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the latest news on Economy, Faith & politics, Republican campaign, Democratic campaign, Children's health insurance, Davos, Gaza, Pakistan, Canada_Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Editorial, and Commentary.

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Economy. Bush and Congress Nearing a Deal on Stimulus"Congressional leaders and the Bush administration were close to reaching a deal on a $145 billion economic stimulus package as the Treasury Department crunched the numbers on components of the plan" Negotiators Grappling With Stimulus Plan "The White House and congressional leaders struggled to preserve their newfound alliance on the economy in the face of revolts in both parties over the shape of a potential stimulus package and of debates over issues such as health care and warrantless surveillance." Getting cash to Americans for an economic boost won't be easy"As Congress and the White House craft an economic stimulus package, there's growing concern that it can't be enacted and implemented quickly enough to forestall a recession." Foreclosures Prompt Cities to Make Plea for Aid"Facing a collapse in the subprime mortgage market that has pockmarked their cities with vacant houses and crippled their budgets, the nation's mayors pleaded for a huge infusion of federal aid."


Faith & politics. Evangelicals broadening issues to include poverty, education "Evangelical voters are almost always identified with two issues: abortion and marriage. But some see a growing evangelical movement that advocates on a broader range of issues such as reducing poverty and improving public education," Continental Divide "As Democratic candidates continue to court people of faith, the Republican Party's bid to hold on to such voters, particularly evangelical Hispanics, is slipping."


Republican campaign. Which hopeful is the face of the new GOP? "What do Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani have in common? Not all that much." Romney, McCain Take Lead in Fla.; Tax Talk Pervades "After months of debate over illegal immigration, social issues and the Iraq war, the economy and taxes have emerged as the central focus of the Republican race in Florida." Republicans clash as White House race tightens "Republican presidential candidates sparred over the best fix for the faltering U.S. economy as a poll showed Florida's high-stakes race for the White House tightening." Romney Leads in Ill Will Among G.O.P. Candidates "Within the small circle of contenders, Mr. Romney has become the most disliked. Poll: Giuliani slipping to third in Florida "Rudy Giuliani has hit the skids in a Florida freefall that could shatter his presidential campaign and leave a two-man Republican contest in the state between John McCain and Mitt Romney,"


Democratic campaign. Democrats Attack Iraq Security Proposal "The leading Democratic presidential candidates and their allies on Capitol Hill have launched fierce attacks in recent days on a White House plan to forge a new, long-term security agreement with the Iraqi government," Some criticizing Bill Clinton's campaign style as unstatesmanlike"Several prominent Democrats have publicly warned that the former president is hurting his party and his own status as elder statesman by taking on the highly charged role of critic-in-chief of Hillary Clinton's main Democratic rival, Barack Obama." Some in Party Bristle At Clintons' Attacks "Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign aired a new radio ad here Wednesday that repeated a discredited charge against Sen. Barack Obama, in what some Democrats said is part of an increasing pattern of hardball politics by her and former president Bill Clinton." New vista for Southern star "A native of South Carolina, the son of a millworker and the candidate who speaks most often about the poverty ensnaring so many in small-town and rural America, Edwards remains stuck in third place," Black clergy support could be key in Ohio "The endorsement of black pastors is a coveted prize in the struggle between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination."


Children's health insurance. Bush's Second Child Insurance Veto Stands in House "House Democrats failed for the second time in nearly four months to override President Bush's veto of a proposed $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program." Veto Stands on Measure to Expand Health Plan"Democrats cited the nation's economic problems as a reason to expand a popular health insurance program for children, but their effort failed as the House sustained President Bush's veto of a bill to provide coverage to nearly four million uninsured children."


Davos. Gore, Bono Outlook on Climate, Poverty "Former Vice President Al Gore and U2 front man Bono offered measured praise for efforts in tackling climate change and global poverty, but warned the World Economic Forum that conditions were not improving as much as they could."


