Beliefnet
God's Politics

The latest news on the budget, U.S. troop deaths, immigrants, court martial, Iraq-Senate, Palestine, Iran, Lebanon, politics, inequality, Sudan, Africa, religion in China, death penalty, and select Op-Eds.

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Full news summary:

Court martial US opens case vs. officer refusing Iraq service – “The US government began its case against an Army officer being court-martialed for refusing to fight in Iraq by accusing him of making disgraceful statements and abandoning his unit.” Dissenter derided at court-martial – “First Lt. Ehren Watada “brought shame upon himself, his unit and the U.S. Army,” a military prosecutor said at a court-martial for the Honolulu soldier, whose refusal to ship out to Iraq has made him a hero to some and a coward to others.”


Iraq-Senate. Senate Leaders Continue Squabbling Over Iraq – “Senate leaders squabbled over how to consider resolutions opposing President Bush’s plan for more troops in Iraq, but the quarrel did not stop lawmakers from launching an informal debate on the chamber floor over the war.” Many Voices, No Debate, as Senate Is Stifled on War– “At a time when even President Bush acknowledges that the war in Iraq is sapping the nation’s spirit, the Senate has tied itself up in procedural knots rather than engage in a debate on Iraq policy.” Troop battle may shift from Senate – “House Democrats threatened to take up a resolution next week to oppose President Bush’s controversial troop buildup in Iraq, cranking up the pressure on Republicans who have blocked a vote on the measure in the Senate.”


U.S. troop deaths. Death Toll of U.S. Troops in Iraq Rising – “More American troops were killed in combat in Iraq over the past four months — at least 334 through Jan. 31 — than in any comparable stretch since the war began, according to an Associated Press analysis of casualty records.”


Palestine. Saudis put status on line in bid to end Palestinian crisis – “Saudi Arabia threw its weight, wealth and prestige behind urgent efforts to end Palestinian divisions yesterday as it stepped up a diplomatic drive to challenge Iran and its regional allies and play a more muscular role across the Middle East.”


Iran. Israel sounds alarm on Iran’s nuclear efforts – “the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran has rattled Israel’s self-confidence. Its politicians and generals warn of a “second Holocaust” if, as in the 1930s, the world stands by while a heavily armed nation declares war against the Jews.”


Lebanon. Cluster bombs: a war’s perilous aftermath “The scope was extensive and unprecedented in any modern use of these types of cluster weapons,” compared to Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003, says Chris Clark, the program manager for the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre of South Lebanon, in Tyre. UN figures show that 26 percent of southern Lebanon’s cultivatable land has been affected, and that 34 million square meters – or 13 square miles – are contaminated.”


Budget. Cabinet Members Go to Congress to Push the Budget – “One day after the Bush administration proposed deep cuts in domestic spending, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. told Democratic critics in Congress on that the proposals for Medicare and Social Security were “a starting point for a discussion” and could be revised.” Hill Democrats Critical Of Bush’s Budget Plan – “Administration officials dispatched to Capitol Hill to defend President Bush’s budget received a frosty reception from congressional Democrats, who argued that the president’s proposal to target health care, education and other Democratic priorities suggests a White House more interested in scoring political points than in genuine compromise.”


Politics. In Campaign 2008, Candidates Starting Earlier, Spending More – “Starting as early as last June, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was hiring staffers and consultants in New Hampshire and Iowa and building the foundation for his 2008 presidential bid at a time when those in early battleground states typically get a breather from national politics.”


Inequality. Bernanke Suggests How to Narrow Wage Gap – “Bolstering education and training, rather than erecting trade barriers, would help narrow the economic gap between low- and high-income workers, the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke said Tuesday.”


Sudan. President Approves Plan to Pressure Sudan – “President Bush has approved a plan for the Treasury Department to aggressively block U.S. commercial bank transactions connected to the government of Sudan, including those involving oil revenues, if Khartoum continues to balk at efforts to bring peace to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region.”


Africa. New command to oversee U.S. forces in Africa – “Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Bush approved a Defense Department recommendation that a military structure be set up to oversee missions on the continent, which U.S. officials believe has greater strategic importance to the United States than it had before because of increased efforts by China to involve itself and gain influence in Africa.”


Religion in China. Chinese survey finds religion booming – “China has three times as many religious believers as previously thought, according to a new survey that suggests this nominally atheist nation has never been more open to the “opium of the masses.”


Death penalty. Wider death penalty sought – “At least a half-dozen states are considering broadening the death penalty, countering a national trend toward scaling back its use.”


Immigrants. Study shows immigrants ‘a real engine’ for growth – “The growing number of immigrant entrepreneurs in major U.S. cities is giving a huge lift to urban economies and even outpacing self-employed native-born Americans, … “Immigrants have become a real engine for economic and job growth in many sectors.”


Op-Eds.


Biden’s remark articulates a gap in understanding (Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune) – “On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being a minor annoyance and 10 being a complete outrage, the kerfuffle over Sen. Joseph Biden’s use of “clean” and “articulate” to describe Senate colleague and fellow presidential hopeful Barack Obama ranks about a 2–although with many black Americans it is a very strong 2.”


Expect The Worst In Iraq (David Ignatius, Washington Post) – “With massive civilian casualties, more al-Qaeda attacks and anarchy all in the forecasts, we need to face the likelihood that this story isn’t going to have a happy ending.”

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