Daily News Digest

By Duane Shank 1-17-2008

the latest news on Abortion, Voters, Republicans in South Carolina, Immigration & campaign, Economy, Iran, Egypt, Israel-Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Kenya, Afghanistan, Cities, India, and Food aid.

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Abortion. Abortions Hit Lowest Number Since 1976 "The number of abortions performed in the United States dropped to 1.2 million in 2005 -- the lowest level since 1976, according to a new report." Abortions down 25% from peak "A comprehensive study of abortion in America underscores a striking change in the landscape, with ever-fewer pregnant women choosing abortion and those who do increasingly opting to avoid surgical clinics." Abortions at 30-year low "According to the figures being published Thursday, the abortion rate was 19.4 per 1,000 women age 15-44 in 2005, the last year for which information is available. At its peak in 1981, the rate was 29.3, up from 19.3 in 1974."

Voters. Americans revved up and ready to vote "American voters, to borrow a candidate's phrase, are fired up and ready to go. Turnout in the opening Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary this month smashed records. By 2-1, those surveyed in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll say they're more enthusiastic than usual about voting this year." Race heats up "A remarkably unpredictable and chaotic campaign, with multiple candidates in both parties trading victories and no one grabbing the front-runner's role, has strategists pondering a race that extends well into February if not far beyond."

Republicans in South Carolina. In S. Carolina, little zeal over GOP field "Faced with a broad array of Republican suitors, some more ardent than others, South Carolinians remain in a deep dither over whom to favor with their votes as the nation's first-in-the-South presidential primary approaches on Saturday." Unifying Message Likely to Produce GOP's Standout "The three Republicans who have won early-state contests have succeeded in an atmosphere of hyperlocal politics, using personal charisma and energetic retail campaigning to appeal to narrow constituencies." McCain Takes the Fight To Negative Opponents "As Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) campaigned in South Carolina yesterday, he confronted crudely produced fliers attacking his war record and a blitz of robotic phone calls twisting his position on abortion, attacks he said were reminiscent of the political kneecapping he endured in the state eight years ago."

Immigration & campaign. Huckabee vows to send all illegal aliens home "Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee continued to move to the right on immigration during this year's presidential campaign, signing a pledge to enforce immigration laws and to make all illegal aliens go home." Group starts effort to 'Draft Lou Dobbs' "Add "Draft Lou Dobbs" to the efforts by independents to bring another candidate into the presidential race. The movement was launched Wednesday by a group called Americans for Legal Immigration. In a press release, it praised the CNN host for "his tough stance on border security and curbing illegal immigration."

Economy. Parties suggest they'd yield for stimulus pact "As the increasingly troubled economy emerges as the trump issue of the 2008 political season, senior congressional Republicans said they would put aside demands to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent if that was what it took to get quick action on a stimulus package. Democrats, meantime, signaled they too would consider compromises in the interest of fast action," Tiptoeing Around the Olive Branch "It is a testament to the decline in party relations in the House that a simple private meeting Wednesday between Democratic and Republican leaders to discuss an economic stimulus plan was treated as remarkable."

Iran . GAO Report Challenges Effect of Longtime U.S. Sanctions on Iran "A three-year international effort to pressure Iran is faltering, with a new report to Congress questioning the impact of 20 years of U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran and a long-sought U.N. resolution against Iran in trouble." Congressional watchdog questions impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran "Two decades' worth of U.S. economic sanctions against Iran appear to have had little impact, Congress' investigative arm said Wednesday, calling into question a key pillar of President Bush's strategy to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions and support for terrorism." US fails to isolate Iran from Arabs "George Bush, the US president, has urged Arab states to think of Iran as the greatest threat to their security, but his warnings are likely to fall on deaf ears in the Middle East."

Egypt. Bush says Egypt on path to 'political openness' "President Bush, wrapping up a series of visits with Arab leaders who are working to expand their economies but wary of relaxing their grip on power, praised Egypt as making progress toward "greater political openness." Democracy Activists Disappointed in Bush "President Bush ended a Middle East tour that political activists saw as lacking the strong calls for democratization made earlier in his administration, disappointing those once encouraged by the statements of American leaders."

Israel-Palestine. Olmert: Israel at war in Gaza "Two Palestinians have been killed in another round of Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip. The latest offensive came as Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, said the country was at "war" against fighters in the Gaza Strip." Qassams pound Sderot; IDF kills 5 in Gaza "Tension along the border with the Gaza Strip continued as Hamas fired close to 50 Qassam rockets and at least a dozen mortar shells at Israel, while five Palestinians were killed in air strikes. Three of the dead Palestinians were civilians who were killed when a missile missed its target." Many miles, no breakthroughs "President George Bush may have been feeling upbeat as he wrapped up his Middle East tour in Egypt today and headed back to Washington laden with gifts from kings and emirs. But otherwise he has little to show for his eight days in the region and - with the glaring exception of Israel - he can have little doubt that US policies are both unpopular and unsuccessful."

Iraq. U.S. Boosts Its Use of Airstrikes In Iraq "The U.S. military conducted more than five times as many airstrikes in Iraq last year as it did in 2006, targeting al-Qaeda safe houses, insurgent bombmaking facilities and weapons stockpiles in an aggressive strategy aimed at supporting the U.S. troop increase by overwhelming enemies with air power." A rift over U.S. troop cuts in Iraq "President Bush has declared that the planned troop drawdown in Iraq is "on track," but within the Defense Department, signs of disagreement are emerging over how much further US forces can be cut later this year. At issue is how much of a drawdown is possible after the expected departure of five combat brigades from Iraq this summer."

Syria. West says N. Korea, Syria had nuclear link "Western governments have concluded that Syria and North Korea were collaborating on a nuclear weapons program at a mysterious site in the Syrian desert that was bombed by Israel last year, a senior European diplomat said."

Kenya. Kenya 'turned into killing field' "Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has accused the government and the police of turning the country into "killing fields of the innocent". Kenyan police 'kill 10' "Police in Kenya shot 10 people dead today as protests against the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki continued,"

Afghanistan. Gates: US allies do not know how to fight insurgents "Deepening divisions within Nato over its military operations in Afghanistan emerged yesterday after Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said America's allies did not know how to fight insurgencies."

Cities. Cities ramp up their kid-friendly hospitality "After more than a decade of wooing young professionals with loft apartments, nightclubs and Internet cafes, cities are tackling a new challenge: hanging on to them once they start having children."

India. Push for Education Yields Little for India's Poor "Sixty years after independence, with 40 percent of its population under 18, India is now confronting the perils of its failure to educate its citizens, notably the poor. More Indian children are in school than ever before, but the quality of public schools like this one has sunk to spectacularly low levels, as government schools have become reserves of children at the very bottom of India's social ladder."

Food aid. Congress aims to cut food aid for world crises "The Bush administration is fighting congressional efforts to slash the amount of emergency food aid the United States provides around the world, saying the cuts could hurt up to 8 million people in dire need."

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