Obama will mark pullout with prime-time speech

President Obama is promoting the decision to end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq today as a fulfillment of his campaign promise to draw the war to a close. But some of the president’s detractors are using the same moment to question the wisdom of doing so – noting that Iraq is still afflicted with violence and has yet to form a government.

Obama will mark the occasion by flying to Fort Bliss, Texas, to meet with veterans. He will also deliver a prime-time Oval Office speech – only his second since taking office.

On Monday, the president visited Walter Reed hospital and awarded 11 Purple Hearts to combat veterans. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Iraq to amplify the message.

“Maybe he’s entitled to the partial victory lap, but this is not the right moment for it,” said analyst Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, who has been critical of both Democratic and Republican approaches to the war. “If I were him, I’d wait until we have an Iraqi government, and do it with the Iraqis together.”

O’Hanlon said he was “confused about the planned Oval Office speech.” It could raise unrealistic expectations among the public about the chances for calm in Iraq, he said.

White House officials said the speech, scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. and last 15 to 20 minutes, would acknowledge this week’s deadline as a “milestone” and pay tribute to the 1.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq since 2003.

Obama will address shifting U.S. options now that the country is no longer technically at war in Iraq, including a greater emphasis on Afghanistan and Pakistan – and the domestic economy.


C-sections account for one-third of all births in United States

More women will be giving birth by C-section for the foreseeable future, government scientists said Monday, releasing a study into the causes of a trend that troubles maternal health experts.

Overall, cesarean deliveries account for about a third of births in the U.S. While much attention has recently focused on women having repeat C-sections, researchers with the National Institutes of Health found that nearly one third of first-time moms delivered by cesarean.

That is “somewhat surprising,” said Dr. Jun Zhang, lead author of a study that looked at nearly 230,000 deliveries in 19 hospitals around the country. “It has consequences for future pregnancies.”

Many doctors and hospitals follow a policy of “once a cesarean, always a cesarean.”

The study also suggested a link between chemically induced labor and higher likelihood of a C-section. Women whose labor was induced were twice as likely to have a cesarean. The authors said more research is needed to clarify if there’s a cause-and-effect relationship.

Many medical experts consider cesarean deliveries to be a major component of “overtreatment” in the U.S. Indeed, new clinical recommendations say vaginal birth is safe for most women who have had a first C-section.


Mosque developers form nonprofit, owe back taxes

The developers behind a proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near ground zero have formed a nonprofit organization, an important step as they move forward with their fundraising efforts.

Meanwhile, New York City officials confirmed Monday the developers owe more than $200,000 in back taxes on the Manhattan building where the Park51 center is slated to open. The developers say they’re challenging the real estate assessment to reduce the property taxes.

The nonprofit Park51 Inc. was incorporated in Delaware on Aug. 23. The papers were then submitted to New York state’s Charities Bureau.

KABUL, Afghanistan

Seven U.S. troops killed by roadside bombs in day

Roadside bombs killed seven American troops on Monday – including five in a single blast in Kandahar – raising to more than a dozen the number who have died in the last three days.

The spike in deaths comes as President Hamid Karzai has publicly raised doubts about the U.S. strategy in the war, saying success cannot be achieved until more Afghans are in the front lines and insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan are shut down.


Drill begins work to free 33 men trapped in mine

An enormous drill began preliminary work Monday on carving a half-mile chimney through solid rock to free the 33 men trapped in a Chilean mine, their ordeal now having equaled the longest known survival in an underground disaster.

The 31-ton drill bored 50 feet into the rock, the first step in the weeklong digging of a “pilot hole” to guide the way for the rescue. Later the drill will be outfitted with larger bits to expand the hole and pull the men through – a process that could take four months.

The men were trapped Aug. 5 in the mine in the northern Atacama Desert.


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