U.S. Death Toll in Iraq
Reaches 2,000 Mark
The number of U.S. troops who have died in the Iraq war hit 2,000 Tuesday.
The threshold was crossed with the Pentagon's announcement that Staff Sgt. George Alexander Jr., 34, of Killeen, Tex., had died at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas on Saturday of injuries suffered in Iraq earlier this month, when a bomb planted by insurgents exploded near his Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
Since the March 2003 invasion and quick march to take Baghdad, U.S. forces have been dying at about 800 a year, with most killed in action by crude but powerful roadside bombs and in firefights against an unrelenting insurgency. More than 90 percent of the deaths have come after President Bush declared an end to "major combat operations" on May 1, 2003.
The deaths in Iraq are relatively few compared with those of other wars in U.S. history, and they pale dramatically in comparison with losses in the two world wars, when the United States saw a combined total of more than half a million fall. The Iraq death total also falls far short of the worst nine years of the Vietnam War, from 1964 to 1973, when more than 58,000 U.S. troops did not return.
Unique to the war in Iraq, however, is the way in which the combat deaths are hitting home, with the National Guard and reserves paying a high price, especially in recent months when they have accounted for about a quarter of those killed.
On the same day that the announced death toll of U.S. troops passed 2,000, Iraqi officials announced that voters approved a new constitution in a referendum 10 days ago. That announcement delivered a blow to Sunni Arabs who came close to defeating the charter and who will now try to amend it after electing a new legislature in December.
-- Josh White, Ann Scott Tyson and John Ward Anderson
Bush Taps Adviser to
President Bush named his top economic adviser, Ben S. Bernanke, to succeed Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who steps down Jan. 31 after helping guide the U.S. economy for more than 18 years.
Bernanke, 51, who served as a Fed board member and once chaired Princeton University's economics department, told reporters that Greenspan's coming retirement will not trigger any significant shift in the Fed policies -- primarily the adjustment of interest rates -- that have helped deliver solid economic growth, low inflation and low unemployment for much of the past two decades.
Wall Street welcomed the selection of a highly regarded economist who has focused his academic career on studying Fed policy, whose thinking is well known to financial markets and who would arrive with recent experience working with Greenspan at the Fed, analysts said.
-- Nell Henderson
About 2,400 Firms Paid Bribes
To Iraq, U.N. Panel Says
More than 2,400 businesses, including scores of international shell companies and blue-chip European firms such as Siemens and DaimlerChrysler, paid nearly $1.8 billion in illegal kickbacks to the former Iraqi government through the U.N. oil-for-food program, according to a report by a U.N. committee investigating misconduct.
The report, which was presented Thursday by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker, the head of the Independent Inquiry Committee, is the most detailed account of how Iraq persuaded almost half of its 4,500 trading partners in more than 60 countries to circumvent U.N. sanctions by channeling kickbacks into Baghdad-controlled Jordanian banks.
The report also shows how French and Russian diplomats, executives, U.N. officials and anti-sanctions advocates, including a former Vatican official, either solicited oil trade from Iraqi officials on behalf of companies or benefited financially from the program.
Volcker and his top advisers pleaded with the U.N. General Assembly to change U.N. business practices. But he received a chilly response from Costa Rican and Mexican officials, who complained about not being formally given copies of the report. They also questioned why Volcker was raising the matter with the assembly when the Security Council bears primary responsibility for mismanaging the program.
-- Colum Lynch
Documents Give Glimpse
Of Domestic Surveillance
The FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for as long as 18 months without proper paperwork or oversight, according to previously classified documents.
Records turned over as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit also indicate the FBI has investigated hundreds of potential violations related to its use of secret surveillance operations, which have been stepped up dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but are largely hidden from public view.
In one case, FBI agents kept an unidentified target under surveillance for at least five years -- including more than 15 months without notifying Justice Department lawyers after the subject had moved from New York to Detroit. An FBI investigation concluded the delay was a violation of Justice guidelines.
Although heavily censored, the documents provide a rare glimpse into the world of domestic spying, which is governed by a secret court and overseen by a presidential board that does not publicize its deliberations. The records also emerge as the House and Senate battle over whether to put new restrictions on the controversial USA Patriot Act, which made it easier for the government to conduct secret searches and surveillance but has come under attack from civil-liberties groups.
The records were provided to The Washington Post by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group that has sued the Justice Department for records relating to the Patriot Act.
-- Dan Eggen
Hurricane Wilma Kills
At Least 10 in Florida
Hurricane Wilma roared across Florida on Monday, its 125-mph winds leaving at least 10 dead and a swath of downed trees, power outages and blown-out windows that stretched from the tony beachfront neighborhoods of Naples, through the state's rural middle to the downtown buildings of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
Although damage was less than officials anticipated on the Gulf Coast, Wilma remained unexpectedly potent as it moved eastward, wrecking mobile homes, blowing out windows and causing outages from Miami to Daytona Beach.
After shellacking South Florida, Wilma headed out into the open Atlantic, never to make landfall again, although it did contribute to bad weather along the East Coast.
Wilma killed at least 12 people in Haiti, four in Mexico and one in Jamaica before hitting Florida.
-- Peter Whoriskey
Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Icon,
Will Lie in Honor in Capitol
Rosa Parks, the African American seamstress who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., 50 years ago and lent a spark to the beginnings of the modern civil rights movement, will be the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.
The Senate and House approved a resolution last night enabling the honor for Parks, 92, who died last week.
The viewing will be held Sunday and Monday.
-- Petula Dvorak