Beliefnet
God's Politics

the latest reports on the CNN/YouTube debate, minimum wage, VA failing vets, Blair in the Mideast, Iraq, Iran, Darfur, food costs and the poor, religious schools, rainfall, and select commentaries


CNN-YouTube debate. Public Voice Adds Edge to Debate “Democratic presidential candidates shared the spotlight with ordinary citizens from around the country in a two-hour debate that featured sharp and sometimes witty video questions and often equally sharp exchanges among the candidates on issues.” Voters challenge Democrats in debate “The questions ran the gamut from serious to offbeat, all in the more familiar voices of real people who put their faces on issues of the day. They included a gay couple asking if they could be married, a father of a dead soldier asking if the candidates had family members serving in uniform and two people who asked pointed questions on Iraq from very different viewpoints.” A Showcase for the YouTube Set Makes Voters the Stars “Most of the video questions posed in last night’s Democratic debate were more memorable than the answers, proving that novices can ask good questions, but not necessarily elicit better answers than professional journalists.”


Minimum wage. Federal minimum wage goes up to $5.85 “The nation’s lowest-paid workers will soon find extra money in their pockets as the minimum wage rises 70 cents to $5.85 an hour on Tuesday.” Minimum wage called elusive for some “But for low-income workers, the minimum wage is useful only if it is enforced, and many students of American wage patterns believe that the law is not enforced strictly enough.”


VA failing vets. VA failing Mideast vets, lawsuit contends “The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was accused in a major lawsuit of “shameful failures” in providing medical and mental healthcare to injured servicemen and women returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”


Blair in Mideast. In Mideast, Blair debuts as an envoy “Tony Blair, starting his first visit to the Middle East as an international envoy, met with Israeli officials and heard them blame dysfunctional Palestinian leadership for blocking progress toward peace.” Blair arrives in Israel on first trip as Middle East envoy “Tony Blair flew into the Middle East for his first visit as a special international envoy, hoping to spark a fresh peace initiative at a time of long-stalled negotiations.” Blair: Regional conference must have substance “New Quartet envoy Tony Blair told Israeli officials that the regional fall conference must have both content and substance and not be a mere photo opportunity.” Ottawa restores $8M in aid to Palestinians “The federal government has restored $8-million in aid to the Palestinian government, more than a year after it cut funding following the surprise victory of Hamas in parliamentary elections.”


Iraq. U.S. Seen in Iraq Until at Least ’09The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.” After carnage, U.S. and Iraqi authorities compete for control “After the blast near a busy shrine in the mostly Shiite Muslim area of Karrada, Iraqi firefighters, medical workers, Iraqi police, traffic police, Iraqi soldiers, American troops, members of two powerful Shiite militias and ordinary residents jostled for control. With so many forces picking through the charred, bloody wreckage, no single group emerged as the one in charge, and the already frenzied scene spiraled into pandemonium.” Standing Against the War, but Unsure How to End It“Congress is in a muddle about Iraq and so are the frustrated voters in Harmony, Minn., who elected a war critic promising a new direction in military policy.”


Iran. US and Iran renew talks on Iraq “Talks between US and Iranian envoys aimed at countering the deepening security crisis in Iraq began with a heated exchange, according to an Iraqi official. The US ambassador, Ryan Crocker, confronted his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, with allegations that Tehran was supporting, arming and training Shia militiamen killing US troops,”


Darfur. Sudan president tours Darfur “Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, is visiting Darfur – a region he is accused of destroying – in what is seen as an attempt to bolster his image as a peacemaker.” Michigan latest state to target Sudan “A growing list of states and universities across the country are pulling their investments from foreign companies that deal with Sudan, Iran and other nations accused of government-supported genocide or terrorism.” ‘Lost’ in Sudan’s violence, she’s found hope in USA “With her education, intellect and grace, Aduei Riak blends in seamlessly at the law firm of Ropes & Gray, where she is one of 10 new paralegals. But the story of how she got here is most unlikely. You would never know that as a young girl, she walked 1,000 miles to flee a civil war in her homeland of Sudan. Or that Riak, now 23, came of age in a refugee camp, and until last summer had not seen her mother since she was 6.”


Food costs hurt poor. Rising food prices curb aid to global poor “Rising food prices are threatening the ability of aid organizations to help the world’s hungriest people. Worldwide, basic foods now cost 21 percent more at the wholesale level than in 2005, with key commodities such as grains and oils up more than 30 percent, according to World Bank price indexes.”


Funding religious schools. Tory pledges funding for religious schools “Ontario would move toward provincial funding for Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu schools if the Progressive Conservatives are elected in October, provincial party leader John Tory said.”


Altered rainfall. Human activity altering global rainfall patterns “Human activity is altering the world’s precipitation patterns, bringing more rainfall to Canada, Northern Europe and Russia and drier weather to tropical and subtropical areas north of the equator, according to the first major international study that examines these changes over the past century.”


Commentary.


General failure (Ralph Peters, USA Today) “Some of our finest combat leaders have commanded our troops in Iraq. Yet they must share the blame for the mess in the Middle East — in large part for their lack of candor.”


The first step back to consensus (Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times) A Hawkeye State think tank points the way toward a unified foreign policy. The great Canadian rock band Arcade Fire says “the lion and the lamb ain’t sleeping yet,” but really how far off can that be when Ivo Daalder and Robert Kagan jointly put pen to paper? … last month, on the website of the Iowa-based Stanley Foundation, Daalder and Kagan appeared as the co-authors of a compelling, if prosaically titled, paper called “America and the Use of Force: Sources of Legitimacy.” Their presence on the same byline testified most immediately to the Stanley Foundation’s success at attracting odd-couple liberal-conservative pairs to contribute thoughtful essays to a project called “Bridging the Foreign Policy Divide.”


Mr. Consensus Makes Inroads (E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post) “At a moment of festering polarization in national politics, Strickland is Mr. Consensus. He doesn’t hide his progressive views — he calls himself “pro-choice, pro-labor and pro-universal health care” — and yet just about everyone thinks of this ordained Methodist minister as a moderate because he spends a lot of time in places where Democrats don’t dare venture, offering soothing sentiments you’re unlikely to run into on talk radio or the Internet.”

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