In advance of the midterm elections, weeks after Arizona passed a new immigration law, President Obama has decided to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to the border between the U.S. and Mexico. According to The Arizona Republic, based in Phoenix, "details have not been released on when they will arrive, where they will be stationed or how long they will stay. But their primary mission will be to assist with the battle against drug smugglers, working primarily on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance until more Border Patrol agents can be hired and trained."
On All Things Considered last night, NPR's Ted Robbins said that the plan is similar to what was implemented under Operation Jump Start:
Soldiers made themselves visible as deterrents to would-be crossers. They did surveillance, drove vehicles, did office and motor pool support to free up border agents. They won't be performing law enforcement activities.
Other stories making headlines this morning:
—The Miami Herald—"Kingston 'under siege' as crisis in Jamaica continues": Following Jamaica's decision to honor an extradition request from the U.S. for Christopher "Dudus" Coke, believed to be the head of the "Shower Posse," Kingston has erupted in violence. According to The Herald's correspondents, "Officials said at least 30 people, including 26 civilians, have been killed since masked gunmen, thought to be Coke loyalists, launched coordinated attacks on police stations. Heavily armed security forces fought back, raiding a fortified section of Tivoli Gardens where the 41-year-old Coke is thought to be in hiding."
NPR's Jason Beaubien, en route to Kingston, reports that Prime Minister Bruce Golding, speaking to the Jamaican parliament, said that he regrets the loss of life, but added that the massive manhunt is likely to get even bigger. A state of emergency remains in effect in the Jamaican capital, where many businesses and all the public schools are closed.
—Politico—"Bob Corker: White House was 'duplicitous' in negotiations": Yesterday afternoon, the president traveled to Capitol Hill, to have lunch with congressional Republicans. Although they met behind closed doors, there were reports that the conversation was hardly collegial. According to Politico, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, says he "told President Barack Obama that the White House negotiations on Wall Street reform were 'duplicitous,' and he accused Obama of using Republican senators as 'props.'"
—San Francisco Chronicle—"Obama addresses heckler in SF, talks up oil and immigration":President Obama traveled to San Francisco yesterday, to speak at a fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). At the event, which added $600,000 to Boxer's campaign coffers and $1.1 million to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Obama "had a little bit of something for everyone Tuesday at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco — a tough message on the Gulf Oil spill, serious talk about immigration, jokes about bipartisanship, a comeback to a heckler, and even some self-depreciating humor about folks who put Hitler mustaches on his picture and say he's 'not as cool as he once was.'"
—The New York Times—"BP Prepares for 'Top Kill' Procedure": Later this morning, BP plans to "inject thousands of pounds of heavy drilling fluids into a five-story-tall stack of pipes to clog the well." The Times explains what's at stake:
A successful capping of the leaking well could finally begin to mend the company's brittle image after weeks of failed efforts, and perhaps limit the damage to wildlife and marine life from reaching catastrophic levels.
A failure could mean several months more of leaking oil, devastating economic and environmental impacts across the gulf region, and mounting financial liabilities for the company. BP has already spent an estimated $760 million in fighting the spill, and two relief wells it is drilling as a last resort to seal the well may not be completed until August.
The company says it will continue to make a live stream of the well available to the public during procedure, which has never been tried in such deep water. (Yesterday, Rep. Markey alleged BP would stop the feed today, while it attempted to clog the well.)
BP will continue to provide a live video feed from the seabed through the diagnostic testing and top kill, if undertaken. Throughout the diagnostic process and top kill procedure very significant changes in the appearance of the flows at the seabed will be expected. These will not provide a reliable indicator of the overall progress, or success or failure, of the top kill operation as a whole.
Hank Stuever, television critic for The Washington Post, reviews the so-called "spillcam" in today's paper:
Spillcam combines the dread of horror films with the monotony of Andy Warhol's eight-hour silent movie of the Empire State Building. There is no sound and nothing happens, except the inexorable, unending flow. You watch a little, and then a little more, and then you can't stop watching as a steady plume of dark brown oil belches upward from the floodlit, rocky ocean floor.
—ESNP—"NY/NJ has it down cold as XLVIII host": The 2014 Super Bowl will take place in the $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium, the NFL announced yesterday at its spring meeting. The average temperature in the Meadowlands area during February? Somewhere between 24 and 40 degrees.