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The oil slick from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has begun to reach the shores of several islands off the Louisiana coast. Dead jellyfish are washing up on the Chandeleur Islands, while birds have been seen diving in the contaminated waters. Advocates say fish and wildlife could be threatened by chemicals released in BP’s cleanup effort. Larry Schweiger of the National Wildlife Federation said dispersion poured into the waters could produce unknown effects.
Larry Schweiger: "We just want to make clear that just because we cannot see the oil spill does not mean it’s not having an enormous impact on wildlife. It’s having a different kind of impact, and it’s still yet not understood, because this dispersant has been put in at a level, a mile down in some cases, that’s never been done before. So we don’t know what the long-term impact or fate of those chemicals may be over time with the currents in this system."
BP, meanwhile, continues to put in place a massive containment box to try to stop the over 200,000 gallons of oil leaking from an underwater oil well every day. BP says it won’t know until Sunday whether the effort will succeed.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, meanwhile, has ordered a three-week halt to all new offshore drilling permits. Existing offshore oil and natural gas drilling will still continue.
A coalition of civil rights and labor groups has announced a nationwide boycott of Arizona over the state’s anti-immigrant law. Under the law, police officers are ordered to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant. On Thursday, National Council of La Raza president Janet Murguía joined leaders from nineteen other groups to announce the boycott.
Janet Murguía: "We are formally announcing a boycott of major events in the state of Arizona. Today, we are announcing that we will boycott intolerance. We know that people who oppose this law and people who are targets of this law will be affected, and we are exploring ways that we can mitigate these effects. But we believe the inherent, permanent and systemic profiling and discrimination that will occur as a result of this law far outweigh any short-term impacts from a boycott."
The Senate has defeated an amendment that would have broken up major Wall Street banks and capped their size. The proposal was touted as a way to end "too big to fail" and avoid future bailouts of the kind seen during the current economic crisis. The measure was defeated by a vote of 61 to 33.
Another amendment to increase congressional oversight of the Federal Reserve also failed Thursday following pressure from the White House. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders had proposed to subject the Fed’s interest rate decision-making to a congressional audit. But after Obama administration officials intervened, Sanders agreed to a compromise that will require the Fed to provide more details about its lending during the financial crisis and subject it to a one-time audit and review.
A government panel is warning Americans are being "bombarded" with cancer-causing sources including chemicals, radiation and other hazards threatening "grievous harm." The President’s Cancer Panel says cancers caused by environmental exposures have been "grossly underestimated" and require stronger government regulation. In a cover letter to a 240-page report, the panel urges President Obama to "most strongly use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives."
A former military interrogator has appeared to at least partially corroborate the claims of a Guantánamo Bay prisoner who says he was beaten and threatened with rape by US forces after being seized in Afghanistan. Omar Khadr was fifteen years old when US troops imprisoned him in 2002. At a pretrial hearing on Thursday, the interrogator said he had told Khadr a fake story about a young Muslim being gang raped after being sent to prison. Khadr’s attorneys say the interrogator’s story marked an implicit threat.
The Pentagon meanwhile has banned four journalists from covering military commissions at Guantánamo Bay for reporting the military interrogator’s name. The ban applies to Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald and three other reporters with Toronto-based newspapers. The interrogator’s name has already been widely published in previous news reports. ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said, "That reporters are being punished for disclosing information that has been publicly available for years is nothing short of absurd...If allowed to stand, this decision will discourage legitimate reporting and add yet another entry to the long list of reasons why the military commissions ought to be shut down for good."
A former Guatemalan soldier involved in a 1982 massacre of more than 250 villagers in the mountain hamlet of Dos Erres has been arrested in Florida. Gilberto Jordan was taken into custody Wednesday for concealing his role in the massacre when applying for US citizenship. Government officials say Jordan has admitted to killing a number of villagers and throwing a baby down a well. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are also seeking the arrest of two former Guatemalan soldiers based in California. US Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said, "The massacre at Dos Erres was a dark moment for the Guatemalan people, and we will not allow suspected perpetrators to escape justice by taking refuge in our cities and towns.’’
In Greece, lawmakers have approved a new round of tough austerity measures intended to secure an international bailout. The new measures include 30 billion euros worth of additional wage cuts and tax increases. As the bill was passed, thousands of people gathered outside the Greek parliament in protest. At one point police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
In Burma, the main political opposition party to the ruling military junta has officially dissolved. The National League for Democracy chose to disband in an act of protest against rules that would have prevented several of its members from running in upcoming elections, including the jailed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. NLD officials say they’ll form a new party under the name of the National Democracy Force to run in the elections.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Israeli forces have jailed a leading Palestinian activist who campaigns for the equal treatment for Israel’s Arab citizens. Ameer Makhoul of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedom inside Israel was arrested at his home in Haifa this week. He has reportedly been jailed for at least six days and has been denied access to an attorney. His arrest follows the detention of another Palestinian activist, Dr. Omar Said, for twelve days.
Vice President Joe Biden appeared before the European Parliament on Thursday to urge passage of a measure that would grant US customs officials access to European passenger data. Biden said the measure was needed to help find terror suspects.
Vice President Joe Biden: "It is vital that we maintain every capacity we have under the law to stop such attacks. And for that reason, we believe that the terrorist finance tracking program is essential to our security, as well as to yours, presumptive me to say. It has provided critical leads to counterterrorism investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, disrupting plots, and ultimately saving lives.’’
Biden’s speech came one day after European lawmakers postponed a vote on the measure to ensure stronger privacy safeguards. The US also wants the European Union to reverse its decision to end a controversial data-sharing program that’s allowed the US to monitor millions of international financial transactions.
A federal judge has ordered a documentary filmmaker to hand over hundreds of hours of footage to the oil giant Chevron. Joseph Berlinger’s film Crude chronicles the struggle of indigenous Ecuadorians against Chevron’s oil contamination of their land. Chevron has sought Berlinger’s outtakes to help defend itself against an Ecuadorian lawsuit seeking $27 billion in environmental damages. Berlinger says he’ll appeal the order, arguing that his footage should be shielded under the same protections granted to journalists. Berlinger’s attorney, Maura Wogan, says the ruling poses "great harm to documentary filmmakers and investigative reporters everywhere."
And in Ohio, police have raided the home of a Toledo man who had been waging a public fight to save his home from foreclosure. Keith Sadler had been barricaded inside his own home since Sunday. Early this morning, police dressed in riot gear entered the home to remove Sadler and members of the Toledo Foreclosure Defense League. Sadler is a fifty-three-year-old former auto worker who had lived in the house for twenty years. Video of the raid was broadcast live on the internet.