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Obama meets Dalai Lama

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama on Thursday, welcoming the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to the White House for a low-profile meeting that nonetheless raised the hackles of China.

The two men spoke about democracy, human rights and the need to preserve Tibet’s religious identity and culture — all issues that, predictably, irritated Beijing.

In a written statement after the meeting, the White House said Obama had expressed support for the preservation of Tibet’s “unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China.”

The meeting, which the White House put off last year so as not to interfere with Obama’s trip to Beijing in November, is the latest evidence of the more muscular posture that the Obama administration has been adopting with China, after a year in which China has taken a firm stance with the United States on a number of issues.

The meeting on Thursday between Obama and the Dalai Lama did not go over well with Chinese officials. China, which regards the Dalai Lama as an advocate of Tibetan independence, condemned the meeting, saying that it was “strongly dissatisfied” and that it expected the United States to try to make amends.

Demand for health care has states weighing Medicaid cuts

WASHINGTON — Facing relentless fiscal pressure and exploding demand for government health care, virtually every state is making or considering substantial cuts in Medicaid, even as Democrats push to add 15 million people to the rolls.

Because they are temporarily barred from reducing eligibility, states have been left to cut optional benefits, like dental and vision care, and reduce payments to doctors and other health care providers.

In some states, governors are trying to avoid the deepest cuts by pushing for increases in tobacco taxes or new levies on hospitals and doctors, but many of those proposals are running into election-year trouble in conservative legislatures.

The Medicaid program already pays doctors and hospitals at levels well below those of Medicare and private insurance, and often below actual costs. Large numbers of doctors, therefore, do not accept Medicaid patients, and payment cuts may further discourage participation in the program, which primarily serves low-income children, disabled adults and nursing home residents.

Big tobacco bets smokers will see the ‘lights’

When it comes to new rules for marketing so-called light cigarettes, tobacco companies plan to honor the letter of the law — but to shade the truth, critics say.

Come June, under the new federal tobacco law, cigarette companies will no longer be allowed to use words like “light” or “mild” on packages to imply that some cigarettes are safer than others.

But in a move that critics say simply skirts the new rules, tobacco companies plan to use packaging to make those same distinctions: light colors for light cigarettes.

So Marlboro Lights, the nation’s best-selling brand, from Philip Morris, will be renamed Marlboro Gold, according to a flier the company recently sent to distributors. Likewise, Marlboro Ultra Lights will morph into Marlboro Silver.