Judge blocks key parts of Arizona law
PHOENIX, July 28 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Phoenix Wednesday blocked key portions of Arizona's tough new immigration law only hours before it was due to take effect.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton temporarily blocked the section requiring police to "make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested." She also blocked a section making it "a crime for the failure to apply for or carry alien registration papers" and making it "a crime for an unauthorized alien to solicit, apply for or perform work."
Bolton said those provisions pre-empt U.S. law, and "the United States is likely to suffer irreparable harm if the court does not preliminarily enjoin enforcement of these sections ... "
The judge said the U.S. Justice Department did not challenge some provisions of the state law and she was leaving them in place. Among others, those provisions prohibit "Arizona officials, agencies and political subdivisions from limiting enforcement of federal immigration laws; ... and allowing legal residents to sue any state official, agency or political subdivision for adopting a policy of restricting enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law."
In other words, Arizonans can still sue if state officials hold back on immigration enforcement.
Bolton also left in place a provision making it "a crime for stopping a motor vehicle to pick up day laborers and for day laborers to get in a motor vehicle if it impedes the normal movement of traffic."
However, Bolton said, it was unlikely the United States would succeed in challenges to other provisions, and she left those in place, including a section making it "a separate crime for a person in violation of a criminal offense to transport or harbor an unlawfully present alien or encourage or induce an unlawfully present alien to come to or live in Arizona."
Bolton acknowledged the state law was enacted against "a backdrop of rampant illegal immigration, escalating drug and human trafficking crimes and serious public safety concerns ... "
"The United States argues principally that the power to regulate immigration is vested exclusively in the federal government, and that the provisions of (the state law) are therefore pre-empted by federal law," she said.
Unless there is some settlement, the case must still be hashed out at trial, but Bolton's preliminary findings would carry great weight. State and federal officials were reading Bolton's injunction Wednesday to determine its impact.
Firms face deluge of oil spill lawsuits
WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) -- Even though BP agreed to create a $20 billion escrow account for oil spill claims, companies associated with the spill face a deluge of class-action lawsuits.
Legal experts tell the Los Angeles Times at least 250 class-action lawsuits may eventually be filed against the British petroleum giant, Transocean, the firm that operated the Deepwater Horizon rig, Halliburton and others, and that litigation could last for decades.
Plaintiffs range from fishermen and seafood processors to restaurant and property owners, environmental groups, and the families of 11 workers killed in the April 20 explosion on the rig, which sank two days later causing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Tens of millions of barrels of crude oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico in 86 days.
Legions of attorneys are expected at federal court in Boise, Idaho, Thursday as a seven-judge federal panel begins the process of selecting a judge or judges to oversee the cases and decide where they will be heard, the Times said.
Seafood and marine industry interests want their cases merged in New Orleans or Mobile, Ala., while BP reportedly would prefer litigation be assigned to Houston, corporate home of the oil industry.
Loyola Law School Professor Georgene Vario said the stakes are huge.
"For a single-event type of incident, this is the biggest we've ever seen, just in the range of claims, the government and private-party actions, the cost of claims, the insurance aspects," Vario said.
Biden marks impending end of Iraq combat
FORT DRUM, N.Y., July 28 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told troops returning from Iraq Wednesday, "America's combat mission in Iraq will end" in a month.
Biden spoke to returning elements of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team at Fort Drum, N.Y., home of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division. The administration plans to end combat operations in Iraq this summer and withdraw most troops by the end of 2011.
Biden noted the division's long history of service, including Italy in World War II. "The unforgiving battlefields where you've fought and bled -- from the Afghan Hindu Kush to Iraq's Triangle of Death -- are as much a part of division lore as Riva Ridge and the Po River Valley," he said.
"More than seven years ago, our military was given a mission in Iraq as complex and challenging as any it has ever attempted," he said in prepared remarks. "A war zone with no safe havens and no front lines. An invisible threat from explosives that turned highways into death traps. And an enemy that used suicide as a devastating weapon, requiring split-second decisions that could save soldiers' lives or cause the death of innocents.
