Commander Says Bloodshed Down in Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus says violence in Iraq has dropped by nearly 60 percent since June.

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BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Hey, good morning, everyone.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq says violence in the country is down by nearly 60 percent since last June. General David Petraeus made the comments to reporters in Baghdad shortly before he sat down for talks with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who paid a surprise visit to Baghdad this week. Petraeus was cautious not to sound overconfident. He said, quote, "We're not talking about light at the end of the tunnel," and added that there is always a possibility that recent trends could unravel. Petraeus also noted that Iran seems to have stemmed the tide of weapons allegedly flowing across its border into Iraq.

General DAVID PETRAEUS (United States Army; Commander, Multi-National Force, Iraq): We have seen a reduction in some of the signature attacks, if you will, that are associated with weapons provided by Iran.

MARTIN: Petraeus is expected to testify in front of the U.S. Congress next March.

And even though violence has gone down for the time being in Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decided against a plan to shift some Marine Corps forces from Iraq to Afghanistan. Gates told top Marine Corps officials yesterday the situation in western Iraq - specifically Anbar province, where the Marines are concentrated - is still too volatile. Marine generals had proposed the force shift to Afghanistan. Currently, there are no Marine units among the 26,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Compare that to Iraq, where there are about 160,000 U.S. troops - 25,000 of them are Marines.

And after being on the decline for many years, the United States teen birthrate is on the rise, refueling the debate over sex education in the U.S. The birthrate had been dropping since its peak in 1991, but on Wednesday, experts with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said it rose 3 percent from 2005 to 2006. Federal officials say they're not sure why, and it could be a statistical blip. Others say they've been expecting a jump. They blamed it on increased federal funding for abstinence-only health education that doesn't teach teens about contraception.

And what does the founder of Facebook do when he needs to say I'm sorry? Blog it, of course. That's what Mark Zuckerberg did yesterday in an effort to quell users' concerns over Facebook's new advertising program and how it's been rolled out. In a blog post on Facebook, Zuckerberg defended the new ad system called Beacon, and he wrote, quote, "I'm not proud of the way we've handled this situation, though, and I know we can do better."

Beacon tracks the actions of its members when they use other sites around the Net, and then tailors ads based on that member's tastes and preferences. The plan has stirred up controversy among Facebook users. Yesterday, Zuckerberg also outlined ways that Facebook members can opt out of the ad system.

That's the news, and it's always online at npr.org.

WOLFF: This is NPR.

MARTIN: Luke and Alison, back to you.

LUKE BURBANK, host:

That story - that Facebook story has been just kind of, like, getting bigger and bigger every day. Matt Martinez pitched it as our big story, like, a week ago.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Yup.

BURBANK: And I thought, I don't think that's going to be a big deal.

MARTIN: But it's - you know, it's a little creepy to people to know…

STEWART: And you have to remember…

MARTIN: …that people are watching where you go on the Net.

STEWART: And you have to remember the CEO of this company is 23.

MARTIN: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Twenty-four - never really been through this before.

MARTIN: I know, and I like that he's just like, I'm sorry.

STEWART: I'm sorry.

MARTIN: We're going to try to do better.

STEWART: Let's have a beer.

BURBANK: I came up with that idea when I was having my 21-run.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: That's a little…

MARTIN: It's got some kinks.

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