Bush Delivers State of The Union Address Short on Specifics

On Tuesday night, President Bush delivered his sixth State of the Union address. The President touched on a range of topics including what he called, the nation"s addiction to foreign oil, skyrocketing health care costs, Hurricane Katrina, troubled U.S. schools, and ballooning budget deficits. The President offered only small-scale initiatives in his speech including a commission to examine the impact of baby boomers on social security, a new emphasis on math and science education in schools and more money for research into alternative energy sources. We’ll have more on the State of the Union, including reaction and commentary, after headlines.

Cindy Sheehan Arrested For Wearing Anti-War T-Shirt At Bush’s Address

Moments before President Bush spoke, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested and removed from the House gallery. Sheehan, whose son Casey died in combat in Iraq, was accosted by police after taking her seat and unveiling a T-shirt with an anti-war message. Referring to the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq, the shirt read: "2,242 and how many more?" California Democratic Congressmember Lynn Woolsey, who invited Sheehan to the event, said: "It stunned me because I didn’t know in America you could be arrested for wearing a T-shirt with a slogan on it. That’s especially so in the Capitol and in the House of Representatives, which is the people’s House.’’

Polls Show Dropping Support For Bush Policies, Leadership

On the eve of President Bush’s speech, polls continued to show a hardening public opposition to his policies and leadership. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found just 25% of Americans believe Bush should take the lead in setting national policy. Close to 50% would prefer Congress. Bush’s job-approval rating remains at 39%. Just 38% believe the President is "honest and straightforward", down from 50% one year ago.

Bill Would Raise Premiums, Cut Medical Services For Millions of Lower-Class

The poll also found health care remains one of the foremost issues on the minds of Americans, with three-fourths saying increasing access and lowering costs is a "absolute priority" for 2006. But a new government study has found that a White House-backed Congressional budget bill — the Deficit Reduction Act — would increase health costs and cut medical services for millions of low-income Americans. The study — carried out by the Congressional Budget Office — predicts the bill will impose new or higher premiums on 13 million low-income Americans. The premiums will affect services including doctor’s visits and hospital care. Under the bill, states could end Medicaid coverage for people who fail to pay premiums after 60 days. Because of these new premiums, the report predicts, "some beneficiaries would not apply for Medicaid, would leave the program or would become ineligible due to nonpayment… About 60 percent of those losing coverage would be children."

On prescription drug coverage, the study finds that the bill would increase drug costs for 20 million low-income people over the next ten years. The report said one-third of this number would be children, and close to half would be below the poverty level.

Overall, cuts to Medicaid and Medicare account for half of the budget bill’s $99 billion dollars in spending cuts. Because of the new fees, 80% percent of the government’s savings would come from the cutting of medical services it would it no longer have to pay for. The budget bill is expected to go before the House today.

Samuel Alito Sworn Into Supreme Court After Senate Vote

In other news from Washington, Samuel Alito was sworn in to the Supreme Court Tuesday after he was approved in a Senate vote divided almost entirely along party lines. The final vote was 58 to 42. All but one Republican — Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — voted for Alito’s nomination. All but four Democrats — Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Robert Byrd of West Virginia voted against him. Alito joins the court with less Senate support than any Supreme Court justice in the past century besides Clarence Thomas.

Suicide Bomber Kills 8 In Iraq

In Iraq, a suicide bomber attacked a crowded street in Baghdad earlier today. At least 8 people were killed and 65 people wounded.

Captors Demand German Government Cut Ties To Iraq

Meanwhile, the captors of two German engineers kidnapped in Iraq are threatening to kill them unless the German government breaks off all ties with the Iraqi government. In a video broadcast on Al Jazeera, one of the engineers is seen clasping his hands and pleading to the camera in an obvious state of panic. The video contained no audio. The captors have given the German government three days to meet their demand.

Amnesty Calls For Release of Thousands of Oromo Prisoners

In Ethiopia, Amnesty International says the government has arrested thousands of members of the Oromo ethnic group in the past three months. The arrests follow protests by the rebel group the Oromo Liberation Front against alleged government corruption. Amnesty, warning the detainees may be "at risk of torture or ill-treatment," has called for their release.

Ex-Postal Worker Kills Five, Self At Former Workplace

Back in the United States, a former postal worker killed five people at her former workplace in the California town of Goleta. Police say the shooter, Jennifer Sanmarco, then killed herself with a self-inflicted gun wound to the head. According to postal officials, Sanmarco was put on medical leave over 2 years ago amid concerns about her mental health. The attack marked the biggest death toll at a US postal facility in 20 years.

Independent Review Finds DuPont Chemical A “Likely” Carcinogen

In other news, the chemical giant DuPont continues to draw scrutiny over its use of a controversial chemical in the manufacture of materials used for food packaging. On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced an independent scientific review had concluded the chemical, known as Zonyl, should be considered a "likely" carcinogen. Zonyl is used in the manufacture of hundreds of types of food containers and appliances. Studies have shown it can rub off of packaging and contaminate food with a potentially carcinogenic compound known as PFOA. In November, a former DuPont chemical engineer revealed the company had hidden studies showing that the human body absorbs the chemical at three times the permitted level.

Body of Coretta Scott King To Return To Atlanta Today

And the body of Coretta Scott King is expected to return from Mexico today to her family’s home in Atlanta. Scott-King — the widow of Martin Luther King Junior — died Monday at the age of 78. She had been in Mexico seeking treatment for ovarian cancer. In Georgia, flags at state buildings were flown at half-staff Tuesday while hundreds of people gathered at her husband’s tomb to pay tribute. A funeral service is expected later this week.


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