The U.S. military has officially announced it is sending 12,000 more troops to Iraq to bring the total number in the country to 150,000–the highest level since the US occupation began more than 18 months ago. The military claims the extra troops are needed only temporarily in the lead up to next month’s election.
Meanwhile In Afghanistan, Agence France Press is reporting thousands of U.S. soldiers are preparing a major attack against Taliban fighters. The offensive is expected to begin within days of the Dec. 7 inauguration of president Hamid Karzai.
A new Congressional report has found that many students participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught misleading and inaccurate information about abortion, homosexuality and AIDS. Students have been taught that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for AIDS, and that touching a person’s genitals can “result in pregnancy.” This according to a report in the Washington Post. The Congressional report found that for the past three years, the Bush administration has been strongly promoting these abstinence programs even though they frequently relied on medically inaccurate or misleading information, often in direct contradiction to the findings of government scientists. The Congressional report examined the 13 most widely used abstinence-only curricula; only two of the program were deemed to be accurate. Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California said, “Something is seriously wrong when federal tax dollars are being used to mislead kids about basic health facts.”
In Ukraine, the nation appears to be heading toward holding a new election to resolve the political crisis that developed after last week’s disputed presidential votes. Candidates Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko have agreed to seek a solution once the Supreme Court rules on electoral fraud allegations.
Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti has announced he will run in the upcoming Jan. 9 election to fill Yasser Arafat’s post as the head of the Palestinian Authority. Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison. The last-minute decision stunned many. Just five days ago Barghouti had announced he would not run for office. Barghouti will face former Prime Minister and current PLO chairman Mahmud Abbas and several other candidates including pro-democracy activist Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. The jailed Barghouti said his candidacy would be a gesture of loyalty to Arafat and to the “martyrs, prisoners and the other victims and to hold onto the principles of the right of return and the rights of refugees.”
The Palestinian group Hamas is encouraging its supporters to boycott the election. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said it considered the election to be “merely a tool to prop up the Palestinian Authority.” Islamic Jihad has also called for a boycott.
In China, the death toll from Sunday’s coal mine explosion has reached 166 making it one of the country’s worst mining accidents ever. On Wednesday some 800 relatives and coworkers of the victims stormed a government office in protest. The families accused the mine managers of negligence and greed. They also charged that the miners were forced to continue working even after dangerous gas levels were detected days before.
Armed with search warrants, FBI agents searched the Washington headquarters Wednesday of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as part of an ongoing spy investigation. AIPAC officials have been accused of illegally sharing classified government documents with the Israeli government concerning U.S. policy toward Iran. A grand jury also delivered subpoenas on Wednesday for four top officials at AIPAC. No criminal charges have been filed yet in the case.
Harvard Law School has announced it will resume its policy barring the military from sending recruiting agents to its campus. The move comes days after a federal court ruled that the government can not threaten to cut funding to schools that bar military recruiters. Harvard Law is banning the military because its “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule violates the school’s nondiscrimination policy.
In Philadelphia, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union took over a military recruiting office Tuesday and attempted to set up a homeless encampment there known as Bushville. The protest came a as part of a campaign called “Homes For The Holidays: Operation Bring the Money Home.”
In Britain, the Daily Telegraph newspaper has been ordered to pay nearly $300,000 to the antiwar MP George Galloway. Galloway sued the paper for libel after it reported that he had received secret payments from Saddam Hussein through the oil-for-food program. Galloway said “This was done to me because I was a leader of the anti-war movement.” He went on to say “The real enemies of our state are those who have led us into this disaster in Iraq and those in parliament and the media who supported them.”
The city of Portland Oregon has agreed to pay out $300,000 to 12 anti-war protesters who claimed the police had used excessive force against them in a series of protests beginning in August 2002 when President Bush visited the city. In two lawsuits, the protesters argued that the city police violated their rights to free speech and free assembly by dousing them with pepper spray at close range and firing rubber stingballs into a crowd.
CBS and NBC have rejected a new TV commercial from the United Church of Christ because it deemed the ad to be too controversial. In the ad, the church announces that it welcomes gays and lesbians and it alluded to condemnation of gay relationships by other churches. A CBS spokesperson claimed the ad was rejected because the network has a policy of not accepting advocacy advertising. The ad shows a muscular bouncer, working a rope line outside a nameless church, deciding who is eligible to enter and worship. When the bouncer see two men holding hands, he says “No, step aside, please,” Across the screen comes the message, “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.” The final scene shows two women embracing.