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The latest news on Iraq-National Guard, British troops,- immigration, Iran, democratic candidates, immigration, Menchu to run for president, hunger, Wilberforce movie, and select Op-Eds.

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Iraq-British troops to leave. Britain to Trim Iraq Force by 1,600 in Coming Months – “Prime Minister Tony Blair announced Wednesday that up to 1,600 of the roughly 7,100 British troops in southern Iraq would begin to withdraw in coming months, a sharp contrast to the continuing American troop buildup in Baghdad.” Ally’s Timing Is Awkward for Bush – “As the British announced the beginning of their departure from Iraq yesterday, President Bush’s top foreign policy aide proclaimed it “basically a good-news story.” Yet for an already besieged White House, the decision was doing a good job masquerading as a bad-news story.” Why the British are scaling back in Iraq – “Britain’s decision to pull 1,600 troops out of Iraq by spring, touted by U.S. and British leaders as a turning point in Iraqi sovereignty, was widely seen Wednesday as a telling admission that the British military could no longer sustain simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The British military is approaching “operational failure,” former defense staff chief Charles Guthrie warned this week.” Weakened Blair begins Iraq pullout – “Prime Minister Tony Blair’s announcement Wednesday that Britain would begin bringing its troops home from Iraq is less a reflection of progress there than part of Blair’s choreographed departure from Downing Street, according to politicians and analysts.”

Iraq-National Guard. National Guard May Undertake Iraq Duty Early – “The Pentagon is planning to send more than 14,000 National Guard troops back to Iraq next year, shortening their time between deployments to meet the demands of President Bush’s buildup,”

Democratic candidates. Clinton, Obama slug it out early – “In a sudden, and early, flash of negative campaigning in the Democratic presidential campaign, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday demanded that Senator Barack Obama of Illinois denounce one of his top fund-raisers, entertainment mogul David Geffen, after Geffen called Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, practiced liars.” Clinton, Obama Camps’ Feud Is Out in the Open – “An increasingly acrimonious competition between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton to enlist the Democratic Party’s leading fundraisers and operatives burst into the open yesterday, overshadowing what was billed as the presidential campaign’s first gathering of candidates in Nevada.” Democratic Rivals Push Positions on Iraq War Into Spotlight – “Two Democratic presidential rivals of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton applied more pressure on her over Iraq on Wednesday, extolling the virtue of admitting mistakes about the war-which she has not done-and comparing politicians who do not with President Bush.”

Immigration. Senate illegals bill near complete – “Senators and lobbyists are putting the final touches on a comprehensive immigration-reform bill that includes an easier citizenship path for illegal aliens and weaker enforcement provisions than were in the highly criticized legislation that the Senate approved last year.”

Iran. Still defiant, Iran advances nuclear work – “Despite the threat of new sanctions, Iran is advancing work at its largest nuclear facility and has informed international inspectors in writing that it will not comply with a United Nations order to suspend the program,” Iran defies uranium deadline from UN – “Iran on Wednesday called for talks with the United States but, despite a UN Security Council deadline, did not budge on council demands that it mothball its uranium enrichment program or face harsher sanctions.”

Menchu to run for president. Peace prize winner to run for president – “Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu on Wednesday announced that she will run for the presidency of Guatemala in the country’s September elections, a move likely to fuel talk about an Indian resurgence in Latin American politics.”

Hunger. Group pushes to feed the children – “The number of kids going hungry in Ohio is on the rise even though there’s money to put food on their plates, according to a nonprofit group that studies child hunger in the state. … The Columbus-based group released its annual report on child hunger in Ohio, showing that more than 300,000 schoolchildren who ate federally subsidized lunches did not get subsidized breakfasts or summer meals and snacks during the last school year. That left about $84 million in federal hunger aid untapped,”

Wilberforce movie. Evangelicals rally around – and disagree on – ‘Grace’ – “In the 1780s, a Briton named William Wilberforce had a religious conversion that led to his life’s crowning achievement: persuading Parliament over 20 hard-fought years to abolish the slave trade. Today, Wilberforce’s fellow evangelicals in America are recasting their hero’s faith for a 21st-century audience – and stirring debate in the process.”

Op-Ed. Short on questions of faith (Paul Waldman, Boston Globe) – Listen to candidates talk about religion and they seem to be following two rules:

1) Profess that nothing is more important to you than your religion.

2) Be as vague as possible about your religion.”

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