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The latest news on Candidates withdraw, Economy, Republicans in Florida, Signing bypasses legislation, Faith-based programs, Catholic schools, Baptists, Iraq, Kenya, Iran, Gaza, Pakistan, and Editorial.

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Candidates withdraw. Edwards suspends presidential campaign "Democrat John Edwards bowed out of the race for the White House on Wednesday, saying it was time to step aside "so that history can blaze its path" in a campaign now left to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama." John Edwards: It's time for me to step aside "Former Sen. John Edwards suspended his campaign to be president but did not endorse either Democratic rival. He said he had pledges from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that they would fight to end poverty. "This is the cause of my life," he said." Edwards and Giuliani drop out of White House race "Democrat John Edwards and Republican Rudy Giuliani were abandoning their presidential bids, shrinking the field to two main candidates in each party." Giuliani looks to be out of the race "Rudolph W. Giuliani all but abandoned his presidential bid after finishing a distant third in Florida, the state that was supposed to launch his campaign but instead sank his hopes before the vote count was even complete." For Giuliani, a Dizzying Free-Fall "Mr. Giuliani's campaign was about to begin a free fall so precipitous as to be breathtaking. Mr. Giuliani finished third in the Florida primary on; only a few months earlier, he had talked about the state as his leaping-off point to winning the nomination."


Economy. Grassley Backs Expanded Stimulus "A key Senate Republican Wednesday swung behind a bill to provide help to seniors living on Social Security and the unemployed as part of the economic stimulus plan that passed the House. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, top Republican on the Finance Committee, said Wednesday morning he will support a bill by panel Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.," House approves stimulus plan "Less than a week after quickly crafting a rare bipartisan compromise, the House overwhelmingly passed a $150-billion economic stimulus package to send checks to millions of low- and middle-income Americans." $146 Billion Stimulus Plan Passes House "The House overwhelmingly approved a $146 billion shot in the arm for the nation's ailing economy, sending a stimulus package to the Senate with a bipartisan appeal not to slow down the bill with significant changes."


Republicans in Florida. McCain Beats Romney in Florida "Sen. John McCain of Arizona pulled out a hard-fought victory over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in Florida's contentious Republican primary Tuesday, making him the clear front-runner in a two-man presidential race that could be decided as soon as next week." McCain now positioned to finish dramatic comeback "John McCain emerged from Florida as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, now poised to complete a remarkable comeback just months after being written off as politically dead." After Romney's Barrage, McCain Stands Tall "On Friday, Mitt Romney accused John McCain of being the Democrats' favorite Republican. On Sunday, the former Massachusetts governor mocked McCain's endorsement in the New York Times and then observed, "If he's been a leader, where has it led us?" For McCain, Momentum That May Be Hard to Stop "With his victory in Florida, Sen. John McCain of Arizona took control of the battle for the Republican presidential nomination -- a prospect that seemed almost unthinkable just a few months ago."


Signing bypasses legislation. Bush asserts authority to bypass defense act "President Bush this week declared that he has the power to bypass four laws, including a prohibition against using federal funds to establish permanent US military bases in Iraq, that Congress passed as part of a new defense bill."


Faith-based programs. For Bush, faith-based efforts personal "A visit to a church-run prisoner re-entry program in Baltimore prompted frank comments from President Bush about his previous battles with alcohol." Bush Says Faith Helped Him Beat Drinking "Addiction is hard to overcome. As you might remember, I drank too much at one time in my life," Bush said during a visit to the Jericho Program, a project of Episcopal Community Services of Maryland that helps former prisoners deal with problems such as drug addiction so they can find jobs and reintegrate productively into society."


Catholic schools. Inner-city Catholic schools vanishing "Enrollment in Catholic schools has dropped from 5.2 million in nearly 13,000 schools in 1960, to 2.3 million students in 7,500 schools in 2006, according to a study by the Hoover Institute."


Baptists. Carter leads moderate Baptist meeting "Weary of Southern Baptists' dominance in American Protestantism, a new push is starting by other Baptist groups aimed at working on social justice issues, and showing their religious tradition is broader than the conservative SBC." Spurred by Carter, some Baptists meet to build bigger tent "To spark a new era of cooperation, he and other prominent Baptists have called a three-day meeting in Atlanta, which begins Wednesday. Some 20,000 people will gather to form a New Baptist Covenant and demonstrate that Baptists with theological differences can work together on the basis of Jesus' teachings."


Iraq. White House Shows Signs of Rethinking Cut in Troops "Four months after announcing troop reductions in Iraq, President Bush is now sending signals that the cuts may not continue past this summer, a development likely to infuriate Democrats and renew concerns among military planners about strains on the force." U.S. to Expand Outposts Across Baghdad by 30% "The U.S. military plans to boost the number of neighborhood outposts across the capital by more than 30 percent this year even as American forces begin to withdraw, the new commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad." More GIs to stay in Iraq? "While trumpeting progress on the ground in Iraq and projecting the gradual reduction of troops over the next several months, administration officials and commanders in Iraq have started to signal that U.S. troop levels in Iraq could remain above the presurge level beyond the summer." Vietnam veterans help returning Iraq soldiers deal with shocks of war "Across the country, both groups of Vietnam veterans and individual former soldiers are pitching in to help console, counsel, or just be a voice on the other end of the phone to those who have served in the Middle East."


Kenya. US envoy calls violence in Kenya 'ethnic cleansing' "The top U.S. envoy to Africa called the month of post-election violence in Kenya "ethnic cleansing" and said today Washington was reconsidering hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the country." Kenya violence 'ethnic cleansing' "Jendayi Frazer's comments came as Washington stepped up its criticism of the violence that has threatened to engulf the country since the disputed December 27 presidential election." Would-Be Peacemaker Killed in Kenya "Melitus Mugabe Were, a freshman member of Parliament, could have been one of the keys to unlocking Kenya's crisis, but he never got the chance."


Iran. U.S. envoy debates Iranians -- a no-no "America's sometimes-freewheeling ambassador to the United Nations ran afoul of his superiors by taking part in unauthorized debate with two high-ranking Iranian officials during a conference of world leaders last week in the luxury Alpine resort of Davos, Switzerland."


Gaza. Israeli court backs Gaza blockade The Israeli supreme court today upheld the government's blockade of fuel and electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip.


Israeli human rights groups had challenged the sanctions,


Pakistan. Pakistani Taliban warlord arises as terrorist leader "The shadowy new terrorist leader who's being blamed for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto embodies a growing threat to the U.S.-backed Pakistani government, to America's supply line to Afghanistan and to the Bush administration's hopes for tracking down Osama bin Laden and defeating al Qaida."


Editorial.


The Fine Print (New York Times) "With President Bush, you always have to read the footnotes. Just before Monday night's State of the Union speech, in which Mr. Bush extolled bipartisanship, railed against government excesses and promised to bring the troops home as soon as it's safe to withdraw, the White House undermined all of those sentiments with the latest of the president's infamous signing statements."

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