- - Sunday, December 26, 2010

WHITE HOUSE

Obamas make trip to church

KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii | President Obama and his family made a rare Sunday trip to church.

The Obamas arrived at St. Michael’s Chapel at midmorning. The church is located on the Marine Corps base where Mr. Obama frequently golfs and goes to the gym during his Hawaiian vacations.

The Obamas were seated in the first row of the chapel as a band played “Joy to the World” and parishioners clapped. The celebrant said he was especially thankful this Sunday to have the Obamas in attendance.

Though Mr. Obama speaks frequently about his Christian faith, his family rarely attends church services in Washington. The White House says the president hasn’t joined a parish because his appearances would be disruptive to the rest of the congregation.

SENATE

Coburn warns of catastrophe

Sen. Tom Coburn repeated his warning Sunday that the United States will experience “apocalyptic pain” if the country fails to immediately address its economic problems, and he called upon President Obama to lead the way.

“If we don’t experience some pain now, we’re going to experience some apocalyptic pain,” Mr. Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

He said the upcoming debates - including ones on federal spending cuts and the U.S. debt level - should not be a “standoff” between Democrats and the incoming wave of Republicans conservatives in Congress.

Mr. Coburn said he hopes the president “gets out and holds hands with us.”

He said that not resolving U.S. economic issues could result in 15 percent to 18 percent unemployment, the “middle class destroyed” and the poor hurt most by inflation.

ILLINOIS

Voting trickery hearkens to past

CHICAGO | The discovery of fraudulent documents in the Chicago mayor’s race is reviving memories of the colorful history of election fraud in the city.

State officials are investigating how phony signatures and stamps from notaries wound up on the nominating petitions of four of the candidates running to succeed Mayor Richard M. Daley.

The suspicious papers don’t compare with the election shenanigans once perpetrated by the old Chicago machine. For years, the names of dead people, hotel guests and housing project residents wound up on candidates’ petitions, sometimes in alphabetical order and in identical handwriting.

In the latest mystery, investigators are focusing on the cottage industry of paid signature-gatherers who help candidates collect names to get them on the ballot.

ILLINOIS

Clinton to aid Emanuel campaign

Former President Bill Clinton will campaign in support of former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s bid for Chicago mayor.

Campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Sunday that Mr. Clinton will be in Chicago in January to appear on Mr. Emanuel’s behalf at a precise time and place yet to be determined.

Mr. Emanuel formally announced he would run for Chicago mayor in November, just weeks after leaving his post as President Obama’s chief of staff.

Before his time in the Obama administration, Mr. Emanuel spent five years as a U.S. congressman for Illinois. He also had held various positions in the Clinton administration, including senior policy adviser, director of special projects and political director.

MEDICARE

Regulation revives end-of-life planning

A new health regulation issued this month offers Medicare recipients voluntary end-of-life planning, which Democrats dropped from the monumental health care overhaul last year.

The provision allows Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling to help beneficiaries deal with the complex and painful decisions families face when a loved one is approaching death.

But the practice was heavily criticized by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and some other Republicans who have likened the counseling to “death panels.”

The “voluntary advance care planning” is included in a Medicare regulation issued Dec. 3 that covers annual checkups, known as wellness visits. It goes into effect Jan. 1.

The new regulation was first reported by the New York Times.

For years, federal laws and policies have encouraged Americans to think ahead about end-of-life decisions and make their wishes known in advance through living wills and similar legal documents. But when House Democrats proposed last year to pay doctors for end-of-life counseling, it touched off a wave of suspicion and anger.

WHITE HOUSE

Jarrett: Obama relying on skills

Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett on Sunday defended President Obama against criticism he has compromised on principles and failed Democrats.

Ms. Jarrett said the president is “following what Americans called for” during the midterm congressional elections, in which the GOP won in a landslide victory.

“The president is the same president” as the one on the 2008 campaign trail, Ms. Jarrett said. She also said Mr. Obama displayed such compromise skills as a U.S. senator.

However, she acknowledged the administration also has to “accept the reality that Republicans now control the House.”

Ms. Jarrett said the president also will focus in the immediate future on controlling the deficit and improving his relationship with U.S. businesses, including making the country more competitive in exporting.

VICE PRESIDENT

Biden: Same-sex marriage ‘inevitable’

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is predicting that the evolution in thinking that will permit gays to soon serve openly in the military eventually will bring about a national consensus for same-sex marriage.

Changes in attitudes by military leaders, those in the service and the public allowed the repeal by Congress of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Mr. Biden noted in a nationally broadcast interview on Christmas Eve.

“I think the country’s evolving,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “And I think you’re going to see, you know, the next effort is probably going to be to deal with [the Defense of Marriage Act].” He said he agreed with President Obama that his position on gay marriage is “evolving.”

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