Wednesday, September 9, 2009

At least 20 killed as sudden floods sweep Istanbul

• Seven women drown on way to work as van submerged
• Stranded motorists clamber on to car roofs to escape torrent

At least 20 people were killed when sudden floods swept Istanbul today, swamping houses, stranding motorists on roads transformed into torrents and drowning seven women on their way to work in a van.

As Turkey's largest city was hit by the heaviest rainfall in 80 years, waters rose more than a metre (3ft) in the Ikitelli district, cutting off the route to the main airport and the motorway to Greece and Bulgaria on the European, or western, side of the sprawling city.

Istanbul is situated on the steep banks of the Bosphorus strait, one of the world's busiest waterways and a major conduit for cargo ships and oil tankers from the Black Sea.

As the waters rose, stranded motorists climbed on to the roofs of their cars, hoping to be rescued. Television footage showed lorries crushed against each other by the floods. Rescue workers put out planks and ladders to help car and lorry drivers reach the safety of bridges and high land.

"My friend got stuck in the truck after the water rose all at once," Kamil Coskun told Reuters TV. "The vehicle stopped working after filling with water. We rescued him with a winch."

Hikmet Cakmak, Istanbul's deputy governor, described the scene as a "disaster" and said four helicopters and eight boats were sent to help rescue people.

The deaths raised the overall toll in floods that have struck north-western Turkey since Monday to at least 28.

Istanbul firefighters recovered seven bodies at a car park in Ikitelli and seven others were found outside a textiles factory in the district of Halkali nearby. The victims were female factory workers who drowned, trapped inside a van that had just brought them to work. Television footage showed seven bodies covered in white sheets, placed in a row.

Istanbul's Ataturk airport was unaffected by the floods and flights were not interrupted. However, many passengers could not reach the airport or leave it once they arrived.

The Dogan news agency showed footage of a man stranded on top of an overturned van, who plunged into the swirling water and swam towards four men who pulled him out. Elsewhere, a military helicopter lifted about 10 people from the top of a roof. A trail of mud covered some areas as waters later receded in parts of Ikitelli.

Police were deployed to prevent people from looting goods from factories and shops. Even amid the flooding, an Associated Press photographer saw people plundering abandoned vehicles.

"We are saddened by the loss of lives. There are still some people missing and we are searching for them," said the procurement minister, Mustafa Demir. "There is huge damage to infrastructure. We need to be more careful when designing infrastructure and cities."

Rapid population growth as a result of decades of emigration from Turkey's impoverished rural regions has meant that the metropolis of 15 million has developed without adequate infrastructure and poor city planning. Authorities in Istanbul have, in their disaster planning, focused more on earthquakes in a city crossed by a major faultline. Eighteen thousand people were killed by an earthquake that hit north-west Turkey in 1999.

Hugo Chávez calls Israel’s Gaza war ‘genocide’

The Venezuelan leader's comments, made during a visit to Syria, coincided with the release of an Israeli human rights group's report on Gaza casualties.

Well, he wouldn’t be Hugo Chávez without controversy.

This time Venezuela’s leftist leader dropped the G-word.

“The question is not whether the Israelis want to exterminate the Palestinians. They’re doing it openly,” Mr. Chávez said in an interview, published on Wednesday, with the French daily Le Figaro.

“What was it if not genocide?” he asked, referring to Israel’s 22-day war against the Hamas militant group in Gaza in January. “The Israelis were looking for an excuse to exterminate the Palestinians.”

It’s actually the second time this week that he’s pulled that particular hatchet out of his verbal tool box.

While stopping off in Syria as part of what he called his 11-day “evil axis” tour to countries that have frosty relations with the US, he called upon Israelis to disobey their “genocidal” government.

Oh, but he said it with such panache.

“The state of Israel has become a murderous lackey at the service of imperialism,” Chavez said. “It’s a genocidal government. I condemn that Zionist government that persecutes the heroic Palestinian people.”

It’s statements like this that make him the Arabs’ favorite world leader.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded to his comments with a shrug.

“Mr. Hugo Chavez’s unrestrained expressions no longer surprise anyone in Israel or the free world, and harm Venezuela and its good name first and foremost,” it said in a statement.

