A Pentagon investigation has found evidence that a subsidiary of Halliburton Company overcharged the U.S. government by as much as 61 million dollars for gasoline delivered to Iraq. Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown and Root, delivers fuel to Iraq under huge no-bid reconstruction contracts that have a potential value of $15.6 billion. Separately, Pentagon officials said they rejected a proposal submitted by KBR for cafeteria services that was inflated by 67 million dollars. Vice President Dick Cheney headed up Halliburton before he took office.
President Bush continued Thursday to back a Pentagon decision that bars firms from any country that did not back the invasion of Iraq to bid on reconstruction contracts despite criticism from the international community and even some Congressional Republicans. “It’s very simple,” Bush told reporters Thursday. “Our people risked their lives. Friendly coalition folks risked their lives, and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that, and that’s what the US taxpayers expect.” The list of countries that are barred from receiving contracts include France, Germany, Russia, India and Canada. When told Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s said that “international law must apply here,” Bush responded, “International law? I better call my lawyer. I don’t know what you’re talking about, about international law.”
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch has estimated that hundreds of Iraqi civilian deaths could have been prevented if the U.S. had not relied on cluster bombs so heavily in civilian areas during the invasion of Iraq. The group is estimating 13,000 cluster munitions were fired. Those cluster bombs contained nearly 2 million sub-munitions.
In other Iraq news, one U.S. soldier was killed and 14 injured after a suicide bomber made it inside a heavily guarded U.S. military base in Ramadi and set off a large bomb. According to the Los Angeles Times this marked the first time a U.S. soldier was killed after an Iraqi infiltrated a U.S. base. It also marked the third suicide attack on a U.S. base this week.
The New York Times is reporting that U.S. military are now predicting there will be a sharp increase in assassination attempts against local Iraqi political leaders who back the U.S. occupation. According to the Pentagon, there were eight assassination attempts on Iraqi leaders during the first three weeks of November. Four of the attempts were successful.
And early today, the U.S. coalition headquarters in Baghdad came under mortar attack for the first time in over a month. There were no reported injuries.
In the Iraqi city of Hilla, the U.S.-appointed governor has quite after three days of protests against the occupation and his appointment. After the governor [Iskander Jawad Witwit] resigned, the U.S. appointed an acting governor. This lead to even greater protests. The Washington Post reports more than 1,000 people took to the streets Thursday in the Shiite Muslim city chanting “Yes, yes for elections! No, no to appointment!” One local leader said, “It’s been peaceful in Hilla until now, but if the coalition forces keep refusing what the people want, it will become a big problem that they will not be able to control. Everyone will oppose the Americans.” The protest comes weeks after Iraq’s most influential leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called for the provisional government to be elected, not appointed by the U.S.
A Time magazine reporter suffered severe shrapnel wounds and lost his hand after a grenade was tossed into a Humvee that was also carrying a Time photographer and two U.S. soldiers. The reporter, Michael Weisskopf, reportedly picked up the grenade and tossed it out of the vehicle. According to a report from Time the grenade would have likely killed everyone in the Humvee if Weisskopf hadn’t thrown it out. Also injured in the attack was well known war photographer James Nachtwey who was the subject of a 2001 Oscar-nominated documentary called “War Photographer.”
In campaign news, Prominent African-American Congressman Charles Rangel of New York endorsed Gen. Wesley Clark for president. Rangel made his announcement in Harlem in what the New York Daily news described as part of a “uptown turf war.” It was also in Harlem where former Vice President Al Gore officially endorsed Howard Dean on Tuesday.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei has called on Israel to disarm itself of nuclear weapons as part of a Middle East peace plan. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, El Baradei urged Israel to follow the lead of South Africa which in 1989 because the only country to get rid of its nuclear program. El Baradei also urged Israel to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Although it is widely known Israel has nuclear weapons, the country has never acknowledged this. El Baradei warned that Israel’s current stance is only encouraging a Middle East arms race. He said “My fear is that… there will be continued incentive for the region’s countries to develop weapons of mass destruction to match the Israeli arsenal.”
In Haiti thousands of students took to the streets Thursday demanding the resignation of President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Police fired tear gas and warning shots. One bystander was shot dead in Port-Au-Prince. The Atlanta Journal Constitution said the demonstrations marked the largest anti-government protests in years. Massachusetts State Agency Sues Bechtel For $150M
In Massachusetts, the state-run Turnpike Authority has announced plans to file $150 million lawsuit against two engineering companies including Bechtel that are managing the massive $15 billion highway project in Boston known as the Big Dig. The state is alleging that both Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff concealed the actual cost of the project in order to increase profits.
At a conference on climate change in Milan, three United Nations organizations issued a report Thursday estimating that 150,000 people die needlessly each year as a direct result of global warming. The UN determined that climate change has already led to a wide-scale increase in malnutrition, diarrhoea and malaria.