Pentagon: Gates Authorized to Deploy More Troops

The Pentagon has acknowledged President Obama’s new troop deployment to Afghanistan could be higher than the 30,000 he announced this week. The Washington Post reports Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been authorized to deploy another 3,000 troops at his discretion. A senior Pentagon official said the number of additional US forces deployed under Obama’s escalation plan could ultimately top 35,000. Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates said the first troops would begin to arrive in Afghanistan later this month.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "The first of these forces will begin to arrive in Afghanistan within two to three weeks. In all, since taking office, President Obama has committed nearly 52,000 additional troops to Afghanistan for a total US force of approximately 100,000."

Appearing with Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the escalation plan would also entail a boost in non-military personnel.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "As we put additional troops in, we want to have more civilians embedded with them. We want to have them right there on the ground when combat is over to begin the building process and partnering with their civilian counterparts."

Peace Activists to Hold Anti-Escalation Protest

The escalation plan is expected to receive congressional backing. Peace activists, meanwhile, have declared an "Emergency Anti-Escalation Rally" to oppose the expansion of the Afghan war. The rally will be held in Washington, DC on December 12th.

Honduran Congress Rejects Zelaya Return

In Honduras, lawmakers have overwhelmingly rejected the restoration of the ousted president Manuel Zelaya. On Wednesday, the Honduran Congress voted 114 to 14 to ratify its earlier decision to remove Zelaya after he was overthrown in a military coup. Zelaya had agreed to the new vote as part of a deal to end his standoff with the coup regime. The vote threatens to derail the agreement, which also calls for the formation of a unity government for the remainder of Zelaya’s term. The coup regime says it will arrest Zelaya if he leaves the Brazilian embassy, where he’s taken refuge since returning from exile in September.

Israel Revoking Record Number of Jerusalem Residency Permits for Palestinians

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, new figures show the Israeli government revoked more residency permits for Palestinians in Jerusalem last year than in any year on record. The Israeli human rights group HaMoked says more than 4,500 Palestinians were stripped of their residency in 2008. The average number of revoked residency permits had previously been around 200 per year.

Mass Graves Uncovered in Kashmir

In Kashmir, around 2,600 bodies have been discovered in unmarked mass graves. Human rights groups say some of the dead could be innocent civilians killed in the twenty-year uprising against the Indian occupation of Kashmir.

Blackwater Founder Confirms Role as CIA "Asset"

The founder of the private military firm Blackwater has confirmed he’s operated as a CIA "asset" in addition to his company’s publicly known work for the US government. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Erik Prince said he’s served a dual role as both a contractor and as an operative for secretive missions. The disclosure follows independent journalist Jeremy Scahill’s report last week that Blackwater is operating in Pakistan on behalf for the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command. Prince says he was selected for several missions in part to give the CIA "unattributable capability." Prince also says he plans to step down from Blackwater and become a high school teacher.

Unemployment Not Slowing in Most Metro Areas

New figures show unemployment has worsened or remained the same in most metro areas nationwide. The Labor Department says the number of jobs either dropped or remained unchanged in 204 out of 372 urban areas for the month of October. The news comes as President Obama convenes an unemployment summit at the White House later today.

Washington Times to Cut Staff by 40%

In media news, the Washington Times has announced a massive round of job cuts in order to stay afloat. The newspaper says it will lay off at least 40 percent of its staff, shift to free distribution, and reduce its content.

Texas Poised to Execute Possibly Retarded Prisoner

And the state of Texas is set to execute a man tonight who may be mentally retarded despite a 2002 Supreme Court ruling that bans the execution of mentally retarded prisoners. Test scores have shown the prisoner, Bobby Woods, has an IQ at or below seventy -– the cutoff point for mental retardation. In a recent interview with journalist Renee Feltz, Woods described how he has difficulty reading words with more than four letters.

Bobby Woods: "They had these Western books. A lot of the words ain’t — you know, most of the words ain’t past four. I mean, they got — you know, they have five and six letters, but most of them about four. I can read most of it, but then some I can’t read. I had to read it like maybe two or three times, then I finally understand it."

More of the Bobby Woods interview can be seen on the website of the Texas Observer and the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.


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