Beliefnet
God's Politics

The latest news on Iraq, Iran, fascinating holiday facts, top stories from 2006, minimum wage, Palestine, Africa, Darfur, North Korea, Tom Delay blogs, Taxes, Muslims in Congress, church and sexuality, and select commentaries.

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Fascinating facts. Holiday Facts The holiday season is a time for gathering and celebrating with friends and family, gift-giving and general cheer and rejoicing. To commemorate this time of year, the U.S. Census Bureau presents the following holiday-related facts and figures from its data collection.

Top stories. Top stories of 2006 Here are 2006’s top 10 stories as chosen by US editors and news directors in the Associated Press’s annual vote:

Minimum wage. Bush Supports Democrats’ Minimum Wage Hike Plan President Bush for the first time endorsed a specific plan for raising the federal minimum wage, as he embraced Democratic calls to boost it by $2.10, to $7.25 an hour, over two years. Minimum-wage battle may be brewing During his news conference, President Bush said he was optimistic about working on a range of issues with the Democrats who will lead Congress in January. He said he supported a $2.10 increase in the federal minimum wage, which is $5.15 an hour a proposal that is a top priority for Democrats. But Bush said he wanted to pair the increase with a cut in taxes and regulations to make it less costly for small businesses. Bush prepares to make deals with Democrats President Bush yesterday said his top priorities for working together with Democrats in Congress will be raising the minimum wage, renewing the No Child Left Behind education act, boosting energy alternatives to oil and completing an overhaul of the immigration system.

Iraq. Bush Asserts That Victory in Iraq Is Still Achievable President Bush warned Americans that the war in Iraq would require difficult choices and additional sacrifices in the coming year, but he firmly rejected the notion that the war could not be won. President Confronts Dissent on Troop Levels The debate over sending more U.S. troops to Iraq intensified as President Bush signaled that he will listen but not necessarily defer to balky military officers, while Gen. John P. Abizaid, his top Middle East commander and a leading skeptic of a so-called surge, announced his retirement. Report: Pentagon’s war bill grows The Pentagon wants the White House to seek an additional $99.7 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to information provided to The Associated Press. Record number of bodies turns up in Baghdad The bodies of 76 unidentified people were recovered Wednesday in Baghdad, police said, the highest 24-hour toll for the anonymous slayings that have become a grim part of life in the capital.

Palestine, ‘We are facing the hardest Christmas yet’ In Bethlehem itself, Victor Batarseh, the mayor, looks from his office into the doorway of the Church of the Nativity. He blames the checkpoints and closures for the economic crisis that has shaken his town. Unemployment is 65%, large parts of the town’s farmland have been taken up by the West Bank barrier, and a financial boycott on the Palestinian Authority has meant no salaries have been paid at the municipality for four months. “This year is I think the hardest Christmas we are facing,” he said. “The wall is turning this city into a big prison for its citizens. There is confiscation of land, closure of the main entrances to the city. All this has a physical and a psychological effect. We can only hope for change.”

Iran. U.S. and Britain to Add Ships to Persian Gulf in Signal to IranThe United States and Britain will begin moving additional warships and strike aircraft into the Persian Gulf region in a display of military resolve toward Iran that will come as the United Nations continues to debate possible sanctions against the country,

Africa. Pentagon plans new command to cover Africa President Bush is expected to create a new military command for Africa, for the first time establishing an independent operations headquarters that will focus on anti terrorist operations and humanitarian aid, according to administration officials.

Darfur. UN chief calls for peacekeepers in Chad as Darfur violence spreadsAn international force is needed for Chad because the violence that has spread across the Sudanese border is jeopardising the “tenuous humanitarian lifeline” to tens of thousands of people, according to the head of the UN refugee agency. U.S. gives deadline over Darfur The United States has given Sudan until the end of the year to accept a three-stage U.N. proposal for an international peacekeeping force in Darfur before resorting to a harsher “Plan B,” a senior U.S. envoy said yesterday.

North Korea. N. Korea: Lift financial restraints North Korea has refused to scrap its demand that the U.S. lift financial restrictions against the communist country, but talks resumed Thursday to resolve the broader issue of persuading the North to renounce its nuclear efforts. US warns North Korea not to divert nuclear talks The US has urged North Korea to focus more on dismantling its nuclear weapons rather than on the financial sanctions imposed upon it.

Tom Delay blogs. The Hammer Strikes a Comeback BlowSix months after Mr. DeLay resigned from the House in the wake of a lobbying scandal, one month after the nations voters seemed to dismantle what was left of his political machine on Capitol Hill, he has begun his comeback. Part of it can be found in the blogosphere.

Taxes. I.R.S. Is Spending Less Time Scrutinizing Big Businesses The Internal Revenue Service has cut deeply the time that it spends auditing the nations largest corporations, according to data made public yesterday.

Muslim in Congress. Va. Lawmaker’s Remarks on Muslims Criticized Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) is coming under sharp criticism for lashing out against the decision by Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who will become the first Muslim member of Congress next month, to use the Koran during a swearing-in ceremony. In a recent letter to constituents, Goode, a five-term congressman from Rocky Mount, wrote that he does “not subscribe to using the Koran in any way” and added: “The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.”

Church and sexuality. Christian leaders seek to help pastors battle desires Recent gay-sex scandals involving evangelical pastors have prompted much soul-searching among conservative Christian leaders. No one has proposed rethinking the theology that homosexuality is a sin. Instead, there’s a growing consensus that the church must do a better job of helping pastors resist all immoral desires, such as a lust for pornography, an addiction to drugs or a lifelong same-sex attraction.

Commentary. The Devoted Student At first glance, the flourishing of religion on campuses seems to reverse trends long criticized by conservatives under the rubric of political correctness. But, in truth, something else is occurring. Once again, right and left have become mirror images of each other; religious correctness is simply the latest version of political correctness. Indeed, it seems the more religious students become, the less willing they are to engage in critical reflection about faith. (By Mark C. Taylor, religion and humanities professor at Williams College)

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