News in Brief: Israel Begins Release of Flotilla Activists and More

Israel begins the release and deportation of the 700 activists detained from the Gaza Freedom flotilla, reported The Guardian UK. The Israeli attorney general has said Israel will not prosecute any of the activists, who were on six ships bringing aid supplies to the blockaded Gaza Strip when Israeli commandos boarded it, resulting in the death of nine people. Turkish lawmakers have called on their government to review its military, political and economic ties with Israel, and called for a formal apology for Monday’s flotilla raid.


The announcement that the US will be starting a criminal investigation into the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ended one of BP’s worst days in the six weeks since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 workers and setting off the worst oil spill in US history, reported The Guardian UK. BP shares plummeted by 13 percent Wednesday, lowering the company’s value by $17.5 billion. Robert Reich, the secretary of labor under the Clinton administration, called for the government to seize BP’s US operations until the leak was plugged.

Meanwhile, the effort to contain the spill has been delayed by a diamond-edged saw, which has become stuck in a thick pipe on the blown-out well on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, reported The AP.


Under the headline “Anti-incumbency takes down another congressman,” The AP reported the ouster of Rep. Parker Griffith, who was voted out by Republicans Tuesday in Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Voters instead chose Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks, who won slightly more than 50 percent of the vote in a three-candidate field with the help of Tea Party support and local GOP leaders who lost to Griffith in 2008. Griffith switched from Democrat to Republican last December.

Rep. Artur Davis fared no better in the Democratic primary, losing his bid to become Alabama’s first black governor. In New Mexico, the gubernatorial primary set up a general election to decide on the state’s first female governor.


A new study finds that African-Americans and other minority groups still face discriminatory exclusion from jury services in the South, reported Democracy Now!. The report, released by the Equal Justice Initiative, reviewed jury selections in eight southern states. According to the study, the discrimination is most common “in serious criminal cases and capital cases.” It also noted that some prosecutors were trained to exclude people of color from juries, and by doing so evade anti-discrimination laws. In Houston County, Alabama, the study found eight out of ten African-American jurors removed from death penalty cases. In Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, 80 percent of criminal trials had virtually no African-American jurors.


A Mexican immigrant died after customs officers repeatedly beat him with batons and shocked him with stun guns in San Diego, reported Democracy Now!, as he went through deportation proceedings to Mexico. Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas was detained last week after crossing the border from Mexico. According to family members of Hernandez-Rojas, he had lived in the United States since he was 14 and was the father of five US-born children. Witnesses reported seeing the officers beat and kick Hernandez-Rojas.

Meanwhile, in New York, a group of immigrant youth have started a hunger strike to escalate the push for passage of the DREAM Act, which would grant the children of undocumented immigrants a path to legalization. The students are protesting outside the of offices Democratic Sen. and Senate Immigration Subcommittee Chair Charles Schumer, calling for him to propose the DREAM Act as a standalone bill. Police began removing protesters from outside Schumer’s office Wednesday morning, but the youth say they will not abandon their protest.

Jose Luis: “I’ve been in this country for twenty years. And in those twenty years, my hope has always been the same: become a better human being, become someone who is productive to our society. What do we want for this country? What do we want for our society if we’re denying the education to these 65,000 students across the country? I ask Senator Schumer today, wouldn’t you pass a legislation that would benefit your son, your daughter? Wouldn’t you pass a legislation, wouldn’t you promote a legislation that would make your country stronger?”