The oil giant BP has privately conceded the size of its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could be ten times greater than current estimates. The New York Times reports a senior BP executive told a closed-door congressional briefing that a ruptured oil well could be spewing as many 60,000 barrels of oil a day. The expanding oil slick meanwhile has hit the shores of Louisiana’s Chandeleur Islands, a wildlife refuge sixty miles from New Orleans.
The US government says the suspect in the failed Times Square car bombing has admitted to carrying out the attempted attack. The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, was arrested Monday night after boarding a plane bound for Dubai. US officials say he’s also admitted to receiving explosives training in Pakistan and is cooperating with investigators. In Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder said Shahzad will face several terror charges.
Attorney General Eric Holder: “We believe that this suspected terrorist fashioned a bomb from rudimentary ingredients, placed it in a rusty SUV, and drove it into Times Square with the intent to kill as many innocent tourists and theater-goers as possible. Now, make no mistake, although this car bomb failed to properly detonate, this plot was a very serious attempt. If successful, it could have resulted in a lethal terrorist attack, causing death and destruction in the heart of New York City.”
Several questions have surrounded Shahzad’s arrest, including how he briefly eluded law enforcement surveillance and how he was eventually tracked down. Law enforcement officials had placed Shahzad under surveillance on Sunday but lost track of him sometime before he made his way to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport the next day. He was also allowed to board his flight despite being placed on a no-fly list. A CBS News affiliate reported Tuesday Shahzad was captured in part because US military surveillance planes circling the New York area were able to track his cell phone number. Meanwhile, more details have emerged about Shahzad’s background, including that his home was recently foreclosed and that he once privately expressed disdain for former President George W. Bush and the US invasion of Iraq.
In related news, New York City officials are using the failed bombing to call for an expanded surveillance program. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative should be put in place across the city to foil potential attacks. The system employs a network of cameras, sensors and analytical software to track suspicious activity. It allows police officials to collect license plate numbers and footage of pedestrians and drivers, sometimes from the cameras of private businesses.
Greece has been brought to a standstill in a massive general strike against a new round of austerity measures in response to the Greek economic crisis. Lawmakers are set to vote this week on additional wage cuts and tax hikes in order to secure billions of dollars in international loans. All flights have been grounded, and trains or ferries aren’t operating, as transport workers take part in the strike. Tens of thousands of people are holding a major rally in the capital Athens. Earlier today, police fired tear gas at protesters outside the Greek parliament.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to speak out against US policy toward Iran during a trip here in New York. Ahmadinejad is in town attending a United Nations conference reviewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. On Tuesday, Ahmadinejad dismissed a United Nations Security Council meeting on imposing new sanctions on Iran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “While we do not welcome sanctions, we do not fear them either. We feel and think that the US government will be damaged more than us by those sanctions.”
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Palestinians are accusing Israeli settlers of responsibility for a fire that severely damaged a mosque near the West Bank town of Nablus. Worshippers say they arrived for morning prayers to find the mosque on fire. The mosque is located in the village of Libban al-Sharqua, which has been the site of previous settler attacks. The fire comes three weeks after another West Bank mosque was vandalized in a settler attack.
The Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled a proposal to regulate toxic coal ash but delayed a decision on whether to classify it as hazardous waste. The long-awaited move would mark the first the federal government has regulated coal ash, which contains arsenic, mercury and other toxic substances released from burning coal. The EPA says it will choose between two options: subjecting coal ash to similar regulations used for household garbage or regulating coal ash under stricter rules for hazardous waste.
Opposition continues to grow against Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, which allows police officers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant. On Tuesday, city councils in the Arizona towns of Flagstaff and Tucson both passed measures to sue the state over the new law. Meanwhile, in California, the Oakland City Council unanimously voted to boycott Arizona. The National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Suns have announced their players will wear jerseys showing their team name as “Los Suns” in a playoff game tonight to protest to the new law. Today is also the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo. On Tuesday, Phoenix Suns point guard and NBA All-Star Steve Nash spoke out against the law in an interview with ESPN.
Steve Nash: “I’m against it. I think that this is a bill that really damages our civil liberties. I think that it opens up the potential for racial profiling and racism. I think that it’s a bad precedent to set for our young people. I think it represents our state poorly in the eyes of the nation and the world. I think we have a lot of great attributes here, and I think that it’s something that we could do without. And I think it hopefully will change a lot in the coming weeks.”
Arizona is also coming under criticism for new anti-immigrant measures in its school system. Arizona lawmakers have passed a measure that could shut down a Mexican American studies program in the Tucson school district. The measure bars classes “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people.” Republicans have criticized the program, which allows students to learn how ethic groups have influenced history. Arizona’s Education Department has also ordered schools to remove teachers who speak English with a heavy accent or who use ungrammatical speech.
The Food and Drug Administration is accusing a Pennsylvania plant of knowingly using contaminated materials in children’s medicines. On Tuesday, the FDA said the Johnson & Johnson-owned McNeil Consumer Healthcare plant had used materials contaminated with bacteria and failed to investigate consumer complaints. The plant is responsible for manufacturing most over-the-counter children’s medicines for cold relief, including Tylenol, Motrin and Benadryl. McNeil has issued a recall that could ultimately affect 70 percent of the market for pediatric medicine.
And Democracy Now! host and executive producer Amy Goodman, along with producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, are filing a federal lawsuit- today that challenges the police crackdown on journalists at the Republican National Convention in 2008. The suit is filed against the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, the Ramsey County Sheriff and unidentified Secret Service personnel. The lawsuit challenges the policies and conduct of law enforcement during the RNC that resulted in the arrests, one of dozens among journalists arrested in St. Paul. On the opening day of the convention, Nicole and Sharif were covering a police crackdown on a street protest. Nicole’s camera captured her arrest and assault by the officers.
Video of Nicole’s arrest
That was Nicole shouting, “Press, press!” as the police shouted, “On your face!” And that was her screaming as they took her down. Shortly after, I arrived and was arrested while questioning the officers about Sharif and Nicole’s arrests.
Video of Amy’s arrest
The lawsuit seeks compensation and an injunction against law enforcement’s unjustified encroachment on First Amendment rights, including freedom of the press and the independence of the media. (Related coverage: Amy Goodman & 2 Democracy Now! Producers Arrested at RNC Protest)