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President Obama is putting the finishing touches on his proposal to withdraw American military forces from Afghanistan. Obama is expected to outline his plan Wednesday night as he looks to fulfill his pledge to start withdrawing troops by July but is caught between a rock and a soft place: the military and his own administration.—-

Military leaders such as outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates would prefer a gradual withdrawal, while John McCain, who has been opposed to a withdrawal timetable all along, told Fox News that a “modest” withdrawal of support troops would be fine. But McCain has expressed concern that the president might go overboard in withdrawing combat forces. "That would be drawing down people before the job is finished, particularly in eastern Afghanistan," McCain said Tuesday. "We have a lot of problems in Afghanistan, but the surge is working in southern Afghanistan and it can in the eastern part."

The Los Angeles Times reported that Obama plans to call for 10,000 personnel to be brought home by the end of 2011, far more than some Pentagon officials preferred, Fox News reports. But several White House officials have said that Obama has not yet made any final decisions. "When the president makes a decision, we'll then announce it," one White House official said. "The reporting today is all over the map, and we're not playing whack-a-mole with the various scenarios."

The pentagon. Credit: Pete Photog

The growing political pressure on Capitol Hill for a more significant withdrawal is sure to have an impact on the president’s verdict after 27 senators, Democrats as well as Republicans, sent Obama a letter last week pressing for a shift in Afghanistan strategy and major troop cuts. "Given our successes, it is the right moment to initiate a sizable and sustained reduction in forces, with the goal of steadily redeploying all regular combat troops," the senators wrote. "The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits."

Former Republican Utah governor and ambassador to China John Huntsman today officially announced his intent to run for president in 2012, making him the 27th Republican to declare. "For the first time in our history, we are about to pass down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got," Huntsman said. "This is totally unacceptable and totally un-American." Huntsman, like other Republicans with some unexplained affinity for lame duck presidents, referenced president Reagan in his speech as he stood where Reagan announced his plans to run 30 years ago, in Liberty State Park. "[Reagan] assured us we could 'make America great again,' and under his leadership we did," said Huntsman. "I stand in his shadow as well as the shadow of this magnificent monument to our liberty."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee used prominent Democrats on Twitter to promote their new website DemsPlanForAmerica.com on Monday. The NRSC Twitter account sent out several fake retweets for tweets that didn’t exist on the Twitter accounts of multiple Democrats including Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and President Obama. One tweet read, “RT @BarackObama My budget failed 0-97 but wait till you see @SenateDems budget –BO http://demsplanforamerica.com”

DemsPlanForAmerica.com is a blank website.

Democrats are brainstorming what sort of interests to list for when they create fake MySpace account for GOP members. Moose hunting, cross burning and misspelling are already on the shortlist.

By 2012, cigarette smokers will have to see decaying teeth or a burly mustachioed man declaring his intent to quit every time they reach into their pack of menthols for another cancer stick. The FDA today released nine new warning labels that depict in graphic detail the negative health effects of tobacco use. Also among the labels are the corpse of a smoker, diseased lungs and a mother holding her baby with smoke swirling around them. "These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. The FDA is unsure why they haven’t seen a decline in smoking, which is responsible for about 443,000 deaths in the U.S. a year. What, no one noticed that not a single cigarette was smoked in Thank You For Smoking?

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