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Obama sees path to re-election beyond Rust Belt

WASHINGTON — With his support among blue-collar white voters far weaker than among white-collar independents, President Barack Obama is charting an alternative course to re-election should he be unable to win Ohio and other industrial states traditionally essential to Democratic presidential victories.

Without conceding ground anywhere, Obama is fighting hard for Southern and Rocky Mountain states he won in 2008, and some he did not, in calculating how to assemble the necessary 270 electoral votes. He is seeking to prove that those victories on formerly Republican turf were not flukes but the start of a trend that will make Democrats competitive there for years.

While Obama’s approval ratings have slid across the board as unemployment remains high, what buoys Democrats is the changing demographics of formerly Republican states like Colorado, where Democrats won a close Senate race in 2010, as well as Virginia and North Carolina.

With growing cities and suburbs, they are populated by increasing numbers of educated and higher-income independents, young voters, Hispanics, and blacks, many of them alienated by Republicans’ Tea Party agenda.

—Jackie Calmes and Mark Landler, The New York Times

Afghanistan’s leaders sour on Pakistan and peace talks

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s president and other senior leaders announced Thursday that they were rethinking the country’s relationship with Pakistan and its negotiations with the Taliban because talks had yielded so little.

As a result, the leaders said, they planned to work closely with the United States, Europe and India to plan the country’s future.

The shift in Afghanistan’s policies emerged in a statement released by the presidential palace Thursday after a meeting Wednesday night of senior government officials, including the two vice presidents, the national security adviser and several former military commanders who are close advisers to President Hamid Karzai and who fought to push the Russians out of the country in the 1980s.

“Despite making repeated attempts in the past three years, including sending several letters to the Taliban to open negotiations in order to bring peace and stability to the country, our leaders, scholars, influential figures, elders, women and children, old and young are being martyred,” the statement said, referring to a string of assassinations this year, most recently the killing of Burhanuddin Rabbani, chairman of the peace council.

While the peace talks have yielded little, they had provided Afghanistan and the United States with the hope that there could be a negotiated end to the 10-year-old war.

—Alissa J. Rubin, The New York Times

After online campaign, Chinese dog meat festival is canceled

BEIJING — In the whirlwind of growth that is modern China, the loss of ancient traditions often provokes dismay and outrage.

But people across the country cheered recently when officials in eastern China said they were doing away with a 600-year-old local custom: the slaughter of thousands of dogs to be eaten at an autumn festival.

The Jinhua Hutou Dog Meat Festival, as it is called, was canceled last week after local officials were shamed by an online campaign begun by animal rights advocates. Gruesome photographs taken at past festivals that show canine carcasses, some bloody and others cooked, circulated on Chinese microblogs, creating popular pressure against the festival, which was set for October.

Pet ownership has grown rapidly among the Chinese, as has a greater consciousness of animal rights.

—Edward Wong, The New York Times