By Mark Memmott

Good morning.

Sarah Palin's no longer the governor of Alaska. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is talking -- a rare thing for a Fed chairman to do. Health care is again atop Washington's agenda. North Korea says it's willing to talk. Chinese and U.S. diplomats are sitting down in Washington, while the mainland and Taiwan have exchanged letters. And the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan says that nation's upcoming election is critical to its future.

Those are some of the stories making headlines:

-- Morning Edition -- It's 'Politics, Western-Style' In Afghanistan: Next month's elections "are the most important event in Afghanistan this year," U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke tells NPR's Renne Montagne, who's in that country to cover the voting:

From a related story on NPR.org -- "U.S. Aims In Afghanistan Hinge On Election."

From a related story by BBC News -- " 'Taliban Deal' In Afghanistan: "The Afghan government has agreed on a truce with Taliban insurgents in the north-western province of Badghis."

 Supporters of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah at a campaign event in Charikar city of Parwan province, north of Kabul on July 26, 2009. Credit: MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images.

Supporters of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah at a campaign rally in Parwan province, north of Kabul on Sunday. (Massoud Hossaini / AFP/Getty Images © 2009)

-- The Associated Press -- "North Korea Says It Is Open To Talks": "North Korea said Monday that it is open to new dialogue to defuse tensions over its nuclear weapons program in what appeared to be a call for direct talks with the United States. The statement from Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry marks a rare expression of willingness to talk by a regime that has rapidly escalated tensions with a flurry of provocations in recent months, including a nuclear test and a series of missile launches."

From a related story by South Korea's Yonhap News Agency -- North Says It Won't Return To Six-Party Talks: " North Korea on Monday demanded a new form of dialogue to resolve the stalemate over its nuclear program and reiterated it won't return to the six-party talks, in an apparent call on the United States to open bilateral contact."

-- The Wall Street Journal -- " 'Blue Dog' Democrats Hold Health-Care Overhaul At Bay": "So-called Blue Dog Democrats continued to resist key aspects of their party's health-care overhaul Sunday, despite pressure from party leaders who fear they will endanger President Barack Obama's most ambitious legislative effort."

From a related story by The New York Times -- "Reach Of Subsidies Is Critical Issue For Health Plan."

-- CBS News -- "Obama To Launch Key 2-Day Talks With China": "Two days of high-level talks between the United States and China are expected to expose sharp differences on trade and soaring U.S. budget deficits, but the discussion could be more amicable in the area of foreign policy."

-- The Associated Press -- Taiwan, China Leaders Exchange Direct Messages: "The presidents of Taiwan and China exchanged direct messages Monday for the first time since the two sides split 60 years ago -- the latest sign of their warming
relations. According to a Nationalist Party statement, Chinese President Hu Jintao congratulated Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou on his election Sunday as party chairman. ... In return, Ma called for both sides to work on peace."

-- PBS NewsHour -- Bernanke Says He Was Determined Not To Be Chairman 'Who Presided Over The Second Great Depression": At a townhall meeting sponsored by the Kansas City Fed, Chairman Ben Bernanke said he had to hold his nose while bailing out some big financial institutions last year, but had to do it to avoid an economic catastrophe.

From Morning Edition -- More on what Bernanke had to say:

-- USA TODAY -- Economists "See Slow Recovery": "The beginning of an economic recovery appears to be just a few months away but unemployment will continue to rise past 10% into next year, say economists surveyed by USA TODAY."

-- Anchorage Daily News -- As She Leaves, Palin Takes Some Parting Shots At The News Media: Said the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee as she stepped down from office a year and a half early: "Some straight talk for some -- just some -- in the media. ... You represent what could and should be a respected, honest profession that could and should be a cornerstone of our democracy. Democracy depends on you. That is why our troops are willing to die for you. So how about in honor of the American soldier, ya' quit makin' things up?"

From Morning Edition --
Palin's Speech Highlighted Issues That Transcend Alaska:

categories: Afghanistan, Foreign News, Morning Roundup, National News

7:45 - July 27, 2009