In an interview with USA Today, Howard Dean vowed to return to his centrist roots following his third place finish in Iowa. He said “It’s who I was as governor for 12 years. I might as well go back to being who I really am.” Meanwhile the New York Times reports Dean is also softening the tone of his speeches and eliminating high-voltage campaign rallies. Tonight ABC’s Prime Time will air the first joint televised interview with Dean and his wife Judith. Also tonight Dean will join the other Democratic candidates for a nationally televised debate from New Hampshire which is holding its primary on Tuesday.
Two separate polls conducted by the Boston Globe and Boston Herald are showing that Dean’s lead in New Hampshire has completely evaporated and Senator John Kerry is now beating him by 10 percentage points.
Computer security specialists have issued a new report strongly criticizing a new Pentagon program to allow overseas voters to vote on the Internet in the 2004 presidential election. According to the Washington Post, the report urged the Pentagon to immediately halt plans to launch the program because it was so insecure it could be hacked and undermine the election. Computer scientist Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins University said “History has shown that when people have the opportunity to tamper with an election they do.” The Pentagon says it has no plans to stop the program.
A group of 40 conservative Republican members of Congress met Wednesday in Washington to strategize how to force the White House to cut government spending. Bush’s economic plans have come under increasing criticism from groups that are usually closely tied to the president including the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth as well as The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. One Republican Senate aide told the New York Times “The Republican party has long been the party of small government but the era of small government has ended for the Republican Party.” [[[In a new book former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said he warned the administration of a looming fiscal crisis but was brushed aside by Vice President Dick Cheney who privately said “You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” This year’s deficit is expected to top a record $500 billion. ]]]
In Iraq, a minibus carrying Iraqi women who worked at a U.S. base west of Baghdad came under attack today. Four women died another six were injured. Meanwhile two U.S. soldiers were killed a third was critically wounded after a U.S. military base in Central Iraq has hit by mortar fire. 505 U.S. soldiers have now died since the start of the invasion of Iraq.
A Canadian citizen who was detained at a New York airport on a stopover in 2002 and then secretly deported to Syria is filing a lawsuit today against the U.S. government and Attorney General John Ashcroft. The man, Maher Arar, said he was deported to Syria even though the U.S. knew he would likely be tortured there. Arar was jailed in Syria for a year and suffered mental and physical abuse.
In Ottawa the Royal Canadian Mounted Police yesterday raided the home and office of a Canadian reporter who has covered Maher Arar’s case. Police seized notes, computer files and address books. In November the reporter, Juliet O’Neill, of the Ottawa Citizen, published an article based on information from a secret Canadian intelligence file that she obtained on Arar. She may now face criminal charges for violating Canada’s new Security of Information Act which was passed after 9/11. O’Neill’s editor said “I cannot remember a blacker day for freedom of the press in this country.” O’Neill’s article claimed that Canadian intelligence believed Arar was a member of a disbanded al Qaeda support group. Arar has denied any ties to terrorist organizations and has never been charged with a crime.
The military defense lawyer who is representing an Australian detainee held at Guantanamo Bay has openly criticized the government’s rules regulating military tribunals. Marine Corps Maj. Michael Mori said “The military commissions will not provide a full and fair trial. The commission process has been created and controlled by those with a vested interest only in convictions.” Mori said tribunal judges will be barred from dismissing charges filed by the Pentagon. He also criticized the appeals process and the message it sends to the international community. Mori warned “What’s to stop the North Koreans from arresting a [U.S.] contractor as a spy and trying him under the very rules we set up?”
In Haiti, at least 20,000 people marched Wednesday in Port-Au-Prince to show support for President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Meanwhile for the second time in three days police fired tear gas at opponents of Aristide who were trying to hold protests. Since mid-September there have been almost daily anti-Aristide protests. On Saturday Aristide said the opposition rallies constituted an attempted coup. And a coalition of anti-government groups known as the Democratic Platform has announced it will refuse to participate in new legislative elections unless Aristide resigns. The coalition which includes opposition parties, clergy and business leaders, has called for the formation of a transitional government to govern until new elections can be held.
On Wednesday the Ohio Senate passed a far-reaching ban on same-sex marriages. The bill defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman and bars unmarried partners of state employees from receiving benefits. The state’s governor, Bob Taft, has pledged to sign a gay marriage ban.
In Seattle, the city has agreed to pay $250,000 to a group of over 150 protesters who charged they were illegally arrested during the 1999 World Trade Organization demonstrations.