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In Iraq a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council Iyad Alawi has told the London-based newspaper al-Hayat that Saddam Hussein’s trial might be held in secret. He was concerned about the “possibility that he will mention the names of states and the names of persons to whom he has given bribes and wealth. We don’t want him to mention all that on television.” Iyad Alawi continued “There are lots of existing documents, and we don’t want to worsen Iraq’s relations with others.Â” Alawi also said Hussein deposited as much as $40 billion in foreign accounts under fictitious company names around the world. The New York Times though cites a unnamed US official who says the report is “completely wrong.”
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge ordered foreign airlines to place armed air marshals on some flights to and from the U.S. Anticipating the announcement Britain began deploying armed marshals on flights over the weekend. While the U.S. has given private U.S. airlines hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to cover new security costs, no aid is being given to the foreign airlines to pay for the marshals. Airlines that refuse to comply will be barred from landing in the U.S. The International Air Transport Association, which represents international airlines, came out against Ridge’s order. An Israeli security expert told USA Today “No country has ever tried to impose on other countries any measures of aviation security.”
Meanwhile the FBI has issued a warning to police to be on the lookout for people carrying copies of the World Almanac because it “may point to possible terrorist planning.”
The Financial Times is reporting that US oil companies are expected to begin negotiations with Libya over the nation’s oil reserves early in the new year. Washington is expected to lift the trade sanctions that have been in place since 1986. Libya has about 40,000 million [forty thousand million] barrels of oil reserves, about one eighth of the reserves of Saudi Arabia. Companies expected to seek contracts include Conoco-Philips, Marathon Oil. Occidental Petroleum, Exxon Mobil and Hess.
Meanwhile the head of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency Mohammed ElBaradei is in Libya examining the nation’s nuclear sites. He said the country’s nuclear program was at a very early stage contradicting reports out of Washington and London.
In Iran, the search for survivors in last week’s devastating earthquake continues. At least 28,000 people have died. Officials now say the death toll may top 50,000. On Monday, rescue workers found a six-month baby named Nassim alive in the arms of her dead mother. Iran’s most powerful leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also visited the site of the earthquake and vowed to rebuild the ancient city of Bam.
Meanwhile the European insurance company Munich Re is reporting that natural disasters killed nearly five times as many people in 2003 as last year.
The U.S. now believes that the cow infected with mad cow disease was likely infected in 1997 before safety bans were enacted. Meanwhile the Canadian government is conducting DNA tests to determine if the infected cow was born in Alberta as claimed by the U.S. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Federal investigators now believe at least 81 cattle in the U.S. may have been exposed to mad-cow disease.
FDA Bans Ephedra Dietary Supplement
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to place its first ban today on a dietary supplement. The substance, Ephedra, has long been tied to heart problems and strokes.
The U.S. military has dropped charges against Sgt. Georg Pogany who was accused of cowardice after he suffered a panic attack after seeing a dead Iraqi body.
Howard Dean’s campaign is reporting that the former Vermont governor raised $14 million in fourth quarter fundraising bringing his annual total to about $40 million, setting breaking a new Democratic Party record. President Bush, who is running unopposed for his party’s nomination, has raised at least $110 million to date.
In the Central African country of Burundi, the Vatican’s ambassador to the country was shot dead Monday.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the nation’ss official unemployment rate of 5.9 percent fails to include nearly 5 million part-time workers who can’t find full