The Washington Post reports the U.S. is moving toward lifting its ban on rehiring former members of Iraq’s ruling Baath Party and senior Iraqi military officers. More than half a dozen generals from Saddam Hussein’s army have been appointed to top jobs over the past week.
A U.S. General in Iraq is reporting 10 percent of the new U.S.-trained Iraqi army have turned against the U.S. and are backing the resistance. Another 40 percent of the U.S.-trained troops have quit.
The New York Times reports two companies, General Electric and Siemens, have suspended their reconstruction work in Iraq until the security situation improves.
Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Senators Wednesday the Iraq occupation is now costing the U.S. $4.7 billion a month. rising costs could force the Bush administration to ask for more money by September when a $4 billion shortfall is projected. Meanwhile legislators accused President Bush of trying to hide the true costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan until after the election. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said "They haven’t asked for one single penny for next year for Afghanistan and Iraq. Give me a break!" Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel added "The administration would be well served here to come forward now, be honest about this, because the continuity and the confidence in this policy is going to be required to sustain it." Hagel estimated it would cost up to $75 billion more "to sustain us in Iraq for this year."
And on Wednesday the Security Council unanimously endorsed an independent investigation into charges that U.N. officials mishandled the Iraqi "oil-for-food" program, allowing Saddam Hussein to illegally pocket $10 billion.
The Sierra Club has announced that anti-immigration advocates have failed in their bid to take over control of the century-old environmental organization. A slate of candidates who back strict controls on immigration attempted to win five open seats, but members of the Sierra Club overwhelmingly rejected the candidates. Sierra Club President Larry Fahn said "I think the agenda of those looking to bring immigration to our organization was soundly defeated. We should now focus... on the mission most of us consider most important this year: defeating President Bush and his horrendous environmental policies."
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Wednesday that two pieces of a highly radioactive fuel rod are missing from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. The operator of the plant, Entergy, says the public is not likely at risk but local anti-nuclear activists disagreed. The material would be fatal to anyone who came in contact with it without being properly shielded. Peter Alexander, of nuclear power watchdog group New England Coalition, said "This is a very, very serious issue and Entergy cannot be allowed to spin the report and get away with claiming that public health and safety are not at risk. At the very least their reassurances are premature."
The White House has announced President Bush and Vice President Cheney will meet in private before the 9/11 commission next Thursday, April 29.
In the northern Gaza Strip, Israeli forces have now killed 14 Palestinians over the past 2 days in and around Beit Lahiya. The Washington Post reported 60-ton Israeli tanks and Apache helicopters attacked rock-throwing teenagers and gunmen armed with homemade rockets. Palestinian medical authorities said most of those killed were teenagers. At least 40 people have also been injured. Meanwhile President Bush dismissed international criticism world for backing Israel’s right to keep settlements in the West Bank and rejecting the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland. Bush said Wednesday "Ariel Sharon came to America, and he stood up with me and he said, 'We are pulling out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank. In my judgment, the whole world should have said, ’Thank you, Ariel. Now we have a chance to begin the construction of a peaceful Palestinian state.'"
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