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HeadlinesMay 18, 2010

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Tar Balls in Florida Keys, Oil Plumes Raise Fears of Wider Spill

May 18, 2010

Fears are growing that the massive BP oil spill in Louisiana could be entering waters beyond the Gulf of Mexico. The US Coast Guard says it’s discovered twenty tar balls off Key West, Florida — an indication the spill could be caught in a loop current that’s carrying it to the Florida Keys and up the East Coast. Up to 70,000 barrels of oil have been leaking into the Gulf every day since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20. Meanwhile, on Monday, scientists discussed their findings of enormous plumes of oil in the Gulf of Mexico that suggest the spill is wider and more threatening to marine habitat than previously thought. Vernon Asper of the University of Southern Mississippi said the oil was found at deep sea levels.

Vernon Asper: “We found some oil just below the surface which is formed into these aggregates that we think are probably settling. We also found oil much, much deeper in the water column. We found layers, or I guess you could call them clouds, of oil that are well down, over 2,000 feet down, in the water column, some of them much lower than that.”

MMS Official Steps Down

May 18, 2010

In other oil spill news, the government official responsible for offshore energy oversight has announced he’s stepping down. Chris Oynes was appointed associate director of the Offshore Energy and Minerals Management Program at the Mineral Management Service under the Bush administration. Oynes has come under intense criticism following disclosures his agency exempted BP from a comprehensive environmental review of the project that resulted in the spill.

5 US Troops Among 18 Killed in Afghan Bombing

May 18, 2010

At least eighteen people have been killed in a suicide bombing in the Afghan capital of Kabul. The dead included twelve civilians and six NATO troops, five of them American. Another forty-seven people were wounded. It was the first major attack to hit Kabul since the bombings of two hotels in February and the deadliest attack for the NATO occupation force there since September.

Supreme Court Issues Rulings on Teen Sentencing, Jailing Sex Offenders

May 18, 2010

The Supreme Court has ruled teenagers may not be imprisoned for life without parole if they haven’t killed anyone. In a 6-to-3 decision, the court affirmed life sentences for teens in cases other than murder violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In a separate ruling, the Court ruled the federal government can continue to jail sex offenders even after their prison terms have ended if they’re deemed to be “sexually dangerous.”

US Downplays Iran Deal, Vows Continued Sanctions Effort

May 18, 2010

The Obama administration is vowing to continue the sanctions effort against Iran despite a new Iranian agreement with Turkey and Brazil. On Monday, Iran announced it’s agreed to ship most of its enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for low-level nuclear fuel to run a medical reactor. At the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the deal won’t prompt a change in US policy.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “First and foremost, this proposal should be submitted directly to the IAEA to evaluate, fine print and all, so that the international community can take a look. But it does not change the steps that we are taking to hold Iran responsible for its obligations, including sanctions.”

Study: Pentagon Falsely Claimed Missile System Success

May 18, 2010

A new study is casting fresh doubt on the Obama administration’s so-called “missile defense” system. Researchers at MIT and Cornell say the Pentagon made false claims about the success rate of tests of a key weapon known as the SM-3 last year. The military claimed the SM-3 had intercepted 84 percent of incoming targets during the tests. But a new evaluation says the missiles had a success rate of only ten to 20 percent. Study co-author and former Pentagon adviser Theodore Postol said, “The system is highly fragile and brittle and will intercept warheads only by accident, if ever.” President Obama criticized the missile system during his run for the White House but has since touted it since taking office.

Attorney: Video Contradicts Police Claim in Home Raid Killing of 7-Year-Old

May 18, 2010

In Detroit, the attorney for the family of a seven-year-old girl shot dead by police in her own home says he’s seen video contradicting the police account of the killing. The girl, Aiyana Jones, was sleeping when police raided her family’s home in pursuit of a murder suspect on Sunday. Detroit police say an officer’s gun accidentally went off after the officer tussled with Aiyana’s grandmother. But the attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, says video of the incident shows police opened fire after lobbing a flash grenade through the home’s front window — before they had entered. A bullet from the gun pierced Aiyana’s head and neck.

Staffers at Rhode Island Public School to Keep Jobs

May 18, 2010

In Rhode Island, staffers at a public high school that drew national attention for a mass firing earlier this year have reached a deal to keep their jobs. The ninety-three teachers and personnel at Central Falls High School had been told they’d be let go at the end of the school year over low achievement scores and graduation rates. But months of talks led to a deal Monday calling for increased teacher evaluations and student tutoring.

