WASHINGTON — With the arduous debt talks behind him, President Barack Obama celebrated his 50th birthday at the White House Thursday with a Rose Garden party, a toast from his senior staff and some good-natured ribbing from his wife.
After spending the morning of his milestone birthday working in the Oval Office, the president headed to the Blue Room of the White House for a celebration with top aides. White House chefs were spotted cooking chicken and burgers on outdoor grills.
Later, Obama was celebrating with family and friends, including some who came in from his hometown of Chicago, in the Rose Garden. The president’s oldest daughter, Malia, also made it home from summer camp in time to celebrate her dad’s 50th.
Even on her husband’s birthday, Michelle Obama couldn’t resist poking fun at his graying hair. In a campaign email — subject line “Gray Hairs” — the first lady asked supporters to sign an electronic birthday card for the president, and said she knows the reason for his salt-and-pepper hair.
“I see Barack make choices he knows will affect every American family. That’s no small task for anyone — and more proof that he’s earning every last one of those gray hairs,” Mrs. Obama wrote.
The president himself has approached his big birthday with a sense of humor.
“By the time I wake up, I’ll have an email from AARP asking me to call President Obama and tell him to protect Medicare,” he said during a fundraiser in Chicago on the eve of his birthday.
Va. Tech locked down for hours over report of gun
BLACKSBURG, Va. — A report of a possible gunman at Virginia Tech on Thursday set off the longest, most extensive lockdown and search on campus since the bloodbath four years ago that led the university to overhaul its emergency procedures.
No gunman was found, and the school gave the all-clear just before 3 p.m., about five hours after sirens began wailing and students and staff members started receiving warnings by phone, email and text message to lock themselves indoors. Alerts were also posted on the university’s website and Twitter accounts.
Maddie Potter, a 19-year-old from Virginia Beach, holed up inside a campus wood shop, where she had been working on a class project. Staff members locked the doors and turned off the lights.
“I was pretty anxious. We had family friends who were up here when the shooting took place in 2007, so it was kind of surreal,” she said. “I had my phone with me and I called both my parents.”
The emergency was triggered by three teens who were attending a summer program on campus and told police they saw a man walking quickly across the grounds with what might have been a handgun covered by a cloth, authorities said.
Police searched some 150 buildings on the square-mile campus and issued a composite sketch of a baby-faced man who was said to be wearing shorts and sandals, but they found no sign of him. They continued to patrol the grounds as a precaution even after the lockdown was lifted.
“We’re in a new era. Obviously this campus experienced something pretty terrible four years ago,” said Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker. He added: “Regardless of what your intuition and your experience as a public safety officer tells you, you are really forced to issue an alert.”
Muslim man sues Wash. employer for firing over beard
SEATTLE — A Seattle-area Muslim man is suing his former employer, claiming he was fired as a security guard for refusing to shave the beard he wears for religious reasons.
Abdulkadir Omar, 22, filed his federal lawsuit July 15 in Seattle against Sacramento-based American Patriot Security, seeking back pay and unspecified damages for emotional pain and loss of enjoyment of life, among other reasons.
“Growing up in this country, where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I was let down,” Omar said Thursday at a press conference.
According to the lawsuit, Omar was hired by a local manager of the security company in May 2009 and earned $9 an hour guarding a FedEx warehouse in Kent, Wash. He said he started the same day he was hired, and was not told about the clean-shaven policy.
In November 2009, a supervisor from headquarters told him he had to shave his beard because of company policy. Omar responded that his beard is part of his religious beliefs and refused. He was suspended, and then fired the following spring, the lawsuit said.
A representative from American Patriot Security declined to answer questions.