floor next week and is not expected to get any Republican votes.

If the House approves the bill, it will have to be melded with the Senate version--where everything can change--and return to the chamber for a final vote.

Michelle Obama harvests White House garden. Transcript.

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WASHINGTON--President Obama and First Lady Michelle don't have identical wedding rings, just redecorated the White House residence and have wrestled with their marriage through the years, says the cover story in the Sunday New York Times Magazine by Jodi Kantor. But living together in the White House has eased strains in the marriage that existed when Obama was an Illinois state senator, Illinois senator and on the road campaigning for the White House. My column on what's new in the New York Times article is here.

The Obama marriage has been put under the microscope before. Politics Daily editor-in-chief Melinda Henneberger wrote a series in Slate you can find here.


WASHINGTON--Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) who is balking at supporting the Democratic leadership health care plan because states would be allowed to "opt out" of the public option met briefly Wednesday afternoon with White House health czar Nancy-Ann DeParle. Burris is suddenly more relevant because Democrats need 60 votes in order to advance the legislation and need Burris to make the measure filibuster-proof.

The meeting lasted about 30 minutes.

"Senator Burris was pleased with the meeting, but said it shows there is still a lot of work that lies ahead," said Jim O'Connor, Burris Communications Director

WASHINGTON--President Obama, pondering sending more troops to Afghanistan, helicoptered to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware near midnight on Wednesday to witness the return of the bodies of 18 soldiers. Obama returned to the White House a 4:45 a.m. Thursday morning.

Click for the pool reports.

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WASHINGTON--A 1,000 pound pumpkin has been delivered to the Obama White House and on Sunday volunteers were painting pumpkins. On Saturday night, the Obama's host their first Halloween party. And, as my Sun-Times colleague Hedy Weiss reports, Chicago's Redmoon Theater company has been asked to perform. Members of the troupe will see Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Friday.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden will be in New York tonight for the World Series opener with the Yankees hosting the Philadelphia Phillies. A native South Sider, Mrs. Obama grew up watching the Cubs. For more on this--and her tennis game--she told Jay Leno on Friday she gets beat by President Obama--check out my story here.

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Roland Burris is critical of the compromise health plan Senate leaders crafted to allow states to opt out of a government-sponsored "public option" insurance plan. With Burris' vote potentially crucial, I've learned that the Obama White House will be paying attention to him for the first time today, dispatching the health "czar" to his Senate office.

Hynes campaign schedule

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Quinn campaign schedule

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What is certain about the presidency of Barack Obama--whether one term or two--is that there will be an Obama presidential library some place in the United States. Given that Chicago is Obama's adopted home town, where First Lady Michelle was born and the city where he launched his political career, it is hard to imagine that the library won't be in Chicago.


From C-SPAN's Washington Journal interview with Newt Gingrich Sunday morning:

C-SPAN: "If you were to run, what factors would you take into account? What would lead you to think about running?"

GINGRICH: "Callista and I are going to think about this in February 2011. And we are going to reach out to all of our friends around the country. And we'll decide, if there's a requirement as citizens that we run, I suspect we probably will. And if there's not a requirement, if other people have filled the vaccum, I suspect we won't."

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AP photo by Susan Walsh

My Sun-Times colleague Abdon Pallasch reports on Michelle Malkin slamming President Obama while in Chicago; read his article here.


part 1


part 2

Democratic activist and fund-raiser William Brandt is taking the plunge--and running for elected office for the first time. After decades behind the scenes, Brandt will be filing petitions to run for State Central Committeeman from the Tenth Congressional District, an open spot.

Valerie Jarrett in Chicago on MSNBC

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Michelle Obama at Breast Cancer Awareness event (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Read my story on First Lady Michelle Obama touting President Obama's health reform legislation and breast cancer awareness here.

