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Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
11:30 AM ET, 03/26/2009

Carrie Johnson writes in The Washington Post: "FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III urged lawmakers yesterday to renew intelligence-gathering measures in the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire in December, calling them 'exceptional' tools to help protect national security....The ACLU issued a report this month describing 'widespread abuse' of government authority under the Patriot Act."

David Johnston and Neil A. Lewis write in the New York Times: "The Obama administration is moving to solidify one of the most significant shifts of resources put into place under President George W. Bush: the transformation of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into agencies where the top priority is counterterrorism rather than conventional law enforcement....The administration’s position underscores the extent to which Mr. Obama’s legal team has found itself following many of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies, even as Mr. Holder has asserted that the Justice Department will differ markedly by being more respectful of civil liberties and constitutional limits....Several current and former F.B.I. officials have said privately that while they believe Al Qaeda still hopes to strike inside the United States, those aspirations have not evolved into serious plots. A result, they said, is that too many agents are chasing too few credible leads."

Christine Kearney writes for Reuters: "A lawyer arguing on behalf of the Obama administration on Tuesday echoed Bush administration policies to back a decision to deny one of Europe's leading Muslim intellectuals entry to the United States."

Binyamin Appelbaum and David Cho write for The Washington Post: "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner is proposing a sweeping expansion of federal authority over the financial system...In essence, the plan is a rebuke of raw capitalism and a reassertion that regulation is critical to the healthy function of financial markets and the steady flow of money to borrowers."

Roger Cohen writes in his New York Times opinion column: "Pressure on President Obama to recast the failed American approach to Israel-Palestine is building from former senior officials whose counsel he respects." He writes that a group of "foreign policy mandarins have concluded a 'Bipartisan Statement on U.S. Middle East Peacemaking' that should become an essential template."

Anna Marie de la Fuente writes for Variety: "With Mexico in the headlines of late, President Obama will talk directly to a massive Hispanic aud when he makes an historic appearance on 'Premio Lo Nuestro,' Univision’s longest-running and most popular music awards show on Thursday....His bilingual videotaped message of hope and civic engagement on the music event 'demonstrates the continued growth and influence of Hispanics in this country and the importance of speaking to them directly,' said a delighted Joe Uva, Univision’s CEO."

James Martinez writes for the Associated Press: "President Barack Obama was compared favorably to Alexander the Great on Wednesday during a White House reception honoring Greek Independence Day, with the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in America saying the president should follow the example of the ancient military conqueror to help solve some of Greece's problems."

CBS News Producer Frank Devine compares two "60 Minutes" interviews with Obama -- one in 2007 and one last week -- and concludes: "What hasn't seemed to change is Barack Obama. His manner has remained the same. He seemed as relaxed and confident with Steve [Kroft] last Friday at the White House as he had two years ago at his own house. He still has a way of engaging you while simultaneously observing the scene as if from afar. It's a kind of detachment that is common among writers. Even in hard times and with new responsibilities, he still enjoys the give-and-take, the opportunity to take questions and wrestle with them, before giving often long, often detailed answers. He genuinely seems to enjoy sparring with Steve. He has no idea what's coming next and seems intellectually engaged by the more challenging questions."

Rachel L. Swarns write in the New York Times about the many Obama sightings around Washington: "No other modern president has reached out so widely to so many corners of the city, says Doris Kearns Goodwin, a presidential historian. That is no surprise to friends of the first family. The Obamas, after all, are city people, former community organizers who have long felt at home in the urban landscape."

Want to know what's growing in the White House's new vegetable (and fruit) garden? Ariel Schwartz blogs for Fast Company that "web-based vegetable-garden design application Plangarden has released an interactive version of the Obama garden for anyone who can't make it to Washington for a first-hand look."

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