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Obama marks 100 days as the first Afro-American president

Barack Obama yesterday marked the 100th day of his presidency after a whirlwind start in which he has signaled a new approach on policies from the economy to climate change to United States relations with Iran.

Some have used the milestone to assess Obama's policies, even as analysts cautioned it was too soon to say whether his long list of initiatives will yield success.

Underscoring the challenge Obama still faces in pulling the country out of recession, new government data showed the economy contracted at 6.1 percent in the first quarter, a steeper-than-expected pace.

Looming large as well for Obama is a flu outbreak that has presented him with his first public-health emergency and a simmering controversy over his decision to release classified documents detailing harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects during the Bush administration.

Giving a boost to Obama's domestic agenda was the decision this week by Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter to leave the Republican Party and join the president's Democrats.

Specter's move may put Obama's party within reach of a crucial 60-seat majority in the Senate.

That could make it easier for Obama to pass some of his top initiatives, such as health-care reform.

Appearing with Specter at the White House, Obama said: "In these 100 days we have begun to move this nation in the right direction."

So far Obama has enacted a US$787 billion stimulus program, launched a drive to overhaul the health care system, made overtures toward longtime US foes Iran and Cuba and unveiled new strategies for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

On the domestic policy side, Obama has been criticized by some who contend the stimulus package and a proposed US$3.55 trillion budget he laid out for 2010 will curb economic growth in the future by leading to a pileup of government debt.

Some critics have also faulted Obama's handling of the banking crisis, saying he should have moved earlier.

While dismissing the 100-day milestone as an artificial gauge created by the media, the White House yesterday put a spotlight on it with high-profile events.


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