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WASHINGTON -- First Lady Michelle Obama, at a fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee here on Tuesday told a heckler, "One of the things I don't do well is this," according to the pool report.

Obama left the lectern after being interrupted by a woman associated with the pro-LGBT group GetEQUAL, petitioning for tighter anti-discrimination measures against those who act against contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The first lady told the heckler, and the crowd "listen to me or you can take the mic, but I'm leaving. You all decide. You have one choice."

The complete pool report below - UPDATED AT THE BOTTOM

WASHINGTON--Last April 10, First Lady Michelle Obama, in Chicago to address the issue of gun violence and youths, met with Harper High School students. On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama will meet again with a group of Harper High School students--this time at the White House.

According to Mrs. Obama's office, the students are in Washington for a trip-- and their meeting, closed to the press is set for 2 p.m. ET.

Harper High School, the White House said last April, "has been profoundly affected violence--29 current or former students have been shot in the past year; 8 of them died."

Most of Mrs. Obama's April visit at Harper was private; in remarks that were open to the press she talked about her South Side roots, saying, "you all know there isn't much distance between me and you. There really is not."

Mrs. Obama's main event in that April visit was to deliver a keynote address for Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a luncheon thrown to encourage donations to the fund the mayor created to bankroll programs to help at-risk kids. So far, Emanuel has collected $41 million in pledges.


Obama in Berlin on July 24, 2008 (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama returns to Berlin in June--the city where he staged a triumphal speech before some 200,000 during the 2008 election at the Tiergarten --with First Lady Michelle, the White House announced on Friday.

The June 17-19 swing will start in Belfast and move to Lough Erne in Northern Ireland for the G-8 Summit. After that the First Couple head to Berlin.

My July, 2008 story on "Obama-mania" in Germany is HERE

WASHINGTON--Even though it was published last year, First Lady Michelle Obama next Tuesday (May 7) will do a book signing of her book American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Garden Across America at the Politics & Prose bookstore in northwest D.C.

The independent bookstore--with a coffee house--is a neighborhood treasure. And this being Washington, there are interesting connections. The bookstore owners are Lissa Muscatine and her husband, Bradley Graham. Muscatine is a longtime speechwriter for former Secretary of State/First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The book is about Mrs. Obama's White House garden and healthy eating. Mrs. Obama has directed that any "author proceeds" go to the National Park Foundation.

After a photo op at the top, the book signing will be closed to the press.


Flooding on the Edens Expressway Thursday morning forces lane closure.  (Sun-Times photo by Jon Seidel)

Good morning. Thunderstorms, high today 72 [Forecast]


Horrific Texas fertilizer plant explosion kills at least 5, injuries scores more and forces the evacuation of the small town of West, about 20 miles north of Waco. [Sun-Times] [NBC]


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle fly to Boston for a bomb blast  memorial, "Healing Our City: An Interfaith Service" at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.[Boston Globe] The 10 a.m. Chicago time service will be carried live on multiple platforms.


Parts of the Ike, Stevenson expressways shut down by heavy rains, flooding. Metra, CTA, O'Hare and Midway Airports reporting delays and cancellations. Flash flood warnings. For the latest and updates [Sun-Times] 

Sex, drugs, no rock n'roll 
Going to pot... The Illinois House voted to legalize medical marijuana and mandate abstinence in sex education classes for grades 6-12. [Sun-Times][Crain's Chicago Business]

Both bills now move to the state Senate. Lawmakers taking a break from the heavy in pension reform. 

Gun-control measures fail

GOP Senators blocked multiple gun-control measures. [Wall Street Journal] [Washington Post]

Obama called the defeat "shameful" [Sun-Times]

The underlying gun bill--with the anti-traffickling provision named after the slain Chicago teen, Hadiya Pendleton-- is expected to be sidelined today. [Sweet, Sun-Times]

Big loss for Obama. [Politico] [Ezra Klein, Bloomberg]

Obama has a lot on his plate. [Real Clear Politics] [Roll Call]

Major takeaway: Obama slapped with big loss on legacy issue. With the Senate shutdown, unlikely the House will act on gun bills.

