Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance Smith has admitted the Iraqi resistance is "becoming more effective" in its attacks on US forces and Iraqi troops backed by the interim government.
Smith’s comments came on the same that a major bomb killed up to 10 in the holy Shiite city of Karbala. The blast occurred at the gate to a major Shiite shrine, the Imam Hussein mausoleum. An aide to Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Sistani was among the wounded. The bombing marks the first serious attack in Karbala in several months. It came on the first day of campaigning for the Jan. 30 election to pick a 275-member National Assembly. In Washington President Bush warned Iran and Syria not to interfere in the Iraqi elections.
Meanwhile in Baghdad, Iraqi fighters killed five people today including the deputy head of the Communications Ministry. The official, Qassim Mehawi, was assassinated on his way to work. The Associated Press reports eight of his bodyguards were hospitalized from injuries in the attack.
The latest test of the national defense system has failed, raising new questions about the feasibility of the program that has already cost $130 billion. The Bush administration has claimed the so-called Star Wars system is needed to protect the nation from a missile attack. Originally Bush had called for a limited system to be in place by the end of this year.
CNN is reporting the State Department is planning to soon take the unusual step of designating a television station as a terrorist organization. The station, Al-Manar, is run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah. The station is currently available in this country on satellite TV. Once the State Department declares the station to be a terrorist organization, it will be knocked off the air. Earlier this week the French government also banned the station.
A new audio tape purportedly recorded by Osama Bin laden has appeared on the Internet. On the tape, the man identified as Bin Laden, praises last month’s months attack on the US consulate in Saudi Arabia and criticized the Saudi regime as being controlled by the United States.
Britain’s highest court has ruled that the government cannot indefinitely jail terrorism suspects without giving them a trial. The court described the government’s detention policies as draconian and in violation of international human rights laws.
Meanwhile more questions are being raised about a US practice of secretly detaining wanted men around the world and then flying them to other countries to be interrogated and jailed.
Just weeks after the press revealed that the U.S. government was secretly leasing a Gulfstream jet from a little known Massachusetts company for such a purpose, the company has sold the plane. The Boston Globe reports Premier Executive Transport Services sold the jet to an Oregon company called Bayard Foreign Marketing two days after an article about the jet appeared in the Sunday Times of London. Almost nothing is known about either company.
The Sunday Times reported the CIA and other government agencies leased the plane and used it over 300 times to pick up detainees around the world and then secretly deliver them to countries inclyding Egypt, Syria and Uzbekistan that have poor human rights records and practice torture in their jails.
The plane first gained attention in Sweden. In December 2001 the US government requested Swedish officials detain two Egyptian born men. After the men were detained, the men were secretly flown aboard the Gulfstream to Egypt where they claimed they were drugged by US agents and tortured with electric shocks.
There has been speculation that the plane was sold from one government front company to another. The CIA has a long history of secretly owning airlines. Starting in the 1950s the agency began building up a large network of airlines that eventually included about 200 planes and nearly 20,000 employees, making the agency one of the world’s largest airline operators at the time. Among the CIA operated airlines were Air America, Air Asia and Intermountain Aviation.
In news from Ukraine, new blood tests show that opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko has the second worst case of dioxin poisoning ever recorded. His blood contains 6,000 times the normal level of dioxin. He is believed to have been poisoned in early September.
In news from Sudan, a top United Nations official has warned that hundreds of thousands of people could die in the western Darfur region if aid workers are forced to leave because of violence.
The Guardian of London is reporting that the Alabama politician who has proposed banning books containing gay characters from public libraries has been a frequent guest of the Bush White House. Earlier this week, state legislator Gerald Allen was scheduled to visit the White House for the fifth time. Last month Allen put forward a state bill that would force all public libraries and schools in Alabama to throw out any book with a gay character or any book that simply recognizes homosexuality.
The country’s main pharmaceutical lobbying group has hired departing Republican Congressman Billy Tauzin as its new chief with an annual salary of around $2 million. Up until February the Louisiana politician served as chairman of the House committee with jurisdiction over drug-industry issues. He was the principal author of the new Medicare drug law which was strongly backed by the pharmeceutical industry. In other lobbying news, former Republican Congressman James Greenwood of Pennsylvania is soon to become the head of the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Greenwood is the former head of the Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee.
The Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization has announced that 2004 is on track to being the fourth-hottest year since record-keeping began in 1861.
And in news from Virginia, the Washington Post reports two police officers recently visited the home of an 11-year-old and questioned his parents for three hours about anti-American comments their son made in school The student had refused to participate in a Veterans Day exercise and criticized the Marines. The school claimed he had said, "I wish all Americans were dead and that American soldiers should die." The Police questioned his parents about their views on Sept. 11, the military and if they knew any foreigners who criticized US policy. They also inquired whether the parents might be teaching "anti-American values" at home. The mother, Pamela Allbaugh, told the Washington Post "It was intimidating. I told them it’s like a George Orwell novel, that it felt like they were the thought police." She went on to say "If someone would have asked me five years ago if this was something my government would do, I would have said never."