When Barack Obama ran for president, he claimed that improving early childhood education would be a hallmark of his education reform agenda. Unfortunately, his policies in office have not lived up to that promise.

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Madrid–Outgoing Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, of Spain, had until recently been the beneficiary of propitious circumstances. Party infighting enabled him to outmaneuver the establishment favorite in the 2000 primaries. Four years later, he eked out an eleventh hour victory in national elections when a terrorist bombing mere days before voting turned the tide against incumbent conservatives.

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Teflon Newt?

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Newt surge is that the man’s past has yet to catch up with him. At first glance, Newt Gingrich seems like God’s gift to opposition researchers. There’s the $1.6 million fee he collected from Freddie Mac, the $500,000 line of credit he holds at Tiffany’s, and the climate-change ad he filmed with Nancy Pelosi. Like Herman Cain, he has a history of sexual improprieties. Like Mitt Romney, he has a less-than-perfect pro-life record. Most damningly in today’s Republican climate, he is the ultimate Beltway insider—and has been for nearly two decades.

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As the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced a fall in the unemployment rate from 9.0 to 8.6 percent, it noted that a contraction of the labor force accounted for more than half the reduction in the number of unemployed.

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[with contributions from Matt O'Brien and Darius Tahir] Mitt Romney is preparing to attack Newt Gingrich, according to Politico, with a heavy emphasis on flip-flopping. Good luck with that, Mitt. As I wrote the other day, I am skeptical this line of attack works on Gingrich, at least when it's coming from Romney. Generally speaking, inconsistency can hurt a politician in one of two ways. It can suggest the politician lacks core convictions – i.e., it can reflect poorly on his character.

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Fayoum, Egypt—The big story from Egypt’s parliamentary elections, the first round of which concluded on Tuesday, will likely be the Muslim Brotherhood’s impressive victory.

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Newt Gingrich is having an impressive national polling surge. His chances of grabbing the GOP presidential nomination have spiked up to over 30 percent at Intrade this week, and the media is full of stories about whether it’s time to start taking him seriously. Here’s my advice: don’t. None of the recent polling means he’s going to win the Republican nomination, nor does it even mean that he’s going to have a serious shot at it.

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On Monday, a single, ringing court decision gave hope that Wall Street will finally be held to account for its role in causing the financial crisis. Federal District Court Judge Jed Rakoff’s opinion may soon force the SEC, the federal government’s investment regulator, to take big banks to court, rather than continuing to come to terms with them in out-of-court settlements.

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[with contributions from Matt O'Brien and Darius Tahir] Thursday was World AIDS Day. I meant to write something substantial about it but didn't have time to do the research. I’ll try to come back around to the topic soon. It's an important story -- and a complicated one. In the last few years, the U.S. has led the effort to distribute HIV drugs around the world, saving literally millions of lives. Bono and Harold Pollack (also a rock star, at least in the policy world) make this point today. Both go out of their way to cite President Bush’s contributions to the cause.

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My colleague Tim Noah thinks the Senate Republicans have completely undercut their economic argument on taxes with their proposal to extend payroll tax relief. He’s right! The Senate Republican proposal is a counter-offer to the Democrats’, which would reduce payroll taxes for everybody who pays them, and then cover the cost of that by imposing higher income taxes on people who make more than $1 million annually.

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