"More than 1 million American service members have deployed in support of that effort," the vice president added. "You and your colleagues persevered and succeeded. With your help, Iraq's leaders and security forces persevered and succeeded. And therefore those who sought to make chaos and destruction a hallmark of the new Iraq have failed.
"I've been looking forward to this day for a long time," Biden said. "One month from now, as President Obama pledged, America's combat mission in Iraq will end."
Blagojevich jury deliberations begin
CHICAGO, July 28 (UPI) -- Jury deliberations began Wednesday in the corruption case against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel delivered instructions to the six-man, six-woman federal court jury on how to interpret the law and the charges against Blagojevich before turning the case over to the panel for deliberation.
In his final argument Tuesday, federal prosecutor Reid Schar told the panel to be wary of a critical element of Blagojevich's defense -- that prosecutors were trying to criminalize normal political activities and that the former governor was charged for activities politicians have done for decades, the Chicago Tribune reported.
"There's no politician defense in the law," Schar said.
Among other things, Blagojevich is charged with trying to peddle President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat for personal gain. He also is accused of racketeering, corruption, extortion and lying to federal agents. He was impeached by the Illinois House and removed from office by the state Senate in January 2009.
Blagojevich's lawyer, Sam Adam Jr., said during his closing argument his client was foolish, but not corrupt.
"No one's going to say he's the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he's not corrupt," Adam said.
FBI: Arrests made in botnet investigation
WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) -- The FBI said Wednesday an international investigation of the Mariposa Botnet, a "zombie" network formed by a computer virus, is showing progress.
The two-year investigation was conducted with the Slovenian Criminal Police and the Spanish Guardia Civil.
The Mariposa Botnet was built with a virus called "Butterfly Bot," the FBI said. The botnet was used to steal passwords for Web sites and financial institutions, steal computer users' credit card and bank account information, launch denial of service attacks and spread viruses.
The FBI said experts estimated the Mariposa Botnet may have infected 8 million to 12 million computers.
"In the last two years, the software used to create the Mariposa botnet was sold to hundreds of other criminals, making it one of the most notorious in the world," FBI Director Robert Mueller said. "These cyber intrusions, thefts, and frauds undermine the integrity of the Internet and the businesses that rely on it; they also threaten the privacy and pocketbooks of all who use the Internet."
The Spanish Guardia Civil arrested three suspected Mariposa Botnet operators in February, the FBI said. The three are being prosecuted in Spain for computer crimes.
Last week, the Slovenian Criminal Police identified and arrested the Mariposa Botnet's suspected creator, a 23-year-old Slovenian citizen known as "Iserdo."
Pelosi marks 75 years of Social Security
WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) -- U.S. House Democrats Wednesday celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act, vowing to keep their promises to seniors.
"Upon signing the Social Security Act 75 years ago next month, President Franklin Roosevelt said that this new law was intended to 'give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family … against poverty-ridden old age,'" U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday on the House steps of the Capitol in Washington.
"In this statement, and with the bold stroke of a pen, FDR made Social Security a bedrock promise for the American people: that after a lifetime of work, this country would protect its seniors, now and for generations to come.
"Today, Democrats stand together to follow in those footsteps and uphold our pledge of economic security and stability for all hard-working Americans. Unfortunately, congressional Republicans disagree, proposing, yet again, a path that puts Social Security -- and the livelihoods of those who depend on it -- at risk."
The California Democrat recounted the efforts by President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans five years ago to privatize and cut Social Security.
"If they had succeeded," she said, "seniors would have lost trillions more in the financial crisis. At the time, Democrats and the American people said 'no.' And no one lost a penny in Social Security -- even as America's households lost more than $17 trillion in wealth under the reckless economic policies of the previous administration."
Pelosi warned now Republicans are "charting a course right back to the failed ideas of the past."
"Again, Democrats and the American people are saying 'no.' We are not going back to the 'exact same agenda' of the Bush years," Pelosi said.