In Baghdad at least 17 people have died and another 45 wounded after a 1000-pound car bomb exploded outside the five-story Mount Lebanon Hotel. The hotel was largely destroyed as was a nearby apartment building. Most of the dead are believed to be Iraqis and Arabs from neighboring countries. At least one American died. The New York Times reports the death toll will likely rise because hospitals “lack much in the way of basic equipment and medicines.” The blast came less than 36 hours before the one-year anniversary of the U.S. attack on Iraq. Analysts say the hotel may have been targeted because it was seen as an easy target. Unlike most Baghdad hotels, it was not protected in front by concrete barriers.
More evidence has emerged that the Bush administration purposely mislead Congress on the actual cost of a major Medicare bill that Congress approved last year by one vote. Last week the longtime Medicare actuary Richard Foster came public and said when he discovered the estimated cost of the program was at least $135 billion higher than Congress was being told, he was explicitly warned to keep quiet. Until now the Bush administration has rejected Foster’s accusations. But the Wall Street Journal has obtained an email sent to Foster that explicitly said to share his findings only with his supervisor and quote “No one else.” The message went on to say “The consequences for insubordination are extremely severe.” Meanwhile in other news related to the Medicare vote, the House ethics committee announced Wednesday it will begin a formal inquiry into claims by Michigan Republican Congressman Nick Smith that Republican leaders tried to bribe him and threaten him in order to win his vote on Medicare. After hours of wrangling, Smith voted with the Republican leadership and the Medicare bill passed by one vote.
In campaign news, Vice President Dick Cheney lashed out Senator John Kerry in his first major campaign speech as he questioned his leadership and record on defense. Cheney charged “The senator from Massachusetts has given us ample doubts about his judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security.” Meanwhile Kerry went on the offensive over Bush’s handling of the Iraq crisis. He said the U.S. was “bogged down in Iraq” with “no end in sight.” Kerry said “What we have seen is a steady loss of lives and mounting costs in dollars, with no end in sight. But the answer is not a stubborn pursuit of the same arrogant policies. Instead, we must return more effectively to the international community and share the authority and the burdens with other nations.”
The Pentagon has announce it will withhold about $300 million in payments to Halliburton because the company may have overcharged the government for meals served to troops in Iraq and Kuwait. In addition the Pentagon plans to begin withholding 15 percent of all money paid to Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company on one of its main contracts in Iraq.
Oil Prices Jump to 13-Year High
US crude oil prices have jumped to their highest level since 1990 during the run up to the first Gulf War.
The Census Bureau is now predicting that by 2050, the percentage of the U.S. population that is white will drop from 70 percent to 50 percent. This according to a report in USA Today.
A Tennessee country is asking for a change in the state law to allow police to charge homosexuals with committing crimes against nature. One county commissioner also asked the county attorney to find a way to enact a local law that bans homosexuals from living in the area.
And finally President Bush has marked International Women’s Week by paying tribute to women reformers. In a speech on Friday he said “Earlier today, the Libyan government released Fathi Jahmi. She’s a local government official who was imprisoned in 2002 for advocating free speech and democracy.” There was one problem. She was in fact a he.