[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/07/art.polticker.gi.jpg caption="The CNN Political Ticker has been named the best political blog."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - The CNN Political Ticker Thursday was named the best political news blog by Editor & Publisher and Media Week Magazines.
The magazines also named CNN.com the best news Web site with over 1 million unique visitors a month.
The annual "EPpy Awards" were announced this afternoon during a luncheon ceremony during the annual Interactive Newspaper Conference and Trade Show in New Orleans.
"The 2009 EPpy Awards mark the 14th consecutive year of the program, which honors the best Web sites in the media world, including newspapers, TV/cable, radio and magazines," according to Editor & Publisher.
The nearly 400 entries in this year's contest were evaluated by almost 50 judges.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/07/art.gingrichsharpton0507.gi.jpg caption="Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton visited the White House Thursday to meet with the president about education."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Call it an instance of strange political bedfellows.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Georgia, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rev. Al Sharpton met with President Obama at the White House Thursday to discuss education.
"I think this is an issue that should bring all Americans together," Gingrich said after the meeting. "I think that education should be the first civil right of the 21st century and I think we have to move forward from No Child Left Behind towards helping every American get ahead."
Gingrich, who is credited with the 1994 Republican Revolution, also praised the new Democratic president's policies on education.
"I think this president has shown courage, during the primaries when it was difficult," said Gingrich. "He stood out for charter schools. He has made clear his commitment to lifting the cap on charter schools. He has made clear his belief in accountability. And, I think as Americans, we can reach beyond Democrat and Republican, we can reach beyond liberal and conservative."
For Sharpton, a candidate in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary, education is a civil rights issue.
"[W]e have a crisis of inequality in this country with education," he said. "Fifty-five years after Brown vs. The Board of Education, there is still a difference in how students get up in the morning and go to school. Some are treated differently, some are funded differently, some face different principals, different teachers. There is a difference in the quality of education."
And, like Gingrich, Sharpton said that there was a bipartisan commitment to improve education.
"And we are committed across our political and ideological lines . . . . We may not agree on certain specific issues, but there must be a commitment in this country for equal education for all American young people," Sharpton said.
(CNN) – What's the highlight of Mrs. Obama's time in the White House? Hanging out with Elmo, of course.
The first lady stopped by Sesame Street Tuesday, chatting with the furry red monster and making a public service announcement along the way.
"If you want your child to have healthy habits, practice healthy habits too because you're your child's best role model," Michelle Obama advocated in her appearance for Sesame Workshop's Healthy Habits for Life Initiative.
The First Lady told employees at the United Nations in New York Tuesday that it's probably the best thing she's done so far since she and her husband moved into the executive mansion. Mrs. Obama appears to be emerging as a champion of healthy exercise and eating habits, taking up her platform by planting an organic kitchen garden on the White House grounds.
Former first ladies Barbara and Laura Bush also dropped by Sesame Street set during their husbands' terms in office, advocating children's literacy by reading kids' books to Big Bird.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/07/art.bobudget0507.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama announced $17 billion in budget cuts Thursday."]
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) - Even on the campaign trail last year, President Obama pledged to cull waste from the budget. On Thursday, he pulled back the curtain on his plans.
All told, Obama put 121 government initiatives in the cross hairs for reductions. Dozens of them face outright elimination.
"Some programs may have made sense in the past - but are no longer needed in the present," President Obama said. "Other programs never made any sense; the end result of a special interest's successful lobbying campaign."
Congress still has to sign off on the president's proposed cuts, and already some lawmakers were crying foul.
But Obama got the process started. Here are ten programs or grants that could be ended or cut back because the administration considers them obsolete, duplicative or a waste of money.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/07/art.pot.plant.jpg caption=" Join the conversation on Jack's blog."]
As California faces mounting deficits, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says he's open to talking about ways to create revenue. One way is to look at other countries that have legalized marijuana and what effect it's had.
Schwarzenegger's comments come as support grows nationwide for legalizing pot. In California, a recent poll found for the first time a majority of voters back legalization.
One California lawmaker says regulating and taxing marijuana would bring the state as much as $1.3 billion a year in extra revenue. Proponents say it's about more than just money; it's about the failure of the war on drugs and implementing "a more enlightened policy."
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[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/10/art.getty.money.jpg caption="Tens of millions of Social Security recipients will see their bank accounts jump by $250 starting Thursday."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Grandparents, retirees and struggling seniors have waited months for this.
Tens of millions of Social Security recipients will see their bank accounts jump by $250 starting Thursday, when the government began sending out checks and transferring funds for a one-time boost coming from the stimulus bill passed in February.
