the latest news on Budget, Energy bill , Senate-President, Nuclear weapons, Iraq, South Africa, Gaza, Darfur, Immigration, Food, Capital punishment editorial, and selected Op-Eds.
Budget. Iraq Funds Approved In Senate Budget Bill "The Senate approved a $555 billion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, shortly after bowing to President Bush's demand for $70 billion in unrestricted funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." Senate passes $555-billion spending bill "Congressional Democrats' yearlong campaign to bring the war in Iraq to an end concluded with a whimper as the Senate failed again to pass a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from the conflict." Senate Adds $70 Billion for Wars in Spending Bill"The Senate voted Tuesday night to approve a sweeping year-end budget package after adding $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the objections of Democrats who have been stymied all year in their efforts to change the course of the conflict in Iraq."
Energy bill. House Sends President An Energy Bill to Sign "A year of rhetoric, lobbying, veto threats and negotiations ended as the House of Representatives voted 314 to 100 to pass an energy bill that President Bush is to sign this morning." Bush signs landmark energy bill "President Bush today signed a landmark energy bill designed to cut U.S. dependence on overseas oil by imposing the greatest fuel efficiency standards in more than three decades and mandating a fivefold increase in the use of biofuels."
Senate-President. Reid's Chilly Relationship With Bush Enters a Deep Freeze "Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, has called President Bush a loser and a liar and has referred to him derisively as King George. Mr. Reid has also apologized - but only, he likes to point out, for the "loser" line."
Nuclear weapons. Administration Plans to Shrink U.S. Nuclear Arms Program "The Bush administration announced its intention to modernize and sharply reduce the size of the nation's aging nuclear weapons program by closing or abandoning 600 buildings at facilities across the country and gradually reducing the associated workforce by at least 7,200." U.S. to cut nuclear weapons stockpile "The Bush administration said that it would make a 15% reduction in the nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons, taking the overall inventory down to less than a quarter of its size at the end of the Cold War in 1991." Bush orders cuts in nuclear arms stockpile "President Bush has approved "a significant reduction" in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, cutting it to less than one-quarter its size at the end of the Cold War,"
Iraq. Pentagon reports security gains in Iraq "Security in Iraq has improved consistently and dramatically in nearly every major category over the last three months, the most sustained period of such gains in nearly two years, according to the first Pentagon report to attempt to quantify recent progress in detail. However, the report also makes it clear that progress could easily be lost unless improvements are made quickly in Iraq's economy and its unreliable central government," All Iraqi Groups Blame U.S. Invasion for Discord, Study Shows "Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of "occupying forces" as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S. military last month." UN Extends US-Led Force in Iraq "The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to extend the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq for one year, a move that Iraq's prime minister said would be his nation's "final request" for help."
South Africa. Zuma takes over divided ANC "The party's large majority in parliament makes Zuma almost certain to become the country's president when Thabo Mbeki steps down in 2009." Zuma Is Chosen to Lead A.N.C."The African National Congress chose the Zulu politician Jacob G. Zuma as its new leader on Tuesday, handing South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, a resounding defeat."
Gaza. Olmert vows to continue targeting leaders behind Qassam strikes "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged Tuesday to target terrorist leaders in the Gaza Strip responsible for the rockets fired at southern Israel, after Israel Air Force raids killed at least 11 Palestinians since Monday night including the head of the Islamic Jihad military wing in Gaza." Israel's Dilemma in Response to Rockets "Despite the lethality and accuracy of the Israeli airstrikes, Israel finds itself with no effective military answer to the problem of rockets from Gaza."
Darfur. U.N. operation in Darfur short troops "The United Nations will have only a third of the troops it wants and just three of the 24 military helicopters it needs when it takes over the troubled peacekeeping mission in Sudan's Darfur region Jan. 1,"
Immigration. Judge May Not Step in to Halt Arizona Law "The legal effort to block what is widely considered the nation's toughest law against employers who hire illegal immigrants may be headed for a setback in Arizona after a federal judge said Tuesday that he was not inclined to stop the law from going into effect Jan. 1." Catholic priests urge immigration reform "Responding to what they perceive as anti-immigrant rhetoric from presidential candidates, dozens of Roman Catholic priests on Tuesday used the religious message of Advent to express support for immigrants and call for legislative reform."
Food. World Food Supply Is Shrinking, U.N. Agency Warns"In an "unforeseen and unprecedented" shift, the world food supply is dwindling rapidly and food prices are soaring to historic levels, the United Nations' top food and agriculture official warned Monday."
Capital punishment. Executions in U.S. Decline to 13-Year Low, Study Finds "The number of executions in the United States has declined to a 13-year low, according to a study by a research group that has been critical of the way the death penalty is applied. The 42 executions recorded in 2007 are the fewest since 1994," U.N. adopts death penalty moratorium "The General Assembly adopted a moratorium on the death penalty, overcoming opposition from the United States," UN General Assembly calls for death penalty moratorium "The UN General Assembly yesterday called for a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing executions, approving a resolution opposed by the United States, China, and Iran."
Harsh words on immigrants could backfire on GOP (USA Today) "Listening to the Republican presidential candidates, you might sometimes think that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the softening economy, a government in serious debt or a planet in climatological peril are second-tier issues. They're talked about, but the talk is often drowned out by a clattering, non-stop debate about illegal immigration."
The U.N.'s death blow (Louise Arbour, Los Angeles Times) "When the U.N. General Assembly called Tuesday for a worldwide moratorium on the application of the death penalty, it took a significant step toward the definitive abolition of capital punishment, a move that would enhance the protection of human rights and the inviolability of the person."
The Choices in Darfur (Michael Gerson, Washington Post) "On Jan. 1, the United Nations, in cooperation with the African Union, will take control of peacekeeping operations in the Darfur region of Sudan, where more than 200,000 are dead in a genocide and about 2 million have been forced into refugee camps. This international intervention must succeed, or all the post-Rwanda promises of "never again" will be revealed as pious lies."