By THOMAS HARGROVE
Scripps Howard News Service
March 25, 2006
Monday marked the third anniversary of the U.S. war in Iraq, with peace demonstrations scattered around the world, a renewed campaign by President Bush to convince an increasingly disenchanted public to stay the course, and debate over whether the conflict had devolved into civil war. "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is," former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told the BBC. The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, shot back: "We're a long way from civil war." Pentagon officials released statistics showing that U.S. casualties are on the decline as Iraqi forces assume greater authority.
Bush says 'future presidents' will have to withdraw from Iraq
President Bush held his second press conference of the year Tuesday as part of his campaign to shore up public support for U.S. military involvement in Iraq. But he created further debate when asked if the day will come when all American troops will be withdrawn. "That, of course, is an objective. And that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq," Bush said. Democrats quickly seized on the remark as proof that Bush lacks a clear exit strategy and that future administrations will have to oversee a withdrawal from Southwest Asia. Bush also said he has faith in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Coalition forces in Iraq free three Christian peace workers
American and British forces stormed a house near Baghdad on Thursday to free three Christian peace activists, ending their four-month hostage ordeal. The fate of Christian Science Monitor free-lance reporter Jill Carroll, abducted Jan. 7, is still undetermined. The three freed men, members of Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams, were James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, both of Canada, and Briton Norman Kember, 74. A fourth member of the group, American Tom Fox, 54, was found dead in Baghdad. Authorities said Fox appeared to have been tortured.
Fraud charged in Belarus elections
The landslide victory for Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko on Sunday drew thousands of protesters into the streets of Minsk. The United States and European leaders have threatened to take economic sanctions if it is determined that the election of Lukashenko, often dubbed Europe's last dictator, was rigged. The Belarus Central Election Commission said Lukashenko received nearly 82 percent of the popular vote while his closest competitor reportedly received only 6 percent. Protests continued for several days in Minsk's October Square, prompting scattered arrests.
Army dog handler convicted in Abu Ghraib abuse
Sgt. Michael Smith, 24, was convicted Tuesday of six counts of prisoner abuse, including a charge of conspiring with a fellow Army dog handler to terrify Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Smith, from Boynton Beach, Fla., was sentenced Wednesday to six months in prison. He was the 10th person to be convicted of detainee abuse. The stiffest penalty was a 10-year sentence against Cpl. Charles Graner.
General Motors offers massive worker buyouts
General Motors announced Wednesday it reached a historic agreement with the United Auto Workers to offer buyouts ranging from $35,000 up to $140,000 for every one of the manufacturer's 113,000 union workers in the United States. The deal, which could cost up to $2 billion, is part of the auto giant's massive reorganization plan meant to staunch last year's record $10.6 billion in losses. Similar buyout offers will be made to employees of Delphi, the nation's largest auto-parts manufacturer and a former subsidiary of GM.
Still more SAT grading errors disclosed
The College Board on Wednesday announced that 27,000 of the 495,000 SAT examinations given to college hopefuls in October had not been rechecked for errors. After doing so, the board said 400 more students had received incorrectly low test scores. The board previously has announced errors on 4,000 SAT tests, prompting apologies to students whose acceptance into college was jeopardized by the mistakes.
New judge appointed to secret federal spying court
Chief Justice John Roberts quietly appointed federal Judge John D. Bates to the secret United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to fill a vacancy created by Judge James Robertson, who quit following public disclosure that President Bush has ordered wiretaps of international telephone calls without court approval. The appointment of Bates, a former prosecutor of the federal Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton, was made without formal announcement. Journalists discovered the appointment Friday only after it was added to Bates' official online biography.
Minister's wife confesses to his shooting
Police said the wife of Church of Christ preacher Matthew Winkler, 31, has confessed to his fatal shooting Wednesday in the bedroom of their home in Selmer, Tenn. Mary Winkler told investigators in Alabama that she shot her husband and agreed to return to Tennessee to face a first-degree-murder charge. Police refused to discuss the motive for the shooting. Mary Winkler, 32, was arrested Thursday night after she was seen with her three children as they left a Waffle House restaurant in Orange Beach, Ala.
Pennsylvania woman discovered 10 years after disappearance
Tanya Nichole Kach, 24, walked into a McKeesport, Pa., delicatessen on Tuesday and told its owner she had been held against her will by a man twice her age for the past 10 years. Kach said she was rarely permitted to leave the home of Thomas John Hose, 48, who was arrested Wednesday on charges of statutory sexual assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Kach, who had a tearful reunion with her father, said she was secretly held for a decade in Hose's house only two miles from her childhood home.
Militants attack three police facilities in Baghdad
A suicide car bomber killed at least 25 people on Thursday at the Iraqi Interior Ministry Major Crimes unit in central Baghdad, the third attack this week on police facilities. Another 35 people were injured. Insurgents successfully attacked a jail north of Baghdad on Tuesday, releasing more than 30 prisoners. But a siege Wednesday against a prison south of the capital was foiled when U.S. troops were able to encircle and capture 50 gunmen. Five U.S. servicemen have died in sectarian violence this week.
Afghan Christian expected to be freed soon
Responding to international outrage against the capital-punishment trial of Abdul Rahman - charged with converting from Islam to Christianity - Afghanistan officials Friday began assuring the international press that Rahman will be freed. "He could be released soon," an official told the Associated Press. The BBC reported that senior officials would meet in Kabul on Saturday, and MSNBC said an Afghan diplomat said Rahman, 41, might be released as early as Monday. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice phoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai, calling for a "favorable resolution" of the case "in the very near future."
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