Weather forces Rahm to delay Washington trip

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was supposed to be in Washington today and Friday; he was grounded in Chicago because of the weather. He was the headliner for an immigration forum hosted by The Atlantic. Tomorrow, Emanuel joins former President Bill Clinton to launch an "Infrastructure Financing for Cities Task Force."  

Emanuel was going to conduct rounds in the White House and huddle with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

Boston bomb suspect

Videos of the Boston Marathon finish line blast site yielded the faces of suspects. Now authorities have to find them.[Boston Globe 

Ricin suspect arrested

A Mississippi man was arrested in connection with the mailing of letters containing poison to Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). Since the anthrax attacks of 2001, all White House and congressional mail is screened. [Sweet, Sun-Times] [Washington Post]

The suspect is an Elvis impersonator [CBS/DC]


*White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett on Time Magazine's new list out this morning of 100 most influential people in the world.

*Obama dined last night with a group of Democratic senators at a hotel near the White House. This follows two dinners with GOP senators. A White House official said they discussed immigration, guns and the Boston bomb blasts.  Durbin was there along with...according to the official ...Dem Senators Michael Bennet, Chris Coons, Dianne Feinstein, Mary Landrieu, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Jeanne Shaheen, Debbie Stabenow, Mark Warner, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ron Wyden.

*Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) on Wednesday received the 2013 Good Jobs, Green Jobs Champion Award from the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation. Context: Rush is on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

*Hello, Illinois.... Mike Schrimpf former Republican Governors Association communications director, is new communications chief for Bruce Rauner's gubernatorial exploratory drive. [Politico] 

*DLA Piper Chicago office associate Katie Jahnke Dale working with DC colleagues on a new partnership between DLA's New Perimeter global pro bono affiliate and the State Department to combat human trafficking across the globe.


Pressers....House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at 10:30 a.m. Chicago time; House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at 9:45 a.m. Chicago time, both in the Capitol.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Secretary of State John Kerry, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg at various Senate committees testifying on fy2014 budget requests

In Springfield, Governor Pat Quinn delivers remarks at the 5th Annual Muslim Action Day breakfast at the Mansion; later, a speech in the State Capitol in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Meetings.... Illinois Riverboat Gaming Board, Video Gaming Board.

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin headlines the City Club of Chicago lunch.

Nobel Laureate Gary S. Becker delivers the 3rd annual CME Group Lecture on Global Financial Markets, "Will American Retain its Economic Leadership?

Author Thomas Dyja discusses his book, "The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream" at the Harold Washington Library.

Chef and Bravo host Curtis Stone discusses his cookbook "What's for Dinner?" at the Barnes & Noble in Skokie's Old Orchard shopping center.


Cubs owners prey on your hopes by promising titles with Wrigley repairs. [Morrissey, Sun-Times]

Bulls clinch a playoff berth; will play Nets on Saturday in first round. [Sun-Times]

Cubs play the Texas Rangers at Wrigley Field this afternoon; White Sox away at the Toronto Blue Jays tonight.

CHICAGO--The usually cautious first lady Michelle Obama came home Wednesday to voluntarily plunge herself into a controversy, speaking out for the first time on two life-and-death matters: On preventing youth violence in Chicago and the need for Congress to at least vote on gun control measures.

To this I can only add: Finally.

What is the point of being one of the most popular people in the U.S. with a powerful platform if you don't use it? I just hope Mrs. Obama's era of being risk-averse is over -- when it comes to protecting kids in her city, my city, our city.

I've covered Mrs. Obama for years and never saw her as emotional in public as she was in delivering her speech before some 800 Chicagoans at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan.

They were gathered together by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to help bolster the fund-raising he is leading to create a $50 million pot of money to finance a variety of programs to help at-risk Chicago kids. Wednesday marked the first time Mrs. Obama has lent her considerable support specifically to a Chicago project.

