White House officials are saying President Bush will propose next week to build a permanent inhabited base on the moon and to eventually send humans to the planet Mars. The New York Times reports that the announcement is intended to help portray Bush as a inspirational leader whose vision goes beyond terrorism and tax cuts." Bush’s father, the country’s 41st president, made a similar proposal in 1989 but it went nowhere. Bush Senior called for the establishment of a base on the moon and an expedition to be sent to Mars as the beginning of "the permanent settlement of space." The New York Post reports that a permanent moon base would be used in part to test military rockets. The last manned mission to the moon was in 1972. In order to send humans to Mars, the country will have to develop new methods of propulsion and electricity generation as well as a way to protect astronauts from large radiation doses. It is unclear how the government, which is facing record deficits, would be able to pay to develop the new technology.
Gen. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with reporters Thursday and for the first time admitted he had never seen definitive evidence that linked Saddam Hussein to al-Qaida. Powell said "I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection." Powell went on to defend the invasion. But a year ago at the UN Security Council Powell said there was a "sinister nexus" between Al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein. Powell told the UN, "Iraqi officials deny accusations of ties with al-Qaida. These denials are simply not credible."
In Iraq, the death toll in Thursday’s U.S. Black Hawk helicopter crash near Fallujah has risen to nine. The Pentagon has so far declined to say what caused the attack but witnesses reportedly said the helicopter was hit by a missile. Also yesterday, a military transport plane carrying 60 people was forced to land in Baghdad after it was hit with a surface-to-air missile. Also in Baghdad today, a hotel [the Bourj al-Hayat] that houses foreign companies came under attack by rocket propelled grenades.
Meanwhile in Tikrit hundreds of US soldiers backed by warplanes raided Saddam Hussein’s hometown on Thursday. 30 Iraqis were detained. Some were arrested after pulled from their homes blindfolded and handcuffed.
At least five people have died in the Sunni town of Baquba north of Baghdad after a bomb went off during Friday prayers. Dozens were injured in the blast.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the U.S has struck a deal with Turkey to allow U.S. forces occupying Iraq to start using the Incirlik Air Base. Before the invasion of Iraq, Turkey refused to allow the U.S. to use any of the American bases in the country to wage attacks.
In Haiti, opponents to President Jean-Betrand Aristide have launched a two-day general strike that has shut down most businesses in Port-au-Prince. Striking workers are calling for Aristide to resign. Among the groups backing the strike is the Chamber of Commerce.
The Food and Drug Administration has rejected an effort by a private company to resume the sale of silicone breast implants which have been banned for over 10 years. The rejection came even though an FDA advisory committee had voted 9 to 6 in October to approve the implants for cosmetic use.
A new study in the journal Science is warning people against eating much farm-raised salmon because the fish contains much higher levels of carcinogens than wild fished salmon. The FDA said people’s diets shouldn’t change.
And in New Jersey the state Senate voted 23 to 9 Thursday to recognize same-sex couples. Gov. James McGreevey is expected to sign the legislation which will make New Jersey the fifth state to recognize domestic partnership in some form.
Democratic presidential candidate Richard Gephardt’s manager accused Howard Dean’s presidential campaign of planning to sneak non-Iowans into the state’s caucuses to pose as state residents and support Dean. Dean’s campaign manager denied the charge. Meanwhile the Dean campaign in Iowa has fired two workers who were accused of trying to infiltrate John Kerry’s campaign.
Clark Gains In Poll, Madonna Jumps On Board
A leading poll in New Hampshire has found that Gen. Wesley Clark has now moved into second place in that state’s primary edging out John Kerry who is a senator from neighboring Massachusetts. Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, remains in first place. Meanwhile a major national poll has found that Dean and Clark are now in a statistical dead heat. Meanwhile pop star Madonna has written an open letter on her website urging her fans to back Clark for president. Madonna was introduced to Clark by filmmaker Michael Moore. The New York Times reports Clark is using Madonna’s support as part of an effort to win more votes from women. As part of his effort, the General has discarded his regular navy blue suit, red tie and loafers for argyle sweaters, corduroys and duck boots.