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Bush to Meet with US Governors


President Bush says national security, energy independence, and the health of Americans will top his agenda when he meets with America's governors Sunday and Monday in Washington.

President Bush, himself a former governor, says he will discuss many of the challenges facing the nation when he meets with U.S. governors at their annual meeting.

One subject that concerns many Americans is rising energy costs. In his weekly radio address Saturday, President Bush said he will talk with the governors about the nation's energy strategy and his Advanced Energy Initiative, which would invest in alternative fuels, such as ethanol, as well as nuclear energy and solar and wind power.

"By applying the talent and innovative spirit of our citizens, we will move beyond a petroleum-based economy, protect our environment, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy," said Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush also talked about changes to the health care system that benefits elderly Americans.

"So, working with Congress, we passed critical legislation that modernizes Medicare, provides seniors with more choices, and gives them better access to prescription drugs," he added.

America's health is the main theme of the national governors' meeting, which opened Saturday in Washington. Officials say inactivity and obesity are driving up health care costs for state governments and corporations. More than 65 percent of all Americans are overweight, and 60 million of them are obese. Obesity-related illnesses cost the government and U.S. taxpayers $75 billion in 2003, according to U.S. government statistics.

Mike Huckabee, the Republican governor of Arkansas, who spearheaded a campaign for healthy living and currently heads the National Governors' Association, said the aim is to improve Americans' lifestyles beginning in childhood.

"The number of kids who are overweight, or extremely overweight has tripled -- tripled -- since 1980," said Mr. Huckabee. "While there has been some dispute, medical experts will tell you, there really is no dispute that we are now in an epidemic phase of obesity. And the impact is beginning to have dramatic economic consequences, not only for companies in the private sector, but for state budgets, as well."

President Bush says he will also discuss the war on terror with America's governors, saying the states play a vital role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, through the contributions of their National Guard units.

But Democrats have questioned the president's judgment in the war on terror, following the announcement that a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates would be allowed to manage operations at six major U.S. sea ports.

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine said in the weekly Democratic Party radio address that the transaction fails the basic test of common sense regarding domestic security.

"Dangerous men, tainted blood money and nuclear technology have moved across UAE borders," said Mr. Corzine.

New Jersey, where one of the ports in question is located, is suing to halt the port deal, and Corzine criticized the president for not knowing about the sale until after it was approved. The president has defended the decision, saying, if there were concerns about security, the deal would not go forward.

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