Few international authorities agree with Chávez that Israel’s Gaza war meets the UN’s legal definition genocide or even Merriam-Webster’s definition: “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.”

But Chavez’s comments coincide with a new report from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem stating that Israeli troops killed many more Palestinian civilians in the Gaza offensive than the army admits.

B’Tselem said 1,387 Palestinians died, more than half of them civilians and 252 of them children. An Israeli army report states that fewer than 300 civilians died.

The army had no immediate comment, but has repeatedly denied violating any international humanitarian laws and reiterated that the goal of the offensive was to “target the Hamas terror organization and not citizens of the Gaza Strip.”

As for Chavez, he wraps up his foreign tour this week in Russia, where he is expected to discuss energy and weapons deals with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

Talks may include participation in a fledgling OPEC-like gas cartel that Chavez has been touting as a means to counter Western political and economic clout.

Janet Jackson will pay tribute to Michael at VMAs

Janet Jackson will lead a tribute to her late brother Michael at the Video Music Awards.

The tribute will kick off the show on Sunday. Details about the tribute are scant -- MTV's announcement of Janet Jackson's appearance was all of two sentences long -- but the cable network says she will help open the show by honoring her brother's career, which was intertwined with the rise of MTV in the early 1980s.

MTV did, however, take the time in its release to knock down a rumor that choreographer Frank Gaston will be involved in the tribute. He won't be, the network says.

MTV started promoting its VMA tribute over the weekend with spots showing a torrent of sequined gloves falling from the sky and promising "a tribute like no other" for Michael Jackson, who died on June 25. The VMAs air at 9 p.m. ET Sunday from New York.

Beatles Rock Band game released!

You can now finally be a member of the Beatles. The long-awaited Beatles Rock Band video game hits stores today.

Featuring 45 songs by the Fab Four, the game allows fans to become John, Paul, George and Ringo and perform in various venues, including on the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show, in “Octopus’s Garden” and at Shea Stadium in New York.

The game coincides with the release of the entire 12-album Beatles catalogue, which has been digitally remastered following an extensive four-year process.

United Nations Report Calls for Global Currency

A number of countries, including China and Russia, have suggested replacing the dollar as the world's reserve currency

UN wants new global currency to replace dollar

The dollar should be replaced with a global currency, the United Nations has said, proposing the biggest overhaul of the world's monetary system since the Second World War.

By Edmund Conway, Economics Editor

In a radical report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has said the system of currencies and capital rules which binds the world economy is not working properly, and was largely responsible for the financial and economic crises.

It added that the present system, under which the dollar acts as the world's reserve currency , should be subject to a wholesale reconsideration.

Although a number of countries, including China and Russia, have suggested replacing the dollar as the world's reserve currency, the UNCTAD report is the first time a major multinational institution has posited such a suggestion.

In essence, the report calls for a new Bretton Woods-style system of managed international exchange rates, meaning central banks would be forced to intervene and either support or push down their currencies depending on how the rest of the world economy is behaving.

The proposals would also imply that surplus nations such as China and Germany should stimulate their economies further in order to cut their own imbalances, rather than, as in the present system, deficit nations such as the UK and US having to take the main burden of readjustment.

"Replacing the dollar with an artificial currency would solve some of the problems related to the potential of countries running large deficits and would help stability," said Detlef Kotte, one of the report's authors. "But you will also need a system of managed exchange rates. Countries should keep real exchange rates [adjusted for inflation] stable. Central banks would have to intervene and if not they would have to be told to do so by a multilateral institution such as the International Monetary Fund."
The proposals, included in UNCTAD's annual Trade and Development Report , amount to the most radical suggestions for redesigning the global monetary system.

Although many economists have pointed out that the economic crisis owed more to the malfunctioning of the post-Bretton Woods system, until now no major institution, including the G20 , has come up with an alternative.

Retail stocks inch higher; McDonald's sales miss mark

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Retail stocks seesawed in early trading Wednesday as fast-food giant McDonald's Corp.'s August same-store sales fell short of expectations.

McDonald's /quotes/comstock/13*!mcd/quotes/nls/mcd (MCD 55.52, -0.70, -1.25%) , a Dow Jones Industrial Average component, fell 2.3% to $54.95.