What triggered Mrs. Obama's breaking up -- tearful and choking on some of her words -- was her recounting of attending the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year old King College Prep student shot to death last January in a park about a mile from the Obama family home in Kenwood.

Hadiya's horrible death profoundly impacted Mrs. Obama -- raised on the South Side, a product of Chicago's public schools and park district summer camps -- because she heavily identified with the Pendleton family -- which struck her as very similar to her own.

One could almost hear the unspoken words, "but for the love of God this tragedy could have fallen on me or my own," when Mrs. Obama talked about meeting Hadiya's parents at the funeral.

"What I realized was Hadiya's family was just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her. But I got to grow up, and go to Princeton and Harvard Law School and have a career and a family and the most blessed life I could ever imagine."

Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley was at the luncheon and he told me afterwards, "I've never seen that kind of emotion, I've never seen that depth of feeling."

Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, Hadiya's mother, told me afterward, "I was very appreciative she took my family story so sincerely. Choking up, her sister, Kimiko Cowley-Pettis completed her thought, that it was very meaningful that Mrs. Obama "compared herself and her upbringing to Hadiya's."

The White House on Tuesday was downplaying the possibility that Mrs. Obama was going to comment on the series of measures proposed by President Barack Obama to curb gun violence pending in Congress. Usually, Mrs. Obama does not go near anything controversial. And everything about gun control is controversial.

Instead, the suggestion was that Mrs. Obama would be handling in her speech the less controversial aspects of the comprehensive approach needed to reduce violence -- not getting into gun-control -- instead focusing on behavioral, educational, and mentoring programs such as the ones Emanuel wants to underwrite serving Chicago youths.

But these are make-or-break days for the gun-control measures. The Senate is poised to start a series of major votes on gun bills on Thursday -- first having to dispose of a Republican filibuster threat that could block everything.

The White House has been looking for enough GOP senators to put together a 60-vote filibuster-proof coalition. And Mrs. Obama on Wednesday joined in the push, crossing the invisible line she, and her handlers, have been drawing for years to keep her out of the fray.

Jumping in, Mrs. Obama said, "Right now, my husband is fighting as hard as he can, and engaging as many people as he can, to pass commonsense reforms to protect our children from gun violence. And these reforms deserve a vote in Congress."

We don't know yet if Mrs. Obama has actually started a new activism. I hope her first efforts to help Chicago's at-risk kids -- and prod Congress to curb gun violence -- won't be her last.


Good Morning. Overcast, drizzle, high today in the low 50's. Goose Island streets open again...


House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) swears in Robin Kelly at 1:30 p.m. Chicago time. Kelly holds presser afterwards to talk about her swearing-in on the House floor. Freshman Kelly is allowed to inherit the well-situated Rayburn House Office Building suite of the man she is replacing, disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. 


Two brothers shot at on the South Side, a man grazed by a bullet in Lakeview and a car-on-pedestrian accident in Goose Island were among the stories that happened between midnight and 6 a.m. in Chicago. [Sun-Times


Senate gun-control votes

Four months after the Sandy Hook massacre, the Senate today is set to hold a series of crucial votes on gun-control laws, with big resistance from the National Rifle Association. The House will not act until the Senate sends over legislation. [USA Today] President Barack Obama has a lot on his plate: guns, immigration, new budget. [Washington Post]

Sandy Hook families will be at press conference with Democratic senators in the Capitol this morning, pushing for a package of measures to curb gun violence.

Michelle Obama jumps in gun fray

With the Senate poised to act, First Lady Michelle Obama, back home in Chicago spoke out for the first time--with great emotion-- about youth violence and for the first time, gets involved in a controversial issue, urging Congress to allow votes on gun bills. [Sun-Times] And finally time she did. [Lynn Sweet] Mrs. Obama spent two hours at Harper High School on the South Side. [Mary Mitchell] [Bloomberg]

Mrs. Obama made it a day-trip. She headed from Harper back to Midway Airport, returning to Washington last night.

Quinn's gun push

With gun measures pending in Springfield, Gov. Pat Quinn headlines an Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence rally "in support of common sense gun legislation" in front of the Abe Lincoln statue at the state Capitol.

