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I hadn't been aware of the uproar in Afghanistan over the alleged desecration of a koran by American forces until the Washington Post flagged it in passing this morning. It's a reminder that the Taliban can match our guns and helicopters with some equally powerful lies.

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Putin's Game

After years of stalemate, negotiations over Iran's controversial nuclear development program seemed to progress last week when an Iranian delegation in Vienna agreed to the export and modification of its low-enriched uranium. The resulting optimism did not last. Officials in Tehran demurred, insisting that they needed more time to study the proposal and could not meet Friday's deadline to ratify the agreement. While Iran's stonewalling came as a disappointment to the United States, it did not come as a surprise.

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Now, everybody who reads me knows that I am not a big supporter of administration policy on the Middle East. But, then, I am not a big supporter of its foreign policy almost anywhere. No, let me correct that. Not "almost anywhere." But "anywhere." That said, I don't believe that President Obama is trying to weaken the United States or its allies.

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Is it curtains for the strong public option? Over the past week, the White House has taken a lot of heat for not going to bat for it, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has reportedly just decided that the Senate bill will include a watered-down proposal that would allow states to opt out of a national public plan.

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Paradise Lost: Is California Finished? by John B. Judis We Now Have a Black President. Was Booker T. Washington Wrong? by Steven Hahn Senate Dems to Obama: We Could Use a Little More Help Here, by Jonathan Cohn Can a Self-Described 'Boring as Hell' Candidate Really Lead a Major American City for 20 Straight Years? by E.J. Dionne Jr. Writing Is Increasingly About Speed. What a Shame. by Damon Linker The News Keeps Getting Worse for the Class of 2009, by Noam Scheiber The Art of the Impossible: Building Megaprojects During the Recession, by David Jackson The T.E.

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After a weekend of furious activity, Democratic leaders in the Senate think they are close to getting the votes they need in order to pass an "opt-out" version of the public option. But they feel like President Obama could be doing more to help them, with one senior staffer telling TNR on Sunday that the leadership would like, but has yet to receive, a clear "signal" of support for their effort. The White House, for its part, says President Obama supports a strong public option, as he always has--and that, as one senior administration official puts it, the president will support the Senate le

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The Race Man

Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington By Robert J. Norrell (Harvard University Press, 508 pp., $35)   I. Once the most famous and influential African American in the United States (and probably the world), Booker T. Washington has earned at best mixed reviews in the decades since his death in 1915. Black intellectuals and political activists, from W. E. B.

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End State

California is a mess, but I love it all the same--especially the Bay Area, where I lived for 15 years. I went to Berkeley in 1962--a refugee from Amherst College, which at that time was dominated by frat boys with high SAT scores. I didn't go to Berkeley to go to school, but to be a bus ride away from North Beach and the Jazz Workshop. In a broader sense, I went to California for the same reason that other émigrés had been going since the 1840s. I was knocking on the Golden Door. Immigrants from Europe had come to America seeking happiness and a break with their unhappy pasts.

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'Boring As Hell'

BOSTON -- Mayor Tom Menino looks around the elevator and reaches instinctively for the hand of the only person in the car he's never met. "Where are you from?" he asks the young man. "Somerville," the young man replies. The mayor almost recoils. "Somerville!" he exclaims with a dismissive wave--there are no votes for him in Somerville--and then says a word that sounds like: "Echhh!" It was a revealing moment for a mayor destined to go down as an American political legend. If Menino is re-elected on Nov.

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The defense ministers of our NATO allies met last week in Slovakia--a place where NATO power has much recent neighborly resonance--and among the gathering was also Robert Gates. His position on Afghanistan is not quite clear, poised as he is between his president and his men. Of course, Obama has more power.

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