The company said global comparable-sales rose 2.2% in August after new products and its McCafe coffees helped to bolster demand in the U.S., offsetting lower sales in Asia.

Still, the total gain missed the average estimate of a 2.5% increase among analysts surveyed by FactSet Research. See full story.

The S&P Retail Index /quotes/comstock/10u!rlx.x (RLX 373.22, +2.30, +0.62%) rose 0.3% to 372.16 after a decline at the open. Investors' attention is focused on the Federal Reserve's Beige Book report due out Wednesday afternoon.

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Glenn Beck's new target: Mark Lloyd

Move over Van Jones. There's a new enemy in town. His name is Mark Lloyd, and conservative critics are mad as hell that he's working in the Obama administration.

"Fresh off the ousting of former special assistant for 'green jobs' Van Jones, Glenn Beck supporters are calling for the public lynching of FCC Diversity Czar Mark Lloyd," writes Examiner columnist Clifford Bryan.

Beck put out the call on his Twitter page with this ominous posting: "Watch Dogs: FIND EVERYTHING YOU CAN ON CASS SUNSTEIN, MARK LLOYD AND CAROL BROWNER. Do not link before burning to disc."

Beck complains that Lloyd has a problem with capitalism and conservative media outlets and quotes a statement Lloyd made in a 2007 article: "The progressives of today should take a page out of FDR's media playbook" from when the New Dealers were battling conservative print media and a conservative Supreme Court to "fix the great debacle of American capitalism."

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Safe-sex ad featuring Hitler stirs German anger

It is disgusting and we're asking the producers of the campaign to pull it back.

Joerg Litwinschuh of German AIDS Assistance

A German AIDS awareness group has come under fire for posting an online video that starts off with a young couple having sex in an apartment before revealing the male to be a grinning Adolf Hitler.

Its closing message: "AIDS is a mass murderer."

On Tuesday, a prominent German Jewish group and AIDS prevention advocates demanded the ad be withdrawn.

"It is disgusting and we're asking the producers of the campaign to pull it back," said Joerg Litwinschuh of German AIDS Assistance, an awareness group.

He said the ad, commissioned by Regenbogen, German for rainbow, seemed designed for little more than shock value and was offensive to people who have HIV.

"We denounce this ad. I can say that absolutely," said Volker Mertens, a spokesman for another group, the German AIDS Foundation.

Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, issued a statement calling the ad "a defamation and mockery" of Holocaust victims.

"Apparently the initiators and producers of this campaign are only concerned, without consideration for other's emotions, with provocation based on this slogan: Hitler sells," Kramer said.

On Monday, Regenbogen deputy head Heiko Schoessling told The Associated Press that the ad would run on German TV and in movie theatres.

He said the "mass murder" campaign would also include radio spots, music videos, print ads and posters featuring former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and former Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

The next day, as criticism mounted, Regenbogen spokesman Jan Schwertner said plans for the video and the broader campaign were not final.

Talks with TV stations and theatres are continuing, he said, but would not disclose when and where the ads would appear.

Obama vs. Baucus: Democratic Party civil war gets bloodier

Speaking to the White House press yesterday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had this say when answering a question posed by NBC’s Chuck Todd:

GIBBS: I was told that K Street had a copy of the Baucus plan, meaning, not surprisingly, the special interests have gotten a copy of the plan that I understand was given to committee members today.”

TODD: K Street got it and you guys haven’t?

GIBBS: Not surprisingly. Yes.

VIA MSNBC- “Morning Joe” and THE HILL

Now that’s not something you see everyday. Gibbs had flat out accused the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the leader of the health care reform effort in the Senate of being more loyal to the K Street healthcare lobby that he is to his own president.

Why would the White House engage in such a sniping, particularly at this crucial time in the debate?

Gibbs may have been channeling Obama’s utter disgust with the decision he made to invest heavily in the bi-partisan negotiations of the “gang of six”, lead by Sen. Baucus. Baucus had convinced the president that these talks represented the best chance for a bi-partisan solution. Bad call by Obama, a reality driven home all too clearly that day in August when Sen. Chuck Grassley – the leader of the GOP contingency participating in the gang of six negotiations — stood before his constituents in Iowa and told them they had every reason to fear health care reform and the pending extermination of granny.

