The Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration intends to seek about $70 billion in emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan early next year. This will push the total cost of the war and occupation of Iraq to nearly $225 billion. The Post reports the $70 billion request is considerably larger than what lawmakers anticipated earlier this year.
Meanwhile USA Today is reporting the Pentagon wants to temporarily add 20,000 troops in Iraq ahead of January’s scheduled elections. The addition would bring the total number of US troops to almost 160,000–the highest amount since May 1, 2003 when President Bush declared major combat operations to be over.
NBC News is reporting President Bush passed up three opportunities in 2002 to bomb a training camp run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi because Bush feared it would undermine his administration’s case for war against Saddam Hussein. At the time the Jordanian-born Zarqawi was operating in northern Iraq in an area not controlled by Saddam Hussein. Today the Bush administration claims Zarqawi is the most dangerous man in Iraq and has placed a $25 million reward on his head.
In Baghdad, hundreds of people demonstrated in the streets yesterday to call for the release of Margaret Hassan, the kidnapped head of Care International. The Irish-born Hassan has lived in Iraq for over 30 years and was a vocal critic of the U.S. sanctions and invasion. This marks the first time Iraqis have held a demonstration calling for the release of a hostage. Among the Iraqis taking part were 30 students from a school for deaf children. They asked for the release of “Mama Margaret”. The main Iraqi resistance groups have condemned the kidnapping of Hassan and said they do not know her whereabouts. Meanwhile a seven-year-old Lebanese boy was kidnapped yesterday becoming the youngest person held hostage to date in Iraq. His father has reportedly received a ransom demand of $150,000.
In other Iraq news, a series of bombings killed at least 13 people yesterday including three Iraqis in a blast near the Australian embassy in Baghdad.
On the campaign trail, former President Bill Clinton joined John Kerry at a rally before 80,000 supporters in Philadelphia. The event–the largest so far of the Kerry campaign — marked one of Clinton’s first public appearances since undergoing quadruple bypass surgery.
Sen. John Kerry yesterday accused Bush of demonstrating “incredible incompetence” for failing to secure 380 tons of highly explosive materials from a military site in Iraq after the U.S. invasion. Kerry said, “Now we know that our country and our troops are less safe because the president has failed to do the basics. This is one of the great blunders of Iraq, one of the great blunders of the administration.” Bush did not address the missing explosives yesterday but administration officials gave varying accounts of what happened. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan initially claimed that Bush had only learned about the missing explosives 10 days earlier. Later in the day, a chief Pentagon spokesperson claimed the Pentagon had known about the missing explosives for 18 months and that the explosives were already missing when the U.S. took control of the military base in April 2003. NBC News has confirmed the Pentagon’s report but the Iraqi government has told the International Atomic Energy Agency that the explosives were taken after the U.S. invasion.
The chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, William Rehnquist has been hospitalized and has undergone an emergency tracheotomy after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The 80-year-old Rehnquist has plans to return to the bench when the court reconvenes on Nov. 1–a day before the presidential election. The Financial Times reports that even if Rehnquist is not healthy enough to return to the bench immediately he could still take part in decisions by listening to tapes of the sessions. Four years ago Rehnquist cast a crucial vote that delivered the election to President Bush. Rehnquist’s illness also raises speculation the winner of next week’s election might have a Supreme Court vacancy to fill soon after taking office.
The Knight Ridder news agency is reporting that President Bush may have lied about why he started working at an inner city poverty program called PROJECT PULL in Houston in 1973. Bush has publicly said he was asked by Project PULL’s director John White to help run the program. But now former associates of White, who died in 1988, have gone on record for the first time saying White agreed to take Bush only as a favor to his father because George W. had gotten into some kind of trouble. Bush’s tenure at P.U.L.L. has been the subject of speculation for years. In 2000, author J.H. Hatfield reported in his controversial book Fortunate Son that Bush was arrested for cocaine possession in 1972 and had his record expunged in exchange for community service.
In Gaza, Israeli forces have ended a 30-hour attack on the Khan Younis refugee camp that left as many as 17 Palestinians dead and more than 90 injured. An estimated 30 houses were demolished leaving 200 families homeless.
A new report by the United Nations has found that 22 percent of Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza are malnourished. The report was written by a Swiss sociologist named Jean Ziegler who works for the UN as an expert on starvation. Israel responded to the new report by calling on the UN to fire Ziegler. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told journalists yesterday that Ziegler “attacks Israel on every occasion… We have asked the Commission on Human Rights to consider the possibility of ending his mandate.”
And new FBI statistics show that police arrested a record-high 755,000 people for marijuana violations last year. The pro-legalization group NORML reports a marijuana smoker is now arrested every 42 seconds in this country at a cost of approximately $7.6 billion annually. The number of marijuana arrests have nearly doubled since 1993 and now exceed the total number of arrests for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
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