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Baghdad Clashes Intensify Ahead of Bush Plan to Escalate War

The US military engaged in some of its most intense fighting of the Iraq war in Baghdad Tuesday on the eve of President Bush’s expected announcement to send some 20,000 more troops. American helicopters and fighter jets circled the neighborhood around Haifa street as more than 1,000 US and Iraqi soldiers battled insurgents. Iraqi officials say at least fifty insurgents were killed.

Democrat Leaders Plan Non-Binding Votes on Iraq Troop Increase

On Capitol Hill, Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy said he’d introduce legislation requiring Congressional support for any further escalation of the Iraq war.

Sen. Edward Kennedy: "Our bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the president’s plan… We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq. We must act to prevent it."

Democratic leaders have not endorsed Kennedy’s proposal and instead say they’ll introduce non-binding resolutions on President Bush’s plan as early as next week. At the White House, Press Secretary Tony Snow urged Democrats to back the president.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow: "Democrats are going to have to make a choice on where they stand in terms of two issues. Number one; do you want Iraq to succeed, and if so, what does that mean? Number two, do you believe in supporting the troops as you say, and how do you express that support?"

The first wave of new US troops is expected before the end of the month. Most will go to Baghdad followed by Anbar province. The prospect of an expanded military occupation is meeting fears in Baghdad.

Baghdad resident Abu Haider: "All the stances of America are indications of negative positions towards society and its citizens. Their decisions and credibility are negative. They damaged this country, they said that they are here to spread freedom and democracy in Iraqi society but they did nothing but bring terrorism."

New Video of Saddam Hussein Execution Released

In other Iraq news, a new video showing former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein after his execution has appeared on the Internet. Saddam Hussein’s body can be seen lying on a hospital trolley, his throat red from a gaping neck wound and head twisted sharply to one side. The video appeared to have been taken with a mobile phone, as happened with the earlier video that showed the entire hanging.

Blair: Manner of Hussein Execution “Completely Wrong”

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair broke his silence on Hussein’s execution, calling it unacceptable.

Tony Blair: "The manner of the execution of Saddam was completely wrong but that should not blind us to the crimes he committed to his own people including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, one million causalities in the Iran Iraq war and the use of chemical weapons against his own people, wiping out entire villages of people. So the crimes that Saddam committed does not excuse the manner of his execution and the manner of his execution does not excuse the manner of his crimes."

Iraq Tribunal Dismisses Hussein Charges

Meanwhile, the Iraqi High Tribunal has dropped all charges against Saddam Hussein as the genocide trial of six co-defendants resumed. They are charged with crimes against humanity over a campaign against Kurds in the 1980s that left tens of thousands dead. Hussein was hanged after an earlier trial over the killing of 148 Shia Muslims in the town of Dujail. Critics have voiced disappointment Hussein was not tried for his largest atrocities.

Death Toll in US Strike on Somalia Unknown

In Somalia, US officials have acknowledged the number and identities of victims from Sunday’s US airstrike remain unknown. Somali officials say Islamist fighters were killed fleeing along Somalia’s border with Kenya. Local residents say dozens of civilians were killed. The Pentagon says the target of the strikes were members of Al Qaeda connected to the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. On Tuesday, Somali President Abdullah Yusuf Ahmed defended the attack.

Somali President Abdullah Yusuf Ahmed: "I think they are right to strike, because some of those who fled are the ones who bombed the embassy in Nairobi and also in Tanzania and a Hotel in Mombasa. They are wanted and they are known as terrorists. They destroyed embassies and killed people."

The US airstrike has set off fierce protest in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

Mogadishu resident Abdullahi Mohamoud Mohamed: "I am very, very sorry about these American airstrikes, but we will take revenge. All our people must talk to each other and not to foreigners. We do not accept these airstikes on our land by the Americans and the Ethiopians."

Ex-Prisoner Returns to Gitmo to Call for Prison Closure

In Cuba, a former detainee at the US military prison at Guantanano Bay joined a human rights delegation Tuesday to call for the prison’s closure. Asif Igbal spoke at a news conference in Havana.

Asif Igbal: "So basically I have come here to ask for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Because we believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty but everyone in Guantanamo Bay is basically being labeled as a terrorist and guilty. That is not the way that democratic countries work."

The delegation also includes peace activist Cindy Sheehan and Zhora Zewawi. Zewawi’s son Omar Deghayes has been jailed at Guantanamo since 2002. The delegation has planned a march to the prison on Thursday — the 5th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo. Thursday’s march comes amid news the number of Guantanamo prisoners hunger-striking this month has doubled to at least eleven.

Pentagon Agrees to Stop Sharing Recruitment Data

Back in the United States, the Defense Department has agreed to stop sharing information from its recruiting database with law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The agreement came as part of a settlement in a case brought by six New York high school students who say the Pentagon has improperly passed on personal information gathered from recruiting activities. The Pentagon database is considered the largest repository of information for young people between the ages of 16 and 25. In addition to halting its sharing with other agencies, the Pentagon agreed to destroy personal information after three years rather than the previous policy of five years or more. The Defense Department also agreed to give students an easier way to opt out of having their personal information on record. In a statement, the New York Civil Liberties Union welcomed the new changes but criticized the Pentagon for refusing to stop collecting information about students’ ethnicity in an effort to specifically target people of color.

Climate Center: Global Warming Factor in Record 2006 Warmth

In environmental news, climate officials announced Tuesday that 2006 was the warmest year ever recorded in the United States. In what appears to be a first, the National Climatic Data Center attributed the warmth in part to global warming caused by greenhouse gases. Fifteen of the years since 1981 rank among the twenty-five warmest years since record-keeping began.

Public Housing Officials Protest Subsidized Housing Cuts

Public housing officials nationwide will be walking off the job today to protest federal budget cuts to subsidized housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced last month plans to reduce funding by nearly twenty-five percent. Housing officials are billing the day’s action as a National Day of Silence. They say they’ll be forced to lay off housing employees and cut services.

SMU Faculty Voice Objections to Bush Library

In Texas, faculty at Southern Methodist University held a meeting Tuesday to voice concerns over the expected establishment of President Bush’s presidential library. SMU has emerged as the likely choice by the President’s selection committee. Faculty members complained of a lack of transparency and that administrators have overlooked their concerns.

Ella Fitzgerald Honored on New US Stamp

And finally, the Lady is a Stamp — yes, the U.S. Postal Service unveils a new stamp today honoring the legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, known as the "First Lady of Song," will be featured on a 39-cent stamp on sale across the country.

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