News in Brief: Judge With Oil Investments Blocks Drilling Moratorium, and More

A US district judge with investments in affected energy firms blocked President Obama’s six-month drilling moratorium Tuesday, The Washington Post reports. The judge’s repeal allows BP and other companies to resume deepwater drilling in the wake of the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

In a statement released by the White House, the Obama administration said it would appeal the ruling. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said, “I will issue a new order in the coming days that eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriated and within our authorities.” Despite the court’s ruling, however, many firms stated they would not drill until the legal fight is over.

Judge Marvin Feldman, has holdings in Transocean and other energy-producing firms, The Guardian UK reports. Transocean ran the deepwater drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers. Feldman’s possible conflicts of interests are being challenged by environmental groups and legal advocates.

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Responding to what he called “urgent and essential needs” along the US-Mexico border, President Obama requested $600 million in emergency funds from Congress on Tuesday, The Los Angeles Times reports. The new money will go toward hiring an additional 1,000 Border Patrol Guards and an additional 160 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, buying two drone aircrafts and enhancing drug enforcement along the southern border in a cooperative venture between the US and Mexico.

While the latest increase would boost staff by only five percent, The Los Angeles Times notes that the Border Patrol has doubled in size since 2004.

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It was another night for the underdog in four states with runoff elections, The New York Times reports. In South Carolina, Sarah Palin-backed Republican Nikki Haley won the nomination for governor, while six-term Republican incumbent Congressman Bob Inglis lost in a runoff election. Also in South Carolina, another Palin-backed candidate Republican, Tim Scott, beat Paul Thurmond, son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, to become his party’s nominee for South Carolina’s First Congressional District – and, potentially, the first black Republican in Congress in nearly ten years.

In North Carolina, Democrat and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall handily beat party favorite Cal Cunningham in her bid to become the Democratic nominee for the Senate in a seat currently held by Republican Richard Burr. While in Utah, Tea Party favorite Mike Lee won in his bid to become the Republican nominee for Senate. Jim Matheson, Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, successfully secured his party’s nomination by defeating liberal activist Claudia Wright.

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With the expiration of a nearly year-long government tax credit, new home sales fell faster and further than economists had expected, The Washington Post reports. New home sales are a leading indicator of growth in the American economy; economists forecast this drop will have a negative impact on the construction industry, already battered by the recession and weak economic recovery. The homebuyers tax credit expired on April 30 and while an amendment extending the credit has been added to legislation in the Senate, the full bill including the amendment has not yet been voted on.

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Just two weeks after Israel drew international attention for its deadly attack on a Gaza-bound flotilla, a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem has drawn the ire of the Palestinian Authority and the United States, The Christian Science Monitor reports today.

Coming three months after an East Jerusalem project rocked Vice President Biden’s visit to the area, the construction highlights the volatility of the stalled peace talks. The decision to demolish the homes was apparently not supported by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who plans to meet with President Obama in two weeks. Instead, Israeli officials are blaming “a lower-level government agency” for the decision to condemn the homes and “leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the US and the Palestinians to handle the fallout.”

“It’s like lighting a match in a roomful of gas,” Tel-Aviv-based analyst Meir Javedanfar said to The Monitor.