Wright's daughter indicted

Imagine if this story broke during the 2008 election, when the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright--then pastor for presidential candidate Barack Obama threatened to derail his bid. Jeri Wright, his daughter, was indicted Wednesday on charges of money laundering and lying to federal investigators in an expanding 2009 state grant-fraud case.[Sun-Times]

Political Business

* Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) will be reporting more than $390,000 raised in the first quarter. Aiming to discourage the man he beat for the tenth district seat from trying again, Schneider's team noted that he raised more than former Rep. Bod Dold (R-Ill.) "raised in his first quarter in 2011."

*Ald. Tom Tunney holds a fund-raiser aimed at the LGBT community. Double entendre on invite: "Come out to support equality." Tunney Honorary co-chairs: state Rep. Deb Mell and spouse Kelly Cassidy; state Rep. Greg Harris; Ald. James Cappleman and Water District Commissioner Debra Shore. Happening at the Lincoln Park home of Brad Lippitz and Jonathan Pizer. The tab ranges from $100 to $1,000.

* Last night, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) threw  a fund-raiser at Nationals Stadium during the Nationals-White Sox game.

* Cook County Committeemen huddle today to select a replacement for the latest pol forced to resign because of corruption, former Cook County Board Members William Beavers, convicted on federal evasion charges last month.


Memorial for Roger Ebert, the beloved Sun-Times movie critic who died last week. His funeral was Monday and today, a tribute at a fitting place, the Chicago Theater, 175 N. State.

 ...Mayor Rahm Emanuel joins Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams in announcing Chicago's completed transition to a grid garbage system at 11:30 a.m. CT, 900 East 103rd St. 

...U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin at Greene Elementary School, 3525 S. Honore on student health. ...National ACLU president Susan Herman at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. 


Donald L. Duster, the grandson of anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells. Under former Gov. James R. Thompson, he led the state's Department of Business and Economic Develop. [Sun-Times Obit writer Maureen O'Donnell]

Sports Today

Bulls play New York Knicks; Cubs host San Francisco Giants; White Sox continue stand against Washington Nationals. The Nats beat them Wednesday 5-2. 

Talkers Today

HBO's "Veep" star Julia Louise-Dreyfus guests on Ellen DeGeneres; Edie Falco on Jon Stewart; Alec Baldwin on David Letterman; LL Cool J on Jay Leno; Tom Cruise on Jimmy Kimmel; Carl Reiner on Craig Ferguson and Vince Vaughn on Jimmy Fallon.

Lynn Sweet discusses her Michelle Obama column on Julie Mason's SiriusXM show, 12:03 p.m. Chicago time.

First Lady Michelle Obama showed off her new bangs during President Barack Obama's inauguration in February. Now she's not so sure. Mrs. Obama told Entertainment Tonight, "I'm like a girl. What's next?" she told Entertainment Tonight about her buzzed-about haircut in a video interview (above). "We take it day by day. They're starting to grow out, getting a little irritating. But it's okay!"

Watch for yourself, First Lady Michelle Obama in Chicago with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to discuss ways to prevent youth violence. The live stream will start about 11:30 and you can watch below.

Watch live streaming video from chicagomayorsoffice at

Good morning. Grab your rain gear, stormy weather ahead. [Sun-Times]

Hours after her election to the House, Robin Kelly is jetting to Washington Wednesday catching the 8 a.m. American Airlines flight. Kelly day ahead: O'Hare Airport interview, in D.C. meetings to get her operation set-up. Swearing-in Thursday afternoon, followed by a reception in her office. Kelly easily won the special election to replace disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. [Sun-Times]

Two semi-trucks collided on Interstate 80 early Wednesday, killing one of the drivers and closing the expressway to westbound traffic in Joliet, Illinois state police said. [Sun-Times]

First Lady Michelle Obama heads to the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan for 11:30 a.m. lunch with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to bolster his fund-raising drive to bankroll projects for at-risk youths. Mrs. Obama motorcades over to Harper High, 6520 S. Wood for 2 p.m. event.

