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The latest news on the election, Iraq, faith and politics, the first woman presiding bishop, the middle east, landmines in Columbia, religion and law, and selct op-eds.

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Election. Defiant Bush stumps for Iraq policy On voters’ minds though not on the ballot, President Bush is defiantly embracing the issue that has made him both unpopular and a possible liability for Republican congressional candidates this year: unyielding support for the war in Iraq. Bush Works to Solidify Base With a Defense of Rumsfeld With less than a week before the election, President Bush sought to rally Republican voters on Wednesday with a vigorous defense of the war in Iraq and a vow to keep Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in office until the end of Mr. Bushs term. Kerry Offers Apology To Troops Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) issued two apologies for remarks that seemed to impugn U.S. troops and abandoned his public schedule yesterday, but he denounced what he called the “campaign of smear and fear” against him as the surreal sequel to the 2004 presidential election echoed across the campaign trail. The White House and Republican allies orchestrated a cascade of denunciations throughout

With Iraq Driving Election, Voters Want New Approach A substantial majority of Americans expect Democrats to reduce or end American military involvement in Iraq if they win control of Congress next Tuesday and say Republicans will maintain or increase troop levels to try to win the war if they hold on to power on Capitol Hill, according to the final New York Times/CBS News poll before the midterm election. Democrats find religion, churchgoing voters Democratic politicians have found religion and that may help explain why they are suddenly more popular among churchgoing Americans.

Iraq. Troubled troops in no-win plight – Scores of combat veterans are being dismissed from the Marines without the medical benefits needed to treat combat stress, says Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, who supervises the legal defense of Marines in the western USA, including here at Camp Pendleton. When classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) arise including alcoholism and drug abuse the veterans are punished for the behavior, Vokey says. Their less-than-honorable discharges can lead to a denial of VA benefits. Iraqi Shiites Continue to Exert Independence and Seek Changes to U.N. Deal on U.S. Troops In a continued effort to demonstrate their independence from Washington, Iraqi Shiites are pressing a fresh set of conditions on their American supporters, asking for changes in the Iraqi governments relationship with the United States military. Iraqi government reports big jump in civilian deaths The number of Iraqi civilians killed in violence may have jumped to another record high in October, data from the Iraqi government indicated yesterday. Statistics issued by the Interior Ministry on the number of Iraqis killed in political violence put civilian deaths last month at 1,289, nearly 42 a day, up 18 percent from the 1,089 in September, itself a record for this particular tally.

Faith and Politics. Romney consults evangelical leaders Governor Mitt Romney is convening meetings with small groups of evangelical leaders to seek guidance for his possible presidential run, as Romney and Mormon supporters intensify efforts to allay concerns about his faith. Evangelicals flex growing clout in Nicaragua’s election – Their ascent has been among the most dramatic in Latin America. At the end of the 1970s, only five percent of Nicaraguans were evangelicals. Now they account for more than 20 percent – some say more than 30 percent – of the population. Their political clout is mounting as fast as the cavernous churches popping up along Managua’s highways. They are running for office, partnering with Catholics, and forcing social change – which could augur a new exercise of power among evangelicals throughout the region.

First woman presiding bishop. In turbulent times, a new Episcopal leader This week, the US Episcopal Church installs a woman as “chief pastor” – the first to lead a national church in the five-century history of the global Anglican denomination. Episcopalians to consecrate female bishop Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, a former oceanographer who still pilots her own plane, will be consecrated the world’s first female presiding bishop Saturday morning at the Washington National Cathedral.

Mideast. Big Israeli Strike With Tanks Kills 8 Palestinians in Gaza – Israeli troops staged one of the largest raids into the Gaza Strip in recent months on Wednesday, killing eight Palestinians and wounding more than 40 in gun battles that began before dawn and lasted much of the day. U.S. sees evidence of Lebanon coup plot In an unusual statement, the Bush administration charged Wednesday that there was “mounting evidence” that Iran, Syria and the militant group Hezbollah were trying to engineer the overthrow of the elected government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Land mines. Growing Peril From Land Mines In recent months, Colombia has recorded more casualties from mines tha
n anywhere else in the world, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. In the year ending in June, 1,100 people were killed or maimed by the devices, more than in Afghanistan, Cambodia or the Russian republic of Chechnya.

Religion feature. World Briefings: Church finds ‘purpose’ in Rwanda Rwanda was declared the first “purpose-driven nation” a year ago, after Mr. Warren visited the country in March 2005 at the invitation of Paul Kagame, a rebel leader credited with halting the genocide who is now Rwanda’s president. Over the year, Rwanda will see more than 30 small groups of Saddleback congregants visit more than 200 Anglican, evangelical, Pentecostal and Presbyterian churches and, in concert with Rwandan congregants, identify the “giants” plaguing the community.

Religion and law. Military Pressed Over Expressions of Faith The U.S. military is being buffeted by dueling legal claims over religion, with one set of plaintiffs contending that the Pentagon is suppressing evangelical Christianity and another set arguing just the opposite — that the brass gives the most aggressive evangelicals free rein to proselytize in uniform.

Op-ed. Challenging Pentagon politics With all the media focus on the Iraq war and budget deficits in Washington, it’s remarkable that political candidates across the country are barely talking about the problems at the government agency that consumes most of our tax dollars: the Defense Department. (Lawrence J. Korb, former assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan, on the military advisory board of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities – Boston Globe)

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