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President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, sit for a family portrait in the Green Room of the White House, Sept. 1, 2009. (Official White House Photo)

Photo by Annie Leibovitz/Released by White House Photo Office

Updated 9:03 eastern time

Michelle Obama hula hoops

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Mrs. Obama on the South Lawn on Wednesday. (AP)

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First lady Michelle Obama exercises with a hula hoop during a healthy kids fair on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Wednesday. (AP)

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First lady Michelle Obama adds arm exercises as she hula hoops during a healthy kids fair on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday. (AP)

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First lady Michelle Obama hula hoops with children during a healthy kids fair Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House. (AP)

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A group of children at rear watch as first lady Michelle Obama exercises by jumping rope during a healthy kids fair on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday. (AP)

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First lady Michelle Obama is barefoot as she competes in a race during a healthy kids fair Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House. (AP)

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First lady Michelle Obama watches children eat something healthy Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House. (AP)

WASHINGTON--Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) has said he will not vote for a health care bill that does not include a public option. The Senate leaders are melding one bill from two advanced by different committees and while it is likely to have a public option, it's not a foregone conclusio. Burris' vote could be needed by the White House and he is somewhat immune from pressure since he will not be running to keep the Senate seat he was appointed to by the tainted Gov. Blagojevich.

Appearing on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" on Wednesday, Burris said he will "not be some type of obstructionist."

Sarah Palin hits Oprah in November

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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin---now author and potential 2012 presidential candidate--hits Oprah Winfrey's show in November. Read about it here.

Michelle Obama action figure doll

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WASHINGTON--The latest commercial use of the image of First Lady Michelle Obama comes from Jailbreak Toys, coming out next month with six-inch plastic "action figures" of the first lady. She's for sale--the toy that is--for $12.99.

The doll is made wearing three dresses, all from notable days Mrs. Obama had the campaign trail; read my story about the dolls and the clothes here.

One of the outfits on the doll is the dress Mrs. Obama wore on ABC's "The View" on June 18, 2008 during the campaign. That's the show where Mrs. Obama confessed she did not wear panty hose. My blog post about Mrs. Obama's panty hose confession here.


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First Lady Michelle Obama talks with, from left, Chicago 2016 board member Marty Nesbitt, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Education Secretary Arne Duncan aboard Air Force One prior to departure from Copenhagen, Denmark, Oct. 2, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON--This photo from the White House captures some of the central Chicago and Illinois figures in the Obama White House en route to Washington from Copenhagen where they pitched Chicago for the 2016 Olympics--only to be stunned to have Chicago come in last.

WASHINGTON--There was a spat of rumors going on about the health of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.). He is fine, Ken Edmonds his chief of staff told me Friday night.

"Needless to say, wild and ridiculous rumors may run fast, but have short legs. Congressman Jackson is alive, well and going strong," Edmonds told me.

"In fact, he has a busy weekend schedule of meetings and events, including making an appearance and remarks at a health care symposium at The Upper Room Church in Lansing on Sunday morning. He's also hosting a meeting among newly-elected South Suburban Mayor and Managers on Monday afternoon," he said.

Judy Biggert goes after ACORN

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WASHINGTON--The three top Chicagoans in the White House (other than President Obama and First Lady Michelle)--Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel-- are deployed to the Sunday shows, the first time, I believe that the three have been on separate shows on the same morning.

Via Mike Allen's Politico Playbook:

From Mike Allen: DRIVING THE WEEKEND: Banks and bonuses, the Dow and jobs will be top topics -- along with health care and Afghanistan -- as the West Wing fans out on the Sunday shows. Rahm EMANUEL will be on CNN's "State of the Union" (in studio, live at 9 a.m.) and CBS's "Face the Nation." Valerie JARRETT takes "Meet," which says its topics include: "[Outrage] over Wall Street bonuses. Should the government step in?" David AXELROD will do ABC's "This Week," where George Stephanopoulos blogs that his topics will include: "Wall Street's back. How about you? The Dow hit 10,000 even while 15 million Americans are without a job."


THE PRESIDENT: Terrence Scott. What do you have to say?

Q I have to say, why do people hate you and why -- they supposed to love you, and God is love and --

THE PRESIDENT: That's what I'm talking about. (Laughter and applause.) Come on. That's what I'm talking about. Terrence, I appreciate that. What grade are you in?

Q Fourth.

THE PRESIDENT: You're in fourth grade? Well, now, first of all, I did get elected President, so not everybody hates me, now. I don't want you to -- (laughter.) I got a whole lot of votes. I want to make sure everybody understands. But you know, what is true is if you were watching TV lately, it seems like everybody is just getting mad all the time. And, you know, I think that you've got to take it with a grain of salt. Some of it is just what's called politics, where once one party wins then the other party kind of gets -- feels like it needs to poke you a little bit to keep you on your toes. And so you shouldn't take it too seriously.

