Millions of immigrant workers are expected to boycott work and school today in support of nationwide May Day protests against anti-immigrant legislation being considered in Washington. Dubbed “A Day Without Immigrants” protests are planned in over 70 cities with the largest demonstrations expected in Los Angeles and Chicago. Immigrant rights groups are calling on immigrant workers to not show up for work and to not buy anything all day. Thousands of stores and businesses are closed for the day. In Los Angeles, port truckers are calling for a general strike and a shutdown of the area’s ports. Organizers in Los Angeles are predicting mass student walkouts. Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat producer, has shut down nine of its 15 plants. We’ll have more on the boycott in a few minutes.
Today’s protests comes on the heels of a weekend that saw a pair of major demonstrations. On Saturday, Cindy Sheehan, Jesse Jackson and Susan Sarandon led a large anti-march rally in New York. Organizers said 350,000 people took part. Then on Sunday, tens of thousands gathered in Washington to call for an end to the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. It was this country’s largest demonstration against the genocide to date. The protest came as Sudan inches forward on a peace deal. A deadline to reach a deal was originally set for Sunday but it was extended by 48 hours.
In news on Iraq, it was three years ago today that President Bush declared mission accomplished and major combat operations over. Meanwhile the U.S. death toll in Iraq has topped 2,400. 70 soldiers died in April making it the deadliest month for U.S. troops so far this year.
And the cost of the war keeps rising. The Independent of London reports the war is set to become more expensive in real terms than Vietnam. The U.S. is now spending about $6 billion a month in Iraq. Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the ultimate cost of the war could top two trillion dollars.
In other Iraq news, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi has said 100,000 Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes over the past two months due to increased fighting.
The Bush administration has asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit against AT&T that accuses the telecom giant of helping the government carry out illegal domestic spy operations. The Bush administration said the lawsuit could jeopardize military and state secrets. An AT&T whistleblower has already revealed that the National Security Agency has set up a secret spy room in AT&T’s San Francisco office. The whistleblower, Mark Klein, claims the NSA has access to any Internet data passing through AT&T system. Klein said he believes that AT&T has also given the NSA access to its facilities in Atlanta, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle.
Meanwhile newly released government data shows the FBI issued over 9,000 subpoenas last year to monitor the activities of U.S. citizens. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI can obtain personal phone logs, Internet traffic records and bank information about individuals without a court order. The Justice Department has also revealed that its use of electronic surveillance and search warrants in national security investigations jumped 15 percent last year. It has doubled since 2000.
In news on Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency has said in a new report that it has uncovered no proof that Iran is secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons program. But the agency accused Iran of stonewalling inspectors and defying UN Security Council demands to freeze its efforts to enrich uranium. Iran has said it would allow international inspectors from the IAEA to make unannounced checks but only if the issue did not go to the Security Council. Iran has refused to stop its uranium enrichment program which it maintains is for peaceful purposes.
In news from South America, tens of thousands gathered in Argentina near the Uruguay border in what has been called the country’s largest environmentalist rally ever. The Argentine demonstrators called on Uruguay to stop construction of two paper mills on the side of a river that separates the two countries. The Argentine government has accused Uruguay of breaking international environmental treaties to protect waterways. The World Bank has backed the construction of the mills.
Meanwhile the Bolivian government has agreed to join a new trade pact with Cuba and Venezuela. Bolivian President Evo Morales signed the agreement in Havana where he met with Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. The countries are hoping other Latin American nations will defy the United States and join what they call the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.
The Army has announced for the first time that an officer will face criminal charges in connection to the prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The Army is accusing Lt. Colonel Steven Jordan of oppressing Iraqi detainees by subjecting them to forced nudity and intimidation by military dogs. Jordan headed the interrogation center at the prison. He reportedly attempted to hide the abuse of Iraqi detainees by building a plywood wall inside the prison to prevent Iraqi police officers from seeing what was taking place. He is also accused of repeatedly lying to investigators. Former Justice Department attorney Marty Lederman says the charges against Jordan might prove that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorized criminal conduct. In a December 2002 memo Rumsfeld authorized interrogators at Guantanamo to do what Jordan is accused of–the use of forced nudity and dogs to scare and intimidate detainees.
In Washington, the FBI has launched an investigation into whether a defense contractor bribed former Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham with prostitutes in order to win political favors. Cunningham resigned last November after admitting to accepting $2.4 million in bribes. He was sentenced to eight years in prison. The defense contractor Brent Wilkes is now being accused of giving Cunningham–and possibly other lawmakers — free prostitutes, free limo rides and free stays in rented rooms at the Watergate and Westin Grand hotels.
In media news, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh was arrested on Friday on prescription drug fraud charges. Limbaugh turned himself in on Friday after he reached a plea bargain stemming from a two-year-old investigation over whether he illegally purchased thousands of painkiller drugs. Prosecutors have agreed to drop the charge in 18 months if Limbaugh continues his treatment for drug addiction.
In technology news, Suffolk County on Long Island, New York is planning a offer free wireless throughout the county. The system would be one of the largest government-sponsored wireless networks in the nation.
And the economist and writer John Kenneth Galbraith has died at the age of 97.
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