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Bush talks up plan for health savings accounts

DUBLIN, Ohio - President Bush mixed politics with his prescription for what ails the nation's health care system on a trip Wednesday to Ohio, which was a pivotal state in his re-election and one with key races in this year's midterm elections.

The president made his case for health savings accounts at Wendy's International Inc., where 9,000 employees have signed up for the accounts since the hamburger giant began offering them last year.

"After more than five years of health care costs going at double-digit rates, Wendy's overall health care costs rose only by 1 percent last year," Bush said.

"This has a positive effect on the individual employee. It's had a positive effect on the income statement of the company. They work."

The visit to Ohio, one of a series of road trips Bush is making to underscore themes in his State of the Union address, had a political component too.

The Ohio governor's race and about a half-dozen House and Senate seats from the state are competitive in this year's election, and whether voters stick with Republican incumbents could foreshadow voter sentiment in 2008.

Republicans have controlled the Ohio governor's office, the state legislature and most statewide elected positions for more than a decade. But Republican incumbents running for re-election are trying to avoid fallout from an election-year scandal in the state, which helped put Bush over the top in 2004.

Outgoing Republican Gov. Bob Taft and two former aides have pleaded no contest to ethics charges in connection with the investigation of a coin dealer and GOP fundraiser hired to manage a state investment in rare coins.

Cheney authorized to declassify information

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney disclosed Wednesday that he has the power to declassify sensitive government information, authority that could set up a criminal defense for his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Cheney's disclosure comes a week after reports that Libby testified under oath he was authorized by superiors in 2003 to disclose highly sensitive prewar information to reporters. The information, about Iraq and alleged weapons of mass destruction, was used by the Bush administration to bolster its case for invading Iraq.

In an interview on Fox News Channel, Cheney said there is an executive order that gives the vice president, along with the president, the authority to declassify information.

"I have certainly advocated declassification. I have participated in declassification decisions," Cheney said.