$400 Million for War Allies
The $80 billion war-funding request that President Bush plans to send Congress next week will include $400 million to help nations that have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Poland, a staunch ally in Iraq, is earmarked to receive one-fourth of the money.
The White House announced the fund, dubbed the "solidarity initiative," after Bush's meeting yesterday with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
"These funds . . . reflect the principle that an investment in a partner in freedom today will help ensure that America will stand united with stronger partners in the future," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a statement. "This assistance will support nations that have deployed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other partners promoting freedom around the world."
Poland has taken command of a multinational security force in central Iraq that is made up of about 6,000 troops -- among them more than 2,400 Polish soldiers. Polish officials say that a reduction this month will leave them with about 1,700 troops in Iraq.
"Poland has been a fantastic ally because the president and the people of Poland love freedom," Bush said in announcing that Poland is earmarked to receive $100 million.
Probe of U.N. Considered
The House International Relations Committee is considering expanding its investigation of the United Nations' oil-for-food program in Iraq to examine the organization's management practices, officials said.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) and committee member Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) cited concern about failures in several U.N. operations, including the program that allowed Iraq to sell oil to raise money for humanitarian supplies.
The lawmakers requested Annan to turn over audits from specialized U.N. agencies and said the world body should adopt a code of ethics, financial disclosure requirements and a "culture of transparency."
Last week, U.N.-appointed investigators reported that the former director of the oil-for-food program had serious conflicts of interest that helped undermine the economic sanctions against Iraq.
Bill Targets Viagra Coverage
Republicans and Democrats in the House introduced a bill to prohibit Medicare from covering Pfizer Inc.'s Viagra and other drugs for treating sexual dysfunction in men, saying taxpayers should not pick up the bill for seniors' sexual activities.
They assert that paying for such "recreational" medications would waste money that could be used for lifesaving drugs. Impotence drugs are among the 146 types of prescription medicines that a federal advisory group wants the U.S. health program for the elderly and the disabled to pay for under a drug benefit that will take effect next year.
The White House estimates that the drug benefit will add $59.3 billion to next year's Medicare budget, more than double what Congress forecast. The $1.3 billion market for impotence drugs, which average $8 to $10 per pill, could strain the already strapped program.
-- From News Services and Staff Reports