In other news Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arizona's new immigration law, and a blistering heat wave gripped much of the country, with temperatures topping 100 degrees in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
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The U.S. Justice Department has gone to court to block Arizona's new immigration law. The department filed suit today in Phoenix. It charged, the state statute encroaches on federal authority over immigration. The law in question makes it a state crime not to have an alien registration document, something no other state has done. It is due to take effect on July 29.
Oil stained more of the U.S. Gulf Coast today. Officials reported crude in various forms has penetrated deep into the sensitive waterways of lower Louisiana.
Two-and-a-half months into the Gulf spill, there were fresh signs that its reach is still spreading. Oily sheens and tar balls were spotted in Lake Pontchartrain, the giant saltwater estuary to the north of New Orleans. Oil moved through the Rigolets, an eight-mile waterway that passes from the Gulf into the lake.
Crews put a barge in place to try to slow the spread, but:
DR. JOHN LOPEZ, director, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation: It's not going to stop the oil entirely. You get very strong currents through the Rigolets. And you need to actively skim it.
Tar balls have also been found on Texas beaches near Galveston. That means all five Gulf states are now oil-affected. In Houston today, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, national incident commander, said the first of two relief wells is now within 265 feet of the damaged well.
ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, national incident commander: Right now, they have what they call a depth-to-distance time graph. They are about seven days ahead on that graph right now.
However, the last part of this is the slowest, most meticulous part. They don't want to inadvertently nick that well on the way down. They want to have this be a controlled entry into the wellbore. I'm sticking with mid-August. I learned in dealing with you people over the last 70-plus days, it's better to underpromise and overdeliver.
Meanwhile, out in the Gulf, efforts continue to collect and burn the leaking crude. BP said the operation accounted for nearly a million gallons over the last day, and a third ship was brought in to begin capturing oil. BP said that will enable it to double its collection capacity to more than two million gallons per day. It's estimated up to 2.4 million gallons a day are blasting from the seafloor.
A heat wave gripped much of the country today, stretching from Maine to Texas and breaking records. The worst of the heat and humidity was concentrated on the Eastern Seaboard. Temperatures topped 100 degrees in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. Fourteen Northeastern states were under heat advisories. Electric utilities reported spotty outages, but said they had ample capacity overall.
The price of mailing a letter may be going up again next year. The Postal Service today announced a rate increase of 2 cents to offset growing losses. The price of a first-class stamp would rise to 46 cents. If the independent Postal Rate Commission approves, the increase will take effect in January.
Queen Elizabeth II addressed the United Nations today for only the second time during her long reign. She last made an appearance at the U.N. in 1957, just four years after she was crowned. Today, she appealed for world unity and peace.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II, United Kingdom:
For over six decades, the United Nations has helped to shape the international response to global dangers. The challenge now is to continue to show this clear and convening leadership, while not losing sight of your ongoing work to secure the security, prosperity and dignity of our fellow human beings.
Later, the queen paid tribute to victims of the 9/11 attacks with a stop at ground zero in Lower Manhattan.
A government minister led hundreds of protesters in a siege of the U.N. compound in Sri Lanka today. They demanded that U.N. officials stop an investigation of alleged abuses during Sri Lanka's civil war. Protesters burned effigies of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who established the investigative panel. Up to 200 U.N. staffers were trapped in the compound for much of the day.
In Lebanon, thousands of people marched in South Beirut for the funeral of the country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. The sea of mourners filled the streets as the ayatollah's coffin was carried from his home to a mosque for burial. He died Sunday at 75 after a long illness. Fadlallah had denied being a spiritual leader of the militant group Hezbollah.