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Republican debate. ’08 Republicans Differ on Defining Party’s Future “The leading candidates offered sharply contrasting views of Mr. Bush himself. But they also differed on an array of social issues — abortion, stem cell research, immigration and evolution — in a debate that highlighted a party in flux as it struggles to figure out how to retain the White House for a third consecutive term.” GOP Field United On War, Divided On Social Issues “Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona were in the minority in expressing support for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was pressed to explain why he has shifted from support to opposition of abortion rights as he prepared to campaign for the White House.”

Zimbabwe. Mugabe warns bishops of ‘danger’ “Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has told Roman Catholic bishops they are on a ‘dangerous path’ if they become too political, state media reports. He said they would be treated as politicians and not spiritual leaders.”

Global warming. Climate change ‘can be tackled’ “The growth in greenhouse gas emissions can be curbed at reasonable cost, experts at a major UN climate change conference in Bangkok have agreed. Boosting renewable energy, reducing deforestation and improving energy efficiency can all help, they said. This is the third report this year from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and aims to set out the costs and benefits of various policies. “

Iran. U.S. Officials Meet Briefly With Iranians “American and Iranian officials spoke briefly today at a regional conference here on the Iraq situation, in a rare direct conversation between representatives of the two antagonistic nations.” U.S. Official, Iranian Diplomat Discuss Stabilizing Iraq “The session, which U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker downplayed as a short discussion, came at the close of a three-day conference on Iraq’s future at which Iran continued to demand a withdrawal of American troops and U.S. officials said Iran, Syria and other Iraqi neighbors must avoid fomenting discord.”

Israel/Palestine. Israeli Protesters Demand That Prime Minister Resign “Tens of thousands of Israelis assembled Thursday in Rabin Square, the customary venue for this country’s public soul-searching, to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over his alleged mismanagement of the war in Lebanon last summer.” Israelis call on Olmert to resign “The report, issued after a six-month investigation led by retired judge Eliahu Winograd, accused Mr Olmert of ‘serious failure in exercising judgement, responsibility and prudence.’ On Wednesday Mr Olmert’s own Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, called for the prime minister to resign, offering to stand as his replacement. Olmert vows to stay on despite mass rally calling on him to quit “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated his intention to remain in office Friday, Israel Radio reported, despite Thursday evening’s massive protest in Tel Aviv calling on him and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to resign.”

US sets targets for Israelis to lift restrictions and Palestinians to improve security “The United States has set deadlines for Israel to lift restrictions on the West Bank and Gaza, and for the Palestinians to prevent rocket fire at Israel, it emerged today. The deadlines are contained in a list of 33 “benchmarks” issued to both parties that set out goals and tasks for each side.” U.S. official: Demands not being imposed on anyone “Deputy U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Friday that the United States would not enforce the demands listed in a document presented to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, detailing actions for both sides to implement. He also said that there is no deadlines for taking the recommended actions.”

Darfur. Berkshire wealth clashes with Gates mission in Sudan “In Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have perished in what the United States calls a genocide, the killing has been supported by profits from companies helping the government of Sudan tap its vast reservoirs of oil, according to services that research corporate conduct for investors. The firms include China’s Sinopec Corp., Malaysia’s Petronas, and Schlumberger, based in the Netherlands Antilles — whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation’s most significant connection to the Sudanese oil industry, however, is through Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Bill Gates is a Berkshire director, and Berkshire’s chairman, Warren E. Buffett, is a trustee of the Gates Foundation. … Some of Berkshire’s wealth comes from PetroChina, whose parent company supplies a large part of the money that underwrites Sudan’s military — as well as the janjaweed, according to the United States and the United Nations. The infusion of Berkshire stock places the Gates Foundation in conflict with its own efforts to help victims of the Sudanese civil war.”

Civil rights. FBI May Probe Use of Force by L.A. Police at Immigration Rally “The FBI will open a civil rights inquiry into the Los Angeles Police Department’s actions at an immigration rally where officers cleared a city park by wielding batons and firing rubber bullets, the bureau said Thursday.” LAPD cut back forces at park rally “Police Chief William J. Bratton escalated his criticism of the officers’ tactics and said the department’s three investigations would focus on the actions not only of line officers but also of the top brass who gave the orders.”

House Backs Expanded Hate-Crime Law “Brushing aside a veto threat from President Bush, the House yesterday approved legislation that would extend federal hate-crime protection to gays and increase penalties against their attackers.” Hate crime bill veto is vowed “Under intense pressure from conservative religious organizations to derail the bill, the White House on Thursday called it “unnecessary and constitutionally questionable,” issuing the latest in a string of veto threats aimed at the congressional Democratic majority.”

Northern Ireland. N. Ireland
loyalist paramilitary renounces violence
“The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), one of the most violent paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, has announced that the group is disarming and assuming a ‘non-military, civilianized role.” UVF must match words with actions “The words have been rewritten over and over again since then, but the general thrust did not change: having accepted that the IRA’s war is over, the UVF’s leadership could no longer offer any justification for the organisation to continue to exist.”

Poverty. If Democrats Want to Help the Poor . . . “Republicans once preached compassion, but then went off to war. Democrats waged a war on poverty, but then lost some elections. They decided the middle class is where it’s at.” A Powerhouse for the Poor “You often hear that the poor and working people don’t have a voice in Washington, that they invariably lose out to special interests that give big campaign contributions or can mobilize a vast membership.”

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