Core of Arizona Immigration Law Blocked

Hours before the law was to take effect, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, a Bill Clinton appointee, on Wednesday put on hold Arizona’s new immigration law’s most contentious element: a provision that requires police to check suspects’ immigration status during routine stops if there is reasonable suspicion they are in the country illegally. The decision, a temporary action until the full legal dispute is aired, also blocks parts of the law that ban illegal immigrants from seeking work and require documented immigrants to apply for or carry registration papers. Bolton noted the state’s concerns about illegal immigration but said enforcement of the provisions “would likely burden legal resident aliens and interfere with federal policy.” The much-anticipated ruling is a victory for immigration rights advocates and the Obama administration, yet it marks just the first skirmish in a swelling legal battle. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the legislation in April, promised an “expedited” appeal of the initial ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Most Arizona Employers Aren’t Using E-Verify

Despite a state law requiring businesses to verify that all new employees are legal workers, only about half of new hires in Arizona have been vetted by a federal system that checks their status. About a third of the state’s estimated 100,000 employers have signed up for the E-Verify program. The state’s employer-sanctions law, which took effect more than two years ago, requires employers to use the free online federal system to check the legal status of all new employees. Those who don’t risk losing their business licenses if they employ an illegal worker. But federal employment data and figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requested by The Arizona Republic suggest hundreds of thousands of workers have been hired without being checked against federal records. Any new hire made starting Jan. 1, 2008, that was not checked against E-Verify would be a violation of the law known as the Legal Arizona Workers Act. During E-Verify’s most recent full fiscal year, which ended in September 2009, Arizona employers made more than 1.3 million new hires but ran just 730,000 E-Verify checks.

Arizona Utilities Told to Help People Cut Energy Use

In an effort described as among the most aggressive in the nation, Arizona regulators have approved rules requiring utilities to promote energy efficiency and ultimately cut their projected power sales, a move that also will save customers money. The Arizona Corporation Commission voted 5-0 Tuesday to require regulated electric utilities to reduce the amount of power they sell by 22 percent by the year 2020 by helping homeowners and businesses conserve energy. The move parallels a national push by utility companies to increase energy-efficiency efforts as one way to cut back on building multimillion-dollar power plants and transmission lines – projects that ultimately are financed by customer rate hikes. The effort also helps curb the air pollution and excessive water use resulting from power plants burning coal or natural gas to supply customers’ electricity. Although Phoenix-based Arizona Public Service Co., the state’s largest utility, supports the standard; others, including Tucson Electric Power Co. oppose the goal, questioning how much energy conservation they will be able to coax from customers. A variety of environmental and consumer groups, as well as companies that work with utilities to encourage energy conservation, back the rules.

Missing Oil in Gulf Baffles Officials

For more than three months, Gulf Coast residents and federal officials have asked where the oil spill was headed and how much damage it would deliver. Now, a new, equally baffling question looms: Where has the oil gone? The amount of surface oil that has bubbled up from the leaking well at the site of the Deepwater Horizon rig sinking has rapidly shrunk in size since the well was capped 11 days ago, according to the Coast Guard. Recent flyovers of the spill area spotted only one sizeable oil deposit in the region, down considerably from the large pools of thick, reddish oil that washed into Louisiana‘s coastal marshes and beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. “What we’re trying to figure out is: Where is all the oil at?” said retired Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen, the oil response’s federal overseer. “There’s still a lot of oil that’s unaccounted for.”

Another Louisiana Oil Leak

Cleanup crews have their hands full with another oil leak in the ecologically sensitive Louisiana bayou after a barge hit an unlighted “orphaned” wellhead early today in an inland waterway. As one state official put it, “We cannot catch a break.” The broken natural-gas well is shooting a 100-foot-tall fountain of gas, oil and water, creating a mile-long slick in Mud Lake, north of Barataria Bay. The sensitive habitat has already been fouled by oil leaking from the BP disaster. The abandoned well, which the pilot of the tugboat pushing the barge said was not lighted as required, was owned by Houston-based Cedyco Corp., which is out of business.

