The Common Good

The latest news on the Economic Stimulus, Pay Discrimination, Draft Registration, Global Food Shortage, Afghanistan, Iraq, Arab-Muslim Relations, Israel-Gaza, Iran, Russia, Zimbabwe, and Mexico.

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Economic stimulus. Obama tries to sell Republicans on his stimulus plan "Trying to build support for his $825-billion economic stimulus plan before a crucial vote, President Obama traveled to Capitol Hill but continued to meet a stubborn wall of complaints from Republicans that the cost of the package was unacceptable." Democrats Among Stimulus Skeptics "Republican criticism of the stimulus package that the House will vote on tonight has focused on its soaring price tag, but some Democrats on Capitol Hill and other administration supporters are voicing a separate critique: that the plan may fall short in its broader goal of transforming the American economy over the long term." Stimulus Plan Would Provide Flood of Aid to Education "The economic stimulus plan that Congress has scheduled for a vote on Wednesday would shower the nation's school districts, child care centers and university campuses with $150 billion in new federal spending, a vast two-year investment that would more than double the Department of Education's current budget." Relief Seen for Jobless and States in Health Care Plan "The stimulus bill working its way through Congress is not just a package of spending increases and tax cuts intended to jolt the nation out of recession. For Democrats, it is also a tool for rewriting the social contract with the poor, the uninsured and the unemployed, in ways they have long yearned to do." GOP may vote no, but economists back Obama stimulus "Economists think the stimulus plan that the House of Representatives will vote on Wednesday, while far from perfect, will help stimulate the moribund U.S. economy."

Pay discrimination. Democrats Overturn Barrier to Unequal-Pay Suits "President Obama plans to sign into law the first legislation of his White House tenure, reversing a recent Supreme Court ruling that had restricted the ability of women and other workers to sue for pay discrimination." Congress Relaxes Rules on Suits Over Pay Inequity "Congress gave final approval to a civil rights bill providing women, blacks and Hispanics with powerful new tools to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace. It is likely to be the first significant legislation signed by President Obama."

Draft registration. Ban on jobs for those who don't register for draft invalidated "A federal judge in Boston has declared unconstitutional a 1985 law that bars people from most federal employment if they knowingly fail to register for the draft."

Global food shortage. U.N. warns of food shortages "Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, said yesterday that the global economic crisis would raise already 'intolerable' levels of world hunger, even though the high food prices that prompted riots in developing countries last year had eased."

Afghanistan. Gates Predicts 'Slog' in Afghanistan "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday signaled sharply lower expectations for the war in Afghanistan, warning the conflict will be 'a long slog' and that U.S. and allied military forces, even at higher levels, can achieve limited goals." Gates says U.S. must set realistic goals in Afghanistan "As President Obama prepared to meet today with top military officials to review the troubled U.S. effort in Afghanistan, his Defense secretary told lawmakers Tuesday that the U.S. should set realistic, achievable goals." Aides Say Obama's Afghan Aims Elevate War "President Obama intends to adopt a tougher line toward Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, as part of a new American approach to Afghanistan that will put more emphasis on waging war than on development."

Iraq. Obama heading to Pentagon on Wednesday to hear military service chiefs on Iraq withdrawal "Barack Obama often has said he will issue orders to swiftly close down the Iraq war. Now military leaders are getting a chance to tell the new commander in chief how they could comply, and why he might want to wait."

Arab-Muslim relations. Obama Extends Hand To Arabs and Muslims "President Obama has launched a determined effort to change the tone, if not yet the substance, of U.S. relations with the Arab and Muslim worlds, saying he is eager to listen to their concerns and acknowledging that Americans 'have not been perfect' in their dealings with them." VIDEO REPORT: Obama's interview with al Arabiya

Israel-Gaza. Hamas roadside bomb shakes fragile ceasefire with Israel "The fragile ceasefire in Gaza was under severe strain yesterday after Palestinian militants blew up an Israeli border patrol, triggering an Israeli air strike inside the blockaded enclave." U.S. Envoy Urges Cease-Fire After Gaza Violence "President Obama's special Middle East envoy arrived in Jerusalem after urging a 'consolidated' cease-fire following renewed Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza." U.S. envoy begins Mideast diplomacy "George Mitchell, the U.S. envoy to the Middle East, has arrived in Israel as part of his tour of the region aimed at promoting what he said would be a 'lasting peace' between Israel and the Palestinians." Mitchell's message: U.S. to focus efforts on Gaza cease-fire "U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell is due to arrive in the country Wednesday, and is expected to tell Israeli and Palestinian officials the Obama administration wants to focus on stabilizing the Israel-Gaza cease-fire, rebuilding the Gaza Strip, and countering arms smuggling into Gaza with the help of Israel, Egypt and the European Union." U.S. urges stronger Gaza ceasefire "The new U.S. envoy for the Middle East has said it is 'critically' important to extend the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire."

Iran. Clinton Sees an Opportunity for Iran to Return to Diplomacy "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that Iran had a 'clear opportunity' to engage with the international community, amplifying the conciliatory tone struck a day earlier by President Obama toward Iran and the rest of the Muslim world." Ahmadinejad demands U.S. apology "The U.S. should apologize for 'crimes' it has committed against Iran if it wants a better relationship with Tehran, the Iranian president said today, after recent overtures to the Muslim world from the new administration in Washington." Iranian leader seeks U.S. apology "Iran's president has responded to an overture by the new U.S. president by demanding an apology for past U.S. 'crimes' committed against Iran." Ahmadinejad: U.S. must change policy "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a rally in western Iran on Wednesday that Barack Obama's administration must be committed to a path of dialogue with Iran."

Russia. Analysis: Russia's olive branch to Obama "The Kremlin has finally caught on to the radical global changes triggered by President Obama's victory and the crisis gripping the world's economies, particularly Russia's."

Zimbabwe. Obama leads drive to topple Mugabe "President Obama wants a fresh approach to toppling Robert Mugabe and is discussing with aides an unprecedented, U.S.-led diplomatic push to get tough new U.N. sanctions imposed against the Zimbabwe regime." Zimbabwe cholera deaths top 3,000 "The death toll from the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe has now passed the 3,000 mark, the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO) has said."

Mexico. Mexican workers send less cash home from the U.S. "Over the past decade, entire towns in Mexico have been rebuilt with money sent from immigrants or migrant workers living in the U.S. Now, for the first time since Mexico's Central Bank began keeping records (13 years ago), total annual remittances from the U.S. have fallen."

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