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Political notebook

First lady unveils obesity campaign

Michelle Obama, appearing with members of the Watkins Hornets, the 2009 National Championship Pee-Wee football team, spoke yesterday at the White House about her initiative, “Let’s Move,’’ a campaign to help combat childhood obesity. Michelle Obama, appearing with members of the Watkins Hornets, the 2009 National Championship Pee-Wee football team, spoke yesterday at the White House about her initiative, “Let’s Move,’’ a campaign to help combat childhood obesity. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
Associated Press / February 10, 2010

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WASHINGTON - Michelle Obama unveiled her national public awareness campaign against childhood obesity yesterday, a problem she says concerns her both as the president’s wife and a mother.

One in three American children is overweight or obese, and such children face higher risks of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other illnesses. Billions of dollars are spent every year treating obesity-related conditions.

And public health specialists say today’s children are on track to have shorter lifespans than their parents.

“None of us wants this future for our kids,’’ she said at the White House. “We have to act.’’

Her campaign, called “Let’s Move,’’ has four parts: helping parents make better food choices, serving healthier food in school vending machines and lunch lines, making healthier food more available and affordable, and encouraging children to exercise more.

The campaign, which Obama said she hopes will be seen as her legacy, is aimed at solving the childhood obesity problem in a generation, so that children born today can reach adulthood at a healthy weight.

“This isn’t like a disease where we’re still waiting for the cure to be discovered. We know the cure for this,’’ she said at the unveiling, which was moved to the State Dining Room as the second blizzard in less than a week bore down on the city.

In an interview with ABC News, Obama acknowledged her love of burgers and fries and ice cream and cake. But she said she wants the nation’s children to have better nutrition and more exercise.

“My kids have to get up and move. They can’t sit in front of the TV,’’ she said of Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8.

“I have them involved in sports . . . to compete and to win and to run and to sweat. They have to understand.’’

GOP senator to lift block on Obama nominees
WASHINGTON - Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, will stop blocking Senate confirmation of about 70 government appointees nominated by President Obama, his office said.

Shelby had placed holds on most of Obama’s nominees, delaying the Senate from acting on them, in a dispute over federal spending involving his state.

Shelby wants an Air Force aerial refueling tanker and a new FBI explosives center to be built in Alabama. Senators frequently block appointments, but Shelby’s blanket hold was unusual.

Now that he has gotten Obama’s attention, said Jonathan Graffeo, Shelby spokesman, “Senator Shelby has decided to release his holds on all but a few nominees directly related to the Air Force tanker acquisition.’’

Obama aide mocks Palin’s use of speaking cues
WASHINGTON - Even the White House’s top spokesman is getting in on the act of mocking Sarah Palin, former Republican vice presidential nominee, for looking to talking points written on her palm during a speech to “tea party’’ activists.

Robert Gibbs showed the words “hope’’ and “change’’ on his hand as he started his daily briefing with reporters yesterday.

Many in the room, where President Obama had spoken just moments before about the need for bipartisanship, groaned at the political shot.

Palin spoke Saturday in Nashville, and photographs and video show she had “energy,’’ “tax,’’ and “lift American spirits’’ on her hand. During one question, she looked down at the palm of her hand for a cue.

In her speech she mocked Obama’s use of teleprompters.

White House moves up concert because of storm
WASHINGTON - Another major storm forced the White House to hold its concert of civil rights-era music last night, a day earlier than scheduled.

President Obama welcomed an all-star lineup of musicians to the White House to perform songs from the era. Yolanda Adams opened the evening with a spirited rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.’’

Others scheduled to perform included Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, Joan Baez, Natalie Cole, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, John Mellencamp, Seal, and the Blind Boys of Alabama.