Probe to Determine if Charges will be Filed over Leaked Documents

Attorney General Eric Holder says an investigation by the Pentagon and Justice Department will determine whether criminal charges will be filed in the leaking of Afghanistan war secrets. Holder, speaking to reporters during a visit to Egypt on Wednesday, says the investigation aims to determine the source of the leak. He says “whether there will be criminal charges brought will depend on how the investigation goes.” He says he “deplores” the leak, adding, “it is not really in the national interest of the United States.” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Tuesday that the Defense Department has launched a “very robust investigation” into the leak of secret documents on the war in Afghanistan published Sunday by WikiLeaks, an online site. The Pentagon is focusing on jailed Army Pfc. Bradley Manning as the main suspect in the leak of tens of thousands of secret U.S. military documents related to the war in Afghanistan, a senior Pentagon official told CNN.

  • If it wasn’t for the whistleblowers we wouldn’t have any idea what our government was really doing, since we can’t believe what they say

DOJ Accused of Stalling on MOVE Act for Voters in Military

The Department of Justice is ignoring a new law aimed at protecting the right of American soldiers to vote, according to two former DOJ attorneys who say states are being encouraged to use waivers to bypass the new federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. The MOVE Act, enacted last October, ensures that servicemen and women serving overseas have ample time to get in their absentee ballots. The result of the DOJ’s alleged inaction in enforcing the act, say Eric Eversole and J. Christian Adams — both former litigation attorneys for the DOJ’s Voting Section — could be that thousands of soldiers’ ballots will arrive too late to be counted. “It is an absolute shame that the section appears to be spending more time finding ways to avoid the MOVE Act, rather than finding ways to ensure that military voters will have their votes counted,” said Eversole, director of the Military Voter Protection Project, a new organization devoted to ensuring military voting rights. “The Voting Section seems to have forgotten that it has an obligation to enforce federal law, not to find and raise arguments for states to avoid these laws.”

  • The current liberal administration prefers that the votes of the more conservative military be discounted or discarded

EU to Hold Atheist/Freemason Summit

Brussels is to hold an EU summit with atheists and freemasons in the autumn, inviting them to a political dialogue parallel to the annual summit the bloc holds with Europe’s religious leaders. While the EU is a secular body, the three European presidents, of the commission, parliament and EU Council, alongside two commissioners, on Monday met with 24 bishops, chief rabbis, and muftis as well as leaders from the Hindu and Sikh communities. The annual dialogue, which has taken place since 2005, is for the first time this year made legally obligatory under Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty. Under pressure from Belgium, which constitutionally protects and financially supports humanist organizations as well as churches, the EU has been forced to hold a mirror-image summit of atheists, scheduled for 15 October. The EU atheist summit will also welcome under the rubric of ‘non-religious groups’, the Freemasons, the secretive fraternal organization.

  • The New World Order is behind the push to make atheism and satanism mainstream alternatives to organized religion

Doomsday Shelters Making a Comeback

The first of a proposed nationwide group of 20 fortified, underground shelters is opening in Barstow, California. The Vivos shelter network of shelters are intended to protect those inside for up to a year from catastrophes such as a nuclear attack, killer asteroids or tsunamis, according to the project’s developers. There are signs that underground shelters, almost-forgotten relics of the Cold War era, are making a comeback. The Vivos network, which offers partial ownerships similar to a timeshare in underground shelter communities, is one of several ventures touting escape from a surface-level calamity. Radius Engineering in Terrell, Texas, has built underground shelters for more than three decades, and business has never been better, says Walton McCarthy, company president. The company sells fiberglass shelters that can accommodate 10 to 2,000 adults to live underground for one to five years with power, food, water and filtered air. The shelters range from $400,000 to a $41 million facility Radius built and installed underground that is suitable for 750 people, McCarthy says. He declined to disclose the client or location of the shelter. Other shelter manufacturers include Hardened Structures of Colorado and Utah Shelter Systems, which also report increased sales.

Smart Phone Apps Watching Users

Your smart phone applications are watching you — much more closely than you might like. Lookout Inc., a mobile-phone security firm, scanned nearly 300,000 free applications for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and phones built around Google Inc.’s Android software. It found that many of them secretly pull sensitive data off users’ phones and ship them off to third parties without notification. The data can include full details about users’ contacts, their pictures, text messages and Internet and search histories. The third parties can include advertisers and companies that analyze data on users. The information is used by companies to target ads and learn more about their users. The danger, though, is that the data become vulnerable to hacking and use in identity theft if the third party isn’t careful about securing the information. Lookout found that nearly a quarter of the iPhone apps and almost half the Android apps contained software code that contained those capabilities.

