Citing security concerns in Iraq, the United Nations has decided to withdraw its entire remaining international staff of 15 from Iraq and the Red Cross has announced they too are scaling back their presence. Both have been the target of bombings in the past two months. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the UN pullout which came despite protests from the Bush administration. The aid group Doctors Without Borders also announced a partial pullout yesterday.
More U.S. soldiers have now died in combat since May 1 than during the invasion of Iraq. On May 1 President Bush announced that major combat operations were over in Iraq. Since then 117 soldiers have died in combat. 114 died before then.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate Intelligence Committee has given the CIA until Friday to hand over intelligence files that were used to justify the invasion on Iraq. The committee is also planning to interview CIA operatives who worked on the Iraq intelligence. The BBC reports the committee is drafting a report that is expected to accuse the CIA and Director George Tenet of overstating the case against Saddam Hussein.
The Bush administration yesterday announced that it had extended Halliburton’s controversial no-bid contract until at least December or January. The Associated Press reports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has received other competitive bids for the project but decided to extend Halliburton’s no-bid contract. As they cited the decripit state of Iraq’s oil facilities which have been sabotaged by Iraqis opposed to the U.S. occupation. Also yesterday, Congressmen. Henry Waxman of California and John Dingell of Michigan accused Halliburton of overcharging the U.S. by selling gas to the government in Iraq at a rate of $2.65 a gallon. Experts said the cost should be no more than $1 per gallon. Meanwhile Halliburton reported yesterday that its third-quarter revenue soared over 33 percent compared to last you. The company’s net income however declined.
As the country faces record deficits, Republican legislators are pushing forward with what the New York Times describes as the ” biggest overhaul of corporate taxes in two decades.” A new bill would give $128 billion in new tax cuts to major corporations over the next decade. The bill would lower the corporate tax rate for domestic manufacturers and it would redefine manufacturers to include firms like Bechtel and Halliburton.
In California wildfires have now claimed the lives of 20 people, including one firefighter. More than 2,600 homes have been destroyed and the fires have spread to nearly 700,000 acres.
Israel’s top-ranking soldier is coming under criticism from Prime Minister General Ariel Sharon after he said that the government’s hard-line policies against Palestinians were not in Israel’s “strategic interest.” In a background briefing, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, the military’s chief of staff, said Israeli policies including travel restrictions and curfews on Palestinians was harming Israel’s overall security. On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed at least two Palestinians including a 12-year-old boy in Nablus.
Meanwhile the family of Tom Hurndall have decided to ask doctors to switch off his life support machine. Hurndall is the 22-year-old British student who was left brain dead after he was shot by Israeli forces while taking photographs in the West Bank. He was shot six months ago while taking photographs during a trip to the West Bank where he was visiting as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement. Israeli forces shot Hurndall less than a month after an Israeli bulldozer killed American peace activist Rachel Corrie.
Rebel MP George Galloway Launches Political Party
British MP George Galloway announced yesterday he would form an anti-war political party to challenge the power of Tony Blair’s New Labour Party. Galloway was expelled from the Labour party this week after he made comments urging British soldiers to disobey orders and refuse to fight in Iraq. Galloway made the announcement at a rally by the group Stop the War which claims 2 million members. Al Jazeerah reports that if the group’s membership backed Galloway, the anti-war party could become the largest political party in Britain.
A federal judge has thrown the 1983 conviction of an former CIA operative Edwin Wilson. He was sentenced to 52 years in prison for selling 20 tons of explosives to Libya. In her decision, the judge described one affidavit from a former top CIA official that was used to secure the conviction as “nothing but a lie.”
Newsday is reporting that over 50 detainees at the Wackenhut Detention Facility in Queens New York have been staging a hunger strike for over a week. The men, all asylum seekers, are being held in a windowless warehouse which used to store cargo headed for JFK airport. The men are being detained indefinitely while the Department of Homeland Security reviews their asylum applications. None of the men have been charged with a crime but they describe living in jail-like conditions. They are dressed in uniforms, transported in handcuffs and shackles and never allowed to go outside.