The White House had been punked and the president had to be pissed.

Maybe it was payback for the White House having been snookered into allowing Baucus to take the lead in the Senate healthcare debate in the first place. Under normal circumstances, the job would have gone to Senator Ted Kennedy. Sadly, Kennedy’s health had made a leadership role impossible.

In the effort to gain control of the Senate push for health care change we could believe in, Baucus published a White Paper laying out his vision for health care reform. It was a vision that very much mirrored Obama’s own thoughts and beliefs as the document contained many progressive concepts, including the idea of a public insurance health option. Baucus got the job, despite his status as one of the primary recipients of health related industry money.

Baucus has fallen a long way since the publication of his White Paper. Gibbs’ suggestion that K Street received the Baucus proposal before the White House had seen it might suggest a reason for Baucus’ fall from progressive glory.

Still, the timing of Gibbs’s shot across the Senate Finance Committee bow is interesting. Word is that Baucus has given his fellow gang of six members until 10am today to come back to him with their comments on the proposal he circulated a few days ago. What they say will, no doubt, play a significant part in what Obama elects to include in tonight’s pivotal speech. Thus, there should be quite a few conversations today between Obama and Baucus.

Ah, to have a tap on those telephone lines. Where is the NSA when you need them?

Allen Iverson Announces Memphis Signing via Twitter

By Aron Phillips

The waiting game is over. What began over Labor Day Weekend has finally come to fruition. According to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Allen Iverson has informed the Grizzlies this morning that he will accept a one-year, $3.5 million offer to play in Memphis this season. I’m already on the phone with the NBA Store to order my jersey.
Iverson’s decision came following a Monday night meeting in Atlanta with Griz owner Michael Heisley, general manager Chris Wallace and head coach Lionel Hollins. Iverson, a 34-year-old, 13-year veteran, will play for a contract that pays $3.5 million (what the Griz have left under the salary cap) and the deal will be loaded with incentives.

With NBA training camp beginning in three weeks, this completely changes the landscape of things for the Grizzlies. Do they start Iverson and O.J. Mayo in the backcourt and bring Mike Conley off the bench? Does Conley start and Iverson plays the role of sixth man? I assume all of this was discussed before Iverson signed on the dotted line, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

What do you think?

Kennedy Center to fete legends of jazz, opera, pop, cinema and comedy at 2009 artist honors

Springsteen, De Niro among Kennedy Center honorees

WASHINGTON — Dave Brubeck just wishes his mom could see him now: On Dec. 6, the same day the jazz composer and pianist turns 89, he’ll be among the leading artists feted at the 32nd Kennedy Center Honors Gala.

Dignitaries from President Barack Obama on down will celebrate Brubeck’s career, along with those of Bruce Springsteen, Robert De Niro, Mel Brooks and opera singer Grace Bumbry, the Kennedy Center announced Wednesday.

Brubeck says it’s a day that would have delighted his late mother, Elizabeth Ivey Brubeck, a classical pianist who was initially disappointed by her son’s interest in jazz. He recalled that when he graduated high school in 1938, his mother wrote in her diary: “I think there is some hope for David after all.”

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Hurricane Fred gets stronger far out over Atlantic

MIAMI — Hurricane Fred has quickly strengthened to a Category 2 storm but remains far out in the eastern Atlantic with no signs it will threaten land.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Fred could become a major hurricane later on Wednesday. The storm's projected five-day path will keep it over the open ocean until it loses steam.

Fred's maximum sustained winds have increased to near 105 mph. Forecasters say it could become a major hurricane, meaning top sustained winds of more than 110 mph.

The storm is centered about 500 miles west-southwest of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands and moving west-northwest near 13 mph.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Linda is drifting slowly far out over the Pacific with maximum sustained winds near 65 mph.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

MIAMI (AP) — Hurricane Fred has quickly strengthened to a Category 2 storm in the Atlantic and forecasters say it could become a major hurricane later in the day.