Localities, States Scramble to Spend Foreclosure Aid

Local governments are at risk of losing more than $1 billion in foreclosure relief funds they can’t spend quickly enough. With use-it-or-lose-it spending deadlines weeks away, cities and counties are scrambling to shore up neighborhoods by buying foreclosed and abandoned properties — but are often stymied by market forces, federal regulations and a lack of staffing. The $3.9 billion Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), passed in 2008, was intended to help areas hardest hit by the housing crisis buy foreclosed homes and residential properties. In 2009, Congress added $2 billion via the stimulus bill. Last week, President Obama signed into law another $1 billion for a third round of spending, for a total of $6.9 billion. The first $3.9 billion had to be used within 18 months of the states’ grant agreements, which were signed in March 2009. The deadlines have forced some communities to shift their focus away from single-family homes and toward multi-family or rental housing to spend the money quickly and meet low-income set-aside rules.

Bell, Calif., City Leaders’ Pay Sparks Outcry

California Attorney General Jerry Brown said he is seeking records to find out “how in the world” officials in Bell, a Los Angeles suburb, were paid more than the president. The chief administrator of Bell, a city of about 37,000 residents, earned $787,637 a year. President Obama earns $400,000. Bell’s former police chief earned $457,000 — $150,000 more than Los Angeles’ police chief. Both resigned last week after their salaries were revealed. Pressured by outraged residents, City Council members, including the mayor, voted Monday night to cut their pay 90%. The Los Angeles Times reported this month that four of five council members were paid $100,000 for their part-time positions.

Economic News

New jobless claims fell last week for the third time in four weeks in the U.S. but remain elevated. The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time claims for unemployment insurance dropped by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 457,000. The four-week average of claims, which smooths fluctuations, dropped to 452,500, the lowest level since May. Economists say jobless claims need to fall to at least 400,000 to signal sustained job growth.

Cash is gushing into companies’ coffers as they report what’s shaping up to be the third-consecutive quarter of sharp earnings increases. But instead of spending on the typical things, such as expanding and hiring people, companies are mostly pocketing the money and stuffing it under their corporate mattresses. Non-financial companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 have a record $837 billion in cash, S&P says. That’s enough to pay 2.4 million people $70,000-a-year salaries for five years. Rather than investing in their future, companies are piling up cash and collecting practically zero interest on the money, hoping there will be a better time to invest later.

Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods fell broadly in June as the fragile recovery continued to slow. Demand for durable goods dropped 1% last month to a seasonally adjusted $190.5 billion, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It was the second straight monthly decline and the largest drop since August 2009. Manufacturing helped drive growth during the early stages of the recovery. A slowdown in orders could be a sign that the recovery is losing strength.

Landlords are seeing a surge in apartment rentals as mounting foreclosures reduce homeownership and an improving job market for young adults encourages them to find their own places. The number of occupied apartments increased by 215,000 in the 64 largest U.S. markets in the first half of the year, according to MPF Research. The vacancy rate declined to 6.6% in June from 8.2% in December.

Applications for home loans fell last week despite the lowest mortgage rates in decades. The Mortgage Bankers Association says overall applications fell 4.4% from a week earlier.

France

France has declared war on al-Qaeda, and matched its fighting words with a first attack on a base camp of the terror network’s North African branch, after the terror network killed a French humanitarian worker it took hostage in April. The declaration and attack marked a shift in strategy for France, usually discrete about its behind-the-scenes battle against terrorism. The killers will “not go unpunished,” Sarkozy said in unusually strong language, given France’s habit of employing quiet cooperation with its regional allies —Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Algeria— in which the al-Qaeda franchise was spawned amid an Islamist insurgency. The Salafist Group for Call and Combat formally merged with al-Qaeda in 2006 and spread through the Sahel region — parts of Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

Africa

African leaders are pledging thousands of new troops for Somalia to fight al-Qaeda-linked militants responsible for the twin World Cup bombings that killed 76 people, and the U.S. says it will help bankroll the military campaign. African leaders and U.S. officials called for stepped-up efforts in Somalia as an African Union summit here concluded Tuesday. The summit opened only days after the July 11 bombings in Kampala, an attack that prompted Uganda‘s president to call for Africa to band together against Somalia’s militants. But internal documents obtained by The Associated Press show that that African Union forces and Somali troops don’t trust one another, and that Somalia’s government “lacks consistency, coherence and coordination,” raising questions about whether more AU troops can solve the Somali impasse.

