On Tuesday night, President Bush delivered his sixth State of the Union address. The President touched on a range of topics including what he called, the nation”s addiction to foreign oil, skyrocketing health care costs, Hurricane Katrina, troubled U.S. schools, and ballooning budget deficits. The President offered only small-scale initiatives in his speech including a commission to examine the impact of baby boomers on social security, a new emphasis on math and science education in schools and more money for research into alternative energy sources. We’ll have more on the State of the Union, including reaction and commentary, after headlines.
Moments before President Bush spoke, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested and removed from the House gallery. Sheehan, whose son Casey died in combat in Iraq, was accosted by police after taking her seat and unveiling a T-shirt with an anti-war message. Referring to the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq, the shirt read: “2,242 and how many more?” California Democratic Congressmember Lynn Woolsey, who invited Sheehan to the event, said: “It stunned me because I didn’t know in America you could be arrested for wearing a T-shirt with a slogan on it. That’s especially so in the Capitol and in the House of Representatives, which is the people’s House.’’
On the eve of President Bush’s speech, polls continued to show a hardening public opposition to his policies and leadership. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found just 25% of Americans believe Bush should take the lead in setting national policy. Close to 50% would prefer Congress. Bush’s job-approval rating remains at 39%. Just 38% believe the President is “honest and straightforward”, down from 50% one year ago.
In other news from Washington, Samuel Alito was sworn in to the Supreme Court Tuesday after he was approved in a Senate vote divided almost entirely along party lines. The final vote was 58 to 42. All but one Republican — Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — voted for Alito’s nomination. All but four Democrats — Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Robert Byrd of West Virginia voted against him. Alito joins the court with less Senate support than any Supreme Court justice in the past century besides Clarence Thomas.
In Iraq, a suicide bomber attacked a crowded street in Baghdad earlier today. At least 8 people were killed and 65 people wounded.
Meanwhile, the captors of two German engineers kidnapped in Iraq are threatening to kill them unless the German government breaks off all ties with the Iraqi government. In a video broadcast on Al Jazeera, one of the engineers is seen clasping his hands and pleading to the camera in an obvious state of panic. The video contained no audio. The captors have given the German government three days to meet their demand.
In Ethiopia, Amnesty International says the government has arrested thousands of members of the Oromo ethnic group in the past three months. The arrests follow protests by the rebel group the Oromo Liberation Front against alleged government corruption. Amnesty, warning the detainees may be “at risk of torture or ill-treatment,” has called for their release.
Back in the United States, a former postal worker killed five people at her former workplace in the California town of Goleta. Police say the shooter, Jennifer Sanmarco, then killed herself with a self-inflicted gun wound to the head. According to postal officials, Sanmarco was put on medical leave over 2 years ago amid concerns about her mental health. The attack marked the biggest death toll at a US postal facility in 20 years.
In other news, the chemical giant DuPont continues to draw scrutiny over its use of a controversial chemical in the manufacture of materials used for food packaging. On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced an independent scientific review had concluded the chemical, known as Zonyl, should be considered a “likely” carcinogen. Zonyl is used in the manufacture of hundreds of types of food containers and appliances. Studies have shown it can rub off of packaging and contaminate food with a potentially carcinogenic compound known as PFOA. In November, a former DuPont chemical engineer revealed the company had hidden studies showing that the human body absorbs the chemical at three times the permitted level.
And the body of Coretta Scott King is expected to return from Mexico today to her family’s home in Atlanta. Scott-King — the widow of Martin Luther King Junior — died Monday at the age of 78. She had been in Mexico seeking treatment for ovarian cancer. In Georgia, flags at state buildings were flown at half-staff Tuesday while hundreds of people gathered at her husband’s tomb to pay tribute. A funeral service is expected later this week.