The war in Iraq has helped President Bush’s uncle make at least $450,000 in war-related profits. This according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. William Bush–who is known to the president as Uncle Bucky–sits on the board of the St. Louis-based defense contractor Engineered Support Systems. The company supplies armor and other materials to U.S. troops. The company’s stock prices have soared to record heights since the invasion, in part because it received no-bid contracts to rapidly refit fleets of military vehicles with extra armor. Last month William Bush exercised options on over 8,000 shares of company stock. He made around $450,000 on the deal. William Bush joined the company’s board in 2000 before his nephew was elected and claims he hasn’t used his family’s connections to help win contracts. But a spokesperson to the company admitted to the Los Angeles Times "Having a Bush doesn’t hurt." William Bush’s older brother is the former President George H.W. Bush. The company has been openly admitted that the country’s ongoing wars has helped business. In its quarterly earnings report a year ago, the company’s Vice Chairman and Chief Executive said: "The increasing likelihood for a prolonged military involvement in Southwest Asia by U.S. forces well into 2006 has created a fertile environment for the type of support ... products and services that we offer."
President Bush’s signature education initiative–the No Child Left Behind Act–is coming under intense criticism from state lawmakers. A bipartisan group representing the 50 state legislatures has called for a major overhaul in the law which they described as unconstitutional and impractical because it usurps state and local control of public schools. The criticism appeared in a 77-page report issued by the National Conference on State Legislatures. The state lawmakers call for states to be given more latitude in interpreting the law and the ability to op out of provisions that undermine local initiatives.
In the Iraqi town of Tikrit at least 15 people have died and another three dozen injured after a suicide car bombing near the town’s police station. The blast set ablaze more than two dozen cars. Charred bodies could be seen in the street. Tikrit, which is Saddam Hussein’s home town, has been relatively quiet in recent months.
In other news from Iraq the U.S.-backed interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has announced plans to form a secular coalition in an attempt to challenge the top religious Shiite candidate for the post of Prime Minister. On Tuesday the main Shiite coalition officially nominated Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its pick to serve as prime minister.
In news on President Bush’s visit to Europe... some 12,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Mainz Germany Wednesday to protest the president’s first visit to the country since the invasion of Iraq. Protesters carried signs reading "Bush go home," and "No. 1 Terrorist." Police said the protest was one of the largest the city of 300,000 had ever seen. Meanwhile the German newspaper Der Spiegel reports that the White House decided to cancel a Town Hall meeting there because German officials denied Bush’s request that all of the questions asked be approved in advance.
In Britain, the Guardian newspaper reports it has uncovered new evidence that shows Britain’s attorney general Lord Goldsmith warned Prime Minister Tony Blair two weeks before the invasion of Iraq that the war was illegal. Calls have increased for Blair to release Goldsmith’s March 7, 2003 legal opinion.
In other news from Britain, three soldiers were convicted Wednesday of abusing Iraqi detainees by forcing them to perform simulated acts of oral and anal sex. The abuse occurred in May 2003 and was photographed by fellow soldiers. Convicted were three corporals. Meanwhile the commanding officer at the prison, Captain Dan Taylor, has since been promoted. His promotion came three months after the photographs were reported to the police. Another higher ranker official, Sergeant Thomas Symon, has also since been promoted even though he witnessed two naked Iraqis being forced to simulate sex, but did not tell anyone higher up.
Meanwhile here in this country, CBS News is reporting that the Marine caught on tape shooting dead a wounded un-armed Iraqi in Falluja will not be formally charged. Military investigators have reportedly concluded there is not enough evidence to formally charge the Marine.
In news from Canada, Prime Minister Paul Martin is expected to announce today that Canada will not participate in the U.S. missile defense program. CBC reports that Martin’s planned announcement to the House of Commons will mark an abrupt change to his stance on the controversial program and presents a major setback to the Bush administration.
In business news, Wal-Mart has abandoned its plans to open it first store in New York City. The world’s largest retailer was hoping to build a 130,000 square foot store in Queens. But the plan stirred a storm of opposition from neighborhood, labor and environmental groups as well as small businesses. Many City Council members and members of Congress also criticized the plan. Wal-Mart said it hopes to find another location in the city.
In other Wal-Mart news, a state senator in Montana has put forward a new bill to encourage big box retailers to pay livable wages. The bill would require Wal-Mart and other large stores to pay a new gross proceeds tax. However any store could be exempted from paying the tax if they began paying their employees an entry level wage worth at least $22,000 a year and if less than half of their workers were part time.