The Senate has voted to build a fence along parts of the Mexico border to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country. In total, 370 miles of triple-layered barriers would be added near San Diego and in the Arizona desert. Senators also approved a provision that would prevent illegal immigrants from petitioning for a guest-worker permit without the sponsorship an employer. And in a unanimous vote, Senate accepted an amendment that would bar granting work permits to undocumented immigrants convicted of either a felony or at least three misdemeanors. The measure would effect even those who ignored a court-deportation order.
Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting the Bush administration is preparing to turn to several military contractors for a planned “virtual fence” along the border. Companies including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have announced they will bid on the multi-billion dollar contracts within weeks. The “virtual fence” would place unmanned aerial vehicles, ground surveillance satellites and motion-detection video equipment in isolated areas along the Mexican and Canadian border. According to the Times, the Bush administration will ask contractors not just to supply equipment but to devise and build a whole new border strategy. Earlier this year, Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson told military industry leaders: “We’re asking you to come back and tell us how to do our business.”
The New York Times is reporting the Bush administration is considering entering into negotiations with North Korea that would lead to a possible peace treaty. The new stance would go back on President Bush’s refusal to deal with North Korea until it gave up its nuclear program. According to the Times, a classified National Intelligence Estimate concluded North Korea has likely produced the fuel for more than a half-dozen nuclear weapons since the President took office and was continuing to produce roughly a bomb’s worth of new plutonium each year. A senior Asian official told the Times the initiative may be prompted by the Bush administration’s views on Iran. The official said: “There is a sense that they can’t leave Korea out there as a model for what the Iranians hope to become — a nuclear state that can say no to outside pressure.”
In Afghanistan, more than fifty people were killed in fighting between Taliban members and Afghan and foreign forces in two southern provinces Wednesday. The dead included a dozen police, a Canadian soldier and more than 30 militants.
Aid groups are warning tens of thousands of people in the Congo province of Katanga are at risk from fighting between armed groups. More than 300,000 displaced people have been left in limbo by clashes that have destroyed scores of villages. Beatrice Oechsli of the International Committee of the Red Cross said the villagers need aid to reconstruct their lives. “Now the people are coming back and they need help to reconstruct their lives, to reconstruct huts to be able to start again their lives here back in the villages.”
In the Occupied Territories, Hamas has deployed a new militia in Gaza over the objections of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The new force is led by Jamal Abu Samadhana, a Hamas figure who is high on Israel’s wanted list. Hamas says the new force will restore order. The move threatens to increase tensions between Hamas and the Abbas-led Fatah. This week, two Hamas members were killed in drive-by shootings blamed on Fatah militants.
Back in the United States, jurors have begun deliberating in the fraud and conspiracy trial of former Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. The two are accused of overseeing one of the worst cases of corporate corruption in US history. On Wednesday, Lay was questioned as he left the courtroom. Ken Lay: “I think we’ve told a lot of it, it’s just too bad that so much of it continues to be distorted and twisted, but I guess that’s just all part of our system. But we’ll keep working at it. I think we’ll get as fair a trial as we’re going to get.”
Here in New York, a former deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration has filed a medical claim for respiratory illnesses contracted by pollution at the World Trade Center site. The man, Rudy Washington, worked in the area around Ground Zero for several weeks after the towers fell.
And the BBC is still feeling the effects of an embarrassing gaffe that made it to air last week. On May 8, a man named Guy Goma showed up for a job interview for a technology-related position at the BBC. A mix-up led producers to believe Guy Goma the job applicant was in fact Guy Kewney — a technology website editor who was scheduled to appear for a live interview. Well, it turns out they had the wrong Guy. Guy Kewney watched the interview from the green room where he was waiting to go on. The BBC later apologized to viewers and invited Guy Goma back for a follow-up interview.