The latest news on Iran, Darfur, homeless in New York City, Iraq, immigration, foreign policy, climate change, religion, federal prosecutors, libby conviction and select op-eds.

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Iraq-Congress. Democrats shelve plans to force Iraq pullout – “Congressional Democrats have dramatically scaled back their plans to shape the course of the Iraq war, bowing to pressure from Republicans and conservative Democrats to pursue only nonbinding measures,” As Iraq Exit Plan Arrives, Democrats’ Rift Remains – “This morning House Democrats, fractured as a group and, with many members … torn over how to proceed on Iraq, will meet to learn the details of a new proposal cobbled together by party leaders last night, which calls for bringing troops home early next year while removing remaining troops from combat by October 2008.”

Iraq-military. Buildup in Iraq Needed Into ’08, U.S. General Says– “The day-to-day commander of American forces in Iraq has recommended that the heightened American troop levels there be maintained through February 2008,” General calls for talks in Iraq – “The US commander in Iraq said military force alone was “not sufficient” to end the violence and political talks must eventually include some militant groups now opposing the US-backed government.”

Immigration. Fear grips kin after immigration raid – “By yesterday afternoon, 60 of the workers taken into custody at the factory Tuesday had been released on humanitarian grounds, for example, if they had children with nobody else to care for them. The 267 others remained at the former Fort Devens military base.” Exploited and punished – “…hundreds of terrified employees were rounded up by a massive federal security force, some of whom pulled weapons. The workers’ children and other family members were left behind.” The mess after the raid (Boston Globe editorial) – “The law was enforced on Tuesday when federal immigration authorities raided Michael Bianco Inc. in New Bedford. But some of the raid’s outcomes were troubling.”

Iran. Iranian influence soaring in Iraq – “In the cafeteria of Iraq’s parliament, Shiite legislators slip into Persian when they don’t want their conversations overheard. In the holy city of Najaf, an Iranian charity helps newlyweds buy furniture. Iranian weapons, freshly manufactured, are turning up in arms caches seized from insurgents in and around Baghdad.” Europeans urge nuclear pause – “European Union powers urged Iran to embrace a UN idea of a “timeout” from nuclear activity they fear could yield atom bombs, saying sanctions they sponsored against Tehran would be simultaneously suspended.”

Foreign policy. White House foreign policy has shifted – Beset by dangers abroad and rivals at home, the Bush administration has embarked on a broad adjustment of its foreign policy in hopes of using its final two years to improve a record now widely viewed as a failure.”

Climate change. Taking climate legislation to the Hill – “The perils of climate change are attracting much attention these days … The concern has prompted a flurry of legislative activity on Capitol Hill, with four major bills, soon to be five, vying for support and votes, and some measure appearing likely to pass. But it remains unclear how strong it will be, how far lawmakers are willing to go in restricting U.S. industry, and whether President Bush might veto a bill.” Even White House predicts rise in greenhouse gases – “Now, as reported by several news outlets in recent days, the administration’s own research shows US greenhouse-gas emissions increasing at a steady pace – yet the White House plans to deal with them mainly through voluntary measures.” Living Day to Day by a Gospel of Green – “At home with Jim Ball, an evangelical Christian minister whose day-to-day activities incorporate what some Christian environmentalists call “creation care.”

Darfur. Gunmen kill 2 Darfur peacekeepers, threaten office – “In a blow to the Darfur peace accord, gunmen believed to belong to rebel groups that signed the agreement have killed two African peacekeepers and threatened staff at a peacekeeping office,” At a Camp In Chad, Hope Wanes – “The Adam family fled to Dogdore, in eastern Chad, in October when Arab fighters burned their village to the ground, raided their food stocks and stole their animals. The attack was one of several during the last few months of 2006 that mirrored ethnic violence in the Darfur region of neighboring Sudan.” Sudanese Leader’s Long Letter Gets Brief Response From Bush – “How do you write a letter to a man you’ve accused of abetting mass murder? President Bush faced that dilemma last week. Sudan’s president, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, last month wrote Bush a lengthy private lett
er about the situation in Darfur,” Sudan ‘paralysing’ aid to Darfur – “The Sudanese government is “paralysing” the aid operation in its conflict-torn western region of Darfur, the US special envoy to Sudan has said. Andrew Natsios said there had recently been a big increase in red tape and the harassment of aid workers.”

Homeless in New York City. Homeless Families in City Shelters Hit Record, Despite the Mayor’s Efforts – “The number of homeless families living in New York City shelters reached a record high last month, halfway into the Bloomberg administration’s five-year plan to reduce homelessness by two-thirds, according to a report released by an advocacy group using city figures. Last month’s total, 9,287 families, was the highest since the city started keeping and publicly releasing such figures in 1979,”

Religion. Americans see media aiding moral decline – “Most Americans think culture is becoming more immoral, and they view the media — both entertainment and news — as prime culprits, according to a new survey.” Americans flunk religion– “Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, isn’t laughing. Americans’ deep ignorance of world religions – their own, their neighbors’ or the combatants in Iraq, Darfur or Kashmir – is dangerous, he says. His new book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn’t, argues that everyone needs to grasp Bible basics, as well as the core beliefs, stories, symbols and heroes of other faiths.”

Federal prosecutors. Inquiry Into Ouster of U.S. Attorneys Moves Toward Subpoenas at Justice Department– “The Senate Judiciary Committee took the first step toward issuing subpoenas to five Justice Department officials whose names have surfaced in Congressional testimony about the dismissals of eight United States attorneys.” Subpoenas Likely for Justice Officials in Prosecutor Firings – “Senate Democrats said they are preparing to subpoena five senior Justice Department officials as part of a widening probe into whether eight U.S. attorneys were fired for political reasons.”

Libby conviction. Bush Deflects Pressure To Give Libby a Pardon – “President Bush said that he is “pretty much going to stay out of” the case of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby until the legal process has run its course, deflecting pressure from supporters of the former White House aide to pardon him for perjury and obstruction of justice.” Conservatives see a scapegoat in Libby – “The perjury conviction of former senior White House advisor I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby was condemned as a “travesty” and a “politicized prosecution” by much of the conservative media.”

Op-Ed. ‘Common Ground’ Caucus (David Broder, Washington Post) – “It was not nostalgia or a desire for companionship that brought four former Senate leaders together in a meeting room on Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning, but rather a sense of alarm at the breakdown in civility and at the fierce partisanship that has infected Congress and blocked action on national priorities. Politely but firmly, not wanting to criticize their successors in what styles itself a great deliberative body, the two Republicans and two Democrats who once tried to run the place warned that something has gone awry.”

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