The White House panel investigating the Gulf Coast oil spill says BP and one of its main contractors, Halliburton, ignored critical design flaws weeks before the explosion at the Macondo well. On Thursday, the National Oil Spill Commission said multiple tests showed the cement slurry used to seal the well was unstable and unlikely to hold. The companies still went ahead with their cementing work despite the findings. Halliburton has previously claimed the tests had proved the cement’s reliability.
The Obama administration has disclosed US intelligence agencies spent some $80.1 billion during the previous fiscal year. It’s the first time in over a decade the US government has disclosed its intelligence budget. In a statement, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said intelligence spending has reached an “unacceptable level.”
A new government audit shows the US can’t account for nearly $18 billion earmarked for the Afghan war. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says the government doesn’t know how some $17.7 billion obligated to over 7,000 contractors has been disbursed.
A Pentagon inquiry has found a senior official deliberately misled top military officers when he established a spy program run by private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The official, Michael Furlong, established the off-the-books operation to help track and kill suspected militants. Furlong has claimed his superiors authorized the program.
In Indonesia, the death toll from a tsunami off the coast of west Sumatra has topped 400. Entire villages have been destroyed on the Mentawai Islands, and Indonesian officials say the toll could rise as more bodies are found. Another 400 people are still missing, and bad weather has slowed down rescue efforts.
In Argentina, tens of thousands of people have gathered at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires for the wake of the former President Nestor Kirchner. The sixty-year-old Kirchner died from a heart attack this week. He had been expected to seek another presidential term to replace his wife, Argentine President Cristina Fernández, next year. A number of South American leaders have flown into Argentina to attend Kirchner’s funeral. Bolivian President Evo Morales paid tribute on Thursday.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “It’s beautiful to lose your life after serving the people and especially the poor. But it’s sad to make those people cry. These people feel for their president. I feel like we’re orphans, but the only way to honor him is to continue fighting for what he did, for integration, for dignity, for solidarity amongst our people.”
In Mexico, hundreds of students rallied in the capital Mexico City Thursday to protest a wave of drug-linked killings targeting young people. Some forty-two youths have been killed in four recent attacks. Protest leader Sergio Leyva said Mexican drug cartels have committed crimes with impunity.
Sergio Leyva: “We can be killed, either by the government or by the drug traffickers. This is the greatest dilemma that we have. It cannot be possible that in six days forty-two young people have been killed. In January of this year, fifteen died in [Ciudad Juárez], and the only thing the government offered us was a tithe of justice with impunity.”
North Korean and South Korean troops have exchanged fire on their tense border. South Korea says its soldiers returned fire after coming under attack. No injuries have been reported on either side. Tensions have flared on the Korean peninsula since South Korea accused North Korea of killing forty-six sailors aboard a warship in March.
A new investigation has found the private prison industry played a key role in the drafting and passage of Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law. According to National Public Radio, the bill was formulated at a Washington, DC meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, last December. The group brings together state legislators and major corporations, including the nation’s largest private prison firm, the Correction Corporation of America, CCA. Attendees helped write the bill, gave it a name, and then voted to approve it. The bill’s eventual sponsor, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, then brought it back to his home state. The ensuing months saw a frenzy of lobbying to enact the bill. According to NPR, thirty of the measure’s thirty-six co-sponsors received campaign donations from lobbyists working for CCA and two other major private prison companies. In an internal document last year, the CCA predicted that contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement would bring in “a significant portion of our revenues.”
A new poll shows nearly two-thirds of Latinos in the United States think they experience discrimination fueled by anti-immigrant sentiment. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the number jumps to 70 percent for Latinos born abroad. Half of respondents say the US has become less welcoming to immigrants in the last five years, and over half say they’re worried they or their family members could be deported.
A new study says life expectancy in the United States has plunged over the last decade. According to Health Affairs, the US now ranks forty-ninth in the world in life expectancy, down from twenty-fourth place in 1999. The study authors cited what they called the United States’ “uniquely inefficient” healthcare system as the primary cause.
And former President Bill Clinton has acknowledged he tried to convince Democratic Congress member Kendrick Meek to abandon his Senate bid. Polls show Meek is running a distant third behind Florida Governor Charlie Crist, an independent, and Republican front-runner Marco Rubio. A Clinton spokesperson said the former president told Meek to drop out of the race and endorse Crist. Meek has denied receiving any pressure from Clinton. He is trying to become the first-ever African American to win a statewide vote in Florida.