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Obama halts trial of Guantanamo Bay suspects, calls M'East leaders

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Obama halts trial of Guantanamo Bay suspects, calls M'East leaders

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 22, 2009 11:57 am

PRESIDENT Barack Obama yesterday began his first full day as United States President with a full menu of reality on his table at the Oval Office where the buck stops. Among his major actions was to suspend the trial of Guantanamo Bay suspects and a reported phone call to some Middle East leaders on solving the many problems of the region.

"Tonight we celebrate, but tomorrow the work begins," Obama had told troops on Tuesday night at the Commander-in-Chief's Ball, one of 10 official events marking his inauguration. He made the rounds of those celebrations with his wife, Michelle, until about 12:45 a.m.

Yesterday began for the new president with a prayer service at the National Cathedral in northwest Washington at 10 a.m.

The President also met with his economic team and top brass from the Pentagon. He had told the ABC Network live television a day before inauguration that he would make quick decision on the economy, one of the top priorities of his administration.

As expected yesterday, he met with top military brass where he told them that he would want them to plan to have combat forces out of Iraq in 16 months, as he promised during his election campaign, an adviser revealed.

His words: "It's something he still believes is a responsible timetable," White House adviser, David Axelrod, told CNN in an interview. "But they'll discuss it. Everyone agrees that we need to be on a pace to withdraw our troops, and how that will be implemented I'm sure will be something he'll discuss."

Gen. David Petraeus, whose command oversees American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, was said to have attended the meeting, it was learnt on Tuesday. Petraeus, who had just arrived from Afghanistan and Pakistan, is expected to brief Obama on the latest developments in the troubled region.

Meanwhile, Obama also took a tough decision yesterday on one of the areas he touched in his inaugural address where he tactfully blamed his predecessor on the issue of rule of law, which he said even the founding father, George Washington, did not compromise in civil war live situation: A judge yesterday granted Obama's request to stop the trials of Guantanamo Bay suspects.

Obama subsequently ordered a 120-day halt to the trials to review the military commissions used to try them.

Papers filed at the U.S. prison camp noted that the request is made "in the interest of justice and at the direction of the president of the United States."

"The judges will receive the requests and review them, and we anticipate a ruling soon," said Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Defence Department spokesman.

Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, sent a memo to all federal agencies and departments to halt consideration of pending regulations throughout the government until the new staff can examine them, White House officials also said yesterday.

An estimated 1.5 million people packed the National Mall in freezing temperatures to watch Obama take the oath of office at noon on Tuesday, capping a remarkable rise for a politician who, until 2004, was a little-known Illinois state senator. The 47-year-old president, the son of a Kenyan immigrant, is the first African-American to hold the office.

Also yesterday, the new president reportedly spoke with leaders of Middle East nations over ways to tackle the crises in the region.



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Obama freezes salaries of aides. Senate confirms Clinton as secretary of state

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 22, 2009 11:58 am

President Barack Obama's first public act in office yesterday was to institute new limits on lobbyists in his White House and to freeze the salaries of high-paid aides, in a nod to the country's economic turmoil, reports The Associated Press (AP).

Announcing the moves while attending a ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to swear in his staff, Obama said the steps "represent a clean break from business as usual."

The pay freeze, first reported by AP, would hold salaries at their current levels for the roughly 100 White House employees who make over $100,000 a year. "Families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington," said the new president, taking office amid startlingly bad economic times that many fear will grow worse.

Those affected by the freeze include the high-profile jobs of White House chief of staff, national security adviser and press secretary. Other aides who work in relative anonymity also would fit into that cap if Obama follows a structure similar to the one George W. Bush set up.

Obama's new lobbying rules will not only ban aides from trying to influence the administration when they leave his staff. Those already hired will be banned from working on matters they have previously lobbied on, or to approach agencies that they once targeted.

The rules also ban lobbyists from giving gifts of any size to any member of his administration. It wasn't immediately clear whether the ban would include the traditional "previous relationships" clause, allowing gifts from friends or associates with which an employee comes in with strong ties.

The new rules also require that anyone who leaves his administration is not allowed to try to influence former friends and colleagues for at least two years. Obama is requiring all staff to attend to an ethics briefing like one he said he attended last week.

Obama called the rules tighter "than under any other administration in history." They followed pledges during his campaign to be strict about the influence of lobbyist in his White House.

"The new rules on lobbying alone, no matter how tough, are not enough to fix a broken system in Washington," he said. "That's why I'm also setting rules that govern not just lobbyists but all those who have been selected to serve in my administration."

In an attempt to deliver on pledges of a transparent government, Obama said he would change the way the federal government interprets the Freedom of Information Act. He said he was directing agencies that vet requests for information to err on the side of making information public — not to look for reasons to legally withhold it — an alteration to the traditional standard of evaluation.

Just because a government agency has the legal power to keep information private does not mean that it should, Obama said. Reporters and public-interest groups often make use of the law to explore how and why government decisions were made; they are often stymied as agencies claim legal exemptions to the law.

"For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city," Obama said.

He said the orders he was issuing Wednesday will not "make government as honest and transparent as it needs to be" nor go as far as he would like.

"But these historic measures do mark the beginning of a new era of openness in our country," Obama said. "And I will, I hope, do something to make government trustworthy in the eyes of the American people, in the days and weeks, months and years to come."

Meanwhile, the Senate has confirmed Hillary Rodham Clinton to become secretary of state. The Senate vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the former first lady despite lingering concerns by some Republicans that her husband's charitable fundraising overseas could pose a conflict of interest.

Republicans and Democrat alike say her swift confirmation was necessary so that Obama could begin tackling the major foreign policy issues at hand, including two wars, increased violence in the Middle East and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Immediately after the vote, Clinton was to be sworn in during a private ceremony at the Capitol



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