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the latest news on the Congress and Iraq, House and Senate leadership, living wage, hunger in America, Darfur, and global warming

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Congress and Iraq. General: Don’t leave Iraq – “The general in charge of U.S. troops in the Mideast told Congress he opposes the idea of withdrawing American forces from Iraq in the near future, despite a growing chorus of Democrats and others who have called for a timetable for a phased withdrawal.” General Warns of Risks in Iraq if G.I.’s Are Cut– “The top American military commander for the Middle East said that to begin a significant troop withdrawal from Iraq over the next six months would lead to an increase in sectarian killings and hamper efforts to persuade the Iraqi government to make the difficult decisions needed to secure the country.” With Politics as Subtext, Senators Clash on Iraq– “For much of the first post-election hearing on the war in Iraq on Wednesday, the Republican side of the table was largely empty. But the room was still crowded — with competing agendas. There were three contenders for president, including the Democratic and the Republican titans for 2008 and the one from Indiana who is hoping to cast himself as the Democrats’’ compromise candidate.”

War in Iraq. US plans last big push in Iraq – “President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make “a last big push” to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers,” Sectarian Strife in Iraq Imperils Entire Region, Analysts Warn – “While American commanders have suggested that civil war is possible in Iraq, many leaders, experts and ordinary people in Baghdad and around the Middle East say it is already underway, and that the real worry ahead is that the conflict will destroy the flimsy Iraqi state and draw in surrounding countries.” Iraq pullout talk makes Iran uneasy – “Iran has consistently opposed the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, but new prospects of a stepped-up American withdrawal are prompting growing unease in the Islamic Republic, where many fear the repercussions of a dangerously unstable neighbor.”

House leadership. Pelosi Splits Democrats With Push For Murtha – “A showdown over the House majority leader’s post today has Democrats bitterly divided only a week after their party took control of Congress and has prompted numerous complaints that Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and her allies are using strong-arm tactics and threats to try to elect Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.) to the job.” Many Say Leadership Race Damages Democrats’ Image – “House members acknowledged on Wednesday that the increasingly bitter contest for majority leader was sullying the image of unity and new direction that Democrats hoped to convey.” Black Lawmakers in Line for Key Posts – “Three days after workers broke ground for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Mall, the Congressional Black Caucus is preparing to break new ground of its own. Five of its members are poised to take the helm of key House committees when Democrats assume control of Congress next year … Another member, Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), is slated to be named majority whip, which would make him the third-ranking Democrat in the House.” House `Blue Dogs’ barking for their election reward – “They helped propel the Democrats to victory in last week’s election, and now the “Blue Dogs” want their reward: a decidedly conservative fiscal policy that begins with a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.”

Senate leadership. Lott Rejoins Senate Leadership – “Four years after racially impolitic remarks cost him the Senate’s top post, Sen. Trent Lott (Miss.) rejoined Congress’s leadership ranks yesterday when his Republican colleagues turned to the veteran insider and skilled vote-counter to help them plot their return to majority status.”

Living wage. Airport hotels are ordered to pay a ‘living wage’ – “Los Angeles City Council voted to require hotels near Los Angeles International Airport to pay their workers wages and benefits equal to $10.64 per hour – the first time that the city has demanded such a “living wage” from businesses that have no direct financial relationship with the government.” Minimum wage hike plan wins approval in Senate – SPRINGFIELD IL – “In a show of partisan strength, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted to raise the state’s minimum wage by a dollar to $7.50 an hour next year. But the measure faced an uncertain future in the House.”

Hunger in America. Food stamps, school meals feed decline in hunger in USA – “The number of people struggling with hunger in the United States fell in 2005, the first decline in six years. … Despite the positive news, the report is still drawing criticism, this time because analysts decided not to use the word “hunger” to describe how hungry people are.” Some Americans Lack Food, but USDA Won’t Call Them Hungry – “The U.S. government has vowed that Americans will never be hungry again. But they may experience
“very low food security.” Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans’ access to food, and it has consistently used the word “hunger” to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. But not this year.” Hunger increasing among Ohioans– The feds call it food insecurity. At Faith Mission, which served 24,000 free meals last month, they just call it hungry. Whatever you label it, an estimated 12.6 percent of Ohio households, about 1 in 8, went hungry in 2003-05. That’s an increase from 11.4 percent in 2002-04, and the rate has been climbing since the late 1990s, according to the annual “Household Food Security” report released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Darfur. U.N.’s Darfur proposal calls for troops in Chad – “Frustrated in its attempts to deploy peacekeeping troops to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region, the United Nations is considering sending forces to neighboring Chad instead, the chief of the world body said Wednesday.”

Global warming. Annan Faults ‘Frightening Lack of Leadership’ for Global Warming – “Secretary General Kofi Annan on Wednesday put the blame for global warming on “a frightening lack of leadership,” saying the poorest people in the world, who do not even create much pollution, bear the brunt of rising temperatures.”

Op-Eds.

Play nice – “In the wake of this election, politicians are vowing to work together for a change. Let it begin with a mixer, perhaps a nice dinner. If Democrats and Republicans would talk outside of the Capitol dome, perhaps they’d get more work done inside it.” (Cal Thomas is a conservative columnist. Bob Beckel is a liberal Democratic strategist. But as longtime friends, they can often find common ground on issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot.)

Putting Faith Before Politics (David Kuo, New York Times) – “… before rearranging their public policy agenda in hopes of attracting evangelicals, the Democrats would be wise to think twice. There has been a radical change in the attitudes of evangelicals — it’s just not one that will automatically be in the Democrats’ favor. You see, evangelicals aren’t re-examining their political priorities nearly as much as they are re-examining their spiritual priorities. That could be bad news for both political parties.”

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