In Los Angeles between 500,000 and a million people filled the city’s streets Saturday to protest the new anti-immigrant bill, HR 4437. The Los Angeles Times reported it was possibly the largest gathering in the city’s history. One local Spanish-language tv station in Los Angeles put the crowd total at over two million people. “We are in favor of an immigration reform, but not in criminalizing our children,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the city’s first Latino mayor. The House of Representatives has already approved legislation that would criminalize 11 million undocumented immigrants and make it a crime for priests, nuns, health care workers and other social workers to offer them help. Other large immigrant-led protests occurred throughout the country. 50,000 people took to the streets in Denver. 20,000 rallied in Phoenix in what may have been the city’s largest protest ever. In Atlanta, 70,000 immigrant workers took part in a work stoppage on Friday. Other protests occurred in New York, Charlotte, Dallas and Sacramento. In Washington, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to begin debating the Senate version of the immigration bill today.
In Iraq at least 40 people have died after a suicide bomber attacked a U.S. and Iraqi military base near the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar. U.S. officials said the bomb exploded at an Iraqi police recruiting center at the base and that no Americans were killed. The attack comes just days after President Bush cited Tal Afar as an example of a successful city in Iraq. He described it as a “free city that gives reason for hope for a free Iraq.”
Meanwhile conflicting reports are coming out of Baghdad over a U.S.-backed raid killed around 17 supporters of the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Iraqi police said U.S. troops raided a Shiite mosque. One eyewitness said, “American and Iraqi forces came after prayers with some other people and opened fire. Local residents came to the mosque when they saw what was happening. Around 17 people were dead”. The dead included the mosque’s 80-year-old imam. The U.S. military has said none of its troops entered the mosque but admitted that U.S. special forces troops were at the scene advising Iraqi troops. Earlier in the day a mortar shell nearly hit Moqtada al Sadr’s home in the southern holy city of Najaf.
Meanwhile officials in Baquba are investigating the beheading of 30 men. Their bodies were discovered on Sunday.
In the Kurdish area of Iraq, a court has sentenced a writer to 18 months in prison for publicly criticizing Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. The Iraqi-born writer — Kamal Karim Qadir — was arrested last fall and charged with threatening the national security of Kurdistan.
In Hurricane Katrina news, FEMA has broken a promise to reopen four multimillion-dollar no-bid contracts awarded to politically connected companies. Shortly after the hurricane hit, FEMA gave major no-bid contracts to Bechtel, Shaw Group, Fluor and the company CH2M Hill. FEMA vowed to rebid the contracts after legislators criticized the no-bid contracts because two of the companies had close political ties to the White House. The Shaw Group’s lobbyist was Joe Allbaugh. He is the former director of FEMA and a personal friend of President Bush. The CEO of Bechtel, Riley Bechtel, previously served on Bush’s Export Council.
Meanwhile it has been revealed that when First Lady Barbara Bush donated money for Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Houston, her donation came with specific instructions: part of it had to be spent on buying educational software from her son Neil Bush’s company, Ignite Learning. Former President Bush’s chief of staff Jean Becker defended the donation saying “Mrs. Bush wanted to do something specifically for education and specifically for the thousands of students flooding into the Houston schools.” A week after Katrina hit, Barbara Bush was criticized after she told the radio show Marketplace that the relocation to Houston was “working very well” for some of those forced out of New Orleans since they were already underprivileged.
And in New Orleans, residents are rallying for the city to reopen Charity Hospital, the city’s only Level 1 trauma center. The public hospital has been closed since Hurricane Katrina caused massive flooding that ruined the hospital’s electrical system. On Saturday about 100 doctors, former patients and other residents held a rally outside of the hospital.
Questions are now being raised as to whether Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia should recuse himself from an upcoming case about the U.S. military prison at Guantanano Bay. Newsweek is reporting Scalia recently gave a speech in Switzerland, where he dismissed the idea that the detainees have rights under the U.S. Constitution or international conventions. During the speech Scalia said he was “astounded” at the “hypocritical” reaction in Europe to Guantanamo. Scalia said “War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts.” On Tuesday the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a case that will decide whether the Bush administration can try Guantanamo detainees in special military tribunals. Two years ago Scalia recused himself from a case about the Pledge of Allegiance after he made public comments about the issue.
In Argentina, thousands gathered this weekend to condemn the 30th anniversary of the U.S.-backed coup that resulted in the deaths and disappearances of tens of thousands. “The Mothers are here with you, the people, and we will continue to be with you in this fight until we know what happened to each and every one of our children,” said Marta Vazquez of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. “What was their final destiny? Who gave the order? Who executed it? Because it’s the least we could demand to know.”
Meanwhile newly declassified documents reveal that then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger ordered immediate U.S. support for the military junta shortly after it seized power in Argentina 30 years ago. According to the minutes of one meeting, Kissinger said “I do want to encourage them. I don’t want to give the sense that they’re harassed by the United States.” Kissinger said this even though his own top deputy in Latin America was predicting Argentina would face “a fair amount of repression [and] probably a good deal of blood” under the new regime. In addition State Department cables show that U.S. officials had prior knowledge of coup plotting. More than a week before the coup, the commander of the Argentine Navy requested the U.S. embassy recommend public relations firms inside the United States which would work for the future military junta.
In news from Africa, calls are increasing for Nigeria to detain and arrest former Liberian president Charles Taylor who has been indicted for war crimes. On Saturday Nigeria’s president Olusegun Obasanjo said he would allow Liberia to take custody of Taylor but no details were released on how or when this would happen. The Liberian government said on Sunday Taylor could be sent directly to the UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone. Taylor has lived in Nigeria since 2003 when he stepped down as Liberia’s president. Obasanjo is traveling to Washington on Tuesday and is expected to meet with President Bush.
In South Dakota, a petition drive has been launched to overturn the state’s new ban on abortion. The South Dakota Campaign For Healthy Families is aiming to collect enough signatures to bring the abortion question to a statewide referendum in November. The state’s governor recently signed legislation making South Dakota the first state to ban women from receiving abortions except in cases where it will save a woman’s life. Under the law doctors will face up to five years in prison and a five thousand dollar fine for performing an illegal abortion.
Former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff is expected to soon be subpoenaed to answer questions about the mob-style killing of Gus Boulis in 2001. Months before the killing Abramoff and a partner bought the Sun Cruz Casinos from Boulis. Abramoff has never been charged in the killing but a lawyer for one of the men accused of the crime wants to question Abramoff in court.
In France, students and union activists are preparing for a national strike on Tuesday to protest a new national law that makes it easier for employers to fire young workers.
And in labor news, farmworkers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have launched a 17-city tour to call on the fast-food restaurant McDonald’s to give tomato pickers better wages and improve working conditions. The tour comes a year after the Immokalee Workers led a successful boycott of Taco Bell.