The New York Times and Newsweek are reporting that the Bush administration rebuffed a last minute deal from Saddam Hussein to stop the invasion of Iraq. According to the reports, Iraqi representatives offered to give the U.S. rights to Iraqi oil, to hold elections in Iraq, to allow for an intensive search for weapons of mass destruction and to hand over an Iraqi man who was connected to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Iraq also agreed to support the U.S. so-called war on terrorism and back any U.S.-written Middle East peace proposal. The offer came about through back-channel negotiations between a Lebanese-American businessman, Pentagon advisor Richard Perle and the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. Perle told the New York Times that he met with the Lebanese-businessman but the CIA refused to pursue the negotiations further.
Lawyers at the Environmental Protection Agency say the agency is preparing to drop investigations into 50 power plants that have violated the Clean Air Act and then reexamine the violations under less stringent new regulations that go into effect next month. The change in policy grew out of recommendations made by Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force. According to the Times, the move is seen as a major victory for the utility industry which could save between $10 and $20 billion in plant upgrades. The Bush administration and energy executives said the old rules were too expensive. One longtime EPA lawyer told the New York Times “I don’t know of anything like this in 30 years.”
Meanwhile the Los Angeles Times reports today that the Bush administration has drafted a new rule that would rewrite the Clean Water Act to make it easier for developers to build on wetlands and streams. Officials estimated that about 20 millions acres of wetlands — or about 20 percent of the nation’s wetlands outside of Alaska — would no longer be protected by the Clean Water Act.
President Bush yesterday signed legislation that bars a certain late-term abortion procedure in what is seen as the most significant law restricting abortion rights in the 30 years since Roe v. Wade. The legislation was challenged in court in New York, California and Nebraska. Under President Clinton, the legislation made it to the White House twice but it was vetoed both times. At a ceremony yesterday Bush said “America stands for liberty, for the pursuit of happiness and for the unalienable right of life. This right to life cannot be granted or denied by government because it does not come from government, it comes from the creator of life.”
The Pentagon has begun notifying 43,000 Reserve and National Guard troops to be prepared for a year-long deployment in Iraq. The reserves will be used as part of a new Pentagon plan to rotate troops in and out of Iraq. The Pentagon also announced that the Marines will soon return to Iraq to help re-enforce the Army in the occupation and reconstruction. The Marines played a major role during the invasion but were pulled out by September. The New York Times reports the Pentagon now plans to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq from 130,000 to just over 100,000 over the next year.
In Seattle yesterday, a former truck painter named Gary Ridgway, confessed to murdering 48 women. Prosecutors spared him from a death sentence after he confessed to the killings. He is believed to the most prolific serial killer in American history. Some attorneys have criticized the agreement not to seek the death penalty because they say it will make it harder for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in other cases.
In an update from a story we covered two days, Radio for Peace International is now off the air. The shortwave radio located in Costa Rica had its electricity pulled yesterday by officials at the University for Peace which houses the station. Radio for Peace International broadcasts Democracy Now, Free Speech Radio News, Counterspin and other independent radio programs via shortwave allowing listeners all over the hemisphere to pick up the broadcasts.
Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday issued new guidelines that would make it easier for the FBI to do background checks on anyone in cases involving national security even if there is no evidence of a crime being committed. An attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union responded to the charge by saying “This is exactly what Americans are worried about. It’s the notion that the government can put your life under a microscope without any evidence that you’re doing anything wrong.”