At least ten Palestinians have been killed today as Israel continues a new attack on the Gaza Strip. The dead include an unarmed woman. She was one of several Palestinian women shot by Israeli troops as they rushed to serve as human shields outside a mosque holding militants. Meanwhile, a four-year old boy has died from wounds sustained in an Israeli shelling on Thursday.
In Iraq, more than fifty people were killed in violence across the country Thursday. The dead include the Dean of Baghdad University’s School of Administration and Economics. The dean, Jassim al-Asadi, was returning home when his car came under fire from masked attackers. His wife and son were also killed. Iraq’s Education Ministry says one hundred fifty-five academics have been killed since the US-led invasion.
Meanwhile, the US death toll continues to rise. At least five US troops were killed Thursday. The deaths come on the heels of October’s toll of 105 troops — the highest monthly total in nearly two years.
Meanwhile, the chief US military spokesperson in Iraq has compared the ongoing violence there to a work of art. Speaking in Baghdad Thursday, General William Caldwell said: “Every great work of art goes through messy phases while it is in transition. A lump of clay can become a sculpture. Blobs of paint become paintings which inspire.”
His comments come as the Pentagon has announced its expanding efforts to effect how the media covers the Iraq war. Department officials have established a “rapid response unit” that can provide quick reaction to news reports and provide more military guests for radio and television. A senior military officer tells the New York Times the Pentagon is “completely consumed with trying to control the message on Iraq.”
In other Iraq news, an Iraqi journalist has been found dead nearly two weeks after his kidnapping. Abdul-Majid Ismail Khalil wrote for several Iraqi newspapers. At least eighty-seven journalists have been killed since the US-led invasion.
The New York Times is reporting the Bush administration and leading Congressional Republicans are trying to close the office overseeing corruption and abuse in the US-led reconstruction of Iraq. A provision attached to this year’s military authorization bill says the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction will close on October 1st of next year. The office is headed by Republican lawyer Stuwart Bowen. Bowen’s investigations have indicted several American officials on corruption charges, documented wasteful and inept work by large contractors and found the Pentagon did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons given to Iraqi troops. Democratic Congressmember Henry Waxman said: “It appears the administration wants to silence the messenger that is giving us information about waste and fraud in Iraq.”
In Nicaragua, campaigning is coming to a close in the country’s Presidential elections. Voters head to the polls Sunday in a race that’s drawn heavy attention from the Bush administration. The White House has threatened economic sanctions and withdrawal of aid if voters elect Sandinista leader and former President Daniel Ortega. Ortega wrapped up his campaign Thursday in Managua. Daniel Ortega: “We have faith and, for the love of God, we ask you to give us the opportunity to govern in peace to get this country out of poverty.” Ortega is currently leading polls with thirty-four percent. He is just one percentage point away from avoiding a second-round runoff vote.
At the United Nations, both the US and Venezuela are claiming victory in their standoff over Venezuela’s race with Guatemala for a seat on the UN Security Council. The two Latin American countries agreed to nominate Panama for the seat after neither was able to attract a two-thirds majority. On Thursday, Venezuelan Ambassador Francisco Javier Arias Cardenas said his government had stood up to American intimidation.
Venezuelan UN Ambassador Francisco Javier Arias Cardenas: I think we won really. We won in that the General Assembly won in freedom. We won in finding out our strengths and I think, if they can learn from this, Mr. Bolton and the government of Mr. Bush, that they can not impose things through force.”
Meanwhile, US Ambassador John Bolton said the Bush administration has achieved its main goal.
US UN Ambassador John Bolton: We would have looked forward to working with Guatemala on the Council, we’ll now look forward to working with Panama if in fact GRULAC endorses that. I would say the defeat of Venezuela certainly accomplishes our principal objective.”
A British humanitarian group is claiming as many as ninety-eight percent of cluster bomb victims over the last three decades have been civilian. In a new report, Handicap International says nearly one-third of those have been children. Hundreds of thousands cluster bomblets are on the ground in Lebanon following this summer’s Israeli invasion.
Here in the United States, a new poll shows Democrats are holding enough seats for a shot at winning control of the Senate. Democratic nominees are holding at least slim leads in six of the seven most vulnerable Republican Senate races — Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Montana, Virginia and Rhode Island. The Democrats need to pick up six seats to win Senate control. On a campaign stop in Montana Thursday, President Bush dismissed the poll numbers and predicted a Republican victory.
President Bush: “We have been through this before you might remember 2004. Some of them were picking out offices in the West Wing (of the White House). The movers never got the call and the same thing is going to happen on November 7th, we will win the Senate and we will win the House.”
The Bush administration has announced a new policy that strips automatic Medicaid coverage to children born to undocumented workers. Babies of undocumented workers were previously insured if the mother was covered during birth. Under the new policy, parents must file applications for the child and provide documents to prove his or her citizenship. Doctors say the change will make it more difficult for infants to receive care in their first of year of life. Obtaining a birth certificate can take weeks, and many undocumented parents won’t file applications out of fear they’ll be reported to immigration authorities. Dr. Jay Berkelhamer, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said: “[The policy] punishes babies who, according to the Constitution, are citizens because they were born here.”
The Associated Press is reporting new details in the domestic abuse case of Republican Congressmember Don Sherwood. Last year, it was revealed Sherwood had an extra-marital affair with a woman who accused him of beating her. A source close to the case now says Sherwood has reached a $500,000 dollar settlement that would pay his ex-lover more than half the total until after the mid-term elections. The woman — Cythnia Ore — would be forced to forfeit some of the money if she speaks publicly about the case. Sherwood is known as a “family values conservative” and is currently locked in a tight race for re-election.
And in anther scandal rocking Republican circles, a leading opponent of gay marriage has resigned as head of one of the nation’s largest evangelical groups over allegations he routinely paid for sex with a male escort. Reverend Ted Haggard heads both the 30-million member National Association of Evangelicals and the New Life Church. His accuser, Denver resident Mike Jones, says he came forward after hearing Haggard was leading a public campaign against gay marriage. Jones says Haggard paid him for sex nearly every month over three years and regularly snorted methamphetamine before their encounters. Jones says he has voice mail messages from Haggard and an envelope Haggard used to pay him. A pastor at the New Life Church told a Denver television station Haggard has admitted to some of the allegations. The news comes as voters in Colorado and seven other states are set to vote Tuesday on ballot amendments banning gay marriage.