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Bush Warns Syria and Iran on Terrorism

In his state of the union address Wednesday night President Bush accused Syria of harboring terrorists and charging that Iran was the "world’s primary sponsor of terror." The warnings came as he hailed the recent elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine and in the Palestinian territories.

Bush: No Timetable For Withdrawal of 150,000 Troops in Iraq

On Iraq, the president rejected calls for a timetable for withdrawal of the 150,000 US troops stationed there.

Bush Pushes Privatization of Social Security

On the domestic front, President Bush called for the privatization of social security, the renewed use of nuclear energy, a war on gangs, a constitutional ban on same sex marriage and legal reforms to protect corporations from being sued for negligence. Today Bush is beginning a five-state campaign tour to advocate for the privatization of social security. Under his plan, beginning in 2009 workers aged 55 or younger could begin investing a third of their payroll tax into Wall Street investment accounts.

Bush Says Palestinian State "Within Reach"

Also during the State of the Union, Bush called on Congress to give the Palestinians $350 million in new aid and said a Palestinian state is "within reach."

Shraron & Abbas To Hold Summit Next Week in Egypt

Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas have announced they will meet next Tuesday in their first summit since the death of Yasser Arafat. Abbas is expected to announce a formal cease fire.

Durbin: Can’t Reward Gonzales After Abu Ghraib

On Capitol Hill, the Senate is continuing debate over the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for attorney general. Democratic Senator Richard Durbin said "I cannot in good conscience vote to reward a man who ignored the rule of law and the demands of human decency and created the permissive environment that made Abu Ghraib possible."

At Least 20 Die In Iraq in Bloodiest Post-Election Day

In news from Iraq, at least 20 people have died in the most violent day since Sunday’s election. The deadliest incident occurred in the northern city of Kirkuk where 12 Iraqi army recruits were killed following an ambush by Iraqi militants. In Baqoba, gunmen shot and killed two people driving in a vehicle carried by Iraqi contractors. In Mosul, a mortar attack on a US base killed two civilians and injured six. In the town of Qaim near the Syrian boarder, a car bomb exploded at a house used by U.S. military snipers. In the city of Samawah, gunmen overran ran a police station and killed one police officer. Near Ramadi, the governor of Anbar province narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. And two Marines were killed in fighting in the Anbar province which includes the city of Fallujah.

Influential Sunni Group: The Iraq Vote Was Illegitimate

In other news from Iraq, the influential Sunni group, the Association of Muslim Scholars, has officially called Sunday’s vote illegitimate. A spokesperson said "We cannot participate in the drafting of a constitution written under military occupation."

Marines Miss Recruiting Goal

In military news, the Marine Corps missed their monthly recruiting goal in January marking the first time this has happened in nearly a decade. The Marines have suffered 31 percent of the military deaths in Iraq.

Marine Lt. Gen. in Iraq: "[It’s] Fun to Shoot Some People"

Meanwhile the Marines are also making headlines in San Diego, after a high ranking Marine general admitted at a public discussion that it is "fun to shoot some people." Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who fought in Iraq, went on to say "Its a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. I like brawling." Mattis leads Camp Pendleton’s 1st Marine Division in Iraq.

Seven UK Soldiers Accused of Murdering Iraqi Civilian

In London, the Daily Mail is reporting that the British military plans to charge seven of its own soldiers with murder for killing an Iraqi civilian two years ago.

Bush Taps Elliot Abrams to Promote Democracy

President Bush has promoted Elliott Abrams to be his deputy national security adviser. He will be responsible for pushing Bush’s strategy for advancing democracy abroad. Abrams plead a key role in the Iran-Contra scandal and pleaded guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress. On Oct. 10, 1986, Abrams, then a State Department employee, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he did not know that Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North was directing illegal arms sales to Iran and diverting the proceeds to assist the Nicaraguan contras.

House GOP Replaces Head of Ethics Commission

Republican Congressman Joel Hefley — who had admonished House Majority Leader Tom Delay — has been replaced as chairman of the House Ethics Committee and removed from the committee. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said his ouster is "further evidence that there is a purge under way of any Republican who does not precisely toe the party line."

GE Joins Halliburton In Pulling Out of Iran

In business news, General Electric has become the second major company to announce it will stop doing new business in Iran. Halliburton made a similar announcement last week. A GE spokesperson said the decision was made "because of uncertain conditions relating to Iran," In recent weeks speculation has grown that the U.S. or Israel may carry out an attack on Iran to cripple its alleged nuclear weapons program. For years Halliburton and GE have skirted a trade embargo on Iran by setting up foreign-owned subsidiaries to deal directly with Iran.

Nepalese King Issues Ban on Press Freedom

In Nepal, the nation’s King who seized complete control of the country on Sunday has banned journalists from publishing or broadcasting any report critical of the government for the next six months. Most other basic rights have also been suspended including freedom of assembly, the right to privacy and the right against preventative detention. Members of the Nepalese government who were deposed earlier this week are now under house arrest. Meanwhile the anti-government Maoist rebels have called for a three-day general strike.

Georgian Prime Minister Found Dead

The prime minister of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia [Zurab Zhvania] has been found dead in an apartment after being poisoned by carbon monoxide that apparently leaked from a faulty heater.

Aristide Supporters To Boycott Upcoming Haitian Elections

In news from Haiti, the interim U.S.-backed government has announced plans to hold a series of local and national elections beginning in October. They will mark the first elections since Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown 11 months ago in a U.S-backed coup. Aristide’s party, Lavalas, has announced they will only participate in the elections if the interim government stops jailing and killing supporters of Aristide. Hundreds of Aristide supporters are now imprisoned and more than 250 people have been killed by violence in pro-Aristide neighborhoods over the past six months.

Brown & Williamson Ordered to Pay $22M For Death of Smoker

And finally in Independence, Missouri a jury ruled Wednesday that tobacco giant Brown & Williamson must pay $22 million to the family of a 73-year-old woman who died of lung and heart disease after smoking Kools for 58 years. The jury award is the fifth-largest in the nation for an individual smoker against a tobacco company.


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