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At least a dozen Republican members of Congress are in Phoenix this week for a conference and fundraiser hosted by coal, power and mining companies who are paying thousands of dollars in order to share their wish lists with lawmakers. The Western Business Roundtable advertised the three-day event as a chance for industry participants "to help Congress write its 'To-Do' list for next year." Each participant is urged to tell lawmakers "the single most important thing" that Congress should and should not do. Yesterday companies were offered a chance to donate $3,000 to a Republican party committee in order to send two representatives to the "Mulligans and Margaritas" event which included a golf tournament and a private dinner with members of Congress. Frank O’Donnell, executive director of the Clean Air Trust said "I’d be hard pressed to say I’ve ever seen a situation where the lobbyists brag that, for the right fee, you’ll be able to write the top-10 list for members of Congress." O’Donnell added "This may not be illegal, but it sure does look inappropriate."
President Bush Wednesday unveiled a proposal to allow some undocumented workers to apply for governmental permission to legally work in the U.S. for three years at a time. The plan, which is being aimed to win Latino votes in November, has been criticized by some immigrant advocacy groups and Democratic politicians. New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez said of immigrant workers, Bush "wants their sweat and labour, but he ultimately doesn’t want them." On the campaign trail, Senator John Kerry said the program "rewards business over immigrants by providing them with a permanent pool of disenfranchised temporary workers who could easily be exploited." Bush said the reform was needed in part to allow the government to have a better idea of who is in the country. In order to receive benefits undocumented workers would have to apply with the government.
The U.S. has withdrawn from Iraq a 400-member team who had been searching for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The New York Times reports the government has now spent seven months and hundreds of millions of dollars in the failed hunt. One weapons hunter said the team is "still waiting for something to dispose of." The Washington Post is reporting that no evidence has emerged that showed Iraq maintained or tried to develop illegal weapons after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
And a new report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concluded the Bush administration "systematically misrepresented" the threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. In other news from Iraq, one U.S. soldier died and 34 more wounded during a mortar attack on their base north of Baghdad.
Iraq’s top Shi’ite Muslim cleric charged Wednesday that U.S. plans for a handover of power to Iraqis was unfair and that it would not "ensure in any way the fair representation of the Iraqi people."
The International Monetary Fund is warning the rising foreign debt of the United States is threatening the financial stability of the global economy. The new IMF report questions President Bush’s move to cut taxes as the nation’s debt reaches record-breaking proportions. The IMF has concluded that running such high deficits poses "significant risks" not just for the United States but the world. The IMF estimates that within a few years, foreign debt will consume 40 percent of the nation’s total economy.
A new report published in the journal Nature is predicting that up to 37 percent of living species could be extinct by mid-century because of global warming. The Washington Post reports the study marks the first time scientists have produced a global analysis with concrete estimates of the effect of climate change on habitat.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the cattle lobby has come out against proposals to create a national cow-tracking system following the discovery of mad-cow disease. One consumer advocate said the cattle industry "really are in the driver’s seat over at USDA. If they oppose something, it doesn’t move."
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting that the U.S. State Department is expected to strongly criticize Israeli for building a wall through Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank.
The New York Times is reporting that Enron’s former chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow, has agreed to plead guilty to fraud charges. He is likely to face up to 10 years in prison. Meanwhile with Fastow’s cooperation, federal prosecutors are building a criminal case against another former high-level Enron official. Charges could be filed as early as this week. Fastow’s wife Lea is also expected to plead guilty and receive a jail sentence of at least five months.