- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2009

UPDATED:

President Barack Obama, the inaugural oratory and partying behind him, got down to business Wednesday, including attendance at a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral with his wife, Michelle.

“This is the first full day on the job, and the best way we can begin is by praying,” the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, dean of the cathedral, told the congregation. “This morning, we’re all co-workers.”

The first lady stood at the aisle of the first pew with her husband alongside of her. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; his wife, Jill; former President Clinton; and his wife, Secretary of State-nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, were with them in the same pew. Mr. Clinton wore reading glasses on the tip of his nose.

Related TWT story:Obama takes charge

Mr. Lloyd said the service was a “special prayer” to welcome the Obamas and Bidens following four days of inaugural activities.

T.D. Jakes, the founder and senior pastor of the 3,000-member Potter’s House Church in Dallas, told MSNBC that he expected about 200 people to attend the prayer service at the cathedral in Northwest.

Mr. Obama, apparently before the prayer service, telephoned four leaders in the Middle East — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Ohlmert, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan, CNN reported, quoting a senior administration official.

The president may appoint a Middle East envoy Wednesday, it said, in what apparently is intended to activate U.S. diplomacy in trying to resolve the conflict between Israel and Gaza after 22 days of war. A cease-fire currently is in effect.

Mr. Obama also planned meetings on the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Tonight we celebrate, but tomorrow work begins,” he told troops at the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball, one of 10 balls Tuesday night that marked his inauguration. He went to each of them with Mrs. Obama until about 12:45 a.m.

Gen. David Petraeus, the overall commander of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, was expected to attend the meeting with Mr. Obama and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the wars and to fulfill a campaign promise to get American forces out of the Iraq within 16 months.

“It’s something he still believes is a responsible timetable,” White House adviser David Axelrod told CNN. “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.”

Mr. Obama also planned a meeting with his economic team to discuss the worsening 13-month recession that possibly will include talks about the financial crisis affecting most of the nation’s major banks.

At the same time, his nominee for Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, was appearing before the Senate Finance Committee for his confirmation hearing. A possible stumbling block is $34,000 in back taxes that Mr. Geithner had owed.

The new administration went into action immediately after Mr. Obama was sworn in Tuesday, including a memo sent to all federal agencies halting consideration of pending regulations until the president’s staff can examine them.

Such a memo is standard operating procedure for incoming presidents. Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, sent this one.

Among the regulations ordered by the outgoing Bush administration was one permitting carrying concealed weapons in some national parks. Another would prohibit medical facilities from receiving federal money if they discriminate against medical personnel who refuse for religious reasons to assist with abortions or with dispensing contraceptives.

Federal law requires a 60-day waiting period before major regulations can become law.

Another of the initial actions taken by the new administration was an order to halt until May 10 the prosecutions of suspected terrorists at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The purpose was to review the military commissions that were appointed to try them.

The directive was given Tuesday through Defense Secretary Robert Gates “in the interest of justice,” CNN said.

The Bush administration established the prison in 2002. It has become controversial because detainees have been held indefinitely without criminal charges against them, an action that has led to charges of violating the human and legal rights of the prisoners.


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