the latest news on the new Defense Secretary, the Iraq Study Group, congress, D.C. voting rights, Darfur, inequality, and select opinion articles

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Defense Secretary. Senate Panel Approves Gates –”Robert M. Gates was unanimously approved by a Senate committee yesterday to become President Bush’s new defense secretary, after a day-long confirmation hearing in which he bluntly stated that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq.” Gates’ main appeal: He’s not Rumsfeld – “Once one of the most controversial men in Washington, Robert M. Gates stepped into what passes in the nation’s capital for a congressional love-fest Tuesday for the simple reason that he was not Donald H. Rumsfeld.”

Iraq Study Group. ISG to call for troop withdrawal – “George Bush today came under further pressure to change course on Iraq as a bipartisan committee reportedly urged the White House to withdraw all combat troops by early 2008.” Panel To Urge Pressure On Iraq – “The bipartisan Iraq Study Group plans to recommend to President Bush that he threaten to reduce economic and military support for Iraq’s government if it fails to meet specific benchmarks intended to improve security in the country, a source familiar with the report said yesterday.” Bush Calls Iraq Report One Among Many Ideas – “Congress seemed eager yesterday to embrace the new Baker-Hamilton report as a possible way out of the morass in Iraq, while the White House is increasingly insistent that the document is but one of several suggestions President Bush will review.”

Iraq. Blair heads to US for crucial talks with Bush– “Officials travelling with Mr Blair are privately doubtful about his chances of convincing Mr Bush to abandon the conviction of the neo-cons that Iran is part of an axis of evil that should be isolated.” War denials vs. too-simple solutions – “With his unwavering insistence that U.S. military forces must stand, fight and “win” in Iraq, President Bush has taken on the look of the last man standing.” What would happen if the U.S. left Iraq? – “President Bush has warned that a precipitate withdrawal would create a terrorism superstate in the Middle East that is rich with oil cash and determined to topple moderate governments around it. But to many U.S. lawmakers, regional experts and Middle East leaders, the chief risk is not a more menacing version of Taliban-dominated Afghanistan, but a Lebanese-style civil war that could result in the deaths of thousands more Iraqis and expand the conflict by drawing in neighboring states.”

Congress. Culture Shock on Capitol Hill: House to Work 5 Days a Week – “Forget the minimum wage. Or outsourcing jobs overseas. The labor issue most on the minds of members of Congress yesterday was their own: They will have to work five days a week starting in January.” Liberal Coalition Eyes First Hundred Hours – ” A large group of liberal organizations is planning to wage a national lobbying and public relations campaign to press for passage of the House Democrats’ legislative agenda next year, taking a page from longtime corporate practices.” GOP’s big plans yield little gain – “Twelve years after Republicans stormed into power on Capitol Hill with ambitious plans for action on energy exploration, abortion and other key issues, the GOP wraps up its run at the helm this week with a legislative whimper.”

D.C. Voting Rights. GOP House Leaders Choose to Let Bill Die – “Republican congressional leaders decided yesterday not to bring to the floor a bill giving the District a full voting member of the House, dooming the measure’s chances in this legislative session.”

Darfur. Departing UN official: Darfur situation in `free fall’ – “The conflict in Darfur has spread to two neighboring countries and is now in a “free fall” with 6 million people facing the prospect of going without food or protection, the departing UN humanitarian chief said Tuesday. Jan Egeland, who steps down Dec. 12, said in an interview that one of the biggest problems he faced was convincing countries of the dire situation in the western region of Sudan.” UN pulls staff from Darfur town – “The United Nations has withdrawn its non-essential workers from El Fasher, capital of Sudan’s North Darfur state. … The African Union has warned that El Fasher is at risk of being attacked by a coalition of Darfuri rebel groups.”

Inequality. World’s richest 1% own 40% of wealth, UN report finds – “The richest 1% of adults in the world own 40% of the planet’s wealth, according to the largest study yet of wealth distribution.” Study Finds Wealth Inequality Is Widening Worldwide – “Even as income inequality has reached near record levels in many countries, the distribution of the world’s wealth — things like stocks, bonds or physical assets like land — has become even more narrowly concentrated than income, according
to a new report by the World Institute for Development Economics Research.”

Op-Ed. A problem bigger than busing (Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune) – “We should be motivated to move to the next rational step for our liberation: the integration of low-income, low-achieving students into a higher-achieving future. It takes more than a bus to make that trip.”

Editorial. Obama should run (Chicago Tribune) – “There are the polarizing figures: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich. There are the candidates who’ve been here before, such as Sens. Joe Biden, John McCain and John Kerry. There are the little-known politicians whose best hope may be the second spot on the ticket, like Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former New York Gov. George Pataki. There are the capital veterans, including Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), whose importance inside the Beltway may make them imagine they have electoral strength beyond it. And then there is Barack Obama.”

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