The US Coast Guard has abandoned its search for eleven workers missing since last week’s Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster as efforts center around containing a major oil spill. The rig caught fire off the Louisiana coast Tuesday before sinking two days later. Around 1,000 barrels of oil are leaking into the Gulf each day. The rig’s operator, BP, says it could take up to three months to stop the spill. If the eleven missing workers are confirmed dead, it would be the deadliest US platform explosion in over forty years.
Immigrant rights groups are calling for federal intervention to counter a newly enacted measure in Arizona that forces police officers to determine the immigration status of someone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant. Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill on Friday following its approval in the state legislature earlier in the week. Opponents call it the harshest anti-immigrant measure in the country and a license for racial profiling. Shortly after adding her signature, Brewer says she thinks the measure “is what’s best for Arizona.”
Gov. Jan Brewer: “I have decided to sign Senate Bill 1070 into law because, though many people disagree, I firmly believe it represents what’s best for Arizona.”
As Brewer spoke, thousands of protesters rallied outside the State Capitol. Democratic Congress member Raul Grijalva urged federal non-cooperation with the new law.
Rep. Raul Grijalva: “We have insisted on non-cooperation with this state law by the federal government. Immigration is a federal law. It has supremacy. And if our federal government tells the state of Arizona, 'You can have the law, we are not detaining, we are not processing, we are not accessing your law,' then it is moot. And I think that is the next step, is the non-cooperation.”
Another major protest was held on Sunday with thousands of people in attendance. At the White House, President Obama denounced the bill and suggested the federal government could intervene.
President Obama: “Indeed, our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. And that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe. In fact, I’ve instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation.”
The Senate climate bill is in limbo after Republican co-sponsor Lindsey Graham of South Carolina withdrew his support. On Saturday, Graham said he no longer backs the measure because Democrats want to advance an immigration bill first. Graham and co-sponsors Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut had been scheduled to unveil the climate measure today. Graham says he thinks Democrats are pushing for immigration reform to mobilize Hispanic voters and wants Democrats to pledge they’ll first tackle the climate bill. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected Graham’s claims and said he hopes to pass both climate and immigration legislation by the end of the year.
Amidst the wrangling on Capitol Hill, thousands of people gathered on the National Mall Sunday to back passage of a robust climate bill. The Earth Day Network organized the rally to cap a week-long series of events marking Earth Day’s fortieth year.
Protester: “I think Congress needs to stop paying attention to what corporations want, what oil companies want, what coal industry wants, and start actually doing what the American people need them to do, which is create legislation that spends our tax dollars on sustainable jobs that create energy for people here in America without creating the pollution and the hazardous waste and all of the other things that come with listening to oil companies, who say, 'Hey, we're making money. Don’t take away our oil.’”
President Obama was in West Virginia on Sunday for a memorial honoring the twenty-nine miners who died in the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine disaster earlier this month. A crowd of several thousand people was on hand to pay tribute to the dead workers. Obama has singled out Massey for failing to prevent the disaster, calling the explosion “a failure first and foremost of management.” On Sunday, Obama called for tightening safety standards at US mines.
President Obama: “How can we fail them? How can a nation that relies on its miners not do everything in its power to protect them? How can we let anyone in this country put their lives at risk by simply showing up to work, by simply pursuing the American dream? We cannot bring back the twenty-nine men we lost. They are with the Lord now. Our task, here on earth, is to save lives from being lost in another such tragedy.”
Later in the day, an armed man was arrested at a North Carolina airport shortly after President Obama departed on Air Force One back to Washington. The suspect, Joseph Sean McVey, was carrying a gun and driving a vehicle equipped with police gear. McVey reportedly told police officers he wanted to see President Obama.
In Iraq, at least seventy-two people were killed Friday in a series of coordinated bombings in Shiite areas of Baghdad. The blasts struck mosques, homes and shops near the office of the leading Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It was the deadliest attack Iraq has seen so far this year. It comes four days after the US and Iraqi governments announced the killing of two top leaders with the group al-Qaeda in Iraq. On Sunday, an al-Qaeda front group confirmed the killing of the leaders but vowed to continue its fight.
Afghan protesters set a convoy of ten NATO supply vehicles ablaze Sunday, hours after the alleged killing of three civilians in a US raid. A relative said the victims were shot dead when US troops stormed their home overnight. The US-led NATO force says the victims were insurgents.
In other Afghan war news, NATO foreign ministers held talks in Estonia on Friday. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US has narrowed the gap with allies on sending additional troops.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We’ve actually been heartened by the response from all of our allies and partners. We started off with a significant gap, and we have narrowed it significantly. The combined new commitments from our NATO ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) allies is about 10,000 in troops and trainers and mentors.”
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, clashes erupted in East Jerusalem Sunday after a group of Israeli settlers held a march through the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan. Organizers say they called the rally to affirm Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.
Meanwhile in Gaza, two Palestinians and a Maltese activist were wounded Saturday after Israeli troops opened fire during a protest. The activist, Bianca Zamet, is a member of the International Solidarity Movement, which has long been targeted by Israeli troops.
Bianca Zamet: “I was filming myself, documenting. They shot — they shot Nidal in the leg, and they shot Hind in the stomach. We were only carrying Palestinian flags on Palestinian land. And this is something — it’s not the first time. It’s been happening, and we will continue to go, no matter what.”
In Japan, an estimated 90,000 people rallied on the island of Okinawa Sunday to call for the removal of a US military base. The US wants to relocate its current base to a different part of the island. Half of the estimated 47,000 US troops in Japan are stationed on Okinawa.
Rallies were held around the world this weekend to support a leading human rights judge facing trial in Spain. Baltasar Garzón is accused of overreaching his authority in a probe of human rights abuses during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime. Garzón is known worldwide for taking on international human rights cases. His actions include ordering the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, indicting Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks, and probing the abuse of US prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. On Saturday, thousands of people marched in Madrid to support Garzón. The demonstrators included the film director Pedro Almodóvar.
Pedro Almodóvar: “Civil society has taken to the streets this afternoon all over Spain to support the cause of the victims of the Franco era of terror and to vindicate the reality of tens of thousands of men and women who gave their lives for the liberty and freedom of our country.”
Back in the United States, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a cloture vote today to proceed with debate on a financial reform bill. Democrats will ultimately need the support of at least one Republican to avoid a filibuster. The vote comes as Democrats continue to negotiate over how the measure will address the trading of derivatives. The Wall Street Journal reports Berkshire Hathaway, the firm of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, has heavily lobbied for exempting current derivatives contracts from the new rules. Berkshire has over $63 billion worth of derivatives on its books.
Newly disclosed emails from 2007 show executives at the bailed-out Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs bragged about profiting from the collapse of the housing market. Messages released by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations show Goldman execs spoke of their earnings from making negative bets, or shorts, that home values would drop. Goldman has maintained it lost money from mortgage-related investments. The Senate panel released the emails ahead of Tuesday’s scheduled testimony by Goldman Sachs executives.
At least twelve people were killed over the weekend when tornadoes struck areas of Alabama and Mississippi. Hundreds of homes were also destroyed in the tornadoes’ path.
And three Americans jailed in Iran after mistakenly hiking in from Iraq are reportedly in declining health. Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were detained in July after accidentally crossing into Iran while hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. Swiss diplomats who visited the three last week say Shourd is suffering from a serious gynecological condition as well as depression. Bauer is said to have a stomach ailment. The diplomats said the three are considering launching a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment. The Iranian government has suggested it plans to prosecute the three on espionage charges, but no trial date has been set.