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In the Nation

Obama signs bill for Reagan 100th

WASHINGTON - President Obama has signed one for the Gipper.

With the stroke of a pen yesterday, he created the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission, while saying that the late 40th president had a "spirit that transcended politics." The 11-person panel will plan and carry out activities to mark the 100th anniversary, in 2011, of Reagan's birth. That may include issuing a postage stamp or a $1 coin or convening a joint session of Congress.

Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911, and died June 5, 2004. Former first lady Nancy Reagan, 87, joined Obama for the signing at the White House. - AP

U.S. parks offer 3 free weekends

Entrance fees at 147 national parks and monuments, including the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, will be waived on three weekends this summer: June 20-21, July 18-19, and Aug. 15-16, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said yesterday.

"During these tough economic times, our national parks provide opportunities for affordable vacations for families," he said at a news conference at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.

Last year, National Park Service sites attracted more than 275 million visits, generating $10.6 billion for local economies and supporting more than 213,000 jobs, Salazar said.

A total of 147 national parks and monuments charge entrance fees; the 244 other parks are already free. - AP

Minn.'s Pawlenty passes on 3d term

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Gov. Tim Pawlenty yesterday said he would not seek a third term next year, but the Republican widely regarded as a likely White House contender said he did not know "what the future holds for me."

Pawlenty dismissed talk of a 2012 presidential campaign as premature, saying at a news conference that he would focus on the next 19 months to finish his term strong. But he said he wouldn't hesitate to travel the country on behalf of a party he thinks needs refreshing.

A conservative with blue-collar roots, Pawlenty, 48, has spoken of the GOP's need to remake itself to attract "Sam's Club Republicans."

His announcement comes amid a prolonged dispute over one of Minnesota's U.S. Senate seats. Pawlenty said he would follow the state Supreme Court's direction on issuing an election certificate in the contested Norm Coleman-Al Franken race and would not "hold it up or delay it in any fashion." - AP


The Obama administration is warning lawmakers that the trust fund that pays for highway construction will go broke in August unless Congress approves an infusion of as much as $7 billion.

Prosecutors in Boston dropped 14 vandalism charges against Shepard Fairey, the street artist who created the "Hope" poster of President Obama. But the Suffolk district attorney's office did not rule out prosecuting Fairey, 39, on 13 other charges. He was accused of placing Obama stickers on signposts and other public property. Defense attorney Jeffrey Wiesner has said Fairey, who lives in Los Angeles, wasn't even in town.