The Observer of London is reporting that the United Nations is threatening to pull out of Afghanistan if the U.S. and foreign troops can not provide more security for aid workers. According to the Observer, 15 aid workers have now been killed in Afghanistan.
Presidential envoy James Baker is in Paris today to meet with president Jacques Chirac in an attempt to persuade France to forgive billions of dollars in debt to Iraq. Ahead of the meeting, France announced it would forgive about $3 billion in debt. The former Secretary of State will continue on his five-day trip with stops in Germany and Russia. This marks Baker’s first official trip since he joined the Bush administration two weeks ago. Baker remains a senior partner in the law firm of Baker Botts, which is deeply involved in the fight for the oil and gas of the Caspian Sea. Among the clients of Baker Botts is the Saudi government in the suit filed by family members who lost relatives on 9/11. Baker is also a senior counselor to the powerful investment firm the Carlyle Group.
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether the Bush administration must publicly release the names of the members who comprised Vice President Dick Cheney’s national energy policy task force. Cheney has refused to disclose what members of the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries helped to rewrite the nation’s energy policy. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club have sued for the list of advisors.
The family of the late South Carolina Republican Senator Strom Thurmond acknowledged on Monday that Thurmond, who died in June at the age of 100, secretly had a child with his 16-year-old black maid almost 80 years ago. The family admitted this after a 78-year-old school teacher in Los Angeles came forward to say that Thurmond, who was a longtime supporter of segregation, was her father. The woman, Mae Washington Williams, said the Senator remained close to her and provided her financial support but they agreed to never disclose their relationship. The Rev. Jessie Jackson compared Thurmond to Thomas Jefferson who is said to have children with one of his slaves named Sally Hemings. Jackson said “By day they are bullies. By night they manipulate race to their advantage.” During the 1950s Thurmond ran for president on a pro-segregationist ticket.
Halliburton is coming under criticism from the office of the New York City Comptroller for doing business in Iran. This according to a report in Crains New York. Acting on behalf of the Police and Fire Department pension funds, city comptroller William Thompson said Halliburton has reneged on an agreement to release a full report detailing the company’s oil-related businesses in Iran. Iran is on the State Department’s list of states that sponsor terrorism. Halliburton originally agreed to file the report after the pension fund threatened to pull its money out of Halliburton. The city made similar requests to General Electric and ConocoPhillips.
In other Halliburton news, Reuters is reporting that the Pentagon allocated $222 million in new Iraq contracts last week to the company at the same time that a Pentagon audit had found Halliburton may have overbilled the U.S. government by $60 million. To date Halliburton has received $2.25 billion in no-bid contracts in Iraq.
In Illinois former death row inmate Aaron Patterson has announced he is running for office in the Illinois State House. Patterson served 17 years on death row before being pardoned in January. He received over $160,000 settlement from the state for his faulty murder conviction.
On Monday Secretary of State Colin Powell had surgery for prostate cancer and is expected to be recovering for the next month during which time Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage will be in charge of the State Department.
A federal commission examining Washington’s so-called war on terror yesterday called on the Bush administration to form an independent board to ensure that new anti-terror efforts do not infringe on the civil liberties of Americas. Former Virginia governor and Republic Party chairman James Gilmore headed the commission. Gilmore said, “We are expressing concern and a simple warning that this must be constantly thought about. We should not fall into the pattern of suggesting that the freedoms of the American people should be traded off for their security.”
Italy’s president refuses to sign pro-Berlusconi media bill In Italy, the country’s president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi has vetoed a new media bill that would have further consolidated the nation’s media into the hands of Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister and main media mogul. While the bill goes back to Parliament for further debate, Berlusconi will be forced to sell off one of his three free network channels
Cable giant Comcast has hired former Pentagon public relations specialist Victoria Clarke to be a top lobbyist in Washington. Since leaving the Pentagon after the invasion, Clarke has also worked as an on-air analyst for CNN. According to the Washington Post, Clarke’s new job at Comcast will allow her to keep working for CNN and what the paper described as volunteering for the Pentagon.
Democratic Senator John Breaux of Louisiana has announced he will not seek re-election next year becoming the fifth Southern Democrat Senator who will be retiring next year.
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