And then sometimes -- as I said before, people just -- I think they're worried about their own lives. A lot of people are losing their jobs right now. A lot of people are losing their health care or they've lost their homes to foreclosure. And they're feeling frustrated. And when you're President of the United States, you know, you've got to deal with all of that. That's exactly right. And, you know, you get some of the credit when things go good; and when things are going tough, then you're going to get some of the blame and that's part of the job.

But, you know, I'm a pretty tough guy. Are you a tough guy? You look like you're pretty tough. And so you've just got to keep on going even when folks are criticizing you. Because as long as you know that you're doing it for other people. All right? (Applause.) So thank you. You're a fine young man. I appreciate you. (Applause.) Give Terrence a big round of applause.

There are at least six Republicans running in the Illinois gubernatorial primary and one more may be on deck. The challenge for the staid Andy McKenna, the former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party running for governor, is to put some sizzle in his campaign to see if he can break out of the pack.

Toward the end, he hired as his media consultant Fred Davis--who, as John McCain's media guy last summer created one of the most memorable spots of the campaign--hitting Barack Obama for being "the biggest celebrity in the world," comparing him to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

WASHINGTON--The prime minister of India will be the first national leader honored by the Obama White House. The White House social office, headed by Desiree Rogers, is working on the Nov. 24 event. I write about state dinners thrown by the Bush and Clinton White House and the upcoming Obama dinner here.


Illinois Senate hopeful Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois state treasurer, huddled with White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the state of play of the open Senate seat once held by President Obama.

The meeting was not supposed to be known to the public, but Giannoulias was recognized by reporters while on the White House grounds.

Not generally known: Giannoulias also met with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chief Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and DSCC staffers and with key members of the Democratic labor union community.


Obama vows to end 'don't ask, don't tell'

COMMITMENT 'UNWAVERING' | Acknowledges gay activists' impatience with him

WASHINGTON -- President Obama -- confronting gay critics who expected his administration to have done more by now on gay rights issues -- said Saturday night he understands their impatience with him and vowed to deliver on his pledges, including ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.


Updated...
WASHINGTON--"Saturday Night Live" grappled with real life--President Obama's surprise win of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday--as cast member Fred Armisen played the president as the luckiest man in the world--who is not George Bush.

Armisen as Obama: "This came without warning, I didn't even get a call as due to the time difference in Norway, the Nobel people didn't want to wake me up. I wish they had, I could have said to Hillary Clinton, 'Hey, remember that 3 a.m. call you were so worried about? It happened. Nobel Peace Prize.'

"Now this prize..is giving annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to world peace. Jimmy Carter won it for decades of trying to find solutions to international conflicts.

"Al Gore won it for his years of educating U.S about climate change.

"And us?

"Well, I won it for not being George Bush.

"To be perfectly honest, this award was a complete surprise as I have only not been George W. Bush for nine months. But I am deeply honored none the less."

The skit goes on to have Obama winning a $70 million jackpot in a powerball lottery--with the first lottery ticket he ever bought.

WASHINGTON--President Obama--confronting gay critics who expected his administration to have done more by now to assure progress on gay rights issues--said Saturday night he understands their impatience with him but vowed to deliver on his pledges.

"My commitment to you is unwavering," Obama told the Human Rights Campaign dinner, putting the gay rights stuggle in the context of the greater civil rights movement. The speech came the night before a gay rights march in Washington and after the House voted on Friday to expand the definition of hate crimes to include gay, lesbian and transgender people.

"I will not waver in ending discrimination in all its forms," Obama said.

He pledged to end the military "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, noting that legislation to do so is pending in Congress.

"We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve this country. We should be celebrating their willingness to show such courage and selflessness on behalf of their fellow citizens, especially when we are fighting two wars," Obama said to sustained cheers.

"I will end Don't Ask, Don't Tell, that's my commitment."

Last Saturday, NBC's Saturday Night Live mocked President Obama's lack of accomplishment in a hilarious skit. Now that Obama has been "saddled" with a premature Nobel Peace Prize, what will SNL do tonight?



