Hundreds of thousands of people marched in over eighty cities on Saturday in support of immigrant rights and to protest Arizona’s new immigration law that allows police officers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant. Some of the largest May Day protests took place in Los Angeles, Dallas, Milwaukee, New York and Washington. Outside the White House, thirty-five people were arrested, including Congressman Luis Gutierrez. The Illinois Democrat was wearing a t-shirt that read “Arrest me, not my friends.” At the Washington rally, Arizona resident and Navajo Indian Roger Huskey voiced support for a boycott of the state of Arizona.
Roger Huskey: “No, I don’t want to be treated like this. I’m not going to accept this. And when we take a look at something like the tourism, like I said, it’s going to affect the dollars. People already have this perception. My mom has been pulled over in the last week, my dad, my brother and his wife, all within a week, and this law hasn’t even taken into effect.”
In Los Angeles, an Argentine immigrant named Tamara took part in the May Day protest.
Tamara: “I’m Argentinean. Even though I may not look 'immigrant' and I may not be stopped in Arizona, I’m still an immigrant, and I think it’s important for all of us to show up and show the different faces of immigration and the different faces of the American youth.”
The actor Martin Sheen also attended the Los Angeles rally for immigrant rights.
Martin Sheen: “In a sense, something bad has been turned into something good. We need to thank the lawmakers and the governor of Arizona for SB 1070, because it has reunited the national debate on immigration reform to a fever pitch. So, Arizona, muchas gracias, agradecido.”
On Friday, the union representing Major League Baseball players took the unprecedented step of calling for Arizona to repeal or modify the law. More than a quarter of Major League players are foreign-born. Fifteen teams conduct spring training in Arizona.
Federal authorities have banned commercial and recreational fishing in a large stretch of water in the Gulf of Mexico due to the massive oil spill caused by a BP-operated rig that exploded nearly two weeks ago. An estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day is pouring into the Gulf in what might turn out to be the worst industrial environmental disaster in US history.
The Los Angeles Times reports federal investigators are looking at Halliburton’s role in the disaster. Halliburton was responsible for cementing the deepwater drill hole — a key procedure to prevent oil well blowouts. It had completed the final cementing of the well and pipe twenty hours before the blowout on April 20. Halliburton had four employees stationed on the rig at the time of the Gulf accident, all of whom were rescued by the Coast Guard. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has revealed federal regulators learned in 2004 that a vital piece of oil drilling safety equipment may not function in deepwater seas, but regulators did nothing to bolster industry requirements.
On Sunday, President Obama visited the region for the first time since the crisis began.
President Obama: “This is one of the richest and most beautiful ecosystems on the planet, and for centuries its residents have enjoyed and made a living off the fish that swim in these waters and the wildlife that inhabit these shores. This is also the heartbeat of the region’s economic life. And we’re going to do everything in our power to protect our natural resources, compensate those who have been harmed, rebuild what has been damaged, and help this region persevere, like it has done so many times before.”
The European Union and International Monetary Fund have agreed to a $146 billion bailout for Greece after Athens committed itself to years of austerity measures.
Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou: “It is an important day today. It is not an easy day, but it is a day in which we have the commitment of the Greek government to do whatever it takes to bring the economy back on a sustainable path.”
Greece is expected to soon unveil a series of spending cuts, consumer tax hikes and the docking of pensions. On May Day, Greece’s two main labor unions organized large rallies to oppose the cuts. In Athens, youth protesters battled with police just outside the Athens Polytechnic University. Video shows the youth throwing rocks and other projectiles, including firing fireworks and flare guns. Barricades were set up in the streets. Police responded by charging at the protesters and firing tear gas shells.
An Indian court has convicted a Pakistani man on charges of murder and waging war for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead. The Pakistani man, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, was the lone survivor of the attack’s ten gunmen. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for Kasab. Two Indians accused of helping plot the attacks were acquitted.
