A Pakistani-born US citizen has been arrested in connection with Saturday’s attempted car bombing in Times Square, New York. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the arrest late last night.
Eric Holder: “Earlier this evening, Faisal Shahzad was arrested in connection with the attempted car bombing in New York on Saturday. Mr. Shahzad, an American citizen, was taken into custody at JFK Airport in New York as he attempted to board a flight to Dubai.”
Authorities said Faisal Shahzad was already on board the flight at the time of his arrest. Two other passengers were also removed from the airplane. Shahzad is scheduled to appear in Manhattan Federal Court today to face charges. Shahzad reportedly recently returned from a trip to Pakistan. Earlier today, a spokesperson from the Pakistan Taliban disowned a video attributed to the group claiming responsibility for the attempted bombing.
In the Gulf of Mexico, an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day are still pouring into the Gulf following the April 20th explosion aboard an oil rig operated by BP. On Monday, BP officials said it was attempting to build an enormous funnel to help contain the busted well that is gushing oil into the Gulf. John Curry, the director of public affairs at BP, outlined the plan, but he acknowledged the company is unsure it will work.
John Curry: “This is a collection system. It’s part of our sub-sea oil recovery system that we’re designing. And essentially it’s a ninety-eight-ton rectangular box that will be lowered over the major source of the leak at the sea bed and funnel the oil through the box, through the top, and channel it all the way to the surface, where we will have a ship that will be able to collect it and capture the oil and minimize the impact to the environment.”
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was questioned about the crisis, which some say could turn out to be the worst industrial environmental disaster in US history.
Reporter: “Is it your commitment that BP will pay all costs associated with the spill?”
Gibbs: “That’s — that is our commitment, yes.”
Reporter: “Including, like, lost wages and that sort of thing?”
Gibbs: “That’s specifically one of the things the President spoke with Thad Allen about and with parish presidents and fishermen yesterday, is setting up a system — and Secretary Napolitano talked about this this morning — setting up a system for compensation and claims that isn’t bogged down.”
While Robert Gibbs said it is the administration’s commitment to make BP pay all costs associated with the spill, an obscure 1990 law may shield BP from paying just $75 million in economic dangers related to the spill. On Monday, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez introduced a bill to raise the economic damages liability cap from $75 million to $10 billion. Menendez called the bill the “Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act.”
The Obama administration is coming under increasing pressure to reverse its decision to open up large swaths of the Atlantic, Gulf and Alaskan coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling. On Monday, California Gov. Schwarzenegger withdrew his support to expand oil drilling off California’s coast.
In the weeks leading up to the oil rig explosion, President Obama claimed that the offshore rigs are safe.
President Obama: “It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries onshore.”
President Obama, speaking on April 2, eighteen days before the BP rig exploded. Meanwhile, the Huffington Post reports National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration officials warned the Department of Interior last fall that it was dramatically underestimating the frequency of offshore oil spills and was dangerously understating the risk and impacts a major spill would have on coastal residents.
Advocates for a free and open internet are expressing alarm over reports that Federal Communications Commission chair Julius Genachowski is leaning toward keeping broadband deregulated and not reclassifying it as a a telecommunications service. Josh Silver of the group Free Press said, “Such a decision would destroy Net Neutrality. It would deeply undermine the FCC’s ability to ensure universal Internet access for rural, low-income and disabled Americans. It will undermine the FCC’s ability to protect consumers from price-gouging and invasions of privacy.” Silver warned that unless the FCC reestablishes authority over the nation’s internet service providers, companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon will be able to slow down, block or censor content at will.
US, British, Canadian, French and other officials walked out of a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday. Ahmadinejad spoke at a United Nations conference in New York reviewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
While world powers accused Iran of failing to comply with disclosure requirements of the treaty, Ahmadinejad used his speech to attack the United States for its past use of nuclear weapons and for threatening to use nukes again.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Considering any threat to use nuclear weapons or attack against peaceful nuclear facilities as a breach of international peace and security, and swift reaction from the United Nations through determination of all cooperation of NPT member states with the threatening aggressor state.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later accused Iran of trying to divert attention from its own record and to attempt to evade accountability.
Hillary Clinton: “It has defied the UN Security Council and the IAEA and placed the future of the nonproliferation regime in jeopardy, and that is why it is facing increasing isolation and pressure from the international community. But Iran will not succeed in its efforts to divert and divide.”
