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President Bush is preparing to seek around $100 billion in emergency funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The figure was disclosed in a report prepared by staffers on the House Appropriations Committee and House Budget Committee. The $100 billion would come on top of the record $447 billion already appropriated for military operations this year.
In Washington, Democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota has been hospitalized with an undisclosed illness. He is said to be in critical condition. Aides said he had exhibited symptoms of a stroke. Johnson’s illness may have political ramifications for the Democrats’ slim Senate majority. If Johnson is forced to give up his seat, South Dakota Republican Governor Mike Rounds would choose his replacement. If Rounds were to choose a Republican, that would mean a 50-50 tie in the Senate. That would hand effective control back to Republicans because Vice President Dick Cheney would hold the tie-breaking vote.
In Chile, the grandson of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet has been discharged from the army over his public defense of the coup that brought his grandfather to power. Captain Augusto Pinochet Molina made the comment during his speech at his grandfather’s funeral. Earlier Wednesday, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet called Molina’s words unacceptable.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet: "During the ceremony, an official overstepped the line of command without authorization to speak, abruptly expressing political opinions against the state and certain sectors of society. This constitutes a grave insult. We are sure that the army will know what its duty is."
Pinochet died on Sunday. During his time of rule, the Chilean government murdered or disappeared more than 3,200 people. Tens of thousands were also tortured.
At the U.N., the General Assembly has adopted a landmark treaty to uphold the rights of the disabled. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been hailed the first human rights treaty of the 21st century.
U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown: "Today promises, we hope, the dawn of a new era where disabled people will no longer have to endure the discriminatory practices and attitudes that have been permitted to prevail for all too long. This convention is a remarkable and forward-looking document, while it focuses on the rights and development of people with disabilities and also speaks about our society as a whole and our need to enable everyone to contribute to the best of their ability."
In other U.N. news, the Human Rights Council voted Wednesday to send a high-level delegation to probe Darfur’s worsening humanitarian crisis.
Idriss Jazairy, Algerian ambassador to the U.N.: "This is the message of hope for the people of Africa. This is a message of hope for the people of the world. I think we have risen to our responsibilities."
In Botswana, the High Court has ruled more than 1,000 Bushmen were wrongfully evicted from their ancestral grounds. In 2002, Botswana’s government readied the Kalahari Desert for diamond mining by pushing out the San, who are the oldest inhabitants of southern Africa and live in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Back in the United States, The Washington Post is reporting details of a newly released Pentagon report that warned three terrorism suspects were subjected to months of isolation in possible violation of U.S. law. In one interrogation plan approved by the Joint Forces Command, a Qatari detainee was denied sleep and religious practice by having his mattress, pillow and Qur’an taken away. In at least one case, jailers blocked the International Committee of the Red Cross from visiting the detainees. The disclosure comes as lawyers for the imprisoned Jose Padilla are seeking court approval to access documents and interview interrogators about Padilla’s treatment.
And former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling reported to federal prison Wednesday to begin a 24-year sentence for his role in one of the nation’s largest corporate scandals. Skilling was convicted on 19 counts of conspiracy, fraud and insider trading. His sentence is the longest of any former employee linked to the Enron scandal.
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