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Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
11:53 AM ET, 03/ 4/2009

Renae Merle writes for The Washington Post: "The Obama administration gave details of its massive foreclosure prevention program this morning, releasing guidelines for the program for the first time. The program has two major components: a refinancing program for homeowners with little equity in their homes and a loan modification effort for borrowers at risk of losing their homes. It is expected to help up to 9 million homeowners lower their mortgage payments."

Here's a statement about the new guidelines, and a fact sheet.

Robert O'Harrow Jr. blogs for The Post: "President Obama announced today procurement reforms designed to improve competition for federal contracts, while curbing fraud and waste. He said these reforms would save American taxpayers up to $40 billion a year and help usher in a new era of fiscal responsibility."

Michael Cooper writes in the New York Times: "There is nothing monumental in President Obama’s plan to revive the economy with a coast-to-coast building spree, no historic New Deal public works. The goal of the stimulus plan was to put people to work quickly, and so states across the country have begun to spend nearly $50 billion on thousands of smaller transportation projects that could employ up to 400,000 people, by the administration’s estimates... Beyond all the money for Medicaid and unemployment benefits in the huge bill passed last month, this will be the face of the country’s stimulus program: a bridge will be painted on a rural road, a new lane added on a suburban highway, a guardrail built on a median strip."

ABC News's Sunlen Miller reports: "President Obama announced today that his administration will begin stamping an emblem on projects funded by the economic stimulus package so that people can easily recognize the effects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."

Karen DeYoung writes in The Post: "The Obama administration is preparing a wide-ranging set of initiatives designed to put shaky relations between the United States and Russia on a more solid footing, including resumption of strategic arms control talks as early as this spring, reactivation of the moribund NATO-Russia Council and possible U.S. reconsideration of plans to deploy a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, senior administration officials said.... The administration hopes that the offer of a comprehensive new strategic relationship will encourage Russia to be more helpful in achieving U.S. goals in Afghanistan and Iran."

Michael D. Shear and Philip Rucker write in The Post: "An intensified vetting process has left dozens of President Obama's picks to run the government mired in a seemingly endless confirmation limbo, frustrated and cut off from the departments they are waiting to serve and unable to perform their new duties.... Across the government, important posts remain unfilled, leaving those who have already been confirmed to struggle as they attempt to meet the demands of a far-reaching presidential agenda without the staff the agencies normally have.... Still, Obama is far ahead of his predecessors."

Mark Landler writes in the New York Times: "Signaling a new direction in Middle East diplomacy, the Obama administration will send two senior officials to Syria this weekend to begin discussions with the government, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on a visit to Israel on Tuesday."

Kris Maher writes for the Wall Street Journal: "President Barack Obama told AFL-CIO union leaders Tuesday in a videotaped address that the controversial Employee Free Choice Act will pass, signaling his full backing for legislation that makes union organizing easier."

Jonathan Martin writes for Politico: "Top Democrats believe they have struck political gold by depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party, a full-scale effort first hatched by some of the most familiar names in politics and now being guided in part from inside the White House."

Dana Milbank writes in The Post about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's "surprisingly cool reception" at the White House yesterday. Here's the transcript of Brown's photo op with Obama.

Claire Suddath writes for Time that "no member of the [administration's] Middle Class Task Force is actually middle class."

Michael Calderone writes for Politico about a "proliferation of profiles" in newspapers and magazines that "isn’t about the reader’s need to know, or at least not entirely. It’s... about reporters’ need to introduce themselves to and ingratiate themselves with the White House officials they’ll need as sources over the next four years."

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