Oil Rig Spill Continues Unabated

Emergency shut-off valves that could have prevented the Gulf of Mexico oil spill were plagued by leaking hydraulic fluid, malfunctioning parts and poor maintenance, Congressional investigators said Wednesday. The problems with the blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig could explain why it failed April 20, allowing a spout of oil and gas to explode and kill 11 workers. BP engineers unveiled a plan Thursday to thread a 6-inch-wide steel tube into a leaking oil pipe, hoping to stop oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Marine scientists warn that submerged oil and chemical dispersants in the widening Gulf of Mexico oil disaster could have long-lasting effects on the region’s sea life, from tiny plankton to giant squids. The underwater plume of oil and chemicals is spreading from the damaged well nearly a mile below the surface where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank last month. An estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day is still spewing from the well.

Tens of thousands of Gulf Coast business owners and workers livelihoods have been or could be hurt by the oil spill, which has defied efforts to be capped. Economists say, the oil slick could devastate the Gulf Coast tourism and the seafood industry that had expected a rebound to pre-Katrina health this summer.

Other States to Copy Arizona Immigration Law

Lawmakers in at least nine U.S. states have introduced or plan to craft legislation that mirrors Arizona’s tough new immigration law. But they face an uphill battle in getting such measures enacted. Arizona reignited national debate over border security and related issues when Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 on April 23. Although immigration topics have long been at the forefront of the political spectrum here, they are now being discussed with renewed vigor from coast to coast. For some, their legislative sessions are drawing to a close, leaving them virtually no time to drum up support for new legislation. Many also are running into opposition from political colleagues at the state capitols or in the governors offices. In short, few other states have the unique combination of circumstances and political leadership that allowed SB 1070 to become law.

The Republican National Committee on Wednesday chose Florida over Arizona and Utah for its 2012 national convention, picking the most strategically significant state and sidestepping a furor over illegal immigration. Republicans hope their pick helps generate momentum in a crucial and diverse swing state that dwarfs Arizona in electoral influence. Florida is a state where Republicans have made deep inroads with Hispanic voters.

Meanwhile, a new Pew Research Center poll shows that 59 percent of Americans approve of Arizona’s new law cracking down on illegal immigrants while only 32 percent disapprove. Specific provisions of the law enacted last month draw even more support: Fully 73 percent endorse its provisions requiring people to show police officers documents proving their legal status when asked. And 67 percent approve of police detaining anyone who can’t prove their legal status.

Pope: Abortion, Gay Marriage World’s Greatest Threats

Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday called abortion and same-sex marriage some of the most “insidious and dangerous” threats facing the world today, asserting key church teachings as he tried to move beyond the clerical abuse scandal. Benedict made the comments to Catholic social workers, health providers and others after celebrating Mass before an estimated 400,000 people in Fatima. The central Portuguese farming town is one of the most important shrines in Catholicism, where three shepherd children reported having visions of the Virgin Mary in 1917. Benedict’s visit to Fatima on the anniversary of the apparitions was the spiritual centerpiece of his four-day visit to Portugal, which ends Friday. It was cast by Vatican officials as evidence that he had turned a page in weathering the abuse scandal, which has dogged him for months.

  • Abortion and gay marriage undermine God’s plan for families and bolster the moral decline prophesied for the end times (2Timothy 3:2-5)

Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) Achieves Legislative Success

The 2010 Legislative Session has come to an end with 12 CAP-supported bills receiving Governor Jan Brewer’s signature. This marks CAP’s most successful session in its 15-year history, throughout which they’ve led the way to see a total of 84 pro-family bills enacted into law. The new bills cover the sanctity of life, school choice, parental rights, child prostitution, and religious freedom.

U.S. War on Drugs Fails to Meet Goals

After 40 years, the U.S. war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives – and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence is even more brutal and widespread. Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn’t worked. In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” Kerlikowske said. “Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.” This week, President Barack Obama promised to “reduce drug use and the great damage it causes” with a new national policy that he said treats drug use more as a public-health issue and focuses on prevention and treatment. Nevertheless, his administration has increased spending on interdiction and law enforcement to record levels both in dollars and in percentage terms; this year, they account for $10 billion of his $15.5 billion drug-control budget.

Record Federal Deficit in April

The federal budget deficit hit an all-time high for the month of April as government revenue fell sharply. The Treasury Department said Wednesday the April deficit soared to $82.7 billion, the largest imbalance for that month on record. That was significantly higher than last year’s April deficit of $20 billion. The government normally runs surpluses in April as millions of taxpayers file their income tax returns. However, income tax payments were down this April, reflecting the impact of a severe recession that has pushed millions of Americans out of work. Revenue for April was down 7.9% from a year ago, dipping to $245.3 billion.

Millions of Jobs Lost Won’t Return

The economy is strengthening. But millions of jobs lost in the recession could be gone for good. And unlike in past recessions, jobs in the beleaguered manufacturing sector aren’t the only ones likely lost forever. What sets the Great Recession apart is the variety of jobs that may not return. Fewer construction workers will be needed. Don’t expect as many interior designers or advertising copywriters, either. Retailers will get by with leaner staffs. That helps explain why economists think it will take at least five years for the economy to regain the 8.2 million jobs wiped out by the recession, longer than in any other recovery since World War II. Employers found ways to produce the same level of goods or services with fewer workers. Automation, global competition and technological efficiencies helped solidify the trend.

