Calderon, Obama Assail Arizona Law

Mexican President Felipe Calderón on Wednesday criticized Arizona’s tough new immigration law as “discriminatory,” a rebuke of a domestic policy rare for a foreign leader to deliver on U.S. soil. Calderón’s criticism was echoed by President Obama during a joint Rose Garden news conference held hours before Calderón was honored at a state dinner. Arizona’s law “has the potential of being applied in a discriminatory fashion,” Obama said. “The judgments that are going to be made in applying this law are troublesome.” The law requires police to question people about immigration status if there is a “reasonable suspicion” they are in the country illegally.

  • Of course Calderon opposes the law – he is glad to get rid of the dregs of his country and let them drain America’s social services instead of Mexico’s

Arizona’s immigration law drew more international headlines Wednesday when an electric-utility regulator responded to Los Angeles’ boycott efforts by suggesting it stop using power from Arizona. Arizona provides about a quarter of the Southern California city’s power.

‘Transparent’ Obama Hides from Press

Observers couldn’t help but notice the irony: President Barack Obama on Monday signed the Press Freedom Act, then refused to take any questions from members of the press. In a broader sense, the event was another demonstration of Obama’s standoffish relationship with the news media — despite his campaign vow of a “transparent” administration. Obama has not fielded questions at a full-blown press conference since way back on July 22, 2009. President George H.W. Bush had nearly three press conferences a month. Bill Clinton and Lyndon Johnson convened an average of about two a month. Obama lags behind both Nixon and Reagan: He called five press conferences during his first six months in office, and none in the 10 months that followed, the Huffington Post reported. As for less formal short exchanges with reporters, Obama has had 47, compared with 147 for George W. Bush in his first year and 252 for Clinton.

ACLU is 0 for 4 on Ten Commandments Lawsuits

The Ten Commandments display in Grayson County, Kentucky, will stand, thwarting an effort by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to have the courts declare it unconstitutional. The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a request to rehear the case, and Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel does not think the ACLU will take their argument any further. “I doubt very seriously the ACLU will ask the Supreme Court to get involved in this matter, because every case that they’ve had since 2005… they’ve lost at the court of appeals,” Staver explains. “So I doubt…they’ll move forward with this,” he reiterates. “This is another defeat. This is the fourth federal court of appeals defeat since 2005 against the ACLU involving the Ten Commandments.”

Oil Spill Reaches Louisiana Marshes

A chocolate-brown blanket of oil about as thick as latex paint has invaded reedy freshwater wetlands at Louisiana’s southeastern tip for the first time, prompting Gov. Bobby Jindal to step up calls Wednesday for building emergency sand barriers near where the mouth of the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig disaster had been lapping at the coast before. But this was not the light rainbow sheen or the scattered tar balls seen in previous days. It was coated with brown sludge, which had stained the lower shafts of the leafy green reeds sticking up to eight feet out of the water. The U.S. government is ordering energy giant BP to find less-toxic chemicals to break up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill amid evidence that the dispersants are not effective and could actually make the spill more harmful to marine life.

Oil giant BP conceded Thursday that the Gulf of Mexico oil leak is larger than it originally estimated, adding more worry as portions of the massive spill began trickling ashore for the first time. workers are capturing about 210,000 gallons a day — the total daily amount the company and the Coast Guard have estimated is gushing into the sea — but some is still escaping, but they would not say how much. As hurricane season looms, forecasters, scientists and residents along the Gulf Coast worry that a major storm could make the oil spill worse. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says a hurricane, or a succession of them, may bring oil up from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico and then push it ashore. Forecasters say a season with multiple storms could send oil farther inland and spread it as far as Cape Hatteras, N.C.

Three Climate Reports: Set Prices on Carbon Emissions

In three reports on global warming, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences called Wednesday for limiting greenhouse gas emissions by setting a price on them. The three “America’s Climate Choices” reports, requested by Congress during the Bush administration, come as roiling debate over climate and energy legislation in Washington and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico cloud future energy decisions. “Together, these reports show that the state of climate change science is strong,” NAS chief Ralph Cicerone says. “The data show the reality of climate change.” In wide-ranging recommendations, the studies call for better coordination of federal climate research efforts and for setting a price on carbon emitted from industrial smokestacks, either through a tax or in a carbon market proposed in a bill that was approved in the House but still debated in the Senate.

