Bush Refuses To Rule Out Nuclear Strikes on Iran

At the White House Tuesday, President Bush refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program. "All options are on the table," Bush said. "We want to solve this issue diplomatically and we’re working hard to do so. The best way to do so is there for (sic) to be a united effort with countries who recognize the danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon. And that’s why we’re working very closely with countries like France and Germany and Great Britain. I intend, of course, to bring the subject up of Iranian ambitions to have a nuclear weapon with Hu Jintao this Thursday. We’ll continue to work diplomatically to get this problem solved."

Bush Continues To Back Rumsfeld

President Bush was also questioned on another issue that’s dominated news from the Pentagon — Donald Rumsfeld. Bush replied: "I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld. I hear the voices. And I read the front page. And I know the speculation. But I’m the decider and I decide what is best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

Ex-Colombian Intelligence Official Links Uribe To Paramilitaries

In Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe is facing a potential political crisis amid renewed charges over his alleged dealings with paramilitary groups. The new allegations have come from a former senior official at Colombia’s executive intelligence agency, the DAS. The official, Rafael Garcia, has told journalists and prosecutors the DAS provided the paramilitary groups with the names of union leaders and academics, many of whom were subsequently threatened or killed. According to Garcia, the paramilitaries also helped Uribe win an extra 300,000 fraudulent votes during the 2002 presidential elections. And Garcia also says he has proof the DAS worked with paramilitaries on a plot to assassinate several key Venezuelan leaders, including President Hugo Chavez. After initial denials, Jorge Noguera, the former director of the DAS, admitted he met with a leading paramilitary commander known as Jorge 40. Uribe himself admitted to holding direct meetings with another paramilitary commander, but blasted the media for pursuing the story. José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, said: "President Uribe’s aggressive response raises suspicion about whether he actually wants the truth known, and has a chilling effect on the exercise of freedom of expression."

Experts: Saddam Hussein’s Signature Appears on Crackdown Documents

In Iraq, handwriting experts testifying in the trial of Saddam Hussein say they’ve authenticated his signature on documents relating to a crackdown on Iraqi Shiites in the 1980s. The documents reportedly include an order for the killings of 148 Shiite opponents of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Israel Says Hamas-led PA Responsible For Suicide Bombing

In Israel, the government has announced it holds the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority directly responsible for Monday’s suicide bombing. Nine people were killed and dozens were wounded in the attack, making it the deadliest Palestinian assault on Israel in almost two years. Meanwhile, Israeli troops clashed with hundreds of Palestinian stone throwers in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday. Israeli forces reportedly fired tear gas, rubber-coated steel pellets and some live rounds at the crowds. Israeli troops also arrested more than 20 Palestinians in raids across the West Bank. The father of the Tel Aviv bomber was reported to be among those detained.

Bush Administration Criticized For Obiang Visit

The Bush administration is coming under criticism for giving a warm reception to a leader widely decried as one of the world’s most brutal living dictators. In Washington last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice greeted Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, whom she called: "a good friend." Obiang has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979. According to the neo conservative group Freedom House, only seven countries rank worse in respect for political and civil liberties. In an editorial that appeared Tuesday, the Washington Post said: "If President Bush and Ms. Rice want anyone to take their pro-democracy rhetoric seriously, they must stop throwing bouquets to odious dictators."

Study: Health Insurance Consolidation Creating Monopolies

In other news, a new study from the American Medical Association argues consolidation among health insurance companies has created virtual monopolies in cities across the US. In 56 percent of nearly 300 metropolitan areas, one single provider controls at least half of the local health insurance market. The study says 43 states have levels of market concentration that would normally be expected to lead to antitrust investigations. According to the AMA, more than 400 mergers have taken place in the health insurance industry over the last decade. Meanwhile, premium costs paid by average consumers have seen double digit increases far above inflation and wage hikes.

Delay Raised $480,000 In Weeks Before Retirement

Indicted former House majority leader Tom Delay has disclosed he raised over $480,000 dollars in campaign funds during the six-week period before he announced he would step down. Delay’s campaigning raised his war chest to $1.4 million dollars. Critics have speculated Delay put off announcing his retirement in order to use the campaign period to fundraise for his legal defense.

Physicists Warn Bush On Using Nuclear Weapons Against Iran

In other news, a group of prominent US physicists has written an open letter to President Bush urging him to refrain from using nuclear weapons against Iran. The letter’s signatories include five Nobel laureates and a recipient of the National Medal of Science. According to the physicists, the use of nuclear weapons would be: "gravely irresponsible" with "disastrous consequences for the security of the United States and the world."

Cuba Marks 45-Year Anniversary of Bay of Pigs Invasion

Cuba is in the midst of commemorating the 45th anniversary of the US-organized Bay of Pigs invasion. On April 17, 1961, a group of over 1,400 fighters armed, trained and directed by the Kennedy administration landed on Cuba’s shores in an attempt to overthrow Cuban President Fidel Castro. Within days the fighters were defeated in what proved to be a major emberassment for the Kennedy administration and the CIA. Jose Ramon, who fought for the Cuban government during the Bay of Pigs, said: "Every year we celebrate this, it is celebrated in all of the country, and it brings us great memories. I don’t wish for this to happen again, not only here, but in no other place in the world."

FBI Seeks Files of Deceased Investigative Journalist Jack Anderson

The Chronicle of Higher Education has revealed the FBI is seeking to search through the files of the late investigative journalist Jack Anderson. Anderson, whose legendary career included exposes of the Iran-contra scandal and the CIA’s attempts to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro, died in December at the age of 83. Federal investigators say they want to access Anderson’s files to recover classifed documents and seek out evidence that could be used in the current prosecution of two pro-Israel lobbyists. Anderson’s family has turned down the FBI’s request. During his lifetime Anderson was viewed with derision by several administrations. He earned a spot on President Nixon’s infamous "enemies list", and was reportedly the subject of a poisoning operation ordered by a White House aide.

Chinese Leader Makes First Presidential Visit to US

And Chinese leader Hu Jintao is in the United States for his first official presidential visit. Hu’s trip began Tuesday in Washington state, where he dined at the home of Microsoft chair Bill Gates along with such guests as Starbucks chair Howard Schultz and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Today, Hu is expected to tour a manufacturing plant of aerospace giant Boeing, just days after China finalized a $5 billion dollar deal with the company. Hu will then head to Washington, DC for a meeting with President Bush on Thursday. Hu was met by dozens of protesters representing the Falun Gong spiritual practice and supporters of Taiwanese and Tibetan independence.

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