The Pentagon has revealed for the first time the size of its nuclear arsenal: there are 5,113 nuclear warheads in its stockpile and “several thousand” more retired nukes that await dismantling. The US said the size of the stockpile is 75 percent smaller than in 1989. Many other nuclear nations, including China and Israel, have never publicly disclosed how many warheads are in their arsenals.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has signed an order to send 850 more US military personnel to help train local security forces. The trainers are expected to serve for up to 120 days. A recent Pentagon report said that “one of the most significant challenges to the growth and development” of the Afghan security forces was the shortage of trainers.
In Egypt, a new wave of labor protests are sweeping the country. This weekend hundreds of activists and laborers demonstrated in Cairo demanding a rise in the minimum wage, that has not changed in over two decades and is now worth just $6 a month. Journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy explained the workers’ demands.
bq Hossam el-Hamalawy: “Today, the Egyptian workers and labor campaigners are coming to [inaudible] in front of the ministerial cabinet here in order to call upon the government to raise the national minimum wage from the pathetic 35 Egyptian pounds, which remain unchanged since 1984, to the well-deserved 1,200 Egyptian pounds a month, which is enough just to raise the population to the poverty line. That’s what the population is asking for.”
This latest wave of protests was set off by a court ruling earlier this year in favor of raising the national minimum wage to 1,200 Egyptian pounds a month, which approximates about $215 US dollars. Egyptian worker and labor activist Nagy Rashad is the man who brought the case to court and won. He was at Sunday’s rally calling on the Egyptian government to implement the court ruling.
Nagy Rashad: “This is the first time in twenty-two years I am celebrating Labor Day on the street. This is the celebration we’ve been dreaming of for years. Workers from various factories are united with one demand: to implement court ruling 21606 for the government to set a living minimum wage.”
In Detroit, a federal judge has ordered nine members of an armed Christian militia to be freed while awaiting trial. The members of the Hutaree militia were arrested as part of an alleged plot to spark a war against the federal government. The Justice Department has accused the members of the Hutaree militia of planning on killing a law enforcement officer and then bombing the funeral procession.
A prominent star in Major League Baseball has come out publicly against the new anti-immigrant law in Arizona. San Diego Padres hitter Adrián González is threatening to boycott next year’s all-star game if the law is still in effect. The law allows police officers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant. González, who is a dual citizen of Mexico and the US, said, “It goes against what this country was built on. This is discrimination. Are they going to pass out a picture saying, ‘You should look like this, and you’re fine’? But if you don’t, do people have the right to question you? That’s profiling.”
The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that federal health officials cannot be sued over the death of an immigrant who died after being denied medical care while in immigrant detention. The case centers on the treatment of Francisco Castañeda, an immigrant from El Salvador. Castañeda was held in detention for eleven months and repeatedly requested a biopsy of his groin, but doctors with the US Public Health Service refused the procedure. He later died at the age of thirty-six. Gabriel Eber of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “With today’s decision, the Supreme Court has unfortunately closed the door on an important avenue of accountability for the gross mistreatment that immigration detainees across the country have suffered.”
In other immigration news, New York Gov. David Paterson has announced a new effort to help prevent longtime legal immigrants from being deported for old or minor criminal convictions. Paterson plans to create a five-member Special Immigration Board of Pardons to review cases such as Qing Hong Wu, who was recently profiled in the New York Times. Wu is a twenty-nine-year-old information technology executive who has been threatened with deportation because he participated in a series of muggings as a fifteen-year-old. He had not lived in his native China since he was five. Paterson said, “Some of our immigration laws, particularly with respect to deportation, are embarrassingly and wrongly inflexible. In New York, we believe in renewal. In New York, we believe in rehabilitation.”
At least twenty-eight people have died in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky following a weekend of record rain storms. Hardest hit was Nashville, Tennessee, where the Cumberland River rose more than thirty-two feet after the region received more than thirteen inches of rain. Thousands of people have been forced from their homes. Country music’s landmark, the Grand Ole Opry House, was flooded with several feet of water. Half of the counties in Tennessee have been declared disaster areas.
And Reporters Without Borders has issued its list of predators of press freedom to mark World Press Freedom Day. The group described the list as “40 politicians, government officials, religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations that cannot stand the press, treat it as an enemy and directly attack journalists.” Names on the list include Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Israeli military, the Israel Defense Forces. Just days before the list was released, the Israeli military blocked a crew from the TV network Al Jazeera from covering a Palestinian rally in the West Bank village of Bil’in.
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