By THOMAS HARGROVE
Scripps Howard News Service
December 02, 2006
President Bush on Thursday rejected calls for a systematic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The calls came as he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan. The Iraqi leader promised that his security forces could take full control by June. A White House memo was leaked to the press this week questioning al-Maliki's leadership abilities, which may have caused him to cancel a scheduled Wednesday meeting with Bush. "He's a strong leader. He's the right guy for Iraq," Bush said Thursday.
Iraq Study Group seeks diplomacy, gradual withdrawal
The Iraq Study Group will report next week that the United States must use diplomacy to end insurgent attacks in Iraq, according to leaks to several news organizations. The bipartisan commission led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton will call for a "gradual reduction" of U.S. military forces, but stop short of the deadlines for withdrawal sought by some critics. The report, intended to give President Bush political cover to make policy changes, is expected to be released Wednesday.
Debate continues: Is Iraq in civil war?
Although the White House fiercely rejects the term, a growing number of news organizations and public figures this week said they believe that the violence in Iraq has devolved into outright civil war. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Wednesday told a business conference meeting in Dubai, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, that the internal strife in Iraq "could be considered a civil war." NBC News executives announced this week they would have the term used in their broadcasts. The Los Angeles Times started using the term in October. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also weighed in, saying the conflict is "almost there" on the path to civil war.
Pope visits Turkey in effort to mend relations with Muslims
Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday began a four-day tour of Turkey by imploring religious and spiritual leaders to "utterly refuse" violence in the name of faith. The trip was intended to mend damaged relations between Muslims and Catholics following Benedict's remarks, three months ago, suggesting that Islam is a violence-prone faith. He made a historic appearance at Istanbul's famous Sultan Ahmet (or Blue) Mosque. "You know well that the church wishes to impose nothing on anyone, and that she merely asks to live in freedom," the pope said Friday at Istanbul's Holy Spirit Cathedral during meetings with Orthodox leaders.
Probe widens in death of spy
British officials announced Thursday that traces of radiation were found aboard five jetliners used on the Moscow-to-London run and more than a dozen sites around London, apparently the same polonium-210 that killed ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. He died Nov. 23 at a London hospital. An Italian security expert who met with Litvinenko, Mario Scaramella, also has tested positive for the radioactive substance, as has his wife. On his deathbed, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of poisoning him, a charge Putin denies. "The police investigation will proceed, and I think people should know that there is no diplomatic barrier to that investigation," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said.
Sale prices of U.S. homes suffer record drop
The median price in October for sales of existing homes dropped 3.5 percent from a year ago, the largest decline in housing value on record, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. It was the third consecutive month that median house prices have fallen. The group also reported that the total number of sales increased slightly, by 0.5 percent, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.24 million. That was the first rise in total sales in seven months. Some analysts predict sales and prices will both rebound early next year.
Guard at Florida boot camp charged with manslaughter
A special prosecutor in Pensacola, Fla., on Tuesday charged seven former guards and a nurse at a now-closed juvenile boot camp with aggravated manslaughter in the death of Martin Lee Anderson, 14, who collapsed on the exercise yard of the Bay County sheriff's camp in Panama City Jan. 5. If convicted, they face up to 30 years in prison. Authorities said the youth received "rough handling" after he was uncooperative during an exercise session. He died the next morning.
Snoop Dogg arrested for drugs and illegal weapon - again
This time it was after his performance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Rapper Snoop Dogg, also known as Calvin Broadus, 35, was arrested Tuesday outside the NBC studio in Los Angeles for investigation of possession of an illegal handgun and drugs. It was the latest in a long line of brushes with the law for him. Broadus was released early Wednesday on $60,000 bond.
Ford to cut 38,000, half of its hourly work force
Ford Motor Co. officials announced Wednesday that 38,000 hourly workers have agreed to take early-retirement or buyout packages as part of a massive restructuring. The company earlier had estimated that up to 30,000 would opt to leave. The reductions will cut the company's hourly work force by half, and save about $5 billion a year. But executives say Ford still must make other painful decisions before it becomes financially sound again.
Fire kills 10 people at Missouri group home
A fire possibly caused by faulty attic wiring swept through the Anderson, Mo., Guest House on Monday, killing 10 people. Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt two days later ordered a review of safety regulations for the state's group homes after learning that the Anderson facility was exempt from sprinkler requirements, as are nearly two-thirds of the state's group homes. The victims died of smoke inhalation. Another two dozen were injured.
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
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