Truthout | News in Brief (7)

The Washington Post reports that a series of strong earthquakes killed hundreds of people in western China, badly damaging at least two schools, shattering homes and spreading fire through a remote town high on the Tibetan plateau. The early morning quakes hit China’s Qinghai Province, a poor area 1,200 miles southwest of Beijing. Authorities said at least 400 people had been killed and that many more remained buried in the rubble, including some 50 people entombed in a collapsed vocational school.

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The New York Times reports that US forces closed an outpost in the Afghan “Valley of Death.” The newspaper states, “The near daily battles here were won, but almost always leaving wounded or dead behind. There were never enough soldiers to crush the insurgency, and after four years of trying, it became clear that there was not much worth winning in this sparsely populated valley.” According to the newspaper, closing the Korangal Outpost, a powerful symbol of some of the Afghan war’s most ferocious fights, is an implied admission that putting the base there in the first place was a costly mistake.

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The Hill reports that Congressional Republican leaders on Tuesday fired back at the White House on financial regulatory reform, calling it another bailout bill. House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Indiana), in a speech about New York hedge funds, called Democratic financial bills “TARP II” and said they would lead to future bailouts. The reference is to the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program used to bail out Wall Street. Back in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) took to the Senate floor and said the pending bill in the Senate “not only allows for taxpayer-funded bailouts of Wall Street banks, it institutionalizes them.”

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The Los Angeles Times reports that Arizona lawmakers on Tuesday approved what opponents and supporters agree is the toughest measure in the country against illegal immigrants, directing local police to determine whether people are in the country legally. The measure, long sought by opponents of illegal immigration, passed 35 to 21 in the state House of Representatives. The bill’s author said it “takes the handcuffs off of law enforcement and lets them do their job.” The bill, known as SB 1070, makes it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration paperwork in Arizona. It also requires police officers, if they form a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is an illegal immigrant, to determine the person’s immigration status. Currently, officers can inquire about someone’s immigration status only if the person is a suspect in another crime. The bill allows officers to avoid the immigration issue if it would be impractical or hinder another investigation.

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Talking Points Memo reports that an Army doctor, who is reportedly facing a court-martial for refusing orders is getting assistance, from an ex-Congressional staffer and Bush administration vet as well as from a charitable foundation founded in 2003 by a Republican senator, originally to aid the families of slain soldiers. When Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin announced via YouTube late last month that he would refuse to deploy to Afghanistan until President Obama produced a birth certificate, the news spread thanks to a PR operation by a group called the American Patriot Foundation, which created a flashy web site to promote Lakin’s story and started a legal defense fund.