Here in New York, police are investigating a failed car bomb found in Times Square on Saturday night. Police say surveillance video shows a white man who appeared to be in his forties walking away from the area of the attempted bombing. Police described the bomb as amateurish but said it could have caused casualties and a significant fireball.
In Afghanistan, the nation’s Interior Ministry has revealed civilian casualties jumped by 33 percent in a recent month-long period. One hundred seventy-three civilian deaths were reported between March 21 to April 21. Afghanistan said militants were responsible for the majority of the deaths but that an increasing number are at the hands of US and foreign forces. Last week the French military acknowledged its troops mistakenly killed four Afghan civilians and seriously injured one during a clash with militants near Kabul on April 6.
The University of Puerto Rico remains shut down thirteen days after the start of a student strike to protest $100 million budget cuts. The protest began at the main University of Puerto Rico campus in Rio Piedras but has since spread to four other campuses.
In death penalty news, the American Board of Anesthesiologists has threatened to revoke the certification of any member who participates in executing a prisoner by lethal injection. Board Secretary Mark Rockoff told the Washington Post the decision reflects the board’s belief that “we are healers, not executioners.”
In business news, United and Continental Airlines have announced plans to merge. The new company will become the world’s largest airline. The move comes just two years after Delta and Northwest merged.
In news from Latin America, Bolivian President Evo Morales has nationalized four more power companies, including a subsidiary of France’s GDF Suez. The companies had been formed in the 1990s following the privatization of the state National Electricity Company. Morales made the announcement on May Day.
Evo Morales: “We’re here to nationalize all the hydroelectric plants that were owned by the state before, to comply with the new constitution of the Bolivian state. Basic services cannot be a private business.”
In Nepal, former Maoist guerrillas launched a general strike on Sunday, paralyzing the country after talks with the ruling coalition failed and Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal refused to quit. Transportation, schools and markets across Nepal are now closed. The Maoists headed a coalition in 2008 after a surprise win in the election for a constituent assembly, but they walked out after the president refused to endorse their dismissal of Nepal’s army chief. Senior Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai spoke at a large rally on May Day.
Baburam Bhattarai: “If Prime Minister Madhav Nepal is serious about to resolve this issue, then he should resign. Then it’s up to the Nepalese people and the political party to choose who will lead the next government. It’s not he, Madhav Nepal, who is going to appoint his successor. It’s not a monarchy; it’s a democracy. So he should resign first, then leave it to political party to decide who should lead the next government.”
In Brazil, a second Brazilian rancher has been convicted of ordering the 2005 murder of the American nun Dorothy Stang. Stang spent thirty years in Brazil trying to prevent ranchers from taking the land of poor Amazon farmers.
A United Nations conference on reviewing the performance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is set to open today in New York. The United States is expected to unveil long-classified statistics about the total size of the US nuclear arsenal. On Sunday, thousands of anti-nuclear activists rallied in New York calling for an abolition of nuclear weapons.
Aaron Tovish, longtime nuclear disarmament activist: “We’re simply saying that we cannot continue to play with fire any longer. Mayor Akiba uses the image of what would you think of parents who flooded the basement of their house with gasoline, in order to impress on their children how dangerous it is to play with matches. It’s a mad way of approaching security in the world. And we’re saying let’s remove this threat before we all suffer from it.”
And the legendary broadcaster Bill Moyers signed off on Friday for the final time on his weekly PBS series, Bill Moyers Journal.
Bill Moyers: “You’ve no doubt figured out my bias by now. I’ve hardly kept it a secret. In this regard, I take my cue from the late Edward R. Murrow, the Moses of broadcast news. Ed Murrow told his generation of journalists bias is OK, as long as you don’t try to hide it. So here, one more time, is mine: plutocracy and democracy don’t mix. Plutocracy, the rule of the rich, political power, control by the wealthy. Plutocracy is not an American word, but it’s become an American phenomenon.”