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Obama kicks off inauguration celebrations

Obama kicks off inauguration celebrations
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First Published: Sat, Jan 17 2009. 12 41 PM IST
Updated: Sat, Jan 17 2009. 12 41 PM IST
Washington: President-elect Barack Obama kicks off his three-state “Whistle Stop Tour” Saturday mirroring Abraham Lincoln’s historic 1861 journey by train from Philadelphia to Washington.
Obama will speak in Philadelphia around 10 a.m. Saturday before he and his family depart on their journey accompanied by a group of “everyday Americans” who have met Obama or Vice President-elect Joe Biden at some point and told them a compelling story.
Capacity crowds are expected at inauguration celebration in Washington and the 135-mile (217-kilometer) trip, various stops along the way, is aimed at allowing as many people as possible to participate in the celebrations.
On Friday, Obama made a pitch for his massive economic stimulus plan at a Midwestern factory that manufactures wind turbine parts, saying his proposal would help create solid jobs in up-and-coming industries.
“Renewable energy isn’t something pie in the sky. It’s not part of a far-off future. It’s happening all across America right now,” Obama told workers on Friday in this Cleveland suburb. “It can create millions of additional jobs and entire new industries if we act right now.”
Just days before taking the oath of office as the 44th president, Obama used the factory as a backdrop as he sought to generate support from the public _ constituents of skeptical Republicans and Democrats in Congress _ for his pricey plan to pull the country out of recession.
Obama held the campaign-style event a day after the Senate agreed to give him access to the second half of last fall’s $700 billion financial industry bailout and House Democrats unveiled an $825 billion stimulus package.
One of the largest bills ever to make its way through Congress, it calls for federal spending of roughly $550 billion and tax cuts of $275 billion over the next two years to revive the sickly economy. It also focuses heavily on energy, education, health care and jobs-producing highway construction.
Seeking to counter critics’ claims of excessive spending and too few tax cuts, Obama cast the package as necessary to create long-lasting, well-paying jobs in industries such as alternative energy, and help hard-hit industrial states such as Ohio now and in the future.
“It’s not too late to change course _ but only if we take dramatic action as soon as possible,” Obama said. He pledged: “The first job of my administration is to put people back to work and get our economy moving again.”
A new Associated Press-GfK poll found that public expectations for Obama’s success after next Tuesday’s inauguration were far higher than for any American president in a generation. It found that 65 percent of those surveyed believe he will be an “above average” president or better, including 28 percent who think he will be “outstanding.”
The poll also found broad optimism that Obama could help turn the U.S. economic crisis around. Seventy-one percent said the economy will likely improve during the first year of his presidency.
Also Friday, two U.S. officials said Obama was preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners.
The proposal Obama is considering would require all CIA interrogators to follow conduct outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual, the officials said. The plans would also have the effect of shutting down secret “black site” prisons around the world, they said.
The new rules would abandon a part of outgoing President George W. Bush’s counterterrorism policy that has been condemned internationally.
Meanwhile, plans were going ahead for an outdoor inauguration despite cold weather forecasts for next week. Temperatures are expected to be in the 30s (about 0 Celsius).
Somewhere between 1 million and 2 million people are expected to make their way to Washington for the swearing in ceremony and inaugural parade.
Some 240,000 tickets have been issued for the festivities at the Capitol, with 28,000 seats.
In his speech in Ohio at a factory of the Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Co., Obama pledged that job creation was a key element of his economic plan.
“We’re not looking to create just any kind of jobs here,” Obama added. “We’re looking to create good jobs that pay well and won’t be shipped overseas. Jobs that don’t just put people to work in the short term, but position our economy to be on the cutting edge in the long term.”
His audience _ factory workers, invited guests and state officials, including Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland _ gave him warm greetings and polite applause at the relatively low-key appearance.
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First Published: Sat, Jan 17 2009. 12 41 PM IST