Stocks plunged on Wall Street Thursday for a second straight day. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell to its lowest level in eleven years. The S&P 500 is now more than 52 percent below its October 2007 record high, making the current bear market the second biggest on record. The current decline is exceeded only by the 83 percent drop between 1930 and 1932.
Stocks in Citigroup fell a record 26 percent yesterday as concern grows over the future of what was once the nation’s largest bank. Citigroup shares have lost half their value this week even though the government injected $25 billion into the bank last month. Citigroup’s board is holding an emergency meeting today. The Wall Street Journal reports the board is considering selling off the entire company to another bank or to sell off parts of the firm. Earlier this week, Citigroup announced plans to lay off 52,000 workers.
The number of workers seeking unemployment benefits has reached a sixteen-year high. Last week, 542,000 workers filed claims for unemployment benefits. More than ten million people are now unemployed and looking for work. On Thursday, the Senate approved a measure to provide up to three months of extra benefits for those whose unemployment benefits have run out or are about to expire.
Congressional leaders have decided to hold off on approving a $25 billion bailout of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have given the automakers until December 2 to submit a new proposal.
Nancy Pelosi: "It is all about accountability and about viability. Until we can see a plan where the auto industry is held accountable and a plan for viability on how they go into the future, until we see the plan, until they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money. And that is really where we are with this."
The Associated Press reports President-elect Barack Obama plans to nominate Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State after Thanksgiving. The two met privately last week to discuss the idea of Clinton becoming the nation’s top diplomat.
Meanwhile, the Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker has withdrawn from consideration as Commerce secretary.
On Capitol Hill, House Democrats have voted to oust Michigan’s John Dingell as chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee and replace him with California’s Henry Waxman. As the new committee chair, Waxman is expected to help advance President-elect Barack Obama’s proposals to curb global warming, develop alternative fuels and expand health insurance coverage. John Dingell had been the top Democrat on the committee for nearly thirty years. Dingell represents greater Detroit and has close ties to the auto industry. He has long been criticized for slowing or blocking action on stricter vehicle emissions standards, fuel-economy improvements and other regulatory efforts. Congressman Waxman spoke to reporters after he won the secret ballot vote.
Rep. Henry Waxman: “The prevailing view in the caucus and the argument we made was that we needed a change for the committee to have the leadership that will work with this administration and members in both the House and the Senate in order to get important issues passed in healthcare, environmental protection, in energy policy.”
In Minnesota, the statewide recount continues in the race between incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken. With 46 percent of the ballots now recounted, Coleman’s lead over Franken has fallen to just 129 votes out of 2.8 million cast.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey was hospitalized last night after he collapsed during a speech. Early this morning, a Justice Department spokesperson said he was “conscious, conversant and alert.”
A federal judge has ordered the immediate release of five Algerians held at Guantanamo. US District Judge Richard Leon said the government’s evidence linking the men to al-Qaeda was not credible, because it came from a single, unidentified source. The men have been held for seven years.
The Washington Post reports the Bush administration is finalizing changes to the Endangered Species Act that would ensure that federal agencies would not have to take global warming into account when assessing risks to imperiled plants and animals. The new regulations would eliminate a longstanding provision of the Endangered Species Act that requires an independent scientific review of any federal project that could affect a protected species. On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino dismissed the importance of the Endangered Species Act.
Dana Perino: “I know conceptually what we support, and I know that the Endangered Species Act is a tangled web that doesn’t actually help support any species, including our own.”
Six teenagers have been arraigned in Long Island, New York on multiple counts of gang assault and hate crimes in connection with the stabbing death of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant. Prosecutors said the teenagers regularly got together to hunt down and hurt Latino men. On the same day Lucero was murdered, some of the teenagers shot a Latino man with a BB gun. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said, “To them, it was a sport. We know for sure that there are more victims out there.” A seventh defendant, Jeffrey Conroy, has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter as a hate crime in Lucero’s death.
In California, the City of Los Angeles is considering paying nearly $13 million to settle police brutality claims filed by immigration protesters and bystanders who were injured by the police at a May Day immigration protest last year. The Los Angeles Times reports that if the settlement is approved by the City Council, it would would mark one of the largest payouts ever made to resolve LAPD misconduct.
An internal CIA investigation has determined agency officials lied to members of Congress and withheld crucial information about the CIA’s role in the downing of a civilian plane in Peru in 2001. An American missionary and her infant daughter died when a Peruvian military jet shot down their plane after a CIA surveillance aircraft had