Civil Rights Groups File Suit over Arizona Immigration Law

May 18, 2010

A coalition of civil rights groups has filed what they’re calling the most comprehensive federal lawsuit challenging Arizona’s recent anti-immigrant law since it was approved last month. Under the law, police officers are ordered to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant. On Monday, the ACLU, the NAACP, the National Immigration Law Center and several other groups filed suit, accusing the law of being unconstitutional and encouraging racial profiling. The suit cites the case of Arizona resident Jim Shee, a seventy-year-old US citizen of Spanish and Chinese descent. Shee says he’s already been stopped twice by Arizona police officers and asked to produce identification.

3 Undocumented Immigrants Risk Deportation in Protest for DREAM Act

May 18, 2010

In other Arizona news, four students were arrested Monday after holding a sit-in at the Tucson offices of Republican Senator John McCain. The protesters called on McCain to back the DREAM Act, which would grant permanent citizenship to undocumented workers’ children if they completed two years of college, trade school or military service. Three of the protesters are undocumented immigrants and now face deportation. It was the first time students have risked deportation to back immigration reform legislation.

Tania Unzueta: “We expect that within seventy-two hours Immigration and Customs Enforcement will come and detain them, the three who are undocumented. And after that, they go into removal proceedings. We have been preparing for this, and so we have legal counsel. And so, we’re going to fight each one of their cases legally. But at the same time as they’re going through those proceedings, the idea is that, on the outside, people who are feeling that anger and that frustration and the energy, right, which is why we were doing this action, is that they’re going to be mobilizing, too, and putting pressure on legislators in order to pass the DREAM Act.”

Barred by Israel, Chomsky to Deliver West Bank Lecture by Video Feed

May 18, 2010

The linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky has ruled out an attempt to return to the West Bank today following his denial by the Israeli military. Chomsky was scheduled to speak at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah and meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, but was denied entry by Israeli soldiers on Sunday after attempting to enter from Jordan. Chomsky will deliver the lecture by video conference from Jordan. On Monday, Chomsky said the Israeli move illustrated its stranglehold over the West Bank.

Noam Chomsky: “The problem is not mine. The problem is an insult to Bir Zeit University, which is being told by the Israeli government that Israel insists on deciding who they are allowed to invite to speak. I happen to be the person who is blocked from speaking there, but it’s a statement by Israel that they control who Bir Zeit University can invite. I’ve never heard of anything like that with another university. I travel all the time.”

(Related coverage: Denied Entry: Israel Blocks Noam Chomsky from Entering West Bank to Deliver Speech)

Following Boycott Calls, Elvis Costello Cancels Israel Concerts

May 18, 2010

The rock musician Elvis Costello has canceled a pair of upcoming concerts in Israel in response to boycott calls from Palestinian solidarity activists. In a statement, Costello said, “I must believe that the audience…would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security…There are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.” Costello’s announcement comes weeks after the soul musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron canceled a concert in Israel in response to boycott calls.

Mothers of Jailed US Hikers Head to Iran

May 18, 2010

The mothers of the three jailed US hikers in Iran are headed to Tehran to visit their children for the first time since their arrest. Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were detained last July after straying across Iran’s border during a hiking trip in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region. The Iranian government approved the mothers’ visit earlier this month. Laura Fattal, the mother of Josh Fattal, said the ordeal has taken a toll on the three prisoners.

Laura Fattal: “There is a calm and composure about Josh that I hold on tight to, because this has been such a long, protracted detention, but I think for all of them, they are feeling extremely isolated. They are very concerned the case has not moved forward, and it is wearing on them terribly, psychologically and also physically.”

Report: Blumenthal Falsely Claimed to Have Served in Vietnam

May 18, 2010

And the New York Times is reporting Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has falsely claimed on numerous occasions to have served in Vietnam. The New York Times cited Blumenthal’s remarks in a number of public appearances, including this speech from March 2008.

Richard Blumenthal: “We have learned something very important since the days that I served in Vietnam. And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

Blumenthal has made the claim despite receiving at least five military deferments during the Vietnam War. The disclosure could threaten Blumenthal’s bid for the Senate seat being vacated by Connecticut Democrat Chris Dodd. Blumenthal’s campaign has said he misspoke in claiming to have served in Vietnam, but blamed Republicans for the report, which it called an “outrageous distortion.”

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