Economic News

New claims for unemployment benefits dipped for a fourth week, a sign the job market is improving, but at a glacial pace. The Labor Department says first-time claims dropped last week by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 444,000. The four-week average, which smooths volatility, registered a steeper decline, falling 9,000 to 450,500. Around 350,000 is considered normal.

Foreclosure filings dropped 2% in April from a year ago, the first annual decrease in more than five years. Foreclosure filings were reported on 33,837 properties in April, a 9% decrease from March. Nevada posted the highest state foreclosure rate for the 40th-consecutive month. One in every 69 housing units there received a foreclosure filing in April — more than five times the national average. Arizona and Florida ranked second and third.

Growth in retail sales slowed sharply in April as consumers eased up their spending after a busy March. The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales rose 0.4% last month, far below the 2.1% surge in March. Excluding autos, retail sales were up 0.4%. The overall gain marked the seventh straight monthly increase.

World stock markets and the euro fell Friday on worries that Europe’s fiscal austerity measures and stubbornly high unemployment in the U.S. will slow the global economic recovery.

Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hawkish coalition partners vowed Thursday to keep building Jewish homes and demolishing unauthorized Palestinian homes in contested east Jerusalem despite indications the Israeli leader has put the brakes on both. The United States opposes both at this delicate time, when indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians have just begun. The remarks by Netanyahu’s partners show the thin tightrope he has to walk in trying to address the conflicting demands of his political allies at home and Israel’s strongest ally abroad. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for a future capital.

Afghanistan

The monthly cost of the war in Afghanistan, driven by troop increases and fighting on difficult terrain, has topped Iraq costs for the first time since 2003 and shows no sign of letting up. Pentagon spending in February, the most recent month available, was $6.7 billion in Afghanistan compared with $5.5 billion in Iraq. As recently as fiscal year 2008, Iraq was three times as expensive; in 2009, it was twice as costly. The cumulative cost of the two wars now surpasses $1 trillion, including spending for veterans and foreign aid. Those costs could put increased pressure on President Obama and Congress, given the nation’s $12.9 trillion debt.

Iraq

A late night car bomb that tore through a cafe in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood appears to have detonated prematurely, killing three suspected militants riding inside, police said Thursday. The death toll from the blast, excluding the three suspected militants, rose to nine in what appears to be the latest attempt by militants to stoke a sectarian conflict by striking at a Shiite neighborhood with strong ties to militias.

Iran

Iran has set up new equipment that will allow it to boost its efficiency at enriching uranium at higher levels, diplomats said Friday. The move is likely to give the U.S. more leverage with Russia and China in its push for new U.N. sanctions on Tehran. Iran’s clandestine enrichment activities were discovered eight years ago and have expanded since to encompass thousands of centrifuges churning out material enriched to 3.5%. But despite three sets of Security Council sanctions meant to enforce demands of a freeze, Tehran moved to a new level in February, when it set up a small program to produce material enriched to near 20%. Uranium at 3.5%, can be used to fuel reactors which is Iran’s avowed purpose for enrichment. If enriched to around 95%, however, it can be used in building a nuclear bomb, and at 20%, uranium can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly than from lower levels.

Thailand

Thai troops fired bullets and tear gas at anti-government protesters rioting near the U.S. and Japanese embassies Friday as an army push to clear the streets sparked clashes that have killed two and turned central Bangkok into a virtual war zone. Violence since late Thursday has also wounded at least 20 others. With security deteriorating and hopes of a peaceful resolution to the two-month standoff fading, the unrest plunged Thailand deeper into political uncertainty, threatening the country’s stability, economy and already-decimated tourism industry. Fighting has now killed 31 people and injured hundreds since the Red Shirts, mostly rural poor, began camping in the capital on March 12, in a bid to force out Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. They claim his coalition government came to power illegitimately through manipulation of the courts and the backing of the powerful military.

Haiti

Four months after an earthquake devastated Haiti, Americans have donated $1.3 billion for disaster relief there, almost on a par with theirgiving after the Asian tsunami in 2004. Four months after the tsunami struck Asia, Americans had given $1.5 billion. Lower giving for Haiti could be the result of the recent recession. The pace for Haiti relief donations also trails that of giving by Americans after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

  • Nonetheless, Americans still donate more than any other country

Mexico

Mexican prosecutors say a pile of five bodies has been found in a northern city near the U.S. border and two other corpses were discovered nearby. The seven dead are all apparently young men who were shot or tortured to death. Cartridges found at the scene were from 9 mm weapons frequently used by Mexico’s drug gangs. More than 22,700 people have been killed in drug violence since the government began its offensive against cartels in late 2006.

Weather

Residents were faced again with surveying damage Thursday after a possible tornado, strong winds and large hail fell throughout Oklahoma, damaging homes and businesses and knocking down trees, power poles and signs. Officials received reports of winds gusting to 80 mph, and estimate that winds may have reached 90 mph.

A spring storm has dropped nearly three feet of snow in the mountains of central Wyoming, closing some highways and schools and causing scattered power outages from broken and sagging tree limbs. In Colorado, more than a foot of snow was reported on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park on Wednesday. A 50-mile section of Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie in southeast Wyoming was closed early Wednesday.

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