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Monday’s Headlines: Afghanistan, Climate Change and Health Care


— A U.S. soldier shakes hands with villagers during a patrol in the Narang district of the eastern Kunar province in Afghanistan on Sunday. (Photo by Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images)

Several news organizations over the weekend focused their attention to dissecting President Barack Obama’s decision making concerning his strategy in Afghanistan. The New York Times and the Washington Post both reported on the president’s meetings leading up to his speech at West Point last Tuesday.

The Times reported that Mr. Obama visited Arlington National Cemetery, where he spent some time wandering among the tombstones of fallen service members. The president’s deliberations were painstakingly detailed and organized, according to the Times. He worried about both the economic and human cost of the war, and asked his advisers to submit their opinions regardless of how controversial or difficult.

“The president welcomed a full range of opinions and invited contrary points of view,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said to the Times last month. “And I thought it was a very healthy experience because people took him up on it.”

Despite a long and deliberate three-month process, the final Afghanistan strategy remains largely unchanged from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s original assessment in August, according to the Washington Post. McChrystal intends to use the 30,000 additional soldiers and the 7,000 NATO troops to protect key cities in the south and east, where the Taliban remain strong.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will work on the new strategy during visits to Fort Campbell and Fort Hood on Monday. Three brigades stationed at Fort Campbell are scheduled to deploy, and other units are waiting their orders. The NewsHour’s Margaret Warner will update the story on Monday’s program.

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Clinton emphasized to ABC’s “This Week” that the president’s speech last week outlined guidelines, rather than deadlines, for the war in Afghanistan. The July 2011 date, for instance, will be when troops begin withdrawing, but a military presence is likely to remain for years to come.

And while the nation anxiously waits to see how the Afghanistan war will play out in the next 18 months, NPR reports that other issues are falling by the wayside. Nearly 100 world leaders will convene Monday in Copenhagen to discuss climate change, an unprecedented showing according to NPR, yet public opinion is souring on the issue in the United States. Fewer than 50 percent of Americans believe that carbon dioxide build up is causing the planet’s temperature to rise, according to a recent Harris Poll. And even if it responsible for global warming, the dour economy is at the top of people’s concerns. On the health care front, Democrats wrangled with a new proposal on the public option that would allow private companies a central role in running the program. The compromise, aimed at building unity in the party, came as President Obama met with Democratic lawmakers Sunday. Party leaders hope to finalize agreements this week, before heading home for the holidays.

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