Gaza. Egypt moves to close Gaza border "Egyptian riot police attempted to reseal the country's border with Gaza as Palestinians continued to pour through a smashed wall into north Africa." As Gazans pour across, a region alters "With tens of thousands of Palestinians passing over the collapsed border wall, the security and political picture is greatly changed." Egypt /Now Gaza is their problem "Not intelligence gathering, not experts, just common sense was the only thing needed to realize that the break in the barrier between besieged Rafah and free Rafah was only a matter of time."


Pakistan. Supporters at Home and Abroad Backing Away From Musharraf "As critical elections in Pakistan approach, President Pervez Musharraf is increasingly losing support from major constituencies, including his traditional military base," Economic crisis threatens Pakistan's leader "Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has survived constitutional crises and three assassination attempts, but the more prosaic challenge of supplying flour to his people could be his government's undoing." U.S. makes plans to train security forces in Pakistan "The Pentagon is making plans to send military personnel to Pakistan to train its security forces, taking advantage of promising ties with the country's new top general,"


Canada-Afghanistan. Canada quietly halts prisoner transfers "Canada stopped transferring prisoners into Afghan custody months ago after discovering compelling evidence of torture, Ottawa admitted yesterday." Canadian military quits turning detainees over to Afghans "The Canadian government stopped transferring prisoners in Afghanistan to local Afghan authorities after witnessing evidence of torture, according to a newly released government letter."


Iran. Ahmadinejad to challenge US influence with visit to Iraq "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is set to become the first Iranian leader since the revolution to visit Baghdad after the Iraqi foreign ministry announced he had accepted an invitation, at a time of high tension in the Gulf." Iran Reformers Barred From Vote "More than 2,000 reformers seeking democratic changes within Iran's hard-line ruling establishment have been disqualified from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections," Russia plays down Iran sanctions "Russia has played down reports a draft UN resolution on Iran's nuclear programme will call for new sanctions. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the draft agreed on Tuesday did not require tough new measures against Tehran." Added sanctions seen as mostly hurting civilians "On streets and in shops here, though, the previous sanctions have had a visible effect. Prices of foreign consumer and electronic goods have gone up by half in the last six months."


Iraq. Attacks Imperil Militiamen in Iraq Allied With U.S."American-backed Sunni militias who have fought Sunni extremists to a standstill in some of Iraq's bloodiest battlegrounds are being hit with a wave of assassinations and bomb attacks," Robert Fisk: A lesson in how to create Iraqi orphans. And then how to make life worse for them "It's not difficult to create orphans in Iraq. If you're an insurgent, you can blow yourself up in a crowded market. If you're an American air force pilot, you can bomb the wrong house in the wrong village. Or if you're a Western mercenary, you can fire 40 bullets into the widowed mother of 14-year-old Alice Awanis and her sisters Karoon and Nora, the first just 20, the second a year older."


Kenya. Rival Kenyan leaders hold talks "Mwai Kibaki, the Kenyan president, and Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, have met for the first time since a dispute erupted over last month's presidential poll, the UN says." Kenyan rivals meet face-to-face "The face-to-face talks in central Nairobi are being mediated by former UN chief Kofi Annan, who has been holding separate meetings with the two men." Kenya: Mass Action Called Off After Annan-ODM Talks "A ray of hope over an end of political crisis facing the country appeared when ODM emerged from a meeting with the Kofi Annan-headed team and called off mass action rallies planned for Thursday."


Editorial. Opportunity in Gaza (Haaretz) "Now that the barrier is down, it is hard to imagine that the situation in Gaza can be restored to its previous state. Even if Egypt closes the border again, it will be forced to reopen it, at least partially, whenever there is pressure. The Egyptians cannot maintain permanently the total closure that they decided on a year ago, after Hamas came to power in the Strip."


Commentary. Cards that divide us (Cal Thomas, Bob Beckel, USA Today) "For Democrats, it's race. For Republicans, it's religion. Enough already. "

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