Senate gun deal
Two key senators forged a bi-partisan compromise deal on gun background checks with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announcing the details at 11 a.m. ET at a press conference in Washington. This comes as the entire Senate is poised to debate major gun legislation as early as Thursday, with a filibuster threat from GOP senators overcome on Tuesday. [Sun-Times] [Washington Post]
Prognosis: Major hurdles ahead as Senate debates gun measures next week.

Michelle Obama back home
When Mrs. Obama speaks this morning--to a group of some 700 business, civic and community leaders gathered by Emanuel, we'll be listening to see if the ever cautious First Lady speaks out about gun-control. [Lynn Sweet column] [The Hill] [Marin Report]
And Mrs. Obama is not sure about her bangs. [People]

Remembering slain diplomat
Touching service at Fenwick High School in Oak Park for alum Anne Smedinghoff, who died "in the smoking chaos of a car bomb attack in southern Afghanistan." [Sun-Times]

New life for old post office
A stunning high-rise multi-use is proposed to replace the old main Chicago Post Office with the distinctive feature of having part of the building built over the Congress Parkway. [Sun-Times Grid]

Obama $3.77 trillion budget unveiled
President Obama delivers a statement about his proposed budget from the Rose Garden at 10 a.m. [Washington Post]

Early GOP react from Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, out Wednesday morning."Reminder That You Can't Trust the Numbers That the White House Uses in Previews of Their Budget." Obama dines with GOP senators at 6:30 p.m. ET in the Old Family Dining Room. On the menu: dishing up good will.

4 takeaways from senior White House officials budget briefing:

  • *Budget contains last offer Obama earlier put on the table so the GOP should be open to it.

  • *False choice, having to choose between deficit reduction and job creation.

  • *Let's get the era of government by crisis behind us.

  • *If the GOP refuses to put revenues in the deal, there is no deal.

Political business
Emanuel's Deputy Communications Director Kathleen Strand and AllState's Corporate Communications Strategy Manager Bobby Kellman - both Hillary Clinton campaign alums - have set their wedding date. October 5 at the South Shore Cultural Center. Same place Rahm and Amy/Barack and Michelle wed.

...Obama tapped for United State Holocaust Memorial Council: Rabbi Sam Gordon from Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette and Maureen Schulman, Eli's Cheesecake public relations chief.

...Harold Washington's gang is getting together today, heading to the City Council chamber when aldermen take up a resolution proclaiming April 15 "Harold Washington Day." As the late mayor would say, "You want Harold, you got him."

Play it again. Chicago Symphony Orchestra press conference to announce projects for the 2013-14 season. ...Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams at the University of Illinois, Chicago to keynote 4th annual World Health Day symposium. ...UIC also hosting "Top Chef" quarter finalist Beverly Kim, to talk about her experience on the TV show. ..Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. ...Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) guested on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown," hosted by Chuck Todd.

Sports Today
Cubs host Milwaukee, White Sox away game with the Washington Nationals. Keep an eye out for the political fund-raisers....

First Lady Michelle Obama comes home on April 10 to address youth violence in her city -- and bolster Mayor Rahm Emanuel's new $50 million fund to help at-risk kids.

I'm told that Mrs. Obama's White House team reached out to Emanuel's City Hall -- asking how she can be helpful -- after she attended the Feb. 9 funeral in Chicago for Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old shot to death Jan. 29 about a mile from the Obamas' Kenwood home.

Out of that call came the idea for Mrs. Obama to headline the first major event for Emanuel's "Chicago Public Safety Action Community Fund," launched last month and tasked with raising $50 million over five years to bankroll a variety of programs aimed at reducing youth violence.

That Mrs. Obama is lending her support to the initiative is significant in particular because -- campaigns aside -- she rarely makes public appearances not connected to her signature issues of combating childhood obesity and helping military families. This will also mark the first time that Mrs. Obama is making a visit home to help a Chicago charity.

Mrs. Obama was last in Chicago on Feb. 28 to mark the third anniversary of her signature "Let's Move!" anti-obesity drive with a massive event at McCormick Place.

