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Obama rules out building jobs-oriented ‘Death Star’

A “Death Star” won’t be a part of the U.S. military’s arsenal any time soon. More than 34,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the Obama administration to build the “Star Wars” inspired super-weapon to spur job growth and bolster national defense. But in a posting Friday on the White House website, Paul Shawcross, an administration adviser on science and space, says a Death Star would cost too much to build — an estimated $850 quadrillion — at a time the White House is working to reduce the federal budget. Besides, Shawcross says, the Obama administration “does not
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Biden looks to video game industry to help curb gun-related violence

Looking for broader remedies to gun violence, Vice President Joe Biden is reaching out to the video game industry for ideas as the White House seeks to assemble proposals in response to last month’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. Biden is scheduled to meet with video game representatives Friday as the White House explores cultural factors that may contribute to violent behavior. The vice president, who is leading a task force that will present recommendations to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, met with other representatives from the entertainment industry, including Comcast Corp. and the Motion Picture Association of America,
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Obama meeting with Karzai to discuss end of U.S. role in Afghanistan

Charting the course for a war’s end, President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai meet Friday at the White House to discuss the future of the U.S. role in Afghanistan and the 66,000 American troops in harm’s way. The two leaders plan a joint afternoon news conference. White House officials said, however, that Obama will not announce any decisions on the next phase of troop withdrawals or whether any U.S. forces will stay behind in Afghanistan after the war formally ends in 2014. U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have proposed keeping 6,000 to 15,000 U.S. troops after 2014 to continuing
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What new Treasury Secretary nominee doesn’t know could be a problem

President Barack Obama broke the mold on Thursday by choosing a budget wonk to serve as U.S. Treasury secretary, leaving gaps on the international and financial side that could make for a rocky transition. Jack Lew, Obama’s chief of staff, was chosen to lead the Treasury Department as the White House heads into another round of difficult talks with Congress on how to put the nation on a sound fiscal path. By tapping a two-time White House budget director, Obama signaled the importance he places on the ongoing budget battles. If the Senate confirms Lew, as widely expected, the budget
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Pastor for Obama inaugural withdraws because of anti-gay rant

The evangelical pastor chosen to give the benediction at President Barack Obama’s inauguration withdrew from the ceremony Thursday after remarks surfaced that he made two decades ago condemning the gay rights movement. The Rev. Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Atlanta said in a statement he withdrew because it was likely that the “prayer I would offer will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration.” Addie Whisenant, a spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said the committee had chosen Giglio because of his work to end human trafficking. Giglio organizes the
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Afghan lawmakers predict disaster, civil war if U.S. pulls troops out

  Afghan lawmakers said on Wednesday disaster and civil war would follow if Washington pushed ahead with a suggestion to withdraw all its troops from the country after 2014. The White House said a day earlier it was considering the so-called “zero option” of a complete pullout – despite earlier recommendations from the top military commander in Afghanistan to keep soldiers there to help the government. That option and the angry reaction from Afghan officials are likely to dominate talks between President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai in Washington on Friday. The meeting was already likely to
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Biden meets today with pro-gun groups, including bombastic NRA

The Obama administration is sitting down with gun owners groups — including the National Rifle Association — as officials look at ways to curb gun violence. Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading an administration-wide review of gun safety laws, has vowed urgent action in the wake of last month’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. The meeting with the NRA is one of three Biden has scheduled for Thursday, as he prepares to make recommendations on gun policy by the end of the month. Besides the NRA, Biden and other officials are meeting with sportsmen and wildlife interest groups,
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Obama turns a page at Treasury with Lew nomination

Jack Lew, President Barack Obama’s nominee for treasury secretary, is a premier federal budget expert who would take the helm of the government’s main agency for economic and fiscal policy just as the administration girds itself for a new confrontation with congressional Republicans over the nation’s debt and deficits. Obama will nominate Lew on Thursday afternoon, continuing to put a second-term imprint on his Cabinet by choosing yet another close ally to a key government post. A year ago, almost to the day, Obama appointed Lew as his chief of staff, taking him from his perch as director of the
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Obama’s second-term, reshuffled cabinet taking shape

The composition of President Barack Obama’s second term Cabinet became clearer Wednesday, with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis resigning and three other members of the president’s team deciding to stay on amid concerns about diversity in Obama’s inner circle. Solis, a former California congresswoman and one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in the Cabinet, said she was departing after leading the department during the economic storms of the first term. She was the nation’s first Hispanic labor secretary. A White House official said three Cabinet members — Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Veterans Affairs Secretary
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Scalpers hawking free Obama inauguration tickets online

Tickets to President Barack Obama’s inauguration are supposed to be free, but they’re being peddled on eBay and Craigslist for up to $2,000 apiece. Congressional offices and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which are both distributing tickets to inaugural events, are trying to clamp down on the black market. So far, their efforts haven’t stopped online entrepreneurs. “These tix are going like hot cakes, and for FAR more than I am listing them for on here,” boasted one anonymous seller in a post Wednesday on the website Craigslist. The seller, who did not return an email from The Associated Press, offered
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