The Washington Post is reporting that Halliburton has now received contracts worth more than $1.7 billion in Iraq and stands to make hundreds of millions more in no-bid contracts.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California said “The amount of money is quite staggering, far more than we were originally led to believe.” Halliburton was run by Vice President Dick Cheney before he ran for office in 2000.
The Post estimates that of the $4 billion the U.S. is spending per month in Iraq, about one third is going to independent contractors. Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. government has increased the size of Bechtel’s reconstruction cost in Iraq by 50 percent. Bechtel will receive an additional $350 million in addition to the previously announced contract of $680 million.
The New York Times reports U.S. officials are preparing to open portions of the Iraq economy to foreign investment for the first time in decades. Despite the massive reconstruction project ahead for Iraq, the proposal would not require foreign investors to invest any of their profits back into Iraq.
For the first time, the Bush administration is indicating that it may allow a multinational force sponsored by the United Nations to be stationed in Iraq. The U.S. would demand however any international force by under the command of an American. This according to the New York Times.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that U.S. intelligence agents have a new theory on what happened to the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Some officials believe that Saddam Hussein didn’t have any banned weapons but created the illusion that he had them. The theory says that Hussein sent bogus Iraqi defectors out of Iraq to plant disinformation about the weapons program to mislead the U.S. The Los Angeles Times reports the U.S. is now re-interviewing all former Iraqi defectors who provided intelligence before the war.
The U.S. military yesterday began a hearing to examine charges that four U.S. Army reservists punched and kicked several Iraqi prisoners of war, breaking one man’s nose.
The beatings allegedly happening while the reservists were escorting a busload of Iraqi prisoners of war.
On the day of the beatings, one of the reservists told his commander “I think we show the prisoners too much respect.” But the U.S. commander recalled that one of the prisoners was “screaming for his life.”
In campaign news, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has jumped to a wide lead in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. The Zogby poll found Dean receiving 38 percent of the vote. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry came in second among the nine candidates with 17 percent of the vote. In February, Kerry was leading Dean by a margin of 26 to 13 percent.
On the California recall, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Democratic frontrunner Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for his campaign by taking advantage of a campaign finance law loophole. Bustamante is asking donors to give to his 2002 reelection campaign which is not, according to the Times, subject to the same cap on donations that new campaigns must observe. On Sunday this allowed him to receive a $300,000 check from a San Diego-area Indian tribe with casino interests.
The Bush administration yesterday officially rewrote the nation’s clean air rules to allow power plants, refineries and industrial plants to upgrade facilities without having to install new pollution control equipment.
The United States and North Korea yesterday held face-to-face nuclear talks for the first time in four months as six-way negotiations began in China. Reports vary as to how the talks went. One South Korean told the New York Times that North Korea is willing to “resolve the nuclear issue through dialogue.” But a Russian diplomat said “I would not say that I am feeling great optimism.”
Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch has been honorably discharged from the U.S. Army. Her lawyer made the announce yesterday. The medical discharge clears the way for Lynch to sign lucrative book and movie deals about her ordeal in Iraq. Former New York Times writer Rick Bragg will reportedly co-write a book with her that will be published before the end of the year.
In western India, at least 39 people have been killed and 125 were injured during a large Hindu religious festival.
In Alabama workers yesterday removed from a state court building a two and a half ton monument of the Ten Commandments. Several hundred religious protesters gathered outside to condemn the move.