Environment

From the conclusion of the Guardian's extremely thorough anatomy of what went wrong with the August 20 election in Afghanistan: [A] run-off is likely to suffer from many of the same problems as the first vote. It's worth reading the whole Guardian piece to get a sense of just how botched that first vote. really was. And you have to hope the run-off will at least be a little bitter: now that the international community seems more resolved to fight election fraud, maybe Karzai will be less committed to engaging in it. But resolve can only do so much.

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The Congressional Budget Office tells us what legislation will cost, but can't always answer that question accurately. Lori Montgomery explains. Some legislators representing rural states are very keen to keep down the cost of health care reform, except when it means paying their home-state hospitals less. Eric Pianin and Mary Agnes Carey have the story. Matthew Holt: AHIP needs a public option. Jordan Rau: AHIP needs truth serum. Olympia Snowe tells Ezra Klein she still hopes to strengthen the bill she supported in the Senate Finance Committee.

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A few things stand out upon a first reading of Obama's official Sudan policy announcement, TNR's copy of which is pasted below. One is the stark language it uses regarding President Omar Al Bashir's indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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For months, the White House has been saying that President Obama would personally roll out the results of his administration's long-delayed Sudan Policy Review, which will officially set the direction of U.S. policy for Darfur and South Sudan, a region that will soon decide whether to become an independent country. (Update: Click here to read the text of the actual policy and my analysis.) Now, the review is finally here. It will be announced by Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and the U.S. envoy to Sudan, General Scott Gration.

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Spend and Deliver

Congress has been formally debating health care reform for almost nine months. And the country, as a whole, has been debating it for years. But now that the last congressional committee with jurisdiction has approved legislation, lawmakers are confronting the essential conundrum that's bedeviled this issue all along: Their desire to expand health insurance coverage exceeds their willingness to pay for it. As deliberations move to the House and Senate floors, then on to conference-committee negotiations, something has to give.

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Via Tyler Cowen, a new economic study, inspired by new Nobel-winner Elinor Ostrom, shows that local ownership of tropical forests is the best way to preserve them: In the first study of its kind, Chhatre and Arun Agrawal of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor compared forest ownership with data on carbon sequestration, which is estimated from the size and number of trees in a forest. Hectare-for-hectare, they found that tropical forest under local management stored more carbon than government-owned forests.

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NYT: Afghan and American officials said the earliest that a runoff vote could be held was late this month or early next month, with results expected about two weeks later. Some Afghans said, however, that the vote might have to be delayed because of bad winter weather until the spring, a nightmare situation for a White House that does not want to remain in limbo. For context, here's Stanley McChrystal quoted by Dexter Filkins in Sunday's NYT magazine: When the briefing was finished, McChrystal looked around the room.

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No, not Dwight Eisenhower (and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles), who thought of his Arabs as the Egyptians. Frankly, in 1956, nobody thought of Palestinians, including especially the Palestinians. And, no, not even Jimmy Carter, who, while now especially entranced with the Palestinians, including Hamas, was beginning his macabre infatuation with Hafez Assad. Then there was George Herbert Walker Bush and his sidekick James Baker, who didn't much like the Jews but wanted especially to please the Saudis. The U.S.

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As we now know, the Obama White House is re-examining some first-principle questions about the war in Afghanistan. How connected are al Qaeda and the Taliban? What would be the effect of ceding territory to the Taliban? How effective are drone strikes without a major troop presence to support them. The answers to the questions remain unclear. But beyond the substantive mystery, there's also a process mystery. How did the administration and the military brass come away from their first review with such different interpretations of what had been decided?

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Obamamania in Guinea

An interesting article from the NYT's Adam Nossiter on how, with Obama now in the White House, the Guinean junta is wary of getting on the wrong side of the U.S.: When William Fitzgerald, deputy assistant secretary of state, delivered an unusual personal dressing-down to the junta leader, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, the reaction was not sputtering rage, as it had been after tough words from the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner. Instead, the volatile officer listened with apparent calm.

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