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The latest news on Blair stepping down, Darfur, immigration, Iraq-Republicans warn Bush, Iraq-military, Afghan civilians, abortion-giuliani, abortion-Benedict XVI, education, Iran, G-8, internet and politics, and select commentaries.

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Blair steps down. Blair will stand down on 27 June – “Tony Blair has announced he will stand down as prime minister on 27 June. He made the announcement in a speech to party activists in his Sedgefield constituency,” Britain’s Blair to Step Down on June 27 – “Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of Britain’s most influential and long-serving leaders in a century, announced that he will step down on June 27, leaving behind a legacy of economic and political achievement mixed with deep public anger over his partnership with President Bush in the Iraq War.” For Blair, a Legacy Overshadowed by Iraq War – “While he led his Labor Party to three national election victories, resuscitated the British economy and helped bring peace to Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, many analysts here agree that the charismatic prime minister will be remembered mainly for his shoulder-to-shoulder stand with Bush on Iraq.” Scot With Baggage Readies for Leader’s Role – “Britons seem set to trade the Great Communicator for the Great Puzzle – Mr. Blair’s likely successor, James Gordon Brown.”

Iraq-Republicans warn Bush. G.O.P. Moderates Warn Bush Iraq Must Show Gains– “Moderate Republicans gave President Bush a blunt warning on his Iraq policy at a private White House meeting this week, telling the president that conditions needed to improve markedly by fall or more Republicans would desert him on the war.” Bush Told War Is Harming The GOP – “House Republican moderates, in a remarkably blunt White House meeting, warned President Bush this week that his pursuit of the war in Iraq is risking the future of the Republican Party and that he cannot count on GOP support for many more months.” GOP pressures Bush on war – “A group of congressional Republicans warned President Bush in person this week that their support for the Iraq war could evaporate if conditions don’t improve there by September.”

Iraq-military. Gates sees a fall scenario for fewer troops – “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday that if the current U.S. military strategy showed signs of success by autumn, the Pentagon may be able to reduce the number of U.S. forces in Iraq.” Ex-generals fault GOP lawmakers – “Three retired generals challenged a dozen members of Congress in a new ad campaign, saying the politicians can’t expect to win reelection if they support President Bush’s policies in Iraq.”

Afghan civilians. Afghans Say U.S. Airstrikes Killed 21 Civilians– “Afghan officials said that airstrikes called in by American Special Forces against Taliban fighters in Helmand Province had killed 21 civilians, the latest in a series of claims of noncombatant casualties that have strained relations with the Afghan government.” Afghans report civilian toll in airstrikes – “Wednesday’s report of civilian casualties came one day after the U.S. military apologized and paid compensation to the families of 19 people killed and 50 wounded in March by Marine Special Forces in eastern Afghanistan.”

Immigration. Reid Forces New Senate Debate on Immigration – “With bipartisan talks on immigration near a standstill, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) moved yesterday to bring last year’s broad overhaul of immigration laws back to the floor of the Senate next week,” Immigration deal likely in jeopardy – “Participants on all sides of the immigration battle for months have been carefully watching negotiations among a small group of senators who are struggling to put together a “grand bargain” that would have an outside chance of attracting enough support from conservatives and liberals to squeeze through Congress.” Immigration deal called ‘sellout’ – “Immigrant-advocacy groups yesterday said Senate Democrats are selling out their principles on families and workers’ rights if they agree with Republicans and President Bush on a compromise immigration bill.” Churches offer sanctuary to illegal aliens – “Churches in five large U.S. cities plan to protect illegal aliens from deportation, offering sanctuary if need be, as they pressure lawmakers to create a path to citizenship for the nation’s estimated 12 million to 20 million illegals.”

Abortion-Giuliani. Giuliani to Support Abortion Rights– “After months of conflicting signals on abortion, Rudolph W. Giuliani is planning to offer a forthright affirmation of his support for abortion rights in public forums, television appearances and interviews in the coming days, despite the potential for bad consequences among some conservative voters already wary of his views,”

Abortion-Benedict XVI. Pope Opens Trip With Remarks Against Abortion – “Benedict XVI arrived in Brazil, starting his first papal trip to Latin America with strong words against abortion, and roiling a Catholic continent increasingly divided by the issue.” Pope speaks strongly against legalizing abortion – “Launching his first papal pilgrimage to the Americas, Pope Benedict XVI issued a strong condemnation of abortion and immediately touched off a firestorm by suggesting Catholic politicians who legalize it have excommunicated themselves from the church.”

Education. New Figures Show High Dropout Rate – “The statistics paint a dire portrait: Seventy percent of students nationwide earned diplomas in four years as of 2003, the latest data available nationally, a much lower rate than that reported by the vast majority of school systems.”

Darfur. China defends Darfur stance against Olympic warning – “China defended its support for Sudan amid threats of an Olympic backlash unless Beijing makes greater use of its influence to stop the slaughter in Darfur. In a sign that it may be yielding to a growing chorus of international pressure, however, the Chinese foreign ministry announced the appointment of a new special representative to Africa.” The Genocide Games (Nat Hentoff, Village Voice) – “China’s only acute vulnerability – as it becomes the most powerful nation in the world economically and politically – is the tarnishing of its coming glorification as the host of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.”

Iran. Moderate’s re-election a warning for Ahmadinejad – “The mayor of Tehran has been re-elected in a vote seen as a victory for moderate conservatives in Iran and a sign of waning support for the country’s hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” Hard-liners are defied in Tehran vote – “The mayor is a conservative who backs the Islamic government, but also a pragmatist who has stressed efficiency over hard-line ideology in running Tehran.”

G-8. Germany Conducts Raids Ahead of G-8 Summit – “Four weeks before leaders of the world’s big industrial nations are to gather at a Baltic Sea resort in northern Germany, the police conducted sweeping raids on Wednesday on the offices and homes of left-wing campaigners whom they suspected of planning to disrupt the meeting.”

Internet and politics. Internet and politics an uneasy fit – “Candidates want to tap into the uncontrollable citizen power of the Internet, but they also want to control their message. In a growing number of cases, campaigns are finding these efforts impossible to reconcile.”

Commentary. A ‘Plan B’ with teeth for Darfur (John Prendergast, ENOUGH Campaign,Boston Globe) – “Plan B” is not yet strong enough and must be buttressed in specific ways. If it is transformed into a real set of multilateral punitive measures with teeth, the administration has an opportunity to lead in bringing the horrors in Darfur to an end.”

‘Temporary is temporary’ won’t work for all immigrants (Tamar Jacoby, Manhattan Institute, Los Angeles Times) – “Illegal immigrants are merely a symptom. The real problem is the law that ignores the truth about our economic needs. And the critical question is whether Congress can own up to the reality of those needs and the real behavior of the foreign workers who come to meet them.”

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