Two U.S. soldiers were killed yesterday in separate incidents near the town of Balad, north of Baghdad. One of the soldiers died and two were wounded when Iraqi resistance fighters engaged their patrol with small-arms fire and the other soldier was killed when a convoy was struck by a roadside bomb near the town. In Baghdad, a U.S. patrol killed three Iraqis, including an 11 year-old boy, at a gun market in the capital after apparently mistaking test-firing by customers as an attack. In Saddam Hussein’s home-town of Tikrit, U.S. forces backed by tanks and mortars assaulted dozens of positions in the city, carrying out more than 38 attacks in the town. A total of six Iraqis have been killed and 99 arrested in a series of sweeps across the country in the past 24 hours.
In northern Iraq, an oil pipeline was set on fire as a new U.S.-led force was deployed to defend the pipeline. And The New York Times is reporting that a U.S. general is preparing to pull troops out of the center of the guerrilla hotbed town of Ramadi within the next month or two and instead will have Iraqis oversee security. The general said “We will become the backup and the checkers if they aren’t doing something right.” The Times notes that most of the Iraqi police slated to take over haven’t had significant training.
President Bush decided last night to cancel his planned speech to Parliament during his state visit to Britain because he feared being heckled by anti-war MPs. Senior White House adviser Dr Harlan Ullman told the UK Mirror: “It would have been a great photo-opportunity. But they were fearful it would to turn into a spectacle.” The decision to abandon the speech came as extraordinary security measures are placing London under a state of virtual siege ahead of Bush’s arrival today.
An Italian member of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq has resigned. Marco Calamai, a counselor of the Coalition Provisional Authority, accused the Bush administration of inefficiency and failing to understand Iraq and complained that the British and Americans had marginalized the Italians. He added that only an interim authority headed by the United Nations could turn things around. Calamai told Italian reporters in Nasiriyah on Sunday that the failure of the coalition to understand Iraqi society had created “delusion, social discontent and anger” among Iraqis and allowed terrorism to “easily take root.”
Meanwhile in Italy, up to a quarter of a million mourners are expected to attend the state funeral today of the 19 Italians killed last week a Nasiriyah bombing.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in yesterday as the 38th governor of California. Some 7,500 invited guests attended the inauguration ceremony, including four past California governors, Hollywood celebrities and foreign dignitaries. Schwarzenegger was elected into office in the Oct. 7 recall election that ousted Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. Schwarzenegger faces tough economic problems as governor, including a projected budget deficit of potentially more than $20 billion over two years. After being sworn in on the steps of the Capitol, Schwarzenegger said, “It’s no secret I’m a newcomer to politics. I realize I was elected on faith and hope. And I feel a great responsibility–not to let the people down.”
Senate Intelligence Committee leaders and the CIA plan to ask the Justice Department to investigate who leaked a top-secret Pentagon memo to the Weekly Standard in October. The memo, which was attached to a letter sent by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith to the committee, briefly described raw agency intelligence on any relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. In making their case for invading Iraq, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other senior administration officials initially stressed Saddam Hussein’s connection to Osama bin Laden. To date, the administration has been unable to come up with any evidence that there was a connection between the Iraqis and al Qaeda.
John Allen Muhammad, one of the men accused of the DC sniper killings last year, has been found guilty of murder, terrorism, conspiracy and a firearms charge. The jury is expected to decide on whether he should receive the death penalty within the next few days. Muhammed was convicted of shooting dead Dean Meyers at a gas station and murdering at least one other person. He may also face other charges relating to the killings, which left 10 dead and three wounded.
His alleged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, is on trial separately. Malvo could also face the death penalty if convicted, despite being 17 years-old at the time of his alleged crimes.
The Bush administration is considering allowing low-level radioactive waste to be dumped at toxic waste sites and other facilities that currently aren’t permitted to receive it. This according to the Associated Press. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue a notice today seeking public comments on the proposal, which it says could simplify the process for companies getting rid of hazardous and radioactive waste. Environmentalists criticized the proposal and said the move was troubling coming within days of Gov. Leavitt’s confirmation as the new EPA chief.
AARP, the largest and most influential organization of older Americans, endorsed a GOP-sponsored Medicare bill yesterday. The bill offers a limited prescription drug plan and pushes seniors toward private providers as part of the biggest transformation of Medicare in its 38-year history. The 35 million-member AARP had opposed the Medicare bill but changed its position after GOP leaders made a few changes, including adding a provision that increases benefits for those with low-incomes.
This news from Israel: Two Israeli soldiers have been shot dead by Palestinian gunmen at an army checkpoint near Jerusalem. The incident came as the Israeli army raided the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip setting off a gun battle that wounded nine Palestinians, one critically.
Regulations enacted by Attorney General John Ashcroft are preventing the FBI from finding out details about gun purchases by people on the government’s terrorist watch list. The Justice Department defended its decision saying, “Being a suspected member of a terrorist organization doesn’t disqualify a person from owning a gun any more than being under investigation for a non-terrorism felony would.”
DNA profiles from hundreds of thousands of juvenile offenders and adults arrested but not convicted of crimes could be added to the FBI’s national database under a proposed law moving through Congress. This according to USA Today. Proponents, including the Bush administration, say that expanding the number of profiles in the database would greatly increase the number of crimes solved. But critics say that taking a person’s DNA before he is even convicted removes the “presumption of innocence.”