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In Iraq, at least 78 people have died today in a pair of nearly simultaneous explosions. The bombs hit a predominantly Shiite commercial area in Baghdad. Over 150 people were also injured. This marks the second large bombing attack in Baghdad in less than a week.
On Saturday, 25 U.S. troops died, making it the third deadliest day of the war for the United States. Twelve of the troops were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed. Eyewitnesses said the helicopter was shot down. Another five U.S. troops died inside a government compound in the Shiite city of Karbala when they were attacked by Iraqi fighters disguised as U.S. soldiers.
President Bush’s escalation of the war has already begun despite opposition from many lawmakers on Capitol Hill. On Sunday, 3,200 more U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA): "If we have a president that is going to effectively defy the American people, going to defy the generals, defy the majority of the Congress of the United States, Republicans and Democrats, then we, I think, have a responsibility to end the funding for the war."
President Bush is expected to defend the escalation of the war during his State of the Union on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Republican Senator John McCain criticized a nonbinding Senate resolution opposing the president’s plan to send 20,000 more troops to Iraq.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) : "This resolution is basically a vote of no confidence in the men and women we’re sending over there. We’re saying we’re not going to stop you from going there, but we don’t believe you can succeed, and we’re not willing to support that. I don’t think the troops would find that an expression of support."
President Bush has said he plans to escalate the war in Iraq regardless of what action Congress takes. However, 21 legal scholars have written a letter to the House and Senate leadership to argue that Congress has the constitutional power to limit the scope of the war. According to the scholars, Congress has the power to cap the number of soldiers sent to fight and to limit the use of appropriated funds.
Meanwhile, new Pentagon statistics show the Iraq War is now costing $8.4 billion a month — nearly twice what it cost during the first year of fighting.
Arrangements are being made in Ohio for the funeral of Andrea Parhamovich. She is the 28-year-old American civilian killed last week in Baghdad while working for the National Democratic Institute.
A former top State Department official is warning the Bush administration has drawn up plans for a broad attack against Iran. The official, Wayne White, said, "I’ve seen some of the planning ... You’re not talking about a surgical strike." Up until 2005, White was a top Middle East analyst for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. White predicted a war against Iran would likely destabilize the Middle East for years. On Sunday, former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle said President Bush will order an attack on Iran if it becomes clear to him that Iran is set to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities. Perle’s comments came during a conference in Israel.
In other news on Iran, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff has revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney rejected an Iranian offer in 2003 to help the United States stabilize Iraq. According to Lawrence Wilkerson, Tehran also offered to end its military support for Hezbollah and Hamas.
A 10-year-old Palestinian girl has died after being shot in the back of the head by Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Anata. The girl, Abir Aramin, was shot on Friday while she was outside her school on recess. Her father, Bassam Aramin, helped found Combatants for Peace, a group of former Israeli and Palestinian fighters. Aramin said that his daughter’s death will not deter him from trying to work for peace. He said, "We have no choice but to continue to save more children from falling in this dirty conflict."
In other news from the region, the Israeli Defense Forces has admitted that it lied last week when it said that 44 dirt obstacles had been removed from around West Bank villages. In fact, the obstacles did not actually exist. The IDF made the announcement in an attempt to fulfill a promise of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s to ease the lives of Palestinian civilians.
In Turkey, one of the country’s most prominent Turkish-Armenian newspaper editors, Hrant Dink, has been murdered. He was shot outside his office on Friday. He had recently received death threats by Turkish nationalists for his writings about the Armenian genocide of 1915. Seven suspects have been arrested, including a 17-year-old who has reportedly confessed. Police officials have said a well-known nationalist militant has admitted he provided a gun and money to the teenager.
In political news, Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, Republican Senator Sam Brownback and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson have all announced plans to run for president. Richardson is trying to become the first Latino president. Senator Clinton made her announcement in a video message on her website.
Sen. Clinton (D-NY): "I announced today that I am forming a presidential exploratory committee. I’m not just starting a campaign, though, I’m beginning a conversation with you, with America because we all need to be part of the discussion, if we’re all going to be part of the solution."
Former Republican Congressman Bob Ney has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for lying about his dealings with convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. For years, Ney traded his political influence for gifts, vacations, campaign contributions and, in one case, $50,000 in gambling chips.
In environmental news, executives from nine major U.S. corporations have launched an unprecedented campaign to call on the federal government to step up efforts to fight global warming. Companies involved include General Electric, DuPont, Alcoa, Lehman Brothers and Caterpillar.
A new United Nations report on climate change predicts the rate of global warming over the next 25 years will be twice that of the previous century. The forthcoming U.N. report concludes that most of the global warning since the middle of the last century has been caused by man-made greenhouse gases.
A series of protests and vigils are scheduled today in Washington to mark the 34th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion. The National Organization for Women is holding a candlelight vigil outside the Supreme Court. Opponents of a woman’s right to choose are holding their annual March for Life. President Bush is expected to call in to address the marchers.
Lawmakers in North Carolina are calling on the state’s attorney general to investigate the charter plane company Aero Contractors. The North Carolina-based firm has provided Gulfstream jets to the CIA for use in its secretive extraordinary rendition program. Aero Contractors was founded by a CIA officer who once flew planes for the CIA’s Air America fleet. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Aero Contractors last year for transporting the German citizen Khalid El-Masri after he was seized by U.S. agents in Macedonia.
The military’s new rules for trying prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are coming under intense criticism from within the military. Dwight Sullivan, the Pentagon’s chief defense counsel, said the rules appear carefully crafted to ensure than an accused can be convicted — and possibly executed — based on nothing but a coerced confession.
In Pennsylvania, Secret Service agents questioned an 81-year-old man on Thursday after he wrote a letter to the editor criticizing Saddam Hussein’s execution. In the letter, Dan Tilli wrote, "they hanged the wrong man." The Secret Service agents searched his house and took photos of him before deciding he was not a threat.