Beliefnet
God's Politics

the latest on congress, the Presidential-military team, Somalia, Deval Patrick, the President’s legal team, Israel-Palestine, U.S. military and Africa, Iran, the death penalty, the “Evangelical Vatican,” and select editorials

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Full news summary:

Congress. Democrats Take Control on Hill – “Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was elected America’s first female speaker of the House in a raucous, bipartisan celebration of a historic breakthrough, and hours later she presided over passage of the broadest ethics and lobbying revision since the Watergate era.” Jubilant Democrats Assume Control on Capitol Hill– “In a day of transition and pageantry, exultant Democrats took control of both houses of Congress for the first time in a dozen years and elected the first woman to be speaker of the House.” Busy first day for 110th Congress – “Pelosi, also the first Californian to lead the House, and new Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) put President Bush on notice that they intend to press for a new policy on Iraq.” Democrats flex muscle – “In a historic and emotional display of determination and gratitude, Democrats elected the first woman speaker of the House and took charge of the 110th Congress,pledging civility but also signaling sharp differences with President Bush over issues like the war in Iraq.” Jefferson’s Koran used in ceremony – “Rep. Keith Ellison, who became the first Muslim in Congress yesterday, said he was proud to take a ceremonial oath of office using the Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson.”

Congress and president. Bush reaches out to skeptical Democrats – “The president has been making conciliatory gestures to his old foes, the new power brokers. The contrast is a measure of how the deeply ingrained habits of partisan vitriol are being tested – and may be starting to break down – as control of Congress changes hands.” For Democrats, a Choice: Forward or Reverse?– “As they take control of the House and Senate, members of the new majority must reconcile diverse ideological factions within their ranks and make a fundamental choice. They can spend their energy trying to reverse what they see as the flaws of the Bush administration and a dozen years in which conservative philosophy dominated Congress. Or they can accept the rightward tilt of that period …”

Massachusetts governor. Deval Patrick is inaugurated governor of Massachusetts – “Deval Patrick took the oath of office as the state’s 71st governor, and the first African-American, presenting himself as a symbol of optimism and change who will restore faith in government after 16 years of Republican rule.” African-Americans revel in embrace of history – “When Patrick put his hand on a Bible that had once belonged to slaves, many thrust up their hands to capture the moment on cameras and cellphone cameras.”

President – legal team. Miers Steps Down As White House Gears Up for Battle – “President Bush accepted the resignation of White House counsel Harriet Miers as he remakes his legal team to prepare for what aides expect to be a sustained struggle with a new Democratic Congress eager to investigate various aspects of his administration.” New Congress leery of Bush’s Iraq plans – “As President Bush prepares a major new initiative for Iraq, he confronts a wary and distrustful new Congress eager for solutions but unconvinced the administration can chart a successful exit from the war.”

President – military team. Bush to Name a New General to Oversee Iraq– “President Bush has decided to name Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus as the top American military commander in Iraq, part of a broad revamping of the military team that will carry out the administration’s new Iraq strategy,” Bush Making Changes in His Iraq Team – “President Bush is overhauling his top diplomatic and military team in Iraq, as the White House scrambles to complete its new war policy package in time for the president to unveil it in a speech to the nation next week,” Naming new generals a key step in shift on Iraq – “President Bush intends to name two new military commanders to oversee the war and help establish a new direction in Iraq as part of his shift in strategy to be announced next week,”

Israel-Palestine. Israeli raid eclipses peace summit – “An Israeli army raid in the West Bank city of Ramallah left four Palestinians dead and at least 20 wounded, casting a pall over a summit meeting in Egypt between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that was intended to promote new peace efforts.” Israeli Raid Overshadows Olmert’s Talks With Mubarak– “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in an effort to give momentum to the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. But the meeting was overshadowed by an Israeli raid in the West Bank in which four Palestinians were killed and 20 wounded.”

Somalia. Somalia ‘needs force quickly’ – “The international contact group on Somalia has called for urgent funding for a peacekeeping mission in the war-torn country.” U.S. helps Somalis hem in militia – “Somali government troops backed by Ethiopian soldiers battled about 600 Islamic militiamen on the southern tip of this Horn of Africa nation, and U.S. Navy forces prevented the militants from fleeing by sea,”

US military and Africa. Pentagon to train a sharper eye on Africa – “One of Donald Rumsfeld’s last acts before Robert Gates replaced him last month as Defense secretary was to urge President Bush to let the Pentagon create a new Africa Command to pay more attention to the troubled continent. Mr. Bush is said to have agreed to the idea and is expected announce it early this year.”

Iran. Iran to get U.S. show of force – “The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis is scheduled to leave the United States this month for the Persian Gulf region in a naval buildup aimed partly as a warning to Iran.”

Death penalty. 30-year low in ’06 for death sentences – “The number of death sentences handed out in the United States dropped last year to the lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated 30 years ago, reflecting what some experts say is a growing fear that the criminal justice system will make a tragic and irreversible mistake.”

Evangelical Vatican. ‘Evangelical Vatican’ fading in the West? – “Colorado Springs has been called an evangelical mecca, the Vatican of the Religious Right, a New Jerusalem. And it didn’t get that way by accident. God chose this city, the Rev. Ted Haggard said. He said he saw it all in a vision 22 years ago: The city would grow from an unremarkable Western town into a fountain of devotion splashing Christian thought around the world.”

Editorials.

New York Times – Tax Cuts and the Minimum Wage – “As the minimum wage moves to the top of the new Congress’s agenda, some politicians – mainly President Bush and Senate Republicans – seem incapable of viewing the issue as anything other than a pretext for more tax cuts.”

Chicago Tribune. Surging into Iraq … – “Fresh American troops may be headed to Iraq as part of a so-called “surge” to turn the course of the war. The effort is likely to mean a tour of duty for perhaps 10,000 or more U.S. troops, although the numbers and time frame are still in flux.” … and into Somalia – “Troops backed by Ethiopia’s superior air and ground forces made short work last week of the Islamic fighters who had held Somalia’s turbulent capital of Mogadishu since June. That’s a relief for the people of Somalia, though they may not find a great measure of peace. At least, not for a while.”

Op-Eds.

The battle of the wounded (Linda Bilmes, Los Angeles Times) – “The new year brought with it the 3,000th American death in Iraq. But what’s equally alarming – and far less well known – is that for every fatality in Iraq, there are 16 injuries. That’s an unprecedented casualty level. In the Vietnam and Korean wars, by contrast, there were fewer than three people wounded for each fatality. In World Wars I and II, there were less than two.”

The Hanging: Beyond Travesty (Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post) – “Of the 6 billion people on this Earth, not one killed more people than Saddam Hussein. And not just killed but tortured and mutilated — doing so often with his own hands and for pleasure. It is quite a distinction to be the preeminent monster on the planet. If the death penalty was ever deserved, no one was more richly deserving than Saddam Hussein. For the Iraqi government to have botched both his trial and execution, therefore, and turned monster into victim, is not just a tragedy but a crime — against the new Iraq that Americans are dying for and against justice itself.”

Short-Circuiting the Surge (E.J. Dionne, Washington Post) – “The shift in power heralded by the Democrats’ assumption of control in the House and Senate yesterday could lead quickly to a direct confrontation with President Bush if he chooses, as many expect, to “surge” additional troops into Iraq.”

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