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Senate OKs $87B Iraq Reconstruction Package

By a voice vote, the Senate yesterday approved giving President Bush nearly everything in his requested $87 billion package for reconstruction and military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports the bill was one of the largest military and foreign aid bills in U.S. history. Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia was the only senator that could be heard saying "no" when the voice vote was held. Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Joe Biden and Republican Senator Richard Lugar have called for more troops to be sent to Iraq following the weekend violence.

Three More U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq

In Iraq, three more U.S. soldiers have been killed over the past 24 hours in Tikrit and Baghdad. Twenty-three U.S. soldiers have already died in the first four days of November.

The Guardian of London is reporting that Iraqi resistance fighters now receive money for waging attacks on U.S. soldiers. An attack on a Humvee gets up to $300, a tank gets $700, and a downed helicopter gets $1,000.

One Iraqi told The Guardian, "Ramadan has been Allah’s gift to us. The streets are empty then, so we can attack the Americans without the possibility of killing our people."

Spain announced today it was withdrawing most of its diplomatic staff because of security reasons. The Netherlands and Bulgaria have already made similar pullouts.

U.S. to Give Israel $2.2B in Military Aid

In other news from Capitol Hill, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz is reporting the Bush administration will soon ask Congress to give Israel $2.2 billion in military assistance for the next fiscal year. That marks a $60 million increase over the current allocation.

Mutual Fund Scandals Rock Investment World

In the business world, scandals have rocked the mutual fund industry. Yesterday, the nation’s fifth largest mutual fund company, Putnam, announced its chief executive, Lawrence Lasser, would be stepping down. Federal and state prosecutors have recently accused the company of fraud. Also yesterday, the head governmental official with the New England office of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Juan Marcelino, announced he would step down in part because his office failed to investigate problems at Putnam. Meanwhile, in congressional testimony, regulators estimated one of out every four major mutual fund brokers has been involved in illegal trading. Some 95 million Americans now have mutual fund accounts worth a total of $7 trillion.

Sen. Graham Announces Retirement in Setback for Dems

Democratic Party hopes of regaining control of the Senate in 2004 were weakened yesterday with Democratic Florida Senator Bob Graham announcement that he would not seek re-election next year. Three other Southern Democratic senators have already announced their plans to retire next year. They are Zell Miller of Georgia, John Edwards of North Carolina and Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina. There is also speculation that John Breaux of Louisiana may also not run.

Indonesia Extends Martial Law in Aceh

The Indonesian government decided yesterday to extend martial law in Aceh, where 40,000 members of the Indonesian army have been waging an attack since May on members of an independence group. President Megawati Sukarnoputri had originally said that martial law would only last six months. The Washington Post estimates that the Indonesian military has killed 900 members of the Free Aceh Movement since May. During the same period, 60 Indonesian military and police personnel have been killed.

Saudi Arrest Six After Mecca Shootout

Saudi police have arrested six suspected members of al-Qaeda after a clash in Mecca that left two dead.

Under Pressure, CBS Expected to Cancel Reagan Miniseries

The New York Times is reporting that CBS is expected to announce today that it will cancel plans to run a two-part miniseries about the presidency of Ronald Reagan. This comes after Republican National Committee complained the miniseries was too critical and inaccurate. The Times notes that none of the critics had actually seen the film but based their complaints on a leaked transcript. The series will now likely run on the cable channel Showtime.

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