Fred's maximum sustained winds have increased to near 105 mph (165 kph) early Wednesday. The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Fred could become a Category 3 storm later Wednesday but is expected to start weakening Thursday.

Fred is centered about 500 miles (805 kilometers) west-southwest of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands and moving west-northwest near 13 mph (20 kph).

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Linda is drifting slowly far out over the Pacific with maximum sustained winds near 65 mph (100 kph).

IAAF Expects Semenya Test Results in Two Weeks

South African track star Caster Semenya is shown all dressed up for the cover of YOU, a magazine in her native country.

LONDON (AP) — The results of Caster Semenya's gender tests are expected to arrive at the IAAF headquarters any day, and its unlikely the world 800-meter champion will lose her gold medal.

IAAF spokesman Nick Davies told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it would take about two weeks for a group of medics and anti-doping experts at track and field's international governing body to analyze the results.

"We will get the results any day now of the Berlin investigation, then they need to be checked — it's not something where you have a yes or a no," Davies said.

Speculation about South African's gender was sparked by stunning improvements in times coupled with her muscular build and deep voice. She easily won the 800 at the world championships last month in Berlin.

The tests are to determine if the 18-year-old has a medical condition that blurs her gender and gives her an unfair advantage. The definitive outcome will be determined within about two weeks after test results arrive in Monaco.

"Only then, with conclusive evidence, would we be in a position to make an educated decision based on that evidence," Davies said. "My information is that it will take between eight days and two weeks to be in a position to speak to Semenya and decide where to go."

The process required a physical medical evaluation and includes reports from a gynecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist, internal medicine specialist and gender expert.

Davies indicated that Semenya is likely to keep the gold medal she won in 1 minute, 55.45 seconds in Berlin, 2.45 seconds ahead of her closest competitor.

"There is no automatic disqualification of results in a case like this," Davies said. "This is not a doping case at present, so it shouldn't be considered as one where you have a retroactive stripping of results."

Winfrey: Houston Interview 'The Best I've Done'

Oprah Winfrey is in full promotion mode for her two-part season premiere on Sept. 14 and 15 featuring Whitney Houston, who gives her first sit-down interview since battling back from substance abuse.

“I think it’s the best interview I’ve ever done. But I guess you’re supposed to let other people say that about yourself. I can’t think of a moment, ever, when I had a stronger connection to the person I was interviewing,” Winfrey said in a statement to "Access Hollywood."

“My approach to this interview was to not be judgmental in any way, and not to go in trying to get her to say things to make a ‘moment.’ I just wanted to be able to have an honest conversation with her. One woman to another woman," she continued. "And the day of the interview I literally prayed about that all day long. I just wanted a connection between the two of us. And that is what happened.”

According to "Access," Houston "brought down the house" on "Oprah" with an emotional performance of “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” from her new album “I Look To You,” which is expected to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts."

“I think whether you liked or loved Whitney Houston before you will certainly have a deeper appreciation for what she has been through as a human being,” Winfrey continued. “And I mean, the fans are just going to love her even more.”

Clive Davis and Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina appear with Whitney on the two shows.

Meanwhile, thousands of fans showed up to Michigan Ave. in Chicago Tuesday for a public taping celebrating the 24th season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

At press time, the Black Eyed Peas, Rascal Flatts, Jennifer Hudson, James Taylor and magician Criss Angel were expected to perform.

Winfrey's Harpo production company said it would cover all costs for police, paramedics and sanitation at the outdoor taping. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has supported the undertaking, saying it will give the city global exposure and create jobs.

Parents honor dead son's wish, wed at end of his funeral

Amilcar Hill and Rahwa Ghirmatzion hug at their son's funeral, which ended with their wedding.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Asa Hill was 7 years old when he died. Although the boy was pulled out of a burning car alive in a horrific accident on the Niagara Thruway on Thursday, his injuries proved critical, and he passed away the following night.

The Buffalo, New York, community, shaken, turned out in large numbers at his funeral Monday to support his parents, Amilcar Hill and Rahwa Ghirmatzion, and were pleasantly surprised when the couple ended the service with a wedding ceremony, a fulfillment of their son's wish.