The Pendleton murder deeply touched Mrs. Obama, who attended Pendleton's funeral with her fellow South Siders, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Mrs. Obama also hosted Hadiya's parents in her box for President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. Obama, speaking at the Hyde Park Academy on Feb. 15, in a post-State of the Union swing, highlighted the city's soaring number of shooting deaths. Said Obama: "Last year there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that's the equivalent of a Newtown every four months."

Leading the fund-raising drive are Loop Capital CEO Jim Reynolds and Allstate CEO Tom Wilson. Reynolds was an early and major fund-raiser for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

Mrs. Obama will speak at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan, at a lunch hosted by Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff. The theme is "Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago."

The audience will include civic, business and philanthropic leaders. Some of the guests will have already donated to the fund; others are potential donors who need more prodding.

To date, according to Emanuel's press office, some $25 million has been raised.

Mrs. Obama will press for more.

Said the White House in announcing her visit, "Mrs. Obama will be urging Chicago's business leaders to invest in expanded opportunities for youth across Chicago's neighborhoods."

First Lady Michelle Obama returns home to Chicago on April 10 to address youth violence in Chicago, marking her first local move to deal with reducing crime in her city.

According to the White House, Mrs. Obama will speak at a "Joint Luncheon Meeting: Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago," hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, which will include members of Chicago's leading civic organizations: the Commercial Club, the Economic Club, the Executives' Club, and World Business Chicago.

"Mrs. Obama will be urging Chicago's business leaders to invest in expanded opportunities for youth across Chicago's neighborhoods."

Mrs. Obama returned to Chicago with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett to attend the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old shot in a park about a mile from the Obama Kenwood home. Her parents sat in Mrs. Obama's box during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address last month.

A few weeks later, another horrific shooting occurred, where six-month old Jonylah Watkins was shot to death while her father was changing her diaper in his van.

Other business leaders part of the event, at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave., are Thomas J. Wilson, Chairman, President, & CEO The Allstate Corporation and James Reynolds, Jr., Founder, Chairman, & CEO Loop Capital. The two men are leading a drive to raise $50 million for, according to a City Hall release, "support of proven programs that serve at risk youth across the city."

"The greatest thing we can do as a city is give our children the support they need to build a successful life. There are proven and successful programs that are creating a brighter future for some of our most vulnerable children in every neighborhood, and people from all corners of our city are stepping up to invest in them," said Mayor Emanuel in a release. "We are honored to have the First Lady's support in this effort. I will work tirelessly to provide safe alternatives that reduce the risk of our kids getting involved with drugs, gangs, and violence."

Mrs. Obama was last in Chicago on Feb. 28 for a massive event at McCormick Place to mark the third anniversary of her signature "Let's Move!" anti-obesity campaign; at the convention center she rolled out a new initiative, "Let's Move! Active Schools."

Click below for City Hall release....

WASHINGTON--The first night of Passover is Monday and Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu is sending back to the U.S. with President Barack Obama--who landed in Israel Wednesday morning-- a gift of a silver Passover Seder plate.

Obama has held a seder at the White House every year that he has been president.

From the foreign pool report:

After hundreds of suggestions were received on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Facebook page, Sara Netanyahu chose the gifts that she will give to U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, to Sasha and Malia Obama, and even to the presidential dog, Bo.

Information received from the Israeli press office:
"Ms. Netanyahu will give Michelle Obama a silver Passover Seder plate that could be used atthe traditional Passover Seder that is held at the White House annually. To Sasha and Malia Obama, Ms. Netanyahu will give chains with silver medallions in the form of David's harp set with Roman glass. Ms. Netanyahu will give Bo a rubber hamburger toy."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday delivers a speech about boosting help to the nations military and their families--her "Joining Forces" program--to CEOs of the Business Roundtable. The chairman of the group is W. James McNerney, Chairman, President & CEO of the Chicago-based Boeing Company.

From the White House: "The First Lady's remarks will continue her call on the private sector to hire America's veterans and military spouses, and help them reach their full potential within America's companies.

