In Iraq, 5,000 US, British and Iraqi troops have launched another large offensive to battle the growing resistance movement. After large attacks on Fallujah and Mosul, troops are now focusing on the province of Babil, south of Baghdad. The US has dubbed the new offensive Operation Plymouth Rock. The attack marks one of the largest offensive since the fall of the Baghdad 20 months ago. In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said the U.S. would send an unspecified number of additional troops to Iraq ahead of the January 30 vote. Military commanders have said 5,000 more troops are needed but others such as Senator John McCain has said as many as 50,000 more troops are needed.
Meanwhile the number of U.S. troops killed this month has topped 100 for only the second month since the start of the war. At least 101 troops have died so far this month. The only month deadlier was last April when 147 troops died.
And at an international conference on Iraq, the US and Britain have fought off attempts by France and several Arab countries to draw up a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
In Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets for the third day in a row to protest the disputed presidential election. The protests came amidst widespread reports of problems with the voting process that helped elect an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The pro-Western opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko has claimed the election was stolen. On Tuesday he held a symbolic ceremony and declared himself to be president. We’ll go to Kiev for a report later in the show.
President Bush is considering giving the Pentagon more power to carry out secret paramilitary operations overseas. Currently the CIA handles such covert operations, but Bush has ordered an internal review of the policy. Meanwhile Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is denying allegations that he pressured members of Congress to reject an overhaul of the intelligence agencies. The rejected intelligence bill would have stripped the Pentagon of much of its intelligence budget.
Newly released CIA documents show the Bush administration knew about the plot to overthrow Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez weeks the 2002 military coup but did nothing to stop it. This according to a report in Newsday. Until now the Bush administration has claimed it had no role in the failed coup and didn’t know one was being planned. Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archives said QUOTE “This is substantive evidence that the CIA knew in advance about the coup, and it is clear that this intelligence was distributed to dozens of members of the Bush administration, giving them knowledge of coup plotting.”
Meanwhile in Spain, the country’s new foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, has accused the former Spanish government headed by Jose Maria Aznar of backing the 2002 coup in Venezuela. Chavez agreed with the claim. He said “From Venezuela’s point of view, I have no doubt that this is true.” The charge came as Chavez was visiting Spain on an official state visit.
Congress has defeated a request by the Bush administration to fund research and the possible development of a new family of nuclear weapons. The Chicago Tribune reports that arms control advocates are hailing the rejection as one of their biggest successes in more than a decade. Congress’ new $388 billion spending bill eliminates funding for the nuclear “bunker buster” as well as other “advanced concept” tactical nuclear weapons. Congressman Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said, “This is the biggest victory that arms control advocates in Congress have had since 1992, when we were able to place limits on nuclear testing. If we are to convince other countries to forgo nuclear weapons, we cannot be preparing to build an entire new generation of nuclear weapons here in the U.S.”
The Guardian of London is reporting that newly revealed internal government documents show that the US Air Force has for the first time adopted a doctrine to establish space as the military’s next objective in order to give the country “space superiority.” Part of the new doctrine calls for pre-emptive strikes against enemy-operated satellites. One portion of the document reads, “Space superiority provides freedom to attack as well as freedom from attack. Space and air superiority are crucial first steps in any military operation.”
The group Human Rights Watch has called on the Illinois-based company Caterpillar Inc. to immediately stop selling its D9 bulldozer to the Israeli army. The group claims the vehicles are being used to level the homes of Palestinians in violation of international humanitarian law.
A new report on AIDS, has found the virus infection is now growing more rapidly in women than in men throughout most of the world. In Sub-Sahara Africa, women now make up 57 percent of the people living with HIV.
A new study out of Harvard University and the University of Queensland estimates smoking killed nearly 5 million people in the year 2000. The researchers are warning that the death toll is likely to rise in future years.
In business news, the number of millionaire households has increased by a record 2 million over the past year. According to the new Affluent Market Research survey, the number of families worth over a million dollars increased by 33 percent last year from just over 6 million to 8.2 million families.
And finally, Dan Rather announced yesterday he is resigning as CBS News anchor this coming March ending his 24-year-reign. He will remain a correspondent for 60 Minutes.