Premature honor a potential liability

'AWESOMENESS' | Opens door for critics to mock president

WASHINGTON -- After an embarrassing rejection a week ago in Copenhagen with Chicago's Olympic bid loss, Oslo handed President Obama a medal Friday -- an award that was premature and potentially a liability for the president.

This just in--White House pool report says President Obama will donate his $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize winnings to charity. No decision yet on what charity or charities will receive the money.

WASHINGTON--President Obama said he was "surprised and deeply humbled" with his winning Friday of the Nobel Peace Prize.

"Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning," Obama said, commenting in the Rose Garden about being awarded a prize he did not seek. "After
I received the news, Malia walked in and said, "Daddy, you won the
Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday." And then Sasha added,
"Plus we have a three-day weekend coming up." So it's good to have
kids to keep things in perspective.

"I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the
Nobel committee. Let me be clear. I do not view it as a recognition
of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American
leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations."

"I will accept this award as a call to action," Obama said.

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August, 2006, in Nairobi, Kenya: Then Sen. Barack Obama, wife Michelle, daughters Sasha, Malia and other children help plant tree with 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. (Photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--How can this great honor given to President Obama on Friday, the Nobel Peace Prize, be seen through American lenses as anything but premature? Obama gets the prize less than nine months into his presidency, on the very day he is meeting with his war cabinet--his national security team--to wrestle with ongoing battles in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


WASHINGTON--In a surprise move, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to President Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama was "humbled" by the news. Obama will comment on the prize at 10:30 a.m. eastern time.

Text of announcement from the Nobel Committee:


Announcement

The Norwegian Nobel Committee

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."

Oslo, October 9, 2009

WASHINGTON--Over at Politics Daily, Patricia Murphy is reporting that "Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) took on the director of the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday at a hearing over his decision to cut the bureau's ties with the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) without a formal review or inquiry."

Census chief Robert Groves, cut ties with ACORN after ACORN personnel were secretly taped giving advice to folks posing as a pimp and prostitute about how to scam the government.

Murphy reports: "Burris asked if news reports of "the so-called Fox sting, which ACORN now is suing over," had contributed to Groves' decision to cut ties with the group. Groves said the scandal was part of it, but added the negative feedback from his regional offices was his primary concern."

"Burris argued that Groves' move stemmed from "unfair assessments based on agendas that have nothing to do with service to the community." The senator said he knows of ACORN's work in Chicago and said the organization could have been a valuable partner in getting a full census count in African American and poor communities."

Note: Burris was wrong when he said Fox had something to do with the sting. Despite what Burris said, Fox had nothing to do with making the video. Fox was the first to televise the sting video, and has televised the video many times.

Genealogist Megan Smolenyak explains how she researched Mrs. Obama's roots at Roots Television

The New York Times has an in-depth article on the family history of First Lady Michelle Obama. Her great great great grandparents include the enslaved Melvinia Shields and, as the New York Times said, "the unknown white man who impregnated her."

Click here for an interactive graphic of the Michelle Obama family tree, put together with the help of genealogist Megan Smolenyak


http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/10/08/us/politics/20091008-obama-family-tree.html

By sending Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Chicago on Wednesday, President Obama is taking an ownership stake in reducing teen murders in the city. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, I was told by an administration source, had the idea of dispatching the cabinet members to Chicago. The murder of Fenger High School student Derrion Albert on Sept. 24 took place a few miles from where Obama worked as a community organizer. Read my report on the visit here.

WASHINGTON--Hoopster President Obama plays basketball Thursday with several cabinet secretaries-- Arne Duncan one of them--and House members, including John Shimkus (R-Ill.)

Lynn Sweet interview on XM Radio's POTUS Press Pool with Joe Mathieu about Chicago youth violence and visit to Chicago from Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.


The first week of October marks two anniversaries for President Obama--he and First Lady Michelle were married on Oct. 3, 1992--and Obama on Oct. 2, 2002 delivered his speech opposing the Iraq War at a Daley Center rally. I write about this here.

WASHINGTON--In the wake of a rash of youth murders in Chicago, including the recent beating death of a Fenger High School student, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder--in Chicago with Mayor Daley--pledged more federal resources to combat youth violence.


