The United Nations says it’s been forced to halt food aid to 750,000 Palestinians because of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israel says it won’t allow food shipments into Gaza, because Palestinian militants continue to fire rockets at nearby Israeli towns. The rocket fire began last week after an Israeli missile attack killed six people. The top UN aid official in Gaza, John Ging, called the situation a "disaster."
John Ging: "The situation here in Gaza is desperate. There’s 750,000 refugees depending on handouts of food from UNRWA. Why? Because the economy has been destroyed in this period of time when crossings have been closed. These people have been reduced to be dependent on this food, and now we can’t even get that food into Gaza. It’s a disaster."
Meanwhile, the Israeli government has also forced Gaza’s main power plant to shut down after cutting off its fuel supplies. The plant provides between a quarter to a third of Gaza’s electricity. In addition to the food and fuel blockades, Israel has also barred foreign journalists from Gaza.
In Pakistan, at least eight militants have been killed in a US missile strike near the Afghan border. The attack in North Waziristan is the latest of nearly twenty US strikes in the past three months. More than 100 people have died in US attacks inside Pakistan.
President Bush is warning against stricter financial regulation as a result of the economic crisis. Speaking before the right-wing Manhattan Institute in New York Thursday, Bush said the Wall Street collapse should not be blamed on the radical free market policies he has espoused.
President Bush: "We must recognize that government intervention is not a cure-all. For example, some blame the crisis on insufficient regulation of the American mortgage market. But many European countries had much more extensive regulations and still experienced problems almost identical to our own. History has shown that the greater threat to economic prosperity is not too little government involvement in the market; it is too much government involvement in the market."
Bush made the claim despite overseeing one of the largest government interventions in the financial system in US history.
His comments come ahead of tomorrow’s gathering of world leaders for a global economic summit in Washington, D.C. Proposals on the table include establishing a new world body to supervise regulation of international financial institutions. President-elect Barack Obama won’t be attending. He’ll send former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Iowa Congress member Jim Leach to represent his transition team.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is set to unveil a new home foreclosure plan. Under the proposal, companies would receive financial assistance for agreeing to reduce monthly mortgage payments. FDIC officials say the proposal could help up to 1.5 million homeowners facing foreclosure. At a hearing on Capitol Hill, Christopher Dodd of the Senate Banking Committee urged major banks to focus on freeing up lending while curbing executive pay.
Sen. Christopher Dodd: "I think I speak for many members of this committee and the Senate in saying that we want to see more progress from your friends in the financial sector, more progress and foreclosure mitigation and affordable lending and in curbing excessive compensation. And if that progress is not forthcoming, then we are prepared to legislate, now, if possible, but next year, if necessary."
In labor news, the number of Americans to have recently lost their jobs has reached its highest level since the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. According to the Department of Labor, jobless claims last week increased by 32,000 to 516,000. It’s only the second time since 1992 that claims have topped 500,000.
President-elect Obama has announced he’ll resign his Senate seat as of Sunday. The move ensures Obama will miss next week’s lame-duck session of Congress, where lawmakers are expected take up new measures surrounding the financial crisis. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will choose Obama’s replacement for the remaining two years of his term.
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has apologized for his father’s comments about how Emanuel will influence Obama’s policies toward Israel. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper last week, Benjamin Emanuel said, “Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.” In a letter to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the younger Emanuel apologized on behalf of his family and said he would meet with the group at a later date.
More names continue to surface for Obama’s forthcoming cabinet picks. The latest rumors have Obama’s former rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Clinton, in the running for Secretary of State. Both the Clinton and Obama camps have declined to comment.
And the Bush administration has rejected a Russian proposal that both governments agree to drop plans for a missile deployment in eastern Europe. On Thursday, Russia said it would agree to not deploy missiles in Kaliningrad if the US agreed to scrap its plan to place missiles in Poland and a radar site in the Czech Republic. Defense Secretary Robert Gates rejected the move, calling it unacceptable.