WASHINGTON -- It was a rare view of President Barack Obama: strolling along the National Mall with suit jacket slung over his shoulder.
"The bear is loose," the president said to a press pool accompanying him on a muggy, spring afternoon as he walked through a grassy area on the mall known as the Ellipse. "It's good to be out."
Obama was on his way Wednesday to the Interior Department to sign a proclamation designating a national monument in New Mexico.
After making some remarks, he retraced his path back to the White House and greeted tourists, including some from China and Germany.
"We can shake hands. I won't bite," Obama said as he ushered them over, despite being flanked by burly Secret Service agents.
One lady squealed after shaking hands and taking pictures with the president. He wished another onlooker happy birthday.
In the past, Obama has walked through Lafayette Square adjacent to the White House to attend church services with his family. During the partial government shutdown in October, he walked to a sandwich shop on Pennsylvania Avenue that was offering discounts to furloughed federal employees.
But typically the president rides in a heavily guarded motorcade to wherever he's going.
Says cybercrime a top priority: James B. Comey, the new FBI director, was visiting the bureau's field office in Indiana recently and was struck by how the invention of the automobile gave old-time Midwest bank robbers like John Dillinger a faster getaway. Today, Comey's FBI is more concerned with cybercrime, and it is that murky world of Internet theft that gave the director pause Wednesday to imagine a new kind of thief who can steal fortunes from the comfort of his own bedroom. "John Dillinger couldn't do a thousand robberies in the same day in all 50 states in his pajamas halfway around the world," Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "That's the challenge we now face with the Internet."
Charities raise $7 million: Two months after a deadly mudslide destroyed a Washington community, three nonprofit organizations have raised more than $7 million and have already spent about half of that to help about 50 families and their neighbors begin to rebuild their lives. The money flowed in from across the United States mostly in $10 and $20 checks. About half the money was distributed immediately, mostly in direct help for victim families including checks totaling $450,000 given directly to 52 families who lived on Steelhead Drive, the street destroyed by the mudslide. More dollars will be given directly to families as more money comes in.
Wins National Geographic Bee: An eighth-grader from northern Virginia has outlasted nine other young scholars to win the National Geographic Bee in Washington. Akhil Rekulapelli, of Sterling, Va, finished fourth in last year's bee. This year, the 13-year-old answered all three questions right in a one-on-one showdown with the youngest of the 10 finalists, 11-year-old Ameya Mujumdar, of Tampa, Fla. The decisive question: What African country is building a new capital called Oyala in the rain forest, 65 miles east of the current capital, Bala? The answer: Equatorial Guinea.
To supply natural gas to China: China signed a landmark $400 billion deal Wednesday to buy natural gas from Russia, binding Moscow more closely to Beijing at a time when President Vladimir Putin's relations with the West have deteriorated to the lowest point ever. China's president also called for an Asian security arrangement that would include Russia and Iran and exclude the United States. The 30-year gas deal, worked out during a two-day visit by Putin to China, gives Moscow an economic boost at a time when Washington and the European Union have imposed sanctions against Russia and Europe has threatened to cut its gas imports to punish the Kremlin over the crisis in Ukraine.