"Let us remember, much of the violence against Chicago's young
people involves gang violence, unfortunately. We need the help of the
federal government to help break up the gangs in our city, which does
not end at a city limit, and the terror it may bring to communities,
not only a city, but throughout the country," Daley said at a City Hall press conference with Holder and Duncan.


"It is an American problem," said Holder about youth violence in America.
Duncan, a former Chicago public schools chief and Holder met with Fenger students, after being dispatched to the city by President Obama after the murder of Derrion Albert, 16, in Roseland. The beating was captured on a cell phone and the video evidence elevated yet another tragic Chicago youth murder to a national story.


Said Duncan, "Chicago won't be defined by this incident, but rather by our response to it. So I came here today to join with all of you, and with communities across America, for a national conversation on values. It's a conversation that should happen in every city, in every suburb, in every town in America where violence and intolerance
and discrimination exist.

"Chicago is not unique. Four students have been shot in Tulsa,
Oklahoma already this year. Philadelphia, Seattle, Miami, New
Orleans, and many rural communities have also lost schoolchildren to
violence in recent weeks. And the cost goes far beyond the immediate
victims and their families. When children are fearful, they can't
learn. And if they can't learn, then we are all at risk, because our
future depends on the quality of education we give our children.

"This morning, Attorney General Eric Holder and I started the
conversation with Mayor Daley and with faith and community leaders.
We talked with elected officials and school officials. We also met
with Fenger students and parents and the principal. And the students
-- it was amazing -- were united in the request for one thing. They
want mentors. They want more adults in their lives who care about
them. They're extraordinary children at Fenger, and they want us to
meet them more than halfway.

"We plan to go to other cities, and to meet and talk with people
and find ways to protect our children. I am committed to this fight.
I am committed to this cause. I promise to work as long as necessary
to rid our country of this plague," Duncan said.

The Education Department is sending a $500,000 grant to help Fenger and the feeder upper grade and elementary schools safer.

WASHINGTON--In the wake of the beating death of Fenger High School student Derrion Albert--by at least four youths-- Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder are in Chicago Wednesday to meet with Mayor Daley, students, teachers and other local officials. (See previous posts)

Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence released
the following statement in advance of the Holder and Duncan visit, asking that a spotlight be put on the role of guns and youth violence.

"The youth violence problem in Chicago is a gun violence problem. Illegal guns are being trafficked into Chicago and then used to kill school-aged children.

"The Obama Administration has done almost nothing to address this so far. Three years ago, in the wake of the Nickel Mines shooting of five Amish school girls, George W. Bush managed to hold a 'Conference on School Safety' without even saying the word 'gun,''' said Helmke.

"During their visit to Chicago, I look forward to Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder offering specific solutions about how the Obama Administration will help keep guns away from children, illegal gun traffickers and dangerous people."

WASHINGTON--Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder, in Chicago on Wednesday in the wake of the latest outbreak of student violence in the city-this time at Fenger High School-- are expected to meet privately with families, students and local officials impacted by this horrible crime. The two Obama cabinet members will breakfast with Mayor Daley at 7:30 a.m. joined by a selection of aldermen and religious and community leaders.

UPDATE 5:32 P.M. CHICAGO TIME
Holder, Duncan, Daley, Michael W. Scott, President, Chicago Board of Education, Ron Huberman, Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Schools and Elizabeth Dozier, Principal, Fenger High School will discuss student violence at an 11 a.m. press conference at City Hall.
END UPDATE

Amy Brundage, a White House spokeswoman said in a statement,"President Obama is committed to combating violence on our streets and in our schools, both in Chicago -- which has been particularly hard-hit -- and around the nation. The Administration has focused on the issue of youth violence from the outset, hosting a gang violence prevention conference at the White House in August, making a multi-billion dollar investment in local law enforcement in the Recovery Act, and expanding support for local law enforcement through COPS and Byrne Grants.

"Tomorrow, the Attorney General and the Secretary of Education will discuss this ongoing commitment directly with some of the families most affected by the horrific recent violence in Chicago."

earlier, I filed:
WASHINGTON--Education Sec. Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder hit Chicago on Wednesday in the wake of a gang-related murder of a Fenger High School teen. The videotaped incident caught a lot of national attention and President Obama dispatched the two cabinet members back home to see what their presence can do to help. Holder and Duncan--a former Chicago public schools chief--will be meeting with local officials and students. There will be some sort of a press conference. I'm expecting details soon. Holder and Duncan will not be going to Fenger because it could be too disruptive.

