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Inside Politics: Obama urges nation to come together for holiday

- - Thursday, November 22, 2012

President Obama urged Americans to put aside partisan differences and come together as a nation for Thanksgiving.

Mr. Obama, just re-elected to a second term, said in his weekly radio and Internet address that the country has "just emerged from a campaign season that was passionate, noisy and vital to our democracy."

While the election required voters to make choices, Mr. Obama said, Thanksgiving offers "a chance to put it all in perspective — to remember that, despite our differences, we are and always will be Americans first and foremost."

In the GOP address, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state said Republicans are ready to work with Mr. Obama to avert impending tax increases, big spending cuts and other problems.

DEFENSE

Internal emails offer details on bin Laden burial

Internal emails among U.S. military officers indicate that no sailors watched Osama bin Laden's burial at sea from the USS Carl Vinson and traditional Islamic procedures were followed during the ceremony.

The emails, obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, are heavily redacted, but are the first public disclosure of government information about the al Qaeda terrorist mastermind's death. The emails were released Wednesday by the Defense Department.

Bin Laden was killed on May 1, 2011, by a Navy SEAL team that assaulted his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

One email stamped secret and sent on May 2 by a senior Navy officer briefly describes how bin Laden's body was washed, wrapped in a white sheet, and then placed in a weighted bag.

According to another message from the Vinson's public-affairs officer, only a small group of the ship's leadership was informed of the burial.

"Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed," the May 2 email from Rear Adm. Charles Gaouette reads. "The deceased's body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased's body slid into the sea."

The email also included a cryptic reference to the intense secrecy surrounding the mission. "The paucity of documentary evidence in our possession is a reflection of the emphasis placed on operational security during the execution of this phase of the operation," Adm. Gaouette's message reads.

Recipients of the email included Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. James Mattis, the top officer at U.S. Central Command. Adm. Mullen retired from the military in September 2011.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama marks Thanksgiving with calls to service members

President Obama celebrated Thanksgiving quietly at the White House with his family, friends and some White House staff members after phoning 10 members of the U.S. armed services in Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama, as has been his practice during previous holidays, reached out to service members from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy.

"The president thanked each of them for their service and sacrifice and wished them and their families a happy Thanksgiving," the White House said.

The president joined first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, later Thursday for dinner, where they were joined by White House staff members and guests.

The Thanksgiving dinner menu included ham, oyster stuffing, and macaroni and cheese, along with the traditional turkey, sweet potatoes and green-bean casserole. For those with a sweet tooth, there were a half-dozen pies, including huckleberry.

PENNSYLVANIA

Potential Corbett challengers lining up for 2014

HARRISBURG — The Democratic sweep at the top of Pennsylvania's ballot has so energized the party that three prospective candidates are already sending out strong signals of interest in contesting Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's re-election bid two years from now.

York businessman Tom Wolf, Philadelphia millionaire Tom Knox and state government veteran John Hanger said in recent telephone interviews they are seriously considering seeking the 2014 Democratic nomination or have already decided to run.

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, a retired Navy vice admiral who narrowly lost his 2010 bid for U.S. Senate, declined to be interviewed by telephone. In an email, he said he is "very interested" in returning to public service, but would not discuss his plans for 2014.

Several other Democrats did not rule out campaigns, including Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, state Treasurer Rob McCord and retiring state Auditor General Jack Wagner.

INDIANA

State Senate leader: Make casinos more competitive

HAMMOND — A top legislative leader wants to make Indiana's riverboat casinos more attractive so they can compete better with newer venues in neighboring states.

Indiana Senate President David Long, a Republican, told the Times of Munster for a report Thursday that he wants the General Assembly to do something to reverse the decline in state tax revenues from casino wagers and admissions.

"There is an all-out assault on the system that Indiana has implemented, which was to take other people's money. They're out to get it back," Mr. Long said, referring to neighboring states.

Ten of Indiana's 13 casinos are located in counties adjacent to other states. Most of the gamblers going to northwest Indiana's five casinos come from Illinois or Michigan, The Times reported, but several tribal casinos have opened in southern Michigan near the Indiana border, and Illinois has proposed casinos for Chicago and its south suburbs. Two of Ohio's four casinos will be located in Toledo and Cincinnati, both near the Indiana border.

MASSACHUSETTS

JFK boyhood home open to mark 1963 mourning

BROOKLINE — People visiting Massachusetts for the Thanksgiving holiday can squeeze in a visit to President John F. Kennedy's boyhood home as it opens this weekend to mark the 49th anniversary of the national day of mourning that followed his assassination.

The nine-room house at 83 Beals St. in Brookline is a national historic site, where the 35th president spent his early boyhood. The town put a memorial in front of the residence after JFK's 1963 death.

The Kennedy family repurchased the home from other owners a few years later before gifting it to the National Park Service in 1969.

The National Park Service will open the home to visitors Sunday. Tours will include a look at Kennedy family furnishings, photographs and other mementos.

The historic site closes in the winter and reopens to the public in May.

MISSISSIPPI

City of Vicksburg workers could face drug testing

VICKSBURG — City of Vicksburg employees will be tested for drugs and alcohol if they have an accident while driving a city vehicle, under a revised drug and alcohol policy.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen tabled approving the policy Wednesday until the board's Dec. 3 meeting. Interim human resources director Walterine Langford needed time to retype the policy, which was lost because of a computer malfunction.

The Vicksburg Post reported that Ms. Langford said the policy was being revised to comply with a new state law requiring post-accident drug and alcohol testing on employees who have an accident while driving government vehicles.

She said another provision of the policy requires the employee to prove that, if found, the drugs or alcohol in his or her system did not contribute to the accident.

From wire dispatches and staff reports