The Washington Post is reporting senior military commanders in Iraq are now saying it is increasingly likely they will need more troops to fight the spreading Iraqi resistance. The Post cites commanders who say an additional 5,000 troops is needed especially in the lead-up to the elections now scheduled for Jan. 30. But Senator John McCain has estimated that the total number of troops needed may be as high 50,000.
In Iraq this weekend, fighting continued across the country. On Saturday at least 50 people died in including four government employees who were assassinated. At least another 22 died on Sunday. Much of the violence was seen as a response to Friday’s US raid on the prominent Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad that left as many as four people dead. The raid occurred during Friday prayers. The Abu Hanifa mosque is considered to be one of the holiest Sunni sites in the Middle East.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it was 'deeply concerned' at the impact of the fighting in the country and at apparent failures by all sides in the conflict to respect humanitarian laws.”
UPI is calculating the war in Iraq is now costing the United States roughly 50 percent more than what the government admits. The news agency estimated the true cost is $6 billion a month or $200 million per day.
Washington Post reports the acute malnutrition rate among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the US invaded the country 20 months ago. An estimated 400,000 children now suffer from the condition known as “wasting” which is characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein. The country now has malnutrition rates higher than Uganda and Haiti.
In other news from Iraq, Teresa Borcz Khalifa, the Polish woman who was kidnapped last month in Iraq, has been released and has returned home to Poland.
Middle East analyst Juan Cole reports that anti-U.S., anti-war protests were carried out around the world this weekend. In Chile, 30,000 took to the streets Sunday to protest President Bush and his visit to Santiago. 5,000 Turks rallied to denounce the Fallujah attack. Thousands protested against the US war in Libya. In Gaza over 4,000 took part in protests against the israeli occupation and the occupation of Iraq. And last Wednesday saw 13,000 Greeks took to the streets to protest the US.
President Bush is scheduled to visit Colombia today to meet with President Alvaro Uribe who has been Bush’s closest ally in Latin America. Colombia is staging a massive security operation with 15,000 troops to protect Bush. Columbia is the largest recipient of US aid of any other country outside the Middle East. Congress recently voted to double the number of US troops in the country from 400 to 800.
In news from the Ukraine, tens of thousands of supporters of the country’s leading opposition figure has taken to the streets of Kiev to protest the country’s election results. The demonstrators are insisting their leader [ Viktor Yushchenko] won Sunday’s election. Exit polls showed him winning by as many 6 percent.
In Venezuela, a state prosecutor named Danilo Anderson was assassinated Thursday shortly before he was scheduled to bring charges against 400 people who attempted to overthrow President Hugo Chavez two years ago. The Chavez government has said the car bombing of Anderson was likely carried out by Venezuelan exiles living in Florida. The exiles have openly discussed their intent to overthrow Chavez’s government. Last month, Orlando Urdaneta went on a Miami tv station to say he wanted to see Chavez killed by “Men with rifles and telescopic sights who do not miss.” Meanwhile Hugo Chavez has arrived here in Spain for an official two day visit.
The Peruvian government has said it will not release the New Yorker Lori Berenson from prison even if it’s ordered to do so by the Inter-American Human Rights Court. The legal arm of the Organization of American States, is scheduled to deliberate her case beginning on Wednesday. The 34-year-old Berenson has been jailed for nearly a decade on charges of helping the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. She was originally sentenced to life in prison by hooded military judges. A retrial reduced the sentence to 20 years.
In news from Capitol Hill, Congress approved a massive $388 billion spending bill on Saturday. While the bill curtailed federal spending in most non-defense areas it also included provisions that may restrict the right of women to obtain abortions and the number of students who can receive college aid. The bill includes a provision that will make it easier for health care providers and insurance companies to refuse to provide abortions or offer abortion counseling. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California described the amendment as “essentially a domestic gag rule” that will restrict access to abortion counseling, referral and information. Pelosi criticized the amendment which she said will essentially allow hospitals and health care companies to ignore Roe v Wade.
The New York Times reports another part of the massive spending bill will result in nearly 100,000 college students losing all of their federal grants to go to school. Another million students could lose some of their federal grant funding according to statistics by the American Council on Education.
Another controversial provision was eliminated after protests from privacy advocates. It would have allowed certain members of the Congressional leadership access to view the tax returns of any citizen. The provision had been quietly inserted by Republican Congressman Ernest Istook of Oklahoma.
In news from Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has named, Gianfranco Fini, the former leader of Italy’s neo-fascists to become the country’s new foreign minister. The Guardian of London reports that Fini’s National Alliance party was launched in the early 1990s to replace the Italian Social Movement, which was formed after the war to keep Benito Mussolini’s ideals alive. Fini has attempted to shed his fascist background as he gained political power. Two years ago he retracted a statement of his that Mussolini was the 20th century’s greatest statesman. Democracy Now will be broadcasting from Italy on Wednesday.
Florida congressman Kendrick Meek has called for an investigation into the death of an 81-year-old Haitian priest who died five days after he flew into Miami and was taken into federal custody. The man, Joseph Dantica, flew to Miami to escape fighting in Port Au Prince where he ran a church and school. Even though he arrived with a visa and was seeking asylum, the Department of Homeland Security detained him and sent to the Krome prison. He died five days later. His son said father suffered from a heart condition and that authorities took his medication from him.
And in Columbus Georgia, a record 16,000 demonstrators protested this weekend outside the School of the Americas at Fort Benning. Police reported making 20 arrests. The protesters called on the government to shut down the school which has a notorious record of training Latin American military officers who went on to commit gross human rights abuses.