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Cain stumbles in assessing foreign policy

Herman Cain became badly flustered on Monday when asked to assess President Barack Obama’s policy toward Libya, raising new questions about his command of foreign policy as he lurched over five minutes from awkward pauses to halting attempts to address the issue.

Video of Cain’s appearance on Monday before editors and reporters at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel went viral almost immediately after it was posted online, and drew immediate comparisons to Rick Perry’s recent stumble in a debate when he froze in discussing which federal agencies he would eliminate.

“President Obama supported the uprising, correct?” he said. “President Obama called for the removal of Gadhafi — just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say ‘Yes, I agree,’ or ‘No, I didn’t agree.’”

Cain said he disagreed with the president’s approach “for the following reasons” — then changed course.

Some analysts have grown sharply critical of Cain’s foreign policy pronouncements in debates and interviews, saying he shows a basic lack of understanding of critical regions of the world. Cain himself has sometimes fed into this, and in Monday’s interview he said: “Some people want to say, ‘Well, as president, you’re supposed to know everything.’ No you don’t.”

—By Richard A. Oppel Jr., The New York Times

Teenagers having sex are now a minority

About 43 percent of unmarried teenage girls and 42 percent of unmarried teenage boys have had sexual intercourse at least once, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2002, the last year such a report was published, 51.1 percent of girls and 60.4 percent of boys had had sex by age 19.

Data for 2006 to 2010, published last month, also show that most teenagers used contraception the first time they had sex — 78 percent of girls and 85 percent of boys, up from 75 percent of girls and 82 percent of boys in 2002.

The birth rate for teenagers 15 to 19 during the period was 39 per 1,000, the lowest ever recorded in the United States. (The rate in Canada was 14 per 1,000; in Germany, 10 per 1,000; and in Italy, seven per 1,000.) Teenage birth rates in the United States have been declining since 1991 and vary considerably by race and ethnicity.

—By Nicholas Bakalar, The New York Times

Economist accepts a mandate to rescue Italy

ROME — Mario Monti, a former member of the European Commission, conditionally accepted a mandate on Sunday to form a new government in Italy whose main task will be to keep the country from being dragged under by Europe’s debt crisis.

Monti, 68, a respected economist who has promised to be a steady hand in a time of market turbulence, said he expected to move ahead as soon as he secured a parliamentary majority for the new government.

Assembling a majority usually requires days or weeks of talks, but Italy does not have the luxury of time. Skeptical investors have pushed the country’s borrowing costs to dangerous heights, putting at risk the euro currency that 17 nations share. The crisis forced the resignation of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday, turning Italy’s most complex political shift in nearly two decades into one of its most urgent transitions.

—Rachel Donadio, The New York Times