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the latest reports on Gerald Ford, Iraq, congress, Saddam Hussein, aid to Africa, Iran, and Somalia

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Gerald Ford. National day of mourning for Ford – “Gerald R. Ford leaves his beloved U.S. Capitol for the last time Tuesday as the period set aside for ordinary Americans to say goodbye gives way to an elaborate invitation-only funeral at the awe-inspiring Washington National Cathedral. … A bell at the National Cathedral will toll 38 times for the 38th president.” Nation Remembers Former President Ford – “The flag-draped casket containing former president Gerald R. Ford’s remains was escorted out of the Capitol Rotunda early this morning and taken solemnly through the halls of Congress to the door of the Senate chamber, en route to a funeral Mass at Washington National Cathedral.” Solemn moments at Capitol – “President Bush, joining thousands of average Americans who started the New Year by saying goodbye to an old president, stopped Monday at the U.S. Capitol after returning from his Texas ranch to pay his respects to Gerald R. Ford.” Thousands Honor Ford Under Capitol Dome Thousands of mourners filed past the coffin of former President Gerald R. Ford as he lay in state below the Capitol dome, many saying they came to pay overdue respect to an overshadowed leader.”

Congress. Democrats to tackle modest proposals – “When Democrats take power on Capitol Hill this week, House leaders will kick off their legislative campaign with a lightning-fast 100-hour agenda. … their initial legislative foray will focus on modest, politically popular issues, including initiatives to expand stem cell research, lower prescription drug prices and tighten congressional ethics rules.” Democrats To Start Without GOP Input – “As they prepare to take control of Congress this week and face up to campaign pledges to restore bipartisanship and openness, Democrats are planning to largely sideline Republicans from the first burst of lawmaking.” As New Congress Nears, House Democrats Could Be Headed for Own Divide – “While most attention will be focused on the divide between Republicans and Democrats, members of the new majority have their own differing perspectives, corresponding largely to length of service, that could ultimately prove more crucial to their success or failure.” Difficult year is predicted for Congress When the 110th Congress convenes, it will be a historic moment as the Republican Party turns the gavel over to Democrats in both the House and the Senate and the first woman takes her place as House speaker.”

Iraq. US deaths in Iraq war hit 3,000 – “An American soldier killed on the streets of Baghdad on Saturday became the 3,000th US service member to die in Iraq, nearly four years after the invasion of the country.” New high in Iraqi civilian deaths – “A record number of Iraqi civilians were killed last year, figures released by Iraq’s interior ministry revealed today. The data said 12,320 Iraqi civilians had died in what officials described as “terrorist violence” Chaos Overran Iraq Plan in ’06, Bush Team Says President Bush began 2006 assuring the country that he had a “strategy for victory in Iraq.” He ended the year closeted with his war cabinet on his ranch trying to devise a new strategy, because the existing one had collapsed.”

Saddam Hussein. On the Gallows, Curses for U.S. and ‘Traitors’ Saddam Hussein never bowed his head, until his neck snapped. Rush to Hang Hussein Was QuestionedIraqi and American officials who have discussed the intrigue and confusion that preceded the decision late on Friday to rush Mr. Hussein to the gallows have said that it was the Americans who questioned the political wisdom – and justice – of expediting the execution,” A turbulent life ends as dawn breaks – The BBC’s World Affairs editor John Simpson describes the end of a turbulent chapter in Iraq’s history.

Aid to Africa. Bush Has Quietly Tripled Aid to Africa – “President Bush’s legacy is sure to be defined by his wielding of U.S. military power in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there is another, much softer and less-noticed effort by his administration in foreign affairs: a dramatic increase in U.S. aid to Africa. The president has tripled direct humanitarian and development aid to the world’s most impoverished continent since taking office and recently vowed to double that increased amount by 2010 — to nearly $9 billion.”

Iran. West Tries a New Tack to Block Iran’s Nuclear Agenda– “The United States and its allies in Europe, in a tacit acknowledgment that sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council in late December are too weak to force Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, have embarked on a new strategy to increase the financ
ial and psychological pressure.” US unit works quietly to counter Iran’s sway – “For nearly a year, a select group of US officials has been quietly coordinating actions to counter the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, including increasing the military capabilities of Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.”

Somalia. Somalia’s Islamist fighters flee last urban base – “Somalia’s Islamist fighters abandoned their last urban stronghold yesterday as their war with Ethiopian and government forces neared its endgame.” A new reality in Somalia – “While top Islamic officials escaped south toward Kenya last week, thousands of employees, fighters and other Islamic courts supporters remained trapped in Mogadishu, struggling to comprehend the new reality.” Push under way for peacekeepers in Somalia – “many here believe the only chance for real stability in Somalia lies with international peacekeepers, not with the government, … Regional diplomats worked to arrange the speedy deployment of African peacekeepers to help the interim government establish its authority in the country,”

Op-Ed. Perfect voice for the sensible center (Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune) – “Now he tells us. The late former President Gerald Ford wanted us to know that he disagreed with President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. But, Ford didn’t want us to know about his disagreement until after he was dead, according to a 2004 taped interview with Bob Woodward of the Washington Post. Such caution may frustrate you as much as it frustrates me, but it was characteristic of Gerry Ford. He was a man of firm views, who nevertheless didn’t like to make a fuss.”

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