  • End-time climate change is real, but carbon taxes will have little impact other than raising energy prices

Senate Passes Massive Wall Street Overhaul

Prodded by national anger at Wall Street, the Senate on Thursday passed the most far-reaching restraints on big banks since the Great Depression. In its broad sweep, the massive bill would touch Wall Street CEOs and first-time homebuyers, high-flying traders and small town lenders. The 59-39 vote came after some bare-knuckled political maneuvering in which Republicans squashed an amendment that would have banned banks from making high-risk trades with their own money. Four Republicans broke with their party to vote for the bill, while two Democrats opposed it, saying it didn’t go far enough. The bill would: set up a new consumer watchdog agency to oversee financial products such as mortgages and credit cards; require banks to spin off their derivatives units and shine a light on trading of the obscure instruments; and establish ways to liquidate faltering financial firms without the need for government bailouts.

  • Another government agency. Now we can all rest easy, right?

Intelligence Chief Resigns after Scathing Report

President Obama’s director of national intelligence said Thursday he will step down on May 28. His decision comes just days after a Senate panel released a scathing report outlining critical lapses that allowed an alleged bomber to board a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day last year. Blair’s position was created after the 9/11 attacks to coordinate the government’s disparate intelligence agencies with the goal of preventing future attacks. His tenure was marked by public turf disputes with CIA Director Leon Panetta over personnel assignments overseas and criticism by lawmakers such as Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., over intelligence agencies’ failure to prevent the attempted bombing over Detroit and another in New York City’s Times Square.

  • The failures were systemic due to bureaucratic lack of cooperation, but government feels better when they have a scapegoat

Cross Returned to Mojave Desert

A cross honoring America’s war dead that was stolen from a federal park in the Mojave Desert has been mysteriously returned. A maintenance worker spotted the cross on Sunrise Rock, the same place a 7-foot metal cross had stood for decades. The cross apparently was put up during the night, but it was unclear whether it was the original or a replica. A cross made of metal pipe and filled with concrete stood on the remote outcropping 200 miles northeast of Los Angeles before someone cut its retaining bolts and made off with it on May 9 or May 10. Veterans groups had offered $125,000 in rewards for information leading to an arrest.

More TB Than Ever, U.N. Efforts Failing

Global efforts to control tuberculosis have failed and radical new approaches are needed experts said Wednesday. With more than 9 million people infected last year, including 2 million deaths, officials say there is more tuberculosis now than at any other time in history. In a special tuberculosis edition of the British medical journal Lancet published on Wednesday, experts said past failures prove new strategies are required. TB isn’t only a medical problem, but is intertwined with poverty, as it spreads widely among people living in overcrowded, dirty places. They said TB programs need to go beyond health and include other sectors like housing, education and transportation. Some officials questioned whether continued U.N. programs could even combat TB. “The main priority for TB control is improved living conditions and economic growth, which is outside the control of the U.N.,” said Philip Stevens, a health policy expert at International Policy Network, a London-based think tank. “TB cannot be tackled in isolation.”

Hospitals See Dramatic Rise of Kids with MRSA

The number of children hospitalized with dangerous drug-resistant staph infections surged 10-fold in recent years, a study found. Disease incidence increased from 2 cases to 21 cases per 1,000 hospital admissions from 1999 to 2008. Most infections were caught in the community, not in the hospital. The study involved methicillin-resistant staph infections, called MRSA. These used to occur mostly in hospitals and nursing homes but they are increasingly showing up in other settings. Recent evidence suggests hospital-acquired MRSA cases may be declining while community-acquired cases are becoming more common. Almost 30,000 children were hospitalized with MRSA infections at the hospitals studied during the 10-year period and 374 youngsters with MRSA died. Overall, MRSA is blamed for more than 18,000 deaths in children and adults nationwide each year.

Economic News

Europe’s debt crisis poses serious risks to the fledgling economic recoveries in the United States and around the globe, a Federal Reserve official said Thursday. Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo, in remarks to a House subcommittee, said the timing of Europe’s problems on the heels of the global financial crisis is a “potentially serious setback.” If the crisis were to crimp lending and the flow of credit globally, triggering more financial turmoil, that would endanger recoveries in the United States and globally, he said.

U.S. stocks opened lower Friday a day after major stock indexes posted their biggest drops in more than a year. The Dow Jones industrials tumbled 376 points Thursday. The Dow and broader indexes are now in correction territory by having dropped more than 10% from their 2010 highs last month. The drop has erased the gains major indexes had made in 2010.

The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week by the largest amount in three months. Applications for unemployment benefits rose to 471,000 last week, up 25,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the first increase in five weeks and the biggest jump since a gain of 40,000 in February. Employers are hiring again, but not at levels needed to make a dent in the unemployment rate. The jobless rate actually increased in April to 9.9%.

