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the latest news on the Iraq-Senate hearing, Iran, Newt Gingrich, Burma, Israel, New Orleans, and housing costs
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Iraq-Senate hearing. Senate grills Petraeus on Iraq strategy “Facing the senior U.S. commander and top U.S. diplomat in Iraq on a second day of testimony before Congress, several Senate Republicans expressed deep skepticism, frustration and unease with the current American path and little enthusiasm for leaving troops in the war-torn country indefinitely.” Bush to Endorse Petraeus Plan “Plans by President Bush to announce a withdrawal of up to 30,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by next summer drew sharp criticism yesterday from Democratic leaders and a handful of Republicans in Congress, who vowed to try again to force Bush to accept a more dramatic change of policy.” After two days, no answer to ‘how this ends’ “Much to the frustration of the senators – mostly Democrats, but including a few Republicans – who grilled them Tuesday, neither the general nor the diplomat outlined a strategy for putting Iraq back together or a timetable for bringing U.S. troops home.” Officials Cite Long-Term Need for U.S. in IraqThe two top American military and diplomatic officials in Iraq conceded that the Bush administration’s overall strategy in Iraq would remain largely unchanged after the temporary increase in American forces is over next summer, and made clear their view that the United States would need a major troop presence in Iraq for years to come.”




Reaction in Iraq. Iraqis have mixed feelings on U.S. progress report “From the halls of parliament to the bomb-blasted city streets, Iraqis appeared divided over whether reports presented to U.S. lawmakers on the country’s political and military situation were fair, biased, or a waste of breath.”




Iraq-politics. Report buys Bush time “Gen. David Petraeus’ report of progress in Iraq may have bought George W. Bush more time to pursue the war while blunting Democrats’ immediate hopes of imposing a timetable for a U.S. pullout.” Petraeus kicks war issue into 2008 politics “Yet even if Petraeus succeeded in warding off the slim chance that Congress might vote this year to end the war, he just kicked the war into the 2008 election year. And that aggravates the challenges that both major political parties face in finding a way to give the American people what polls show that a majority wants: a way out.”




Iran . The ‘proxy war’: UK troops are sent to Iranian border “British forces have been sent from Basra to the volatile border with Iran amid warnings from the senior US commander in Iraq that Tehran is fomenting a “proxy war”. In signs of a fast-developing confrontation, the Iranians have threatened military action in response to attacks launched from Iraqi territory while the Pentagon has announced the building of a US base and fortified checkpoints at the frontier.” Report will not save U.S. from “Iraq’s swamp”: Iran “Iran dismissed a long-awaited progress report by the two senior U.S. officials in Iraq on Wednesday, saying it would not “save America from Iraq’s swamp” and calling on Washington to withdraw its troops.”




Newt Gingrich. Gingrich hints of White House bid “Newt Gingrich is moving closer to a presidential nomination bid in a severely divided Republican Party.”




Faith and Campaign 08. Faith’s role on the rise in Campaign 08 “Hot-button social issues of concern to religious activists are taking a back seat to Iraq and domestic issues, even among Evangelicals. Seventy-eight percent of Americans cite domestic issues (such as the economy, healthcare, and the environment) and 72 percent cite Iraq as very important in their decisions, while 38 percent cite social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Among Evangelicals, 72 percent highlight domestic issues; 66 percent, Iraq; and 56 percent, social issues.” Falwell’s Son Urges Conservative Pastors To Get Out the Vote “The son of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, whose Moral Majority helped reshape the national political landscape, vowed to pick up where his father left off and help change public policy in Virginia and in Washington.”




New Orleans. Data confirm New Orleans’ black exodus “New Orleans’ black population dropped 57% a year after Hurricane Katrina, while the white population declined 36%, according to an analysis by three demographers of new U.S. census data that confirm the disaster’s disproportionate impact on the city’s racial composition.”




Health insurance. Rise in Cost of Employer-Paid Health Insurance Slows “The cost of employer-provided health insurance rose 6.1 percent this year, the smallest jump since 1999 but still well above the increase in wages and consumer prices, according to an annual survey released yesterday by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.” Workers paying more for coverage “the average total cost of healthcare premiums for a family of four, including the share paid by employers, now exceeds the amount a minimum wage worker earns in a year.”




Housing costs. Housing Costs Consumed More of Paychecks in 2006Nationally, half of renters and more than one third of mortgage holders – 37 percent, up from 35 percent in 2005, or a rise of more than 1.5 million households – spent at least 30 percent of their gross income on housing costs,”




Burma . Burma Protests Draw Harsh Crackdown “Recent protests in Burma by democracy activists, defiant monks and other citizens objecting to an unprecedented spike in fuel prices have sparked a brutal crackdown by the country’s ruling military junta and cast a new spotlight on the gravity of conditions in the resource-rich country.”




Israel-Gaza. Ministers consider Gaza raid after rocket attack “Israeli politicians stepped up calls for a major military assault on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired a rocket into an army base in southern Israel injuring dozens of soldiers.” Despite casualties in Qassam strike, IDF says Zikim base properly fortified “Israel Defense Forces officers said that the Zikim basic training base is adequately fortified compared to other places near the Gaza Strip, in spite of the early-morning Qassam rocket strike that wounded 69 soldiers, one critically.”




Israel-Syria. Syria Complains of Israeli ‘Aggression’“Syria complained to the United Nations about Israeli “aggression and violation of sovereignty” after what a U.S. official said was an airstrike deep in Syria that hit a target.” CNN: Israel targeted arms delivery on Syrian soil destined for Hezbollah “Israeltargeted weapons intended for delivery to Hezbollah inside Syria a week ago, the CNN television network reported yesterday.”




Global extinction crisis. Red List shows ‘escalating global extinction crisis’ “Corals and seaweed have joined the ranks of threatened species, and more apes and reptiles are now facing extinction according to the World Conservation Union, which warns of a “global extinction crisis”. The conservation group’s annual Red List of threatened species, published today, found that the extinction crisis had escalated in the last year with 16,306 species now at the highest levels of extinction threat,”




Marriage. Young adults delaying marriage “lmost three-quarters of men and almost two-thirds of women in their 20s in 2006 said they had never been married, according to Census data released today that shows a sharp increase in never-married twentysomethings in just six years.




Poll-A Christian nation? Poll: Founders intended Christian USA “Most Americans believe the nation’s founders wrote Christianity into the Constitution, and people are less likely to say freedom to worship covers religious groups they consider extreme, a poll out today finds. The survey measuring attitudes toward freedom of religion, speech and the press found that 55% believe erroneously that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation.”

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