The oil giant BP says its latest attempt to seal the Gulf of Mexico oil spill appears to be working. The “static kill” operation forces heavy, synthetic fluid called drilling mud down into the well. Earlier today, BP announced that the pressure in the well appears to be stabilizing. The news comes as the government has admitted the well was leaking as much as twelve times the amount of oil it originally claimed. According to new estimates from government scientists, 62,000 barrels oil were gushing from the well at the spill’s peak, compared to initial estimates at the time of just 5,000 barrels a day. We’ll have more on the spill after headlines.
In Connecticut, a disgruntled worker opened fire at a Manchester alcohol warehouse Tuesday, killing eight people before turning the gun on himself. Two others were wounded. Manchester Police Chief Mark Montminy announced the deaths.
Mark Montminy: “The victims located were all around the complex. We believe that ten people were shot by the gunman, eight fatally, and two others were treated at Hartford Hospital.”
The shooter, Omar Thornton, had just agreed to resign after being caught stealing beer. Family members say Thornton had felt singled out and harassed for being the only African American worker at the site. The shooting came as two people were killed and six wounded after a gunman opened fire at a gathering in Indianapolis, Indiana. In a statement, Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said, “We make it too easy for dangerous people to arm themselves…We need to come to terms with this horror in our country.”
The Senate has opened debate on Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Kagan is expected to be confirmed before the Senate begins its summer recess at the end of the week. On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy praised Kagan’s nomination.
Sen. Patrick Leahy: “Solicitor General Kagan not only has the necessary qualifications to be a Supreme Court justice, but has also demonstrated her respect for the rule of law, her appreciation for the separation of powers.”
The US government is facing a new legal challenge to its authorization of assassinating US citizens accused of terrorism links abroad. On Tuesday, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit over the government’s refusal to allow legal action targeting the assassination policy. The suit was filed on behalf of the father of Yemen-based Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is said to be the first US citizen added to a CIA list of targets for capture or killing. Last month, al-Awlaki was designated “specially designated global terrorist,” which makes it a crime to represent him in court. Bill Quigley of the Center for Constitutional Rights said Awlaki is entitled to legal redress.
Bill Quigley: “The issue in this case is the right of citizens to be able to go to court to challenge government action. Here, the government is trying to assassinate a US citizen who they say is a terrorist. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights are trying to go into court to challenge that assassination effort, but at this point we have to get permission from the government to even go into court to represent them to raise these constitutional issues. So we think that’s unconstitutional, and we’re asking that the court strike that down and allow us to get to the point of this, which is under what circumstances can the government execute somebody without due process of law.”
The death toll from some of the worst floods in Pakistan’s history has risen to over 1,500 people. The United Nations says nearly a million people have been displaced while nearly two million are in need of food aid. The toll is expected to rise in the coming days, and relief efforts are expected to be further delayed by continued rainfall.
In Iraq, seventeen people were killed Tuesday in a number of attacks. Ten people were killed in the southern city of Kut, which has seen some of the lowest levels of violence in recent years.
A New York City panel has cleared the way for construction of a mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero. On Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to deny landmark status to an old building on the grounds of the proposed site. The plan had come under opposition from right-wing groups, including the Anti-Defamation League. On Tuesday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the vote, calling it a victory for religious freedom.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values — and play into our enemies’ hands — if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.”
The Obama administration is sending a representative to Japan to mark Friday’s sixty-fifth anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima. It’s the first time a US administration has sent an envoy to Japan’s annual ceremonies marking the attack. An estimated 140,000 people were killed instantly or died within a few months after the bombing. Three days later, another US airplane dropped a plutonium bomb on the city of Nagasaki, killing about 80,000 people.
Senate Democrats have delayed a vote on ratifying the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed with Russia earlier this year. The treaty calls for the US and Russia to cut their deployed arsenals to 1,550 nuclear warheads and 700 missile silos and bombers each. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair John Kerry said the vote will have to come later in the year to address Republican demands on preserving nuclear spending.
The Pentagon has rejected an embed request from the reporter whose recent article in Rolling Stone magazine led to the firing of General Stanley McChrystal. The reporter, Michael Hastings, quoted McChrystal and his aides making disparaging remarks about top administration officials. The Pentagon says it’s denied Hastings’ request to embed with US troops in Afghanistan because it can’t trust him to abide by military reporting rules. (Related coverage: Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone on the Story that Brought Down Gen. McChrystal and Exposed Widening Disputes Behind the U.S. Debacle in Afghanistan)
A federal judge in California is expected to rule today on the legality of the state’s gay marriage ban. US District Judge Vaughn Walker presided over the case when it went to trial earlier this year. Gay marriage supporters are seeking to overturn Proposition Eight, which was approved in November 2008.
And the activist Marilyn Buck has died at the age of sixty-two. Buck died on Tuesday just weeks after her release from prison after serving twenty-five years of an eighty-year sentence for her role in several politically motivated incidents, including the prison break that freed Assata Shakur.