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the latest news on Iraq, politics, voting rights, the Episcopal Church, AIDS, the Middle East, minimum wage, Barack Obama and Rick Warren, and prisons
Full news summary:
Iraq. Iraq Panel to Urge Pullout Of Combat Troops by ’08 – “The bipartisan Iraq Study Group plans to recommend withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat units from Iraq by early 2008 while leaving behind troops to train, advise and support the Iraqis,” Bush defends embattled Maliki – “George Bush sought to patch up relations with Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, at a brief summit in Amman yesterday, describing him as the “right guy for Iraq and we’re going to help him”. Bush Rejects Troop Reductions, Endorses Maliki – “President Bush dismissed calls for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq as unrealistic, saying American forces would “stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the government wants us there.” Idea of Rapid Withdrawal From Iraq Seems to Fade – “In the cacophony of competing plans about how to deal with Iraq, one reality now appears clear: despite the’ Democrats’ victory this month in an election viewed as a referendum on the war, the idea of a rapid American troop withdrawal is fast receding as a viable option.” Bush, in Meeting on Iraq, Rejects a Quick Pullout– “The announcement came even as Iraq’s prime minister said his country´s forces can take charge of security by next June.”
Politics. Iowa Governor Begins His Bid For President – “Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) launched his campaign for president with a jab at President Bush’s leadership, a warning that America’s way of life is threatened, and a pledge to overcome the country’s challenges with big ideas on energy, education, the economy and health care.” Iowa governor enters ’08 race as long shot – “Gov. Tom Vilsack, launching an uphill bid for president, called for expanded healthcare and educational opportunities at home and a foreign policy aimed at mending alliances and lessening U.S. military involvement in Iraq.”
Voting rights. Legislative shuffle could give D.C. vote in Congress – “For more than 200 years, residents of the District of Columbia have lived in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol without having a vote that counts there. For the district’s 550,000 residents, that may be about to change.”
Episcopal Church. Episcopalian compromise keeps conservatives in fold – “Episcopal leaders offered conservatives more independence from the national church Thursday, as a California diocese quietly backed down from its threat of a swift break with the denomination.”
AIDS Fund. Faith groups urge cuts to AIDS fund – “Some leading Christian conservatives, angry over the Global Fund to Fight AIDS’s promotion of condoms and its perceived lack of support for faith-based programs, are pushing Congress to cut US support for the AIDS initiative, which was initiated by President Bush in a Rose Garden ceremony five years ago with a $200 million commitment.”
Middle East. Hezbollah flexes muscles – “The leader of the militant Hezbollah movement, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, instructed his followers to take to the streets Friday to bring down Lebanon’s U.S.-backed government, posing the latest threat to American hopes in the Middle East just as President Bush wrapped up talks with Iraq’s prime minister in neighboring Jordan.” Lebanon troop buildup raises fear of civil war – “Lebanese government has nearly doubled the size of its security forces in recent months by adding about 11,000 mostly Sunni Muslim and Christian troops, and has armed them with weapons and vehicles donated by the United Arab Emirates, a Sunni state.” Bid to replace Hamas-led government hits ‘dead end’ – “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that his struggle to replace the Hamas-led government with a more moderate coalition had reached a “dead end,” complicating the goal of renewed peace talks with Israel.”
Illinois minimum wage. Senate OKs wage hike – “The Democratic-led Senate sent Gov. Rod Blagojevich legislation Thursday to increase the state’s minimum wage by a dollar an hour, a move that would make Illinois’ new $7.50 wage rate among the nation’s highest and place it atop neighboring Midwest states.”
Obama & Warren. Obama’s mega-church visit spotlights waning `God gap’ – “There are many forums a potential Democratic presidential candidate ordinarily might pick for a high-profile public appearance: a union hall, a black church, perhaps a teachers convention. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), curiously, has chosen a suburban California mega-church, Saddleback Church, home base of pastor Rick Warren,”
Prison record. U.S.
Prison Population Sets Record – “A record 7 million people — one in every 32 U.S. adults — were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, a Justice Department report released yesterday shows. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year,”