The Rev. Joel Miller of The Unitarian Universalist Church of Elmwood, where the service was held, was unsure at first when the idea of a wedding was proposed by the couple and their family.

"I asked twice, 'We're doing a wedding?' This was new for me. I never did a funeral service and a wedding ceremony at the same time, and normally wouldn't, but they have known each other since they were teens," Miller said. "And they had been providing for Asa, and they made a home together for all of Asa's life. ... It was clear they were following through on something they had been talking about for some time."

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Leaked! Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Revealed

Scheduled to be revealed at the Frankfurt Autoshow next week, the first images of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG have leaked out onto the interwebs. Based on the classic 300SL “Gullwing”, the SLS packs an AMG standard front/mid-mounted version of MB’s visceral 6.3-liter V8, paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission putting those 563 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque to work through the rear wheels. The SLS weighs in at 3,500 lbs and makes the sprint to 60 in 3.7 seconds. The new AMG is electronically limited at 197 mph, no worries the optional carbon ceramic stoppies should be more than sufficient to bring your $258k Merc to a standstill. The SLS is absolutely gorgeous with its design cues paying homage to the iconic 300SL but with a modern MB twist. The simple, yet elegant rear end paired with the defined snout, elongated hood, gorgeous headlamps and exclusive ten-spoke forged AMG wheels make the SLS a true modern day classic Mercedes-Benz. Available color choices will be Alubeam Silver, Syvanite Grey, Alanite Grey and red. Inside you will find all the goodies you can expect from Mercedes-Benz including a full leather interior and Alcantara headliner. Production is expected to be underway by late 2010 with sales beginning in 2011. More details will be revealed next week when the Frankfurt Autoshow offically kicks off. Source

Putting Customers in the Big Box: Wal-Mart Employees Beat Shoplifter to Death

Wal-Mart in China appears to take shoplifting pretty seriously. Wal-Mart employees found a woman shoplifting and, despite efforts of witnesses to stop them, beat her to death. The matter is now being handled as a murder rather than shoplifting case.

Two Wal-Mart employees are under arrest in Jiangxi province and three others are being investigated. This is a bit of a change since it is the Wal-Mart customers who have been assaulting customers recently, here and here and here– or gun down each other, here.

The woman died from her wounds on August 30th. She was stopped on the street by five Wal-Mart employees.

Wal-Mart issued a statement: “We extend our condolences to the family of the deceased…. The incident and cause of death is the subject of an investigation.” The case has proven a distraction of Wal-Mart’s current focus: destroying historical Civil War sites.

For the story, here.

Going Back to School With Swine Flu

How parents can prepare.

We're well into back-to-school prep, buying glue sticks and comparing lunchboxes. But this year, the process is a bit out of the ordinary. It includes getting up to speed on what our family should do if my child gets swine flu.

Last spring, the federal government ordered schools to close if they had a student ill with the new H1N1 flu. Flu experts expect there will be many more H1N1 flu cases this September and October, ahead of the beginning of the usual annual flu season. School-age children are much more likely to get the new flu than are adults, because they have no immunity.

Parents need expert advice right now if we're going to be ready for this new back-to-school drill.

New flu guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cut parents a bit of a break. Because many of last spring's flu cases were mild, the feds decided it makes more sense to keep schools open when students have swine flu. Here's the gist of the new flu rules:

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Obama tries to build momentum for health overhaul

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will tell the nation in a prime-time address precisely how he wants to expand health care, pitching what his spokesman says will be a fresh argument for the hotly-contested public option.

"The president's going to speak clearly and directly to the American people about what's in this bill for them," press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.

Appearing on morning news shows, Gibbs said Obama will tout a health care overhaul that secures insurance people now have, makes affordable care accessible to those without it and cuts insurance costs for families and small businesses.

Discussing Obama's thinking, a senior administration official said the president will make a case for why he believes a government-run option is the best way to introduce greater competition into the system. The official, who discussed the speech on grounds of anonymity because preparations remain under way, also said Obama would offer to hear new ideas and he would not suggest any veto scenario at this time.

Even as Obama prepared to speak to a joint session of Congress and a live television audience, the leader of the influential Senate Finance Committee raced to broker a bipartisan agreement on the president's top domestic priority.

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