Afghanistan

A packed bus hit a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday killing 25 people aboard, as NATO announced another U.S. service member died in a rapidly rising monthly death toll. The passenger bus was traveling in Nimroz province on a main highway toward the capital, Kabul, when it struck the explosive. Another 20 people were wounded. July is already one of the deadliest months for U.S. troops in the nearly nine-year Afghan war, with 59 service members killed so far. That’s just shy of the 60 that died in June. Altogether, 80 NATO troops have died in July. In June, 103 NATO forces were killed.

The U.S. House has approved an additional $33 billion to fund combat operations in Afghanistan and sent the legislation to President Obama for his signature. The total price tag is $59 billion. The vote was 308-114.

Iraq

A sandstorm downed an Iraqi military helicopter Wednesday, killing its five-man crew, while midmorning Baghdad bombings claimed the lives of six people. The helicopter was flying to provide air protection to Shiite pilgrims traveling by road to the holy city of Karbala. Thousands of pilgrims are headed to Karbala, located 50 miles south of Baghdad, for an important religious holiday marking the birth of a Shiite saint known as the “Hidden Imam” who disappeared in the ninth century. Such mass displays of devotion by Shiites have often been targeted by Sunni extremists.

Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated a new policy on Tuesday to encourage population growth, dismissing Iran‘s decades of internationally-acclaimed family planning as ungodly and a Western import. The new government initiative will pay families for every new child and deposit money into the newborn’s bank account until they reach 18, effectively rolling back years of efforts to boost the economy by reducing the country’s once runaway population growth. “Those who raise idea of family planning, they are thinking in the realm of the secular world,” Ahmadinejad said during the inauguration ceremony. The plan is part of Ahmadinejad’s stated commitment to further increase Iran’s population, which is already estimated at 75 million. He has previously said the country could support up to 150 million.

Spain

Lawmakers in Catalonia outlawed bullfighting Wednesday, making this Spain‘s first major region to do so after an impassioned debate that pitted the rights of animals against preserving a pillar of traditional culture. The ban passed 68-to-55 with nine abstentions and will take effect in 2012 in the northeastern coastal region whose capital is Barcelona. Catalonia is a powerful, wealthy region with its own language and culture and a large degree of self-rule.

India

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) plans to provide unique ID numbers to all residents of India. The first set of 100 million UID numbers will be issued from August 2010 to March 2011. Another 600 million UID numbers will be issued over the following three years and subsequently to all residents of India. The UIDAI proposes to collect the demographic and biometric attributes of residents through various agencies of the central and the state governments and other agents who interact with residents. Apart from providing a form of identity to those who do not have any identity, the UIDAI project is expected to enable better delivery of services and effective governance.

  • Such harbingers of the universal ID system do indeed provide many benefits, but will eventually be used to enforce the Biblical “mark of the beast”

Wildfires

Hundreds of firefighters gained ground Wednesday against the most destructive of two big wildfires that have burned homes and forced 2,300 people to evacuate mountain communities on the edge of the Mojave Desert and in the southern Sierra Nevada. A 1,436-acre blaze that chased residents from the Old West Ranch community about 10 miles south of Tehachapi was 25% contained. The fire has destroyed 25 structures. Another 150 homes in the loosely connected community remained threatened. About 40 miles to the north, a fire that began Monday in Sequoia National Forest grew to 15,982 acres, or about 24 square miles, and was 12% surrounded after burning eight homes and six outbuildings in the area of Kernville, a launching point for mountain adventuring. About 1,200 homes and structures scattered in the fire area were considered threatened. Five other wildfires in California had consumed about 6,000 more acres.

Rivers burst their banks during monsoon rains, washing away streets, battering a dam and killing at least 60 people in most severe floods in decades in northwest Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands more were stranded as rescue workers struggled to reach far-flung villages. A newly constructed part of a dam in the Charsadda district collapsed. At least 10 people died near Peshawar when their homes collapsed. Dozens of people were reported missing.

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