The number of homeowners who missed at least one payment on their mortgage surged to a record in the first quarter of the year. More than 10% of homeowners had missed at least one mortgage payment in the January-March period. That number was up from 9.5% in the fourth quarter of last year and 9.1% a year earlier. More than 4.6% of homeowners were in foreclosure, also a record.

Greece

More than 20,000 protesters marched to parliament Thursday, as unions challenged harsh austerity measures in Greece by staging their fourth general strike this year. Riot police held back demonstrators chanting “Thieves, thieves!” Store owners closed up and lowered protective shutters before the march got underway. Police deployed 1,700 officers and detained 36 people in an early show of force. The strike closed schools, halted ferries and trains, and kept hospitals running on emergency staff.

Iraq

A car bomb exploded in front of a restaurant killing six people south of Baghdad on Wednesday, Iraqi officials said, highlighting the fragile nature of Iraq‘s security. The bomb in the mixed Sunni-Shiite town comes as the country enters its third month without a new government, raising concerns that violence will rise as political disputes spill out into the streets.

Pakistan

Compass Direct News reports that Muslim teachers at a girls’ school in Sargodha, Pakistan, have openly beaten and demeaned Christians students to the point that several have quit the school. According to area Christians, the teachers have derided Christian students for their faith, beat them, pressured them to convert to Islam and forced them to clean school bathrooms, classrooms and even teacher’s laundry after class hours. “Christian students are teased and mocked by radical Muslim female teachers from the start of the school day to the end,” said a 16-year-old girl named Sana. “Christian students feel dejected, depressed and frustrated. I am totally broken-hearted because of the intolerance and discrimination.” Christians in Pakistan are often discriminated against for their lower social status.

Thailand

The Thai government declared Thursday it had mostly quelled ten weeks of violent protests in the capital while buildings smoldered, troops rooted out small pockets of resistance and residents attempted a return to normal life. A nighttime curfew was extended in Bangkok and 23 other provinces for three more days. Troops and die-hard protesters exchanged sporadic fire in parts of the city. A major military operation Wednesday, in which at least 15 people were killed and 96 wounded, had cleared a large portion of a protest encampment that had been set up in the center of the capital for six weeks. Thailand‘s prime minister Friday promised an independent probe into “all events” surrounding the Red Shirt protests, and called for reconciliation to heal deep political divisions that led to widespread violence and 83 deaths over two months.

Korea

North Korea said Thursday that South Korea fabricated evidence implicating the North in a torpedo attack in order to pick on the North and any attempt at retaliating for the warship’s sinking would be answered with “all-out war.” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak vowed “stern action” for the attack after a multinational investigation issued its long-awaited results Thursday, concluding the North fired a torpedo that sank the Cheonan navy ship March 26 near the Koreas’ tense sea border.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that evidence was “overwhelming” that North Korea sank a South Korean warship and that the communist country must face international consequences for its actions. Speaking in the Japanese capital at the outset of a three-nation Asian trip, Clinton said that the U.S., Japan, South Korea and China are consulting on an appropriate reaction to an international investigation that blamed North Korea for the incident.

Sudan

DeMoss News reports that three Samaritan’s Purse employees have been abducted in Sudan. The team, comprised of two Sudanese men and one 36-year-old American woman from California, was traveling in a two-vehicle convoy when they were stopped by a group of armed men 25 miles southwest of Nyala in Sudan’s Darfur region early Tuesday evening. Samaritan’s Purse is working with U.S. and Sudanese government officials to secure the safe return of its staff. “I have visited Darfur several times and it is one of the most difficult places in the world to work. I’m asking for the prayers from people around the world for a quick resolution and the safe return of our Samaritan’s Purse staff,” said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse.

Weather

A powerful cyclone slammed into southeastern India on Thursday, toppling power lines and plunging a large swath of coastal Andhra Pradesh state into darkness after heavy rains and earlier strong winds claimed at least 15 lives. State welfare agencies evacuated more than 50,000 people from low-lying villages as the region braced for its worst storm in 14 years. Even before the cyclone hit, some parts of the state had received up to 1 foot of rain.

Dozens of homes were flooded while hundreds had no power after heavy rain engulfed much of eastern Oklahoma. Two mobile homes were destroyed and several homes and businesses damaged in storms that brought a rash of tornadoes. 4.38 inches of rain fell at the Muskogee airport from 7 p.m. Wednesday until 1 a.m. Thursday, and more strong storms were forecast for later in the day.

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