The Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress for an additional $50 billion for the war in Iraq. The request would come on top of a $460 billion defense budget and nearly $150 billion in supplemental war funding. Administration officials are said to be confident lawmakers won’t oppose the request once Army General David Petraeus issues his long-awaited progress report on Iraq. The news comes one day after The Washington Post reported Petraeus softened intelligence findings on Iraq’s progress in advance of his congressional appearance.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration continues its campaign against Iran. On Tuesday, President Bush threatened to confront Iran for what he said was its backing of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.
President Bush: “They cannot escape responsibility for aiding attacks against coalition forces and the murder of innocent Iraqis. The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops. I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”
Bush’s comments came as U.S. troops arrested seven Iranian nationals in Baghdad. They were released hours later.
In other Iraq news, more than one million pilgrims have been ordered to flee the Shiite holy city of Karbala. Gun battles between rival Shiite groups have killed dozens and wounded hundreds more.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi refugee crisis worsens by the month. The United Nations says the monthly rate of displacement has reached 60,000 people — an increase of 10,000 over previous estimates. Some 4.2 million Iraqis have fled their homes since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
A military jury has exonerated the only officer facing trial for abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib. On Tuesday, Lt. Col. Steven Jordan was cleared of allegations he personally abused prisoners and trained other soldiers convicted of mistreatment. The verdict means that no officer will serve prison time over the Abu Ghraib scandal.
In Afghanistan, Taliban militants have released eight South Korean hostages — the first under a deal with the South Korean government to free all 19 surviving captives. South Korea government spokesperson Cheon Ho-seon announced the agreement.
Cheon Ho-seon: “The Taliban agreed to the release after South Korea agreed to meet certain conditions such as halting its citizens from conducting Christian missionary activity in Afghanistan and withdrawing South Korean troops dispatched to Afghanistan in this year.”
Twenty-three South Koreans were initially taken hostage. Two male hostages were killed, while two females were later set free.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met in Jerusalem Tuesday in advance of a proposed peace conference for later this fall. Abbas has come under criticism from rival Palestinian faction Hamas for isolating Hamas and failing to win firm guarantees for an end to the Israeli stronghold over the West Bank and Gaza.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri: “Such meetings will never achieve anything as long as the Israeli occupation continues to deny the rights of our people and continues their aggression against our people. And the only party benefiting from these meetings is the Israeli occupation that shines its image in front of the world.”
Israel has yet to act on a pledge to ease some of the 450 roadblocks and checkpoints across the Occupied Territories. Earlier this week an ailing one-year-old Palestinian boy died while waiting several hours at the Erez crossing into Israel. The child, Ibrahim Abu Nahel, was being taken by his father for treatment for a heart condition. They were forced to wait despite holding a medical permit.
In Russia, the defense lawyer for one of 10 suspects held in the killing of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya is claiming his client was abused in police custody. Murad Musayev says his client was assaulted while divided from other suspects.
Murad Musayev: “They are residents of Moscow. It was totally unexpected for them, and they are still in a shock. They do not understand why it’s happened. And they are now in detention.”
Politkovskaya was shot dead outside her home last October. She was a fierce critic of Russia President Vladimir Putin and the Chechen war. Prosecutors say a Chechen crime boss and Russian police were all involved in her killing.
In Chile, the former head of the Chilean secret police has been sentenced to life in prison. Retired General Hugo Salas Wenzel was found guilty of ordering the 1987 Corpus Christi Massacre that killed 12 leftist rebels. Salas Wenzel is the first Chilean general given a life sentence for human rights abuses under the late dictator Augusto Pinochet.
In Mexico, dozens of black-clad women marched through Mexico City Tuesday to mark the 29th anniversary of the Mexican human rights group Eureka. The marchers commemorated the anniversary of a 100-day hunger strike that led to probes into political murders and the release of political prisoners.
Mexican Senator and Eureka founder Rosario Ibarra: “Freedom to political prisoners, freedom to the disappeared, an end to torture, and punishment to those guilty — that is all. And it’s not vengeance, it’s justice. The law should be respected. That is what we want.”
Back in the United States, new census figures show the number of Americans without health insurance has reached a record 47 million. The figure marks an increase of 2.2 million people over the previous year. Middle- and high-income families accounted for much of the newly uninsured. One million newly uninsured worked full-time. One million four hundred thousand had a household income of at least $75,000. The number of uninsured children also rose by 600,000, the second straight year it’s increased. Eleven percent of Americans under 18 years old are without coverage. Meanwhile, the poverty rate showed a slight decline. The drop was attributed to more individuals working per household for longer hours rather than an increase in wages.
Here in New York, a new study shows Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers have developed asthma at 12 times the normal rate. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, more than 900 of 26,000 workers reported developing asthma after working at Ground Zero. The normal number for a group that size would be 77 people.
A new study shows the United States is the most heavily armed society in the world. According to the Graduate Institute of International Studies’ Small Arms Survey, there are 90 guns for every 100 Americans. U.S. citizens account for nearly one-third of an estimated 875 million firearms worldwide. More than half of guns manufactured each year are purchased in the United States.
And Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho is facing a potential ethics probe following his admission to pleading guilty to disorderly conduct this past June. Police say Craig was detained after he made a series of sexual advances to an undercover officer in a men’s bathroom in Minneapolis. In his first public comments Tuesday, Craig repeatedly said he isn’t gay and claimed he pleaded guilty because of pressure from a newspaper investigation into other alleged sexual encounters in men’s bathrooms.
Sen. Larry Craig: “Let me be clear: I am not gay, I never have been gay. Still, without a shred of truth or evidence to the contrary, the Statesman has engaged in this witch hunt. In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis because of the stress the Idaho Statesman investigation and the rumors it has fueled all around Idaho.”
Craig has been criticized for opposing gay rights. He’s voted against same-sex marriage and spoken out against homosexuals serving in the military.