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    Thursday, May 7, 2009

    CNN - Ramirez tests positive, suspended 50 games by MLB

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    Ramirez tests positive, suspended 50 games by MLB

    Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance, incurring an immediate 50-game suspension and serving as the highest-profile reminder yet that the use of such drugs in the testing era may have been reduced, but not eradicated.

    Major League Baseball plans to announce the suspension later today. Ramirez, a baseball source told, explained to baseball officials he was uncertain he was taking a banned substance and may have had a medical reason for using the substance. After consultation with the Major League Baseball Players Association and his representatives, Ramirez has decided not to challenge the suspension, according to an MLBPA statement.

    The source said the substance was not classified as a steroid but was clearly defined as a banned performance enhancer according to the drug agreement between baseball and its players association. Banned substances can only be taken with prior knowledge and medical clearance from baseball's drug-program administrators. Such exceptions are known as Therapeutic Use Exemptions, or TUEs. The suspension is an indication Ramirez did not have a TUE for the substance.

    Ramirez said in a statement released by the MLBPA: "Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons."

    Ramirez is the first major star to be suspended under baseball's stricter drug-testing rules that went into effect in 2003. Until now, baseball and the players union have portrayed drug use as having been nearly eradicated in the past few years, pointing out that the major drug-related stories -- involving Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and the revelations in the Mitchell Report -- involved drug use prior to the 2003 tightening of the program.

    Ramirez ranks 17th on the all-time home-run list with 533. Eight of those top 17 home run hitters played in what is commonly referred to as the Steroid Era. And six of those eight modern-day sluggers have been associated with performance-enhancing drugs: Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Rodriguez and Ramirez. The only modern sluggers to have escaped such a connection are Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas and Jim Thome.

    See Also: React: What do you think of Manny Ramirez now? Gallery: Manny Being Manny Through the Years Gallery: Infamous drug-related incidents in sports

    CNN - Obama will slice budget by $17 billion

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    Obama will slice budget by $17 billion

    The White House on Thursday will detail a proposal to save $17 billion next year by eliminating or reducing 121 federal programs, according to a senior administration official.

    Roughly $11.5 billion of the savings would come from the discretionary side of the fiscal 2010 budget -- that is, for programs whose funding is not automatic. And roughly half of the savings would come from non-defense programs, the official said Wednesday.

    "In many cases we have multiple programs that do the same things," the official said in a briefing call with reporters. "Duplication can be the enemy of efficiency."

    In other cases, the results of the targeted programs didn't justify the expense, the official said.

    Among the programs on the president's chopping block:

    A long-range navigation system now made obsolete by the GPS. Cost: $35 million.

    An early education program called Even Start, the performance of which had been poor. Cost: $66 million.

    A Department of Education attaché position in Paris. Cost: $632,000.

    The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, which only pays out 20% of its funds in awards every year. Cost: $1 million.

    A program that pays states to clean out abandoned mines even after the mines have been cleaned out. Cost: $142 million.

    The proposed program eliminations and reductions will be part of the release Thursday of the president's 2010 budget request.

    The cuts are likely to be the first of many to come, the official said. "This is an important step, but it's just the first step. We will continue to search for additional savings and efficiencies."

    A few weeks ago, the president announced that he had asked his cabinet members to cut $100 million from their agencies' expenses, a number budget analysts characterized as symbolic at best.

    Whether or not lawmakers adopt the president's recommended cuts is unclear. They are likely, however, to come up with their own cost-saving proposals. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for instance, has given her House committee chairmen until June 2 to provide a list of ways they can reduce expenses.

    Deficit on the horizon

    Fiscal discipline is among the pillars of the new economic foundation Obama has said he wants to build.

    But it was unclear Wednesday whether the $17 billion in savings in 2010 would be used to fund other federal programs or to reduce the country's growing deficit.

    The House and Senate have agreed to amore than $3.5 trillion budget outline for fiscal 2010, which begins Oct. 1. That's roughly the size of the president's budget request. The proposals Congress and the president are making, however, would push long-term deficits significantly higher.

    While few suggest the government retract its spending largesse while the economy is still struggling, deficit hawks caution that lawmakers must do more than pay lip service to the long-term debts situation.

    Thanks to the financial crisis, tax receipts are down sharply this year while spending demands have grown to record levels. Forecasts of a slow recovery and estimates of a large price tag for Obama's proposed health care, energy and education initiatives have worsened somewhat the already tough fiscal outlook.

    The Government Accountability Office estimates that all federal revenue will be eaten up by government costs for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and public debt interest by 2025. Last year, the estimate was 2030, said Charles Konigsberg, an expert on the federal budget at deficit watchdog group the Concord Coalition.

    The official reiterated the administration's position that the biggest deficit-cutting efforts will come from curbing the growth in health care costs.

    The White House budget office's cost-saving proposals are part of a two-stage release on the final details of Obama's budget request. Next week, the OMB will release more analysis on the country's fiscal policies, along with "minor updates and changes" to the administration's summary tables of budget forecasts, first put out in February.

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