Obama touches on Mideast, homeless, defense and more during news conference

Here are AP news stories on President Obama's news conference that took place Tuesday evening:

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says his administration's efforts to fix the economy are "moving in the right direction."

At the second prime-time news conference of his presidency, Obama recapped the steps his administration has taken to address the economy.

Obama also shot back at Republican critics of his budget, saying he inherited a deficit of over $1 trillion from his predecessor. He said the tax and spending plan is inseparable from the recovery and that it "lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity."

Obama also urged Americans to be patient. He said the current downturn didn't happen overnight and that a full-fledged recovery is months away.

Obama hopes for Mideast peace.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Even as a hard-line Israeli government takes shape, President Barack Obama says he still believes it's possible to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Obama was asked about the incoming government led by a prime minister who has said Palestinians are not ready for statehood.

Obama reaffirmed the U.S. goal of a two-state solution, where he said Israelis and Palestinians can live "side by side" with "peace and security."

Obama said his choice of George Mitchell as Mideast envoy was a signal that he's serious about trying to move the parties toward that goal.

Obama referred to the St. Patrick's Day White House gathering of former warring parties in Northern Ireland as proof that even when peace seems impossible, differences can eventually be overcome through persistence.

Obama seeks military savings

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says he can save money on defense and veterans programs by targeting the way the military buys its equipment.

He says the country can remain safe and make sure veterans have the services they deserve.

Obama says too often in recent years, returning veterans haven't been given what they need in such areas as treatment for post-traumatic stress and serious brain injuries.

He says he wants to serve those veterans and reduce military spending by keeping close tabs on the way contractors and lobbyists do business.

He told reporters at a Tuesday evening news conference that he's already targeted $40 billion in procurement savings, and that he'll continue to look for ways to reduce wasteful spending on multibillion-dollar weapons systems.

Obama defends decision on stem cells

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says lifting a federal ban on embryonic stem cell research with the "right thing to do and the ethical thing to do."

The Democratic president says he wrestled with the ethics of the decision but is hopeful that the science will lead to help for people with debilitating diseases.

In a news conference, Obama said he has no interest in causing controversy, as the stem cell decision did. He says he is happy to avoid such controversy if that's where the science leads.

But he said he will not make a decision on a matter like stem cells based on what he called a rigid, ideological approach.

Obama's decision on stem cells was a reversal of his that of his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush.

Obama defends tax plan on charitable giving

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is defending a budget idea that would reduce the tax deduction that wealthier families can take when they make charitable donations.

Obama says the plan is "the right thing to do."

Speaking at a prime-time news conference, the president said the change in tax policy would be realistic and fairer to lower-earning families that make charitable gifts but get a smaller tax deduction. Some lawmakers don't like the idea. They say it could hurt donations to needy groups in a time of need.

Obama says the provision would affect only about 1 percent of the American people, and they would still get a tax deduction, just not as big as they used to get.

Obama defends delay in response to AIG bonuses

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is defending his decision to wait a few days before expressing his anger over the bonuses paid out to executives at troubled insurer AIG.

Critics questioned why the president seemed days behind the populist anger over the $165 million that were distributed at the company bailed out with federal tax dollars.

Said Obama: "It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."

The president was answering questions at a prime-time news conference.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)