For Obama, a new sense of purpose in acting alone

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- This week, President Barack Obama promoted tougher fuel efficiency standards for trucks. He touted progress on initiatives to strengthen the U.S. patent system. And he signed an executive order intended to speed up the process for approving import or export cargo.

Welcome to Obama's self-proclaimed "year of action." Hardly a day goes by without the president and his top advisers trumpeting policy initiatives the White House is undertaking without the help of Congress.

The mostly modest actions put into sharp focus the president's limitations as he grapples with reluctant lawmakers in an election year. Yet they do seem to be having a cathartic effect inside the White House, which was in need of a jolt after a frustrating and disjointed 2013.

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