The payments are flowing to nearly 55 million seniors and retirees between now and June fourth, with a huge chunk of checks hitting the mail this week.
"Approximately half of them will be out in the next day or two," Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue told CNN Thursday.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/07/art.ridget0507.gi.jpg caption="Former Pennsylvania Gov. and Bush Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced Thursday that he will not run for Senate in 2010."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) – After much speculation, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge announced Thursday that he would not run for the Senate in 2010.
Ridge, a centrist Republican, had been courted by some elders in his party to seek the GOP nomination after Sen. Arlen Specter switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.
"I am enormously grateful for the confidence my party expressed in me, the encouragement and kindness of my fellow citizens in Pennsylvania and the valuable counsel I received from so many of my party colleagues," Ridge said in a statement. "The 2010 race has significant implications for my party, and that required thoughtful reflection. All of the above made my decision a difficult and deeply personal conclusion to reach."
Ridge said he will continue to stay involved in politics and added that he will help the GOP "craft solutions that both sides of the aisle can embrace."
"To those who believe that the Republican Party is facing challenges, they are right," Ridge said. "To those who believe the Democratic Party is without its own difficulties, they are wrong. No one party has a monopoly on all of the answers. The more important view, in my mind, is that we remember, whether Republican or Democrat, we are foremost Americans. And as Americans, we have always overcome challenges when we put partisanship aside and solutions first."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/07/art.specterdurbin0507.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Durbin, right, is giving up his chairmanship of a subcommittee in favor of Sen. Specter, left."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, is giving up his chairmanship of the Crime and Drugs Subcommittee and giving it to Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pennsylvania, Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said Thursday.
Durbin, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, agreed to do give up the post after a day of intense negotiations and public feuding between Specter and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over Democrats stripping Specter of his seniority on key committees.
The subcommittee is a relatively powerful position in that it apparently oversees about 60 percent of the Department of Justice, according to Shoemaker.
A Democratic leadership source, who did not want to speak on the record about internal Democratic dynamics, also told CNN that Democrats decided to do this for Specter for two main reasons.
First, they want Specter to win re-election, and this gives him a powerful legislative perch from which to run. Second, the Senate Judiciary Committee is about to deal with a new Supreme Court nomination.
"The last thing we want is a disgruntled Democrat at the end of the dais," this Democratic source told CNN.
The full Senate voted Tuesday to strip Specter of his seniority, dropping him to the bottom of the pile on every committee he sits on. The action came on a resolution - passed on a unanimous voice vote– that set out committee assignments for the entire Senate. Specter suggested other Democratic senators
had objected to him moving ahead of them in the all-important seniority ranks.
Specter said Reid had told him "I would maintain my committee assignments and that my seniority would be established as if I'd been elected in 1980 as a Democrat."
After the vote, Specter said, "The caucus has some concerns, some people who would be passed over, and we're going to work it out," he said. "... I'm confident that Sen. Reid's assurances on my seniority will be fulfilled."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Thursday he is proposing eliminating or reducing more than 100 government programs from the federal budget.
"We can no longer afford to spend as if deficits don't matter and waste is not our problem," Obama said in a speech at the White House.
He cited a defense program, a literacy program and a Department of Education office in Paris as examples.
He said the cuts are no criticism of the staff of the targeted programs.
"There are many, many people doing valuable work for our government across the country and around the world. And it's important that we support these folks," he said. "This is not a criticism of them."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire, noted Thursday that the $17 billion in cuts President Obama proposes in his 2010 budget would equal the operating budget of his own state for a few years. But Gregg, who almost joined the Obama administration, added the cuts are not enough.
The cuts represent "less than one half of one percent of the federal budget which will be approximately $3.5 trillion this year," Gregg, the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, said in Senate floor speech.
"It's as if you had a vast desert of sand," Gregg said. "It's as if this were the Gobi Desert or the Sahara Desert and you came along and you took a few pieces of sand off the desert – it literally will have virtually no impact on the deficit and the debt as we move forward into the out years [of federal fiscal planning] because of the fact that while you are taking these few dollars out, which I congratulate the President for trying to do – they are adding back in massive amounts of spending."
Gregg also used an aquatic metaphor to describe the new administration's cuts.
"So, you are taking a little teeny spoonful of water out of the ocean while you are dumping a whole river into the ocean so the water levels go up and the debt levels go up and burden on our children goes up and the cost of the government and the debt of the government is and remains an unsustainable event for our nation and for future generations."