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• The Seattle Times reports on two confidential state reports (that clearly aren’t as confidential as some would have hoped) saying that “more than 3,100 Wal-Mart employees in Washington were benefiting from state-subsidized health coverage throughout 2004 — nearly double the total for any other company.” It suggests that as many as 20 percent of Wal-Mart workers are on public health assistance of some kind.

Wal-Mart said it couldn’t confirm or deny the numbers, but suggested that the statistics may be old…and that it has instituted a lot of new programs that may make these numbers obsolete.

The studies almost certainly will be used to create and push legislation that would force companies of a certain size to pay a minimum percentage of its payroll taxes to health care for employees.

• In Arkansas, the Morning News reports that a judge has tossed out a lawsuit filed by Wal-Mart against its former vice chairman, Tom Coughlin. The judge said that Wal-Mart gave up its right to sue the disgraced former executive when it signed a retirement deal with him; the company sought to void Coughlin’s retirement benefits because of his financial misconduct during his tenure with the company.

Coughlin, a former protégé and fishing buddy of Sam Walton who rose to become the second-ranked executive at Wal-Mart, has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and tax evasion, charges that could land him in jail for two years or longer.

• In the UK, Retail Week reports that Wal-Mart CEO held a two hour meeting with one of the country’s most outspoken environmentalists in an effort to burnish the company’s environmental credentials.

The meeting got some notice because the environmentalist was Price Charles.

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