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The latest reports on Myanmar/Burma, Immigration, Iran, Myanmar/Burma, Ahmadinejad meets, religious leaders, Iran, Missile defense-Iran, Iraq, Iraq-Congress, Books in prisons, UAW-GM, Presidential debate, Climate change, and the Death penalty
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Myanmar/Burma. Police fire on Burmese protesters “Soldiers fired automatic weapons at crowds of protesters in Rangoon today, killing several people, reports from Burma’s main city said.” Burma Cracks Down Violently on Anti-Junta Protests “After nine days of restraint, Burma’s military rulers cracked down on protesting Buddhist monks, with security forces firing warning shots, shooting tear gas canisters, swinging truncheons and making scores of arrests to suppress anti-government marchers.” Burma: Inside the saffron revolution “The inevitable happened sometime before noon. Close to the Shwedagon pagoda, the golden gleaming monument in central Rangoon that has been the focus of protest for nine days, at least 10 monks were beaten up by police as thousands once again defied the authorities and tried to enter the holy shrine.” Monks in the vanguard for regime change “As they have done on numerous occasions over the decades, Buddhist monks have taken to Myanmar’s streets calling for political change. But with the first of their ranks reportedly gunned down and having captured the popular imagination, the monks have raised their demands from dialogue between the government and opposition political parties to full-blown regime change.” Live blog: latest developments – from The Guardian.


Ahmadinejad meets religious leaders. Ahmadinejad Meets Clerics, and Decibels Drop a Notch “After two days of prickly confrontations with critics at Columbia University and the United Nations, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran held a friendly, even warm, exchange yesterday with Christian leaders from the United States and Canada convinced that dialogue is the only way to prevent war.” Ahmadinejad urged to take more care in what he says “With an enigmatic smile on his face, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sat patiently and listened as a group of Quaker, Mennonite and other religious leaders begged him to choose his words more carefully.”


Iran . Officials: Iranian nuclear dispute far from resolved“The dispute over Iran’s nuclear program is far from over, despite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s assertion before the U.N. General Assembly that his government considers the issue “closed.” Washington Sees an Opportunity on IranA year and a half after President Bush told top aides that he feared he might be forced someday to choose between acquiescing to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and ordering military action, the struggle to find an effective alternative – sanctions with real bite – is entering a new phase.” Iran reformist warns democracy at stake “One of Iran’s top reform politicians said Wednesday that demonizing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – such as in this week’s Columbia University forum – only strengthens hard-liners’ hand as Iranians rally around their otherwise unpopular leader.”


Missile defense-Iran. US: Missile Defense Will Avert Iran War “The chief U.S. missile defense negotiator defended plans to place anti-missile sites in Eastern Europe, saying Wednesday that the system could prevent a war with Iran by building an effective deterrent.”



Iraq. Bombings in Iraq Said to Signal Ramadan Offensive “A surge in suicide and car bombings in Iraq this week is evidence that militants have begun an offensive they had threatened for the holy month of Ramadan,” Shootings by Blackwater Exceed Other Firms in IraqThe American security contractor Blackwater USA has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms providing similar services to the State Department,” Casey tells Congress Army is stretched too thin “The Army’s top officer, General George Casey, told Congress that his branch of the military has been stretched so thin by the war in Iraq that it can not adequately respond to another conflict.”


Iraq-Congress. Senate backs separating Iraq into 3 regions “Implicitly criticizing the Bush administration’s reliance on the Iraqi central government to unify the country, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed the decentralization of Iraq into semi-autonomous regions.” Increase In War Funding Sought “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asked Congress yesterday to approve an additional $42.3 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the Bush administration’s 2008 war funding request to nearly $190 billion — the largest single-year total for the wars so far.” Gates: Pass war-funding bill “Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Congress on Wednesday to quickly approve $190 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next year, an expenditure that would bring the total spending on the two conflicts to about $800 billion.”


Immigration. Senate temporarily sidelines immigration legalization bill “The prospects for immediate Senate action on the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants, disappeared Wednesday amid Republican opposition.” Student illegals bill dropped “Senate Democrats retreated from forcing a debate about giving illegal-alien students a path to citizenship in the middle of the defense bill, although Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to find time before the end of the year for a vote on the proposal.” Illegal immigrants moving out “Illegal immigrants living in states and cities that have adopted strict immigration policies are packing up and moving back to their home countries or to neighboring states.”


Books in prisons. Prisons to Restore Purged Religious BooksFacing pressure from religious groups, civil libertarians and members of Congress, the federal Bureau of Prisons has decided to return religious materials that had been purged from prison chapel libraries because they were not on the bureau’s lists of approved resources.”



UAW-GM. Deal gives GM grip on costs “General Motors Corp. emerges from a two-day strike by the United Auto Workers with a landmark four-year contract that lowers its labor and health-care costs by roughly $1,000 per vehicle, dramatically closing the gap with Toyota, the most efficient manufacturer in the U.S.” With U.A.W. Accord, G.M. Looks to a New DetroitFor a generation, executives at the Detroit auto companies have complained that the huge cost of providing generous benefits for its unionized workers put them at a competitive disadvantage with surging foreign car companies like Toyota and Honda. Now, with a new contract agreement with the United Automobile Workers, General Motors has taken a momentous step toward eliminating much of that burden,”


Presidential debate. Rivals aim fire at Clinton “After months of mild-mannered Democratic debates, the field of candidates finally launched an aggressive charge against front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, pointedly critiquing her track record on everything from the war in Iraq to her efforts to reform health care.” Rivals assail Clinton in Democrat debate “Democratic presidential candidates pounced on rival Hillary Clinton for her positions on Iraq and Iran in a debate as they sought to undercut her status as the campaign front-runner.” Democratic Rivals Press Clinton, Courteously “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton found herself on the defensive in a debate in which the Democratic presidential candidates clashed over withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, the financial future of Social Security and Iran’s nuclear threat.”


Climate change. U.S. climate talks “The U.S.-sponsored meeting of major emitting countries is aimed at supporting and accelerating the U.N. process on climate change, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted on Thursday.” Fears US will reject climate deal “President George Bush was criticised by diplomats for attempting to derail a UN initiative on climate change by pressing ahead with his own conference, which starts in Washington today.”


Death penalty. Executions Set Despite Ky. Case Review“Lawyers for two murderers set to die by lethal injection Thursday say the executions should be delayed because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s plans to review that method of capital punishment, but officials in both states involved intend to press ahead.” Death-penalty foes ride tide “Death-penalty opponents were hoping for a trifecta: a large, loud Statehouse rally on the heels of news about a lethal-injection legal challenge and a report calling Ohio’s capital-punishment system seriously flawed.”


Prisons. Influx of U.S. Inmates Slowing, Census Says “After two decades of massive growth, the U.S. prison population began to level off in the first six years of this century, according to 2006 census statistics.” College Dwellers Outnumber the Imprisoned “The number of inmates in adult correctional facilities in the United States has topped two million for the first time, the Census Bureau said. But in a reversal from 2000, more Americans over all now live in college dormitories than in prisons.”


Op-Eds.


Following Bush Over a Cliff (David S. Broder, Washington Post) “The spectacle Tuesday of 151 House Republicans voting in lock step with the White House against expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was one of the more remarkable sights of the year. Rarely do you see so many politicians putting their careers in jeopardy.”


Ahmadinejad’s real agenda (Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune) “Isn’t it ironic? Some of the same people who opposed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University on Monday usually criticize political correctness that suppresses free speech. Everybody wants to censor something sometime.”

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