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In Iraq, at least two dozen have people died in fighting across the country over the past day. In the town of Baji a suicide car bomber hit a US convoy killing 10 people and injuring 12. In Ramadi at least seven people have died. And some 60 Iraqi police officers were kidnapped for several hours Wednesday near the Jordanian border.
Although the US claims it has control of Fallujah, fighting continues in the Sunni city. On Wednesday US war planes again bombed portions of the city. The New York Times is reporting that Marine intelligence officials have issued a report warning that any significant withdrawal of troops from Fallujah would help strengthen the Iraqi resistance. The US currently has about 12,000 troops stationed in and around Fallujah.
47 Iraqi political parties have announced they will boycott January’s elections. Most of the parties are Sunni and connected to the Association of Muslim Scholars. But the group includes 8 Shiite parties, one Christian party, one communist party and the Iraqi Turkmen Front. Journalist Mazen Ghazi reports the parties issued a communique that charges the election does not speak for the Iraqi people as long as it is "imposed" by the US-backed interim government. In other Iraq news, Agence France Press is reporting that as many as 12 NATO nations are refusing to send military advisers to help in NATO-sponsored trainings.
The U.S. death toll in Iraq has now topped 1200. November has already become the second deadliest month for US troops since the invasion was launched. So far nearly 100 troops have died this month.
Meanwhile French President Jacques Chirac continues to voice criticism of the US invasion. He said Wednesday "There’s no doubt that there has been an increase in terrorism and one of the origins of that has been the situation in Iraq. I am not at all sure that one can say that the world is safer."
And the group Reporters without Borders is calling on the US to release a correspondent with the Arabic television station Al-Arabiya who has been detained since Thursday. Abdel Kader Al-Saadi was picked up in Fallujah where he was attempting to report on the US assault as an umembedded reporter.
The Bush administration has begun suggesting again that Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons and that it is determined to acquire a nuclear bomb. On Wednesday Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "I have seen some information that would suggest that they have been actively working on delivery systems. . . . You don’t have a weapon until you put it in something that can deliver a weapon." Powell’s comments came just days after the International Atomic Energy Agency said it had not seen any information that Iran had conducted weapons-related work. Also this week Iran agreed with Britain, France and Germany to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
This news from the Gaza Strip: three Egyptian police offices have died near the Israeli border after they were mistaken for Palestinian militants and shot dead by an Israeli tank. Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon apologized for the deaths in a phone call to Egyptian Preisdent Hosni Mubarek. Haaretz reports Mubarak thanked Sharon and said Egypt accepts the apology and understands that the incident was a mistake. The Israeli military described the shooting as a "professional and operational" mishap.
Israel Radio is reporting that Elliot Abrams has become the leading candidate to become the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. Abrams is seen a strong backer of Ariel Sharon’s government and is closely allied to the neo-conservative movement in Washington. In 1991 Abrams was indicted by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for giving false testimony about his role in illicitly raising money for the contras, but he pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses. He was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Chilean Police Arrest Hundreds At Anti-Bush Protest
Police in Chile have arrested between 300 and 500 people following protests ahead of an economic forum which will be attended by President Bush. Police fired water cannons and tear gas at the demonstrators who had set up barricades in the streets. The demonstrations were seen as much as a protest against President Bush as against this week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Santiago. Protesters in the street could be heard shouting, "Get out of here, Bush. We don’t want, we don’t want to be an American colony."
Meanwhile in Argentina, bombs exploded at three separate banks Wednesday killing one bank guard. No group took responsibility for the blasts. Two of the banks were operated by Citibank. It was the third attack on banks in Argentina this year. Banks have been the frequent target of protests since 2001 following the country’s economic collapse.
In news from Haiti, the U.S.-backed interim government appears to be closer to issuing an arrest warrant for the country’s ousted president Jean Bertrand Aristide who was overthrown in a U.S-backed coup in February. The Chinese news agency Xinhua is reporting the interim government has announced that the U.S., French and Canadian governments have all expressed their support for issuing an international arrest warrant for Aristide who is living in exile in South Africa.
In news from Capitol Hill, House Republicans have rewritten the House rules to allow Majority Leader Tom Delay to keep his leadership his position even if he is indicted by a Grand Jury in Texas. In September a Texas grand jury indicted three political operatives with ties to Delay as well eight companies who made donations to a political action committee created with help from Delay.
In other news from the Hill, the Republican-controlled Senate voted Wednesday to increase the nation’s federal debt by $800 billion raising the new debt ceiling to $8.2 trillion. The federal debt has increased by $1.4 trillion over the past four years.
President Bush has nominated Margaret Spellings to become the country’s new Education Secretary. Spellings had been working as the White House Domestic Policy Adviser. Before that Spellings worked as an advisor to Bush in Texas. Bush also appointed longtime friend and another Texan, Harriet Miers, to be the chief White House Counsel to replace Alberto Gonzales who has been nominated for Attorney General. Miers has been serving as deputy chief of staff. Both nominations continue the recent trend of Bush only nominating long-time loyalists to top positions for his second term.
In business news, KMart has announced it is buying Sears for $11 billion. Together the two chain stores will become the nation’s third’s largest retailer but it will remain far smaller than Wal Mart. It is estimated Wal-Mart’s sales will still be five times larger than the merged K-Mart-Sears company.