Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and immigrant rights activists are planning to rally across the country today on the anniversary of last year’s historic May Day protests. Marches are planned in at least 75 cities across the country. Some of the largest protests are expected to take place in Los Angeles and Chicago. Several groups are calling for a boycott of work, school and all consumer activity today. In California, youth organizers said walkouts were planned in at least 20 Los Angeles middle schools and high schools. In Chicago, some 700 businesses are expected to close down today as part of the national boycott. In Fresno, organizers are holding a rally focusing on children whose parents have been deported. Groups are calling on Congress to reject all anti-immigrant legislation, to stop the government raids on immigrant communities, to stop President Bush’s proposed guest worker program and to demilitarize the U.S.-Mexican border.
On Capitol Hill, the Democratic leadership is officially sending President Bush the new war-funding bill today that sets a nonbinding timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The bill is being sent on the fourth anniversary of the day that President Bush stood under a “Mission Accomplished” banner and announced that major combat operations had ended in Iraq. President Bush is expected to veto the bill as early as Wednesday.
In Iraq, the U.S. military announced five more troops died in attacks over the weekend. In April, 104 U.S. troops died, making it the sixth deadliest month of the war. Meanwhile, at least 102 Iraqis died on Monday alone, including more than 30 in a suicide bombing that targeted a Shiite funeral. In the latest political development in Iraq, the largest bloc of Sunni Arabs in the Iraqi Parliament is threatening to withdraw from the Cabinet.
In other Iraq news, one of the country’s best-known bloggers has announced that she and her family have decided to flee the country. The blogger known as Riverbend has been writing about the U.S. occupation on her blog, “Baghdad Burning,” since August 2003. In her latest post, Riverbend writes: “It’s difficult to decide which is more frightening–car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.”
In Washington, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois, has admitted that he knew in 2003 that the American public was being misled into the Iraq War but remained silent. Durbin said last week, “I was angry about it. [But] frankly, I couldn’t do much about it because, in the Intelligence Committee, we are sworn to secrecy.” Durbin went on to say, “We can’t walk outside the door and say the statement made yesterday by the White House is in direct contradiction to classified information that is being given to this Congress.”
In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is fighting for his political life after a government commission harshly criticized his role in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon last summer. The report accused Olmert of demonstrating a “severe failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and caution” during the 34-day war. The report also singled out Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the military’s former chief of staff, Dan Halutz. This is Ruth Gavison, a member of the Winograd Commission.
Ruth Gavison: “We determine that there are very serious failings in these decisions and the way they were made. We impose primary responsibility for these failures on the prime minister, the minister of defense and the outgoing chief of staff.”
Polls show nearly 70 percent of Israelis want Olmert to resign, but he has refused to do so. While the Winograd Commission focused on how the war was managed, critics of the war said the largest mistake was Israel’s decision to invade Lebanon. This is Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset.
Ahmed Tibi: “The real failure is just the decision of getting on with this war and not the way the war was managed. I do believe that Israel once again proved that it is an army which has a state and not a state which has an army.”
In Lebanon, leaders of Hezbollah say the report by the Israeli government commission confirms that Hezbollah won the war last summer. Nearly 1,200 Lebanese — the vast majority civilians — were killed during the war. Israel lost 119 soldiers and 39 civilians.
The Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu might be heading back to jail soon for speaking to the international media. In 2004, Israel released Vanunu after he spent 18 years in jail for disclosing information that proved Israel had a stockpile of nuclear weapons. After he was released, Israel barred Vanunu from speaking to the foreign press, but Vanunu defied the order. He spoke to several foreign outlets, including Democracy Now! [Listen to 2004 interview: Pt. 1 || Pt. 2] On Monday, an Israeli court convicted him of violating the terms of his release from jail. This is Vanunu’s attorney, Michael Sfard.
Michael Sfard: “Today, in 2007, a person was found guilty of being in contact with other people, not for the content of what he said to them, but for the mere fact that he was talking to other people. This is not something that a liberal democracy in the 21st century should be doing, and this is a very frightening situation, almost Orwellian situation, every Israeli has to fear.”
Vanunu will be sentenced in two weeks. After the court’s ruling, Vanunu spoke with reporters outside the courtroom.
