News Buzz: Offshore Oil Drilling, the Taliban, and Cease-Fire

With high gas prices, Bush renewed his call for offshore drilling.

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Offshore Drilling Debate Takes Center Stage

With gasoline prices topping $4 a gallon this summer, President Bush is renewing his call to open U.S. coastal waters to oil and gas development. As drivers and others push federal lawmakers to do something about the record price of oil—much of it produced in foreign countries—the president is arguing that it's time to battle high prices with increased domestic production. He is planning to ask Congress today to lift the drilling moratoriums that have been in effect since 1981 in more than 80 percent of the country's Outer Continental Shelf and to let states help to decide where to allow drilling. In part to protect tourism and lessen the chances of beach-blackening spills, drilling for oil and gas off nearly all of the American coastline has been banned for a quarter century.

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23 Taliban Fighters Killed

Afghan and Canadian forces killed at least 23 Taliban fighters in an offensive against militants who infiltrated villages outside Kandahar today, officials said. Troops in the Arghandab district just outside Kandahar, southern Afghanistan's largest city, exchanged fire with militants during "a few minor contacts," NATO spokesman Mark Laity said. Two Afghan soldiers were also killed, the Afghan Defense Ministry said in a statement. Hundreds of families had fled to the city and some of the villages had already been cleared of Taliban, a top provincial official in Kandahar said. At the same time, the British Ministry of Defense reported that four British soldiers were killed when an explosive detonated against their vehicle during a patrol in another part of southern Afghanistan yesterday. It was one of the deadliest attacks of the year on international troops.

Israel and Hamas Begin Cease-Fire

Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, agreed today to begin a six-month cease-fire. Slated to begin tomorrow, the cease-fire is expected to be followed next week by an Israeli easing of its blockade of Gaza, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said. Talks to release an Israeli soldier held by Hamas will then intensify, Regev said. Egypt, which brokered the deal, has committed as part of the agreement to stop the smuggling of arms and weapons from its territory into Gaza, Israeli defense officials said. The deal comes as Israel has also offered to open peace talks with Lebanon.