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President Bush also repeated his call for the country to take steps to wean the country off foreign energy supplies. Bush said, “My administration is doing everything we can to make gasoline more affordable.” But his energy plan offered drivers no short-term relief from the high cost of gas at the pump. As consumers are paying near record prices, it turns out the gas companies are making record profits. On Thursday Exxon Mobil reported its first quarter earnings soared 44 percent over last year. ExxonMobil made more than seven-and-a-half billion dollars in the first three months of the year. RoyalDutch/Shell recorded a 28 percent rise in profits and ConocoPhillips has also recorded record profits.
Part of the president’s energy plans also calls for the construction of the country’s fist new nuclear plants in a generation. The proposal comes as the world marks the 19th anniversary of the worst ever nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. A leading Russian scientist warned this week that a second disaster looms in Chernobyl because of cracks in the reactor’s decaying shell. If the shell collapsed it could cause a catastrophe on the same scale as the original accident almost 20 years ago.
In Iraq at least 22 people have been killed today and dozens more injured in a series of bombings in Baghdad. The attacks come a day after Iraq’s interim National Assembly approved part of the government’s new Cabinet lineup. Last night President Bush refused to lay out any timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Bush said “I believe we’re making really good progress in Iraq.” Earlier in the week, however, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers admitted the Iraqi resistance was still able to carry out as many attacks as a year ago.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting the Bush administration has quietly forged a close intelligence partnership with the Sudanese government despite the country’s role in the mass killings in Darfur. Eight months ago then-Secretary of State Colin Powell accused Sudan of committing genocide. But relations appear to have since changed — for the better. Although Sudan remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, it has been providing access to terrorism suspects and sharing intelligence data with the United States. The LA Times reports that the CIA sent an executive jet last week to Khartoum to ferry the chief of Sudan’s intelligence agency to Washington for secret meetings sealing Khartoum’s sensitive and previously veiled partnership with the administration. One senior Sudanese official told Ken Silverstein of the LA TImes that the country had achieved “complete normalization” of relations with the CIA.
In California, a jury has found that police in Humboldt County used excessive force against non-violent anti-logging protesters in 1997. During a series of protests, police applied pepper spray directly to the eyes of the demonstrators by swabbing their eyes with Q-tips covered in pepper spray. The jury awarded the protesters one dollar each and ordered the police in Humboldt County and the city of Eureka to pay for the legal costs of the protesters.
A former Army translator at Guantanamo Bay has accused the military of staging mock interrogations of detainees while politicians and military officials were visiting the base. The translator, Army Sgt. Erik Saar, told 60 Minutes “Interrogations were set up so the VIPs could come and witness an interrogation … a mock interrogation, basically.” The U.S. is currently holding over 600 prisoners without charges at the base but Saar said only a few dozen of the detainees were terrorists. Saar also recalled that one female officer at the base once smeared red ink on the face of a detainee while telling him it was menstrual blood.
The Pentagon has released more than 700 photographs of the country’s war dead returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Until now the Pentagon has taken great steps to prevent the publication of photos of coffins returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon is releasing the photos now only after a journalism professor filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The photos are not untouched. The Pentagon decided to black out the faces of all troops accompanying the flag draped coffins. A Pentagon spokesperson claimed this was needed “to protect privacy and or security information.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California is calling for the Bush administration to explain why it sent over some 2,600 weapons to Haiti to supply the country’s national police in violation of a 13-year-old arms embargo. The State Department admitted last week the shipment of arms that included M-14 rifles and sub-machine guns. Waters specifically questioned the role of John Bolton in the arms shipment. At the time Bolton was serving as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs. Human rights groups have expressed serious concern over the reports of summary executions and arbitrary arrests carried out by the Haitian police.
And bird watchers are rejoicing today. An ivory-billed woodpecker has been spotted for the first time in over 60 years. The bird was long assumed to be extinct.