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In a lengthy address at the U.S. Naval Academy, President Bush offered a staunch defense of the Iraq war Wednesday, rejecting growing calls for a military withdrawal. Bush’s speech coincided with the White House’s release of a 35-page "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."
Calls for a troop withdrawal have been bolstered by the stance taken by hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha. On Wednesday, Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi became the first congressional leader to endorse Congressman Murtha’s position. Pelosi and other top Democrats had initially distanced themselves from Murtha’s call to end the deployment in Iraq to and maintain rapid reaction force in the region. But Pelosi told the Washington Post: "clearly a majority of the [Democratic] caucus supports Mr. Murtha" in his call to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.
Less than two weeks before his scheduled execution, the California Supreme Court has rejected a motion to reopen the case of death row prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams. Defense lawyers argued questionable forensic testing and other errors could have led to Williams’ wrongful conviction. Since his imprisonment in 1981, Williams has become a leading advocate against gang violence and has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize. Williams is scheduled to die by lethal injection December 13th. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will hold a clemency hearing on Williams’ case next week. On Wednesday, Schwarzenegger said: "What I want to do is make sure we make the right decisions, because we’re dealing here with a person’s life."
Documents released Wednesday show Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito advocated slowly undoing the legalization of abortion during his stint as a government lawyer twenty years ago. In an internal Justice Department memo he wrote in May 1985, Alito described a high court review of two abortion-related cases as "an opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling [of Roe v. Wade]... and in the meantime, of mitigating its effects."
In a new development in the growing uproar over alleged CIA secret prisons in Europe, the Guardian of London says it has obtained flight logs showing more than 300 CIA flights have landed at European airports. The Washington Post recently reported the CIA has been operating secret prisons in former Soviet states in Eastern Europe. At the request of the Pentagon, the Post did not name the countries. The disclosure prompted the European Union Justice Commissioner to threaten sanctions against any member state found to have hosted a secret CIA prison. According to the Guardian, CIA planes visited both Germany and Britain over 80 times. On Wednesday, the State Department announced it will respond shortly to European requests for an explanation on the alleged prisons.
In a move that has angered local politicians and health advocates, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will no longer test for World Trade Center dust contamination in Brooklyn and north of Canal Street in Manhattan. The suspension of testing in the areas came as part of a $7 million dollar reduced-testing plan. Testing will also exclude buildings set for demolition. The EPA also announced it is halting a panel of toxicologists, doctors, environmentalists and residents formed to review the testings. The panel’s last meeting will be held in December. In a statement, Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York said: "This testing and cleanup plan is a breathtaking slap at the residents and workers of Lower Manhattan. Once again, EPA is quite callously demonstrating that the health and safety of those affected by 9/11 are simply not a priority."
In Israel, veteran Israeli statesman Shimon Peres announced his widely-expected departure from the Labour party to support the new Kadima party of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In return for his support, Peres will be appointed to a top cabinet position if Sharon’s party wins national elections in March.
Four leaders of Ethiopia’s main opposition party have announced a hunger strike to protest detentions that have left them imprisoned for close to a month. The four are top leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy. On Saturday, hundreds of Ethiopian-Americans rallied outside President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas in support of the imprisoned leaders.
And today is World AIDS day. Since 1981, AIDS has claimed the lives of more than an estimated 20 million people. In the United States alone, an estimated 1 million Americans are now living with HIV, with at least 35,000 new infections occurring a year. In the southern African country of Malawi, UNICEF estimates over half a million children have lost at least one parent to AIDS. In India, at least 4.5 million people live with HIV, the most in any country outside of South Africa.