In what is being called one of the largest immigration crackdowns in recent US history, 1200 undocumented workers from 26 different states were rounded up and detained late Wednesday. The raids focused on the Houston-based company IFCO Systems North America. Seven current and former managers were charged with conspiracy to transport, harbor and encourage illegal immigrants to reside in the US for commercial and financial gain. The managers face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each undocumented worker. The arrests come on the heels of the massive rallies in support of immigration rights that have taken place in the last month.
In Nepal, 100,000 people poured into the streets Thursday in defiance of a government warnings they would be shot on sight for violating a curfew. The demonstrations marked the largest show of opposition to the rule of King Gyanendra since the outbreak of pro-democracy protests more than two weeks ago. More than 2,000 people staged a sit-in at the site of a police shooting that killed three people and injured dozens more.
In Washington, President Bush welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao for their first White House summit. During a joint media address, Bush made a brief mention of civil liberties in China: "I’ll continue to discuss with President Hu the importance of human rights, and freedoms of the chinese people. China has become successful because the Chinese people have experienced the freedom to buy and to sell and to produce. China can be even more successful when the chinese people have the freedom to assemble, to speak freely and to worship."
Hu followed President Bush’s remarks, but was interrupted by a protester as he began his speech. The protester, Wenyi Wang, denounced the Chinese government’s treatment of practitioners of the spiritual movement Falon Gong. Wang yelled: "President Bush, stop him from killing… Stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong." Wang was grabbed by Secret Service officers and led away. President Bush then encouraged Hu to proceed with his remarks, telling him "You’re OK." An administration official later said the President Bush apologized to Hu for the protester’s interruption. Although the incident made headlines around the world, it failed to reach a mass audience in China. According to CNN, the Chinese government censored the portion of its broadcast that showed the incident taking place.
In Israel, the government-imposed travel ban on nuclear whistleblower and peace activist Mordechai Vanunu has been extended for another year. Israeli authorities said Vanunu must remain inside the country because he is still seen as a "security risk to the state". Vanunu was released from prison in 2004 after serving an 18-year sentence for leaking secrets about Israel’s nuclear program.
In Mexico, hundreds of police raided a steel plant occupied by striking workers Thursday. Two workers were killed and another 36 were injured.
In other news, the UN’s top humanitarian official is warning that relief efforts in Sudan’s Darfur region are facing a serious risk of collapse. The official, Jan Egeland, said aid workers will be unable to meet local needs unless foreign donors contribute more funding and the Sudanese government eases restrictions on aid workers. According to Egeland, the international community has provided just 20 percent of pledged donations. Egeland added that 200,000 people are currently not receiving the food aid they need to survive, while 650,000 people are now completely beyond the reach of aid workers.
In Ontario, Canada, a major standoff at a native site intensified Thursday when police used taser guns and tear gas to disrupt a protest. Native protesters have occupied the site for the last seven weeks in an attempt to prevent construction of a housing development on what they say is the ancestral land of the Onkwehonwe people. 16 people were arrested in the raid. Within hours, the site was re-occupied by a group of over 200 native protesters who had come to provide their support.
Back in the United States, a new poll shows President Bush’s approval rating is at a record low. According to Fox News, just 33% percent of Americans say they approve of the President’s performance. Meanwhile, a new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll has found that 58% of Americans believe the war in Iraq was unnecessary.
In other news, a new report from the Congressional Research Service says the US is now spending close to $10 billion dollars a month on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan — an increase of nearly $8 billion dollars from one year ago.
In Virginia, testimony in the trial of 9/11 suspect Zacarias Moussaoui concluded Thursday. In a statement read before the court, two FBI analysts said they highly doubted Moussaoui’s claim that he and Richard Reid were meant to have flown a fifth plane into the White House. Closing arguments in the case are expected Monday. The jury will then decide if Moussaoui is to be sentenced to death or to life in prison.
This update on a story we’ve been following: In New Mexico, Albuquerque’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center has publicly admitted it wrongly accused one of its nurses of sedition. In September, the nurse, Laura Berg, wrote a letter to a local newspaper criticizing the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war. Her employers responded by confiscating her computer. Shortly after she was informed she was being investigated. Up until this week, the hospital had given Berg a private apology, but had resisted calls to publicly admit that its allegations were false.
And the late Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr. was remembered Thursday at a funeral service at New York’s Riverside Church. For the past half century Coffin was a leading anti-war and civil rights advocate. Veteran journalist Bill Moyers was among those who spoke about Coffin’s life. Coffin died last week at the age of 81.