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President Bush and Sen. John Kerry battled over health care, jobs, taxes and other domestic issues in the third and final presidential debate of the campaign last night.
The two candidates also outlined differences on immigration, abortion, gay marriage, the minimum wage and their different faiths. Both candidates also took advantage of several chances to weave the Iraq war into the debate, which was held in the key swing state of Arizona.
During one exchange, Kerry quoted Bush as saying he does not think much about Osama bin Laden and is not all that concerned about him. The president replied "I just don’t think I ever said I’m not worried about Osama bin Laden. It’s kind of one of those exaggerations."
But at a press conference on March 13th 2002, just as the build-up for the Iraq war was getting underway, Bush did say about bin Laden "I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run." He described bin Laden as "marginalized," and said, "I just don’t spend that much time on him."
In Iraq, eight civilians are thought to have been killed and four wounded in an attack on Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.
A total of six U.S. soldiers have died during a 24-period on Tuesday and Wednesday. Three soldiers were killed in Sadr City by a roadside bomb. In Mosul, a suicide bomber attacked a U.S. convoy killing two more soldiers. And sixth soldier died in a roadside bombing in west Baghdad.
Meanwhile the Associated Press is reporting the U.S. may be helping to better arm the Iraqi resistance by offering cash to supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr if they turn in their weapons.
An analyst at Jane’s Defense weekly told AP many fighters are turning in broken or old guns for cash and then spending the money on new weapons. He said, "The Mahdi Army’s disarmament is something of a mirage."
Yesterday in Baghdad the unelected prime minister Ayad Allawi yesterday threatened to attack Fallujah if the Iraqi resistance did not turn over suspected Al Qaeda Zarqawi.
Back at home, In Virginia, a 37-year-old soldier who recently returned from Iraq hanged himself in jail on Saturday–less than a month after he returned home from Iraq.
Brian McKeehan had been arrested for his assaulting his wife. In the month since he returned from Iraq, police said they had responded to about six complaints against McKeehan filed by his wife and neighbors.
In election news, a former Republican operative in Nevada has failed in an attempt to purge 17,000 Democrats from the state’s voting rolls. Nevada’s former Republican Party chair Don Burdish claimed the Democrats were inactive voters. But county officials rejected the request.
Meanwhile in Oregon, the secretary of state and attorney general have announced plans to investigate allegations that a Republican-funded company called Voters Outreach of America threw out voter registration forms filed by Democrats. Similar complaints have surfaced about the same company in Nevada. Former employees of the company have said they personally saw supervisors toss out voter registration forms filed by Democrats. The move could leave hundreds and possibly thousands of Democrats in Oregon and Nevada unable to vote even though they had registered.
In other campaign news, a state court in Pennsylvania knocked Ralph Nader off the state’s presidential ballot charging that his petitions contained thousands of fraudulent signatures.
The judge said Nader fell six thousand signatures short of the needed 25,000 to appear on the ballot.
Attorneys representing detainees at Guantanamo argued in court yesterday that none of the detainees have been given a chance to appear in a courtroom despite the Supreme Court’s ruling three months ago that declared the jailed men have the right to challenge their imprisonment in U.S. courts.
The Washington Post reports that defense attorneys yesterday told a U.S. District Court judge that only a handful of the detainees have even spoken to their lawyers so far. And lawyers said the government has also broken a court-ordered Sept. 30 to justify why they are detaining each man.
Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly is being charged with sexual harassment in a $60 million lawsuit. Andrea Mackris an associate producer of "The O’Reilly Factor" accused the conservative talk show host of making "disgusting" phone calls to her and threatening to ruin her career if she complained.
The suit Mackris also claims O’Reilly pestered her for three-way sex with another woman and bragged about his prowess in bed.
O’Reilly fired back with a lawsuit of his own contending he’s the target of a politically motivated extortion plot to "punish" him and Fox News.
Less than a day after The Nation magazine reported on a secret multi-billion dollar deal involving former Secretary of State James Baker and Madeline Albright negotiating to buy out Iraq’s debt to Kuwait, the deal now appears to be dead. In a major expose, the magazine reported on confidential documents showing that the Carlyle Group, of which Baker is a partner, was part of a consortium along with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Under the deal the consortium would use it’s "personal connections to persuade world leaders that Iraq must 'maximize' its debt payments to Kuwait."
The Consortium’s stated goal directly contradicts the US foreign policy aim of Baker’s mission. He, of course, is President Bush’s special envoy dealing with Iraq’s debt. Nation columnist and author Naomi Klein reports that on January 21, 2004, Baker flew to Kuwait to meet with top government officials, including the Foreign Minister, ostensibly to discuss whether Kuwait would forgive the $57 billion in sovereign debt and war reparations owed by Iraq. On the very same day, the debt restructuring proposal—which asks the government of Kuwait to make a $1 billion investment in Carlyle—was hand-delivered to Kuwait’s Foreign Minister.
Since the story broke yesterday, Carlyle is now trying to completely disown any involvement in the deal. Initially, Carlyle had confirmed to The Nation that it was aware of the proposal and the fact that it stood to gain a billion dollars. But last night, they changed their tune. In a statement to Naomi Klein, Carlyle Vice President Chris Ullman said "Even if there is money to invest, Carlyle will not invest it. We learned today that we did not even join the consortium. When I spoke to you yesterday, I did not know that. We had not actually joined the consortium. We were in discussions with them to join but we declined to sign the memorandum for several reasons, include the fact that Secretary Baker had been named to the [envoy] job."
Carlyle also wrote a letter to the Consortium, cc’ed to the Kuwaiti government and the Albright group, saying it had nothing to do with the deal. Carlyle’s General Counsel wrote, "We expect the Consortium to cease using Carlyle’s name and to cease stating or implying that Carlyle has any connection, involvement or financial interest in its current or prospective work."
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