The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the U.S. is planning a springtime offensive inside Pakistan involving thousands of special forces and ground troops in an attempt to target the Al Qaeda network. One source told the paper, this was “not like a contingency plan for North Korea, something that sits on a shelf. This planning is like planning for Iraq. They want this plan to be executable — now.” The plans may have been accelerated after there were two attempts on Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf’s life. Publicly Pakistani officials have rejected suggestions that it would allow the U.S. to carry out a major offense inside Pakistan. But the Tribune quotes a well-place military source who said “Before we were constrained by the border. Musharraf did not want that. Now we are told we’re going into Pakistan with Musharraf’s help.”
In Israel, 10 people died and 50 were wounded after a suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem today. The bombing occurred close to the official residence of Prime Minister General Ariel Sharon. The Palestinian group Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. It was the first suicide bombing in the capital in five months. The bombing comes a day after Israeli forces invaded Gaza City killing eight Palestinians including fighters with Islamic Jihad and at least four civilians.
David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector, yesterday said an independent investigation should be conducted into the flawed intelligence over Iraq’s weapons capability. Kay said the intelligence was “fundamentally flawed but was not deliberately distorted.” Kay’s call came during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The White House dismissed the idea of an independent investigation and said inspections should continue. Kay also said he did not believe that the Bush administration had pressured intelligence analysts to exaggerate the threat. But leading Democrats disagreed. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said “Many of us feel that the evidence so far leads only to one conclusion, that what has happened was more than a failure of intelligence; it was the result of manipulation of the intelligence to justify a decision to go to war.”
Meanwhile in Britain a judicial inquiry has cleared Prime Minister Tony Blair of exaggerating intelligence claims about Iraq in the lead-up to the invasion. The inquiry headed by Lord Hutton blamed the BBC for airing what it described as unfounded allegations that the British government had sexed up intelligence about Iraq. In response to the Hutton Report, BBC chairman Gavyn Davies submitted his resignation and the BBC issued an apology fort inaccuracies in its original report. The BBC’s original report on May 29 led to a chain of events that resulted in the apparent suicide in July of David Kelly. Kelly was a British weapons expert who was identified publicly as the source for the BBC story. The Hutton Report is being widely viewed as a whitewash by critics of the Iraq invasion. Parliamentarian George Galloway said “The establishment has exculpated the establishment from the crimes and blunders for which they were charged. The prime minister led us into a complete disaster. He is either a fool or a knave, either incompetent or a liar.”
In campaign news, Howard Dean has named a close friend of Al Gore’s to be his new campaign manager. Longtime corporate lobbyist Roy Neel will replace Joe Trippi. The shakeup comes at a critical time for the former Vermont governor who placed third in Iowa and second in New Hampshire. The campaign which raised over $40 million is down to just $5 million. Campaign workers were asked to skip their paychecks for two weeks. After spending $2 million more in advertising than any other candidate, Dean is now the only one of the leading candidates without any ads on the air. Trippi had been credited with revolutionizing the use of the Internet in fundraising and organizing. He also helped build Dean’s grassroots campaign. He is being replaced by a Washington insider who used to serve as president of the United States Telephone Association.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has authorized the Army to temporarily grow by 30,000 above the Congressional approved limit of 482,000. Rumsfeld made the move using emergency authority granted by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks that allows the Pentagon to temporarily increase the size of the military without Congressional approval.
A secret FBI informant who had been living in Detroit is charging that an FBI agent instructed him to break the law by spying on other Muslims and by stealing their mail. The informant, a Lebanese man named Marwan Farhat, made the charge in a Jan. 21 letter that he wrote before he left the country after his identity as an informant was exposed. A copy of the letter was obtained by the Detroit News. The informant wrote “I worked around the clock helping and assisting the government of the United States to put Muslims in jail. My life has been destroyed, abused and used to benefit your interests.” Farhat originally became an informant as part of a plea bargain after he was arrested on cocaine charges.
The Washington Post is reporting that the makers of popular antidepressant drugs are refusing to disclose the results of clinical trials involving depressed children. Doctors say the studies may prove that drugs such as Paxil. Zoloft and Effexor, may cause children to become suicidal. Researches familiar with the studies show that children who take the drugs did not get any better than children taking dummy pills. The drug companies say the studies are trade secrets.
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