Rumsfeld doubles troop presence in Gulf
The Pentagon ordered more than 60,000 troops to the Persian Gulf last week, doubling the U.S. presence in the region and increasing speculation that the country could be at war in less than a month.
The move is part of an ongoing troop deployment that would position the country for war as early as the beginning of February if the Bush administration decides to attack Iraq.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s first deployment order came on Dec. 24, when he ordered 25,000 soldiers to the region. The Pentagon already has nearly 60,000 troops stationed in the Persian Gulf.
The U.S. could wage war on Iraq with as little as 100,000 troops, but that number is likely to push to 250,000 if a war does begin, the Associated Press reported.
INS develops new information requirements
Universities nationwide have until Jan. 30 to comply with new federal standards that require the tracking of foreign students studying in the United States.
Under a new computerized system that monitors students’ immigration statuses, schools must now submit information across 19 categories. Categories include personal, academic and financial information. Students will also be closely scrutinized for the number of credits they are taking.
Prior to the new system, universities were required to keep paper records on international students. The records had to be available for the government to inspect at a moment’s notice. The new system puts the information in the government’s hands on a real-time basis.
Some international students nationwide, particularly those from Arab countries, say the new requirements unfairly target them. Their anxiety comes in light of new Immigration and Naturalization Service rules that require men from certain Arab or Muslim countries to register with the immigration service.
The new computer tracking system should be fully operational by Aug. 1. That is when information on students already enrolled must be reported to the government.
Bush to offer stance on affirmative action
President George W. Bush is expected to weigh in on affirmative action as the Supreme Court considers whether the University of Michigan should give black and Hispanic students preference in the admissions process.
So far, the president has remained on the sidelines of the affirmative action issue. White House officials told the Associated Press that Bush would take a firm stance on the issue, which could add fuel to the biggest affirmative action case the country has seen in decades.
The White House must decide by Jan. 16 whether it will file a brief against affirmative action. It has until February to file a brief supporting the university’s policies.
If President Bush’s track record holds up, he would likely oppose affirmative action while proposing other diversity initiatives, according to the Associated Press.
While governor of Texas, Bush said students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their classes should be granted admission to public universities. He opposed racial preferences in the admissions process.
Illinois grants death row inmates reprieve
In an extraordinary stand against capital punishment, Illinois Gov. George Ryan cleared the state’s death row Saturday, commuting inmates’ sentences to life in prison.
The move came two days before Ryan left office. He signed the orders, citing the state’s “arbitrary and capricious” death penalty standards, according to the Associated Press.
“Our capital system is haunted by the demon of error — error in determining guilt and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die,” Ryan told reporters.
Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions three years ago after court proceedings revealed that 13 death row inmates were wrongly convicted.
He said the state needs to better monitor how inmates are tried and sentenced.
Despite being a Republican, Ryan is one of the nation’s most high-profile opponents of capital punishment.
Families of victims and death penalty advocates were outraged at the news of Ryan’s action. One woman, whose son was murdered in 1985, called it a “mockery” of the judicial system, the AP reported.