Mordechai Vanunu: “Today we have heard the verdict, says that Israel has atomic weapons. Everything is published here. And now the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres can say to the world that Israel have atomic weapons, producing plutonium, neutron and hydrogen bomb. All the bomb that Israel refusing to accept and to admit that they have the bomb is here. But Israeli state, but Israeli court, this judge today say that I say that Israel has atomic weapons, and he’s finding me guilty of saying this is true, so you and everyone in the world can say that Israel have atomic weapons, they have plutonium, neutron bomb and hydrogen bomb, it is writing here.”
In Britain, survivors of the July 7, 2005, subway bombings are calling for a new investigation into what the government knew about the suicide bombers before the day of the attack. Up until this week the British government had maintained the bombings came out of the blue and that intelligence officers didn’t know any of the men involved. But it was revealed on Monday — at the conclusion of an unrelated trial — that the ringleader of the subway bombing was under MI5 surveillance in 2004. In the trial, a jury sentenced five British citizens to life in prison on Monday for plotting a series of bomb attacks. The government case rested largely on intelligence gathered in what has been described as Britain’s most intensive surveillance operation ever. Investigators bugged more than 90 phone lines, sifted through 27,000 hours of video and audio intercepts and logged more than 33,000 hours watching the men.
In news from Washington, investigative journalist Murray Waas has revealed that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating two of his top aides extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of Justice Department employees. The existence of the order suggests that a broad effort was underway by the White House to place politically and ideologically loyal appointees throughout the Justice Department, not just at the U.S. attorney level. The two aides given the authority were Gonzales’ chief of staff Kyle Sampson and his White House liaison Monica Goodling. Both Sampson and Goodling have since resigned. On Monday, Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy described the development as disturbing and highly troubling. Leahy said, “This secret order would seem to be evidence of an effort to hardwire control over law enforcement by White House political operatives.”
The Bush administration is proposing a major expansion of oil and natural gas drilling in federal waters off Alaska, Florida and Virginia. The proposal would allow private oil companies to lease 48 million acres along the coasts where drilling had been previously banned.
In news from Washington, 75 attorneys and legal scholars are heading to Capitol Hill today to urge lawmakers to reverse provisions of the Military Commissions Act that stripped detainees at Guantanamo of the right to challenge their imprisonment. The attorneys picked today for their lobby action because May 1 is recognized as Law Day inside the legal community. On Monday, President Bush issued a Law Day proclamation inviting Americans today to “celebrate the Constitution and the laws that protect our rights and liberties.”
In Virginia, the state’s governor has partially closed a loophole in the state’s gun laws that allowed the Virginia Tech gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, to purchase firearms despite a court ruling that he was a threat and needed psychiatric counseling. The names of anyone who is perceived to be dangerous and ordered to get involuntary health treatment will now be placed in a database which gun dealers must check before selling a weapon. However, the new executive order does not apply to gun shows in Virginia, where guns can still be bought without a background check.
In environmental news, The New York Times is reporting that climate scientists may have significantly underestimated the power of global warming from human-generated, heat-trapping gases to shrink the cap of sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean. Meanwhile, President Bush met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday to discuss global warming. They agreed that more must be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the Bush administration remains opposed to placing caps on carbon emissions.
President Bush: “As I reminded the people around the conference table today, the United States could shut down our economy and emit no greenhouse gases, and all it would take is for China about 18 months to produce as much as we had been producing, to make up the difference about what we had reduced our greenhouse gases to. So this is a very important issue. It has global consequences. The good news is that we recognize there is a problem.”
A Spanish judge has indicted three U.S. soldiers in the killing of Jose Couso, the Spanish journalist who was killed when U.S. troops shelled the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad in April 2003. A Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters named Taras Protsyuk was also killed in the shelling. The Spanish judge indicted Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp. The three men were charged with homicide and committing a crime against the international community. The U.S. says it will not hand over the soldiers to stand trial. One of the men, Philip DeCamp, is now an adjunct professor of mathematics at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
In news from Latin America, Hugo Chavez has announced Venezuela will pull out of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The Venezuelan president accused the institutions of exploiting small countries and of being a mechanism of North American imperialism.
In Cuba, up to one million people are expected to march in Havana today in an enormous May Day rally. Fidel Castro is expected to attend the rally. He has not been seen in public since July, when he underwent emergency surgery and temporarily transferred power to his brother Raul.
And in New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine is back in the Governor’s Mansion 18 days after he was critically injured in a car accident. Corzine apologized for not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident and for being in a car that was speeding.
Gov. Corzine: “I also understand that I set a very poor example for a lot of young people and a lot of people in general. I certainly hope the state will forgive me, and I will work very hard to try to set the right kind of example to make a difference in people’s lives as we go forward.”