Protests have already begun in Arizona against a new anti-immigrant law that went into effect at midnight. Four protesters brought downtown Phoenix to a standstill Wednesday night after scaling a construction crane to unfurl a large banner reading “Stop Hate.” While major protests against the law are planned for today, celebrations were held yesterday in parts of the state after a federal judge blocked key parts of the law, hours before it went effect. The parts of the law blocked included a provision that would have required police officers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant. The ruling came in response to an injunction requested by the Obama administration which argued in a lawsuit that the law was unconstitutional and warned the provisions would result in racial profiling. Many residents of Arizona say the law would target Latinos.
Tom Sjoberg: “My reaction is that this is unfair persecution of one of Arizona’s most abused minorities, and my mother put it best years ago when she said the time to send people packing is before they’ve cleaned your house, cooked your food, taken care of your elders for twenty years, not after. So, Arizona’s on the wrong side of this.”
The author of the Arizona bill, State Senator Russell Pearce, was asked Wednesday if he felt the federal judge’s ruling would stand.
Russell Pearce: “No, absolutely not. We’ll win on appeal. And this is a road — this is a bump. And again, the policies for restrictions — sanctuary policies are gone. They’re illegal as of Thursday. The handcuffs come off the law enforcer. They have all the latitude they need to ask. That hasn’t been changed. Any of her decision didn’t change anything. And under Federal Law 8 USC 1304, 1306, it’s a law to carry your indicia with you or your visa, your I-19, your password, your I-9. That’s the law. They can enforce federal law.”
The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to obtain internet records of users without a court order. If Congress approves the plan, the FBI would be able to secretly issue a National Security Letter to an internet provider and obtain who users send email to, the times and dates of e-mails sent and received, and possibly a log of every website visited. Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said, “Our biggest concern is that an expanded [National Security Letter] power might be used to obtain Internet search queries and Web histories detailing every Web site visited and every file downloaded.”
On Capitol Hill, the House has approved a measure that would reduce the disparity in sentencing for possession of crack and powder cocaine. Under current laws, individuals convicted of crack cocaine possession are given the same mandatory sentence as someone with 100 times more powder cocaine. The new law would reduce that ratio to eighteen to one. The Senate passed the measure in March. Drug reform advocates have called for the disparity to be completely eliminated.
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has sharply criticized the Environmental Protection Agency and the Canadian company Enbridge for what she has described as a “completely inadequate” response to the oil spill near the Kalamazoo River. More than 800,000 gallons of oil have spilled into Michigan waterways after the rupture of an underground oil pipeline carrying Canadian oil into the United States. Concern is now growing that the oil could reach Lake Michigan. The Detroit Free Press reports the company that owns the pipeline, Enbridge, was notified twice this year of potential problems involving old pipe prone to rupturing and an inadequate system for monitoring internal corrosion. The spill is believed to be one of the largest in the history of the Midwest.
In news on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Center for Public Integrity is reporting the Coast Guard has gathered evidence it failed to follow its own firefighting policy during the Deepwater Horizon disaster and is investigating whether its actions contributed to the sinking of the rig. Officials now admit the Coast Guard lacks the expertise to fight a fire aboard an oil rig and that the Coast Guard did not even have ships in the area equipped to combat the blaze after the BP-operated rig exploded. Investigators are specifically examining whether the saltwater that was sprayed across the burning platform overran the ballast system that kept the rig upright, changing its weight distribution and causing it to collapse into the Gulf of Mexico two days after the initial explosion. The investigation could prove vital to ongoing legal proceedings. The riser pipe from which the majority of BP’s oil spewed did not start leaking until after the rig sank.
The attorney general of Texas has launched an investigation into a massive release of toxic chemicals from BP’s oil refinery in Texas City. The toxic release began on April 6 and continued for forty days. BP now estimates 538,000 pounds of chemicals escaped from the refinery during that period. The chemicals included nitrogen oxides, benzene, carbon monoxide, propane, isobutane and other emissions. The daily release of benzene was forty times the state reportable levels.
Yahoo! News has revealed the leaked Afghan war logs include evidence that the United States is paying local Afghan media outlets to run US propaganda. The logs include several reports from Army psychological operations units that show local Afghan radio stations were under contract to air content produced by the United States. Other reports show US military personnel apparently referring to Afghan reporters as “our journalists” and directing them in how to do their jobs. The Pentagon ran a similar program in Iraq, where it hired a private company called the Lincoln Group to pay Iraqi newspapers to run stories written by US soldiers.
In Pakistan, heavy rain has hampered recovery efforts at the site of Wednesday’s plane crash that killed all 152 people on board. Investigators say the plane crashed in bad weather. Pakistan has declared today to be a day of mourning.
A new scientific report has determined the last decade was the warmest on record. The report also found that each of the last three decades has been much warmer than the decade before. About 300 scientists from forty-eight countries contributed to the 2009 State of the Climate report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2010 is already breaking temperature records. Last month was the hottest June on record. And this year had the warmest average temperature for January to June since record keeping began.
The Israeli government is refusing to pay the medical bills of Emily Henochowicz, the American student who lost her eye in May after being shot in the face by an Israeli tear gas canister. The twenty-one-year-old student was shot while taking part in a protest in the West Bank against Israel’s deadly attack on the Gaza aid flotilla. Her medical treatment in Israel cost $3,700. But Israel has refused to pay, claiming that she was not intentionally shot. In a statement issued Wednesday, the Israeli Defense Ministry said Henochowicz, who also holds Israeli citizenship, endangered herself by participating in the demonstration.
In other news from Israel, around 300 Bedouin Palestinians living in Israel’s Negev Desert have become homeless after police demolished their entire village. 1,500 Israeli police arrived at the village of al-Araqib. Within hours, the entire village of forty to forty-five homes was completely razed. The village head, Sheikh Siyah al-Turi, said, “They destroyed our homes. They uprooted our trees. They took our generators, our cars and our tractors. There is nothing left. It’s as though we were never here.” Israel defended the demolitions, saying the homes were built illegally.
And the longtime peace activist Art Gish has died at the age of seventy after a tractor accident on his farm in Ohio. He had been a longtime member of the Christian Peacemaker Team and made yearly visits to Hebron in the occupied West Bank to monitor settler violence and Israeli home demolitions. I interviewed Art Gish, along with his wife Peggy, last year.
Art Gish: “Christian Peacemaker Teams came out of the peace churches, the Quakers, the Mennonites, the Church of the Brethren, out of the idea that if we’re really serious about peace, we ought to be willing to take the same risks as soldiers take and go into a nonviolent — into violent situations and be a nonviolent presence there. What if people who want peace made the same kind of commitment that soldiers make?”
Amy Goodman: “What do you mean?”
Art Gish: “That we go there, and we take risks, and we stand in the middle, and we work for peace in there.”