the latest news on congress, Iraq, Pope Benedict, Iran, Venezuela, U.S. military, education, child support, faith and politics, and select op-eds
Congress. President, Congress Ready to Begin the Next Round "Bush and congressional Democrats once talked of working together to get big things done, but that sentiment vanished amid trench warfare over the stalemated children's health-care bill, spending bills still on hold and the Hill's unsuccessful efforts to force a new course in Iraq." White House-Hill face-off looms "Congress returns to a packed agenda this week as Democrats head for a year-end showdown with the White House over spending, taxes and the Iraq war."
Iraq . U.S. presses Iraq on reconciliation "Top U.S. diplomatic and military officials Sunday urged Iraq's lawmakers to speed up political progress, a sign of Washington's concern that security gains could be squandered amid legislative infighting." Sunnis return to parliament as Negroponte asks for political progress "Sunni parliament members agreed to return to the legislative assembly after a brief boycott ended Sunday night, as a top U.S. official warned of future violence if more political reconciliation is not made." Iraqi insurgents regrouping, says resistance leader "Iraq's main Sunni-led resistance groups have scaled back their attacks on US forces in Baghdad and parts of Anbar province in a deliberate strategy aimed at regrouping, retraining, and waiting out George Bush's "surge",
Iran . In Iraq, U.S. shifts its tone on Iran "In the last two months, though, there has been a shift in U.S. military and diplomatic attitudes toward Iran. Officials have backed away from sweeping accusations that the Iranian leadership is orchestrating massive smuggling of arms, agents and ammunition. Instead, they have agreed to a new round of talks with Iranian and Iraqi officials over security in Iraq."
Venezuela . Chávez loses life rule bid "The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, has lost a referendum that would have allowed him to run for re-election indefinitely and enshrined socialism in the country." Voters reject Chavez's reform bid "Voters on Sunday defeated a package of constitutional reforms that could have indefinitely extended President Hugo Chavez's grip on power here. It was a shocking electoral loss for the strongman, his first in nine years at the helm."
US military. US military sees increased role in humanitarian efforts overseas "The US military, deeply immersed in reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, has almost overnight become a major player in the traditionally civilian work of helping poor countries develop. It now spends more than 21 percent of all US overseas aid, nearly a fourfold percentage increase in just three years."
Education. Renewal of No Child Left Behind legislation challenged "The wrangling over the law, which demands that every child be "proficient" - working at grade level in reading and math - by 2014, has grown so rancorous that Congress is unlikely to reauthorize or change the program this year. NCLB will renew automatically if Congress fails to act."
Child support. Mothers Skimp as States Take Child Support"The collection of child support from absent fathers is failing to help many of the poorest families, in part because the government uses fathers' payments largely to recoup welfare costs rather than passing on the money to mothers and children."
Pope Benedict. Pope Stresses Hope in Latest Teaching "Atheism may be "understandable" when mankind is confronted with evil and suffering, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his second encyclical, issued on Friday. But the attempt to banish God, he wrote, "has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice," whether through Marxist revolution or the science that produced the atomic bomb."
Faith & politics. Romney Plans to Address Concerns About His Faith "His campaign is calling it an opportunity for him to "share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation and how the governor's own faith would inform his presidency if he were elected." Huckabee: 'a different kind of Jesus juice' "Here in Arkansas, where Huckabee ruled as governor for 10 1/2 years, voters grew accustomed to a different brand of Republican -- a governor with an idiosyncratic agenda that was sometimes difficult to categorize, but always driven, Huckabee insists, by his Southern Baptist faith."
Religion as a political weapon (David Domke, USA Today) "Though the Founders sought to avoid the communion between politics and faith, presidents of the past three decades have thought, and acted, otherwise. Carter ran proudly as a Southern Baptist but honored the church-state line while in office. But beginning with Reagan, that distinct line began to fade." How are the main contenders handling the faith issue? "Religious politics are nearly impossible to miss in the 2008 presidential campaign. A look at religion and the top contenders in each party:"
A New Green Economics (Ban Ki-moon, Washington Post) "We have read the science. Global warming is real, and we are a prime cause. We have heard the warnings. Unless we act, now, we face serious consequences.