WASHINGTON--With some fanfare, the White House created the first-ever Office on Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Sport to help bolster Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid. Chicago suffered an embarrassing loss last Friday in Copenhagen--getting knocked out in the first round of voting. Turned out Chicago never had a chance. But the Sun-Times has learned that the Obama sports office will continue, even though the Chicago bid flamed out.

A White House spokeswoman said, "It was always our intention that this office would continue to exist regardless of the outcome of the 2016 bid. The Office will continue to facilitate coordination between the appropriate agencies - such as the State Department, Department of Education and Transportation - that play a role in ensuring American Olympians' and Paralympians' participation in the Games is fully supported by the federal government.

"We are currently working to support the participation in the London and Vancouver Games. The Office will also continue to wholeheartedly support a core part of its mission: to help increase access to athletics to our nation's kids."

WASHINGTON--Education Sec. Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder hit Chicago on Wednesday in the wake of a gang-related murder of a Fenger High School teen. The videotaped incident caught a lot of national attention and President Obama dispatched the two cabinet members back home to see what their presence can do to help. Holder and Duncan--a former Chicago public schools chief--will be meeting with local officials and students. There will be some sort of a press conference. I'm expecting details soon. Holder and Duncan will not be going to Fenger because it could be too disruptive.

'One of the things that I think is most valuable about sports," said President Obama, back in Washington after his sales pitch to the International Olympic Committee could not deliver for Chicago, "is that you can play a great game and still not win."

Obama's face-saving comments came after his dash to Copenhagen -- and a lobbying blitz by first lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey -- seemed to do little to bolster Chicago's bid.

Rio wins 2016 summer Olympics

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First South American country to win the Olympic games....



President Obama and First Lady Michelle each told their personal Chicago stories to the International Olympic Committee on Friday in a quest to win the 2016 Olympic games for the city. Obama spoke about his adopted city and Mrs. Obama talked as a native South Sider.

Both Obama's used their biographies to woo votes from the I06-member IOC, voting later Friday between Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.


"I was born and raised on Chicago's South Side, not far from where the Games
would open and close," said Mrs. Obama, speaking before her husband.

"Sports were a gift I shared with my dad -- especially the Olympic Games.

"Some of my best memories are sitting on my dad's lap, cheering on Olga and
Nadia, Carl Lewis, and others for their brilliance and perfection. Like so many
young people, I was inspired. I found myself dreaming that maybe, just maybe,
if I worked hard enough, I, too, could achieve something great.

"But I never dreamed that the Olympic flame might one day light up lives in my
neighborhood.

America's First Couple closed Chicago's final presentation, which featured several videos, including an opener with a blues musical backdrop, "Sweet Home Chicago."

Obama assured the IOC that Chicago's diverse neighborhoods means that every player will in a sense have somebody from home--to cheer for them. Obama talked about Chicago's neighborhoods--highlighting some of the city's most diverse communities.

Said Obama, "You see, growing up, my family moved around a lot. And I never really had roots in any one place or culture or ethnic group. Then I came to Chicago. And on
those Chicago streets, I worked alongside men and women who were black and white; Latino and Asian; people of every class and nationality and religion. I came to discover that Chicago is that most American of American cities, but one where citizens from more than 130 nations inhabit a rich tapestry of distinctive neighborhoods.

"Each one of those neighborhoods - from Greektown to the Ukrainian Village; from Devon to Pilsen to Washington Park - has its own unique character, history, song, and sometimes language. But each is also a part of our city - one city - a city where I finally found a home.

"Chicago is a place where we strive to celebrate what makes us different just as we celebrate what we have in common. It's a place where our unity is on colorful display at so many festivals, parades, and especially sporting events,
where perfect strangers become fast friends at the sight of the same jersey.


In the wake of murder of a student at Fenger High School, President Obama is dispatching Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan--the former Chicago public schools chief--to Chicago to meet with local officials and students.

The White House is just getting around to posting photos from the Obama summer vacation...click here to get to photo gallery.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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