"This year, with the Iraq War over and the war in Afghanistan drawing to a close, Mrs. Obama will make the case that it has never been more important to join together and help our veterans and military spouses find employment and build their careers, especially the more than one million veterans who will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning back to civilian life in the coming years."

Strautmanis leaving White House

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WASHINGTON--Michael Strautmanis -- the Chicagoan with deep ties to President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle and counselor to Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett -- will be leaving the White House at the end of next week. He will be taking a senior executive position with the Walt Disney Company's corporate citizenship team.

Strautmanis -- raised in Uptown, a graduate of St. Ignatius and the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana for undergraduate and Law School -- joined Obama at the very beginning of his Senate term as his chief counsel, later becoming his Senate deputy chief of staff.

After the Obama 2008 presidential campaign, Strautmanis moved over to the White House where he was initially chief of staff overseeing the offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, operations in Jarrett's portfolio.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama on Monday answered questions about her "Let's Move" anti-obesity initiative on Twitter, as her signature program is marking its third year and we learned what she really gets a kick out of doing.

One person wanted to know what Mrs. Obama does for stress. Her answer, "to relieve stress, I love kick boxing."

From the White House: Tune in to at 11:10 a.m. ET for the first ever Google+ Hangout with First Lady Michelle Obama.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama came home to Chicago to unveil Thursday her newest "Let's Move" initiative; however, her White House press operation declined to allow any Chicago news outlet into her press pool while she was in the city.

Mrs. Obama wrapped up a three-city, two day trip marking the third anniversary of her signature "Let's Move" project, arriving back in Washington on Thursday night.

Her press team had five outlets in her pool for this swing: the Associated Press, Reuters and the New York Times, news organizations that routinely do White House travel. Mrs. Obama's press team also had two other outlets in her pool, and

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama hits McCormick Place on Thursday morning on her "Let's Move" anti-obesity third anniversary tour where she will be joined by tennis champ Serena Williams and other sports figures to urge more physical activity for kids in schools. For details, click over to

ON THE HOMEFRONT: Mrs. Obama arrived in Chicago on Wednesday night, traveling from Mississippi, where she highlighted healthy school meals. ABC7 News reported that Mrs. Obama overnighted at the family Kenwood home after dining with a friend at RPM Italian, the River North eatery.

This is Mrs. Obama's second visit to Chicago this month. She returned earlier for the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old gunned down in a park about a mile from their Kenwood house.

From the White House: "First Lady Michelle Obama will return to her hometown of Chicago to make a major announcement to bring physical activity back to schools. The First Lady will be joined by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, NIKE, Inc. President & CEO Mark Parker, Dominique Dawes, Gabby Douglas, Allyson Felix, Bob Harper, Bo Jackson, Colin Kaepernick, Sarah Reinertsen, Paul Rodriguez, Serena Williams, a surprise musical guest and thousands of Chicago area teachers and students at the event hosted by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation."

First Lady Michelle Obama announces the Best Picture Oscar to Argo live from the Diplomatic Room of the White House, Feb. 24, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance at the Academy Award broadcast announcing the Best Picture live from the White House, with the Oscar going to Argo.

I asked Mrs. Obama's office for the back story and was told by Kristina Schake, her communications director, "The Academy Awards approached the First Lady about being a part of the ceremony. As a movie lover, she was honored to present the award and celebrate the artists who inspire us all - especially our young people - with their passion, skill and imagination."

Mrs. Obama wore a Naeem Khan gown for the announcing chores she shared with actor Jack Nicholson on the Oscar stage.

Shortly after, Mrs. Obama said via Twitter, " It was a thrill to announce the #Oscars2013 best picture winner from the @WhiteHouse! Congratulations Argo!"

Earlier in the evening Mrs. Obama and President Barack Obama hosted the nations governors at their annual White House Dinner. She wore the same gown at that dinner as she did for her Oscar stint, done from the Diplomatic Room. She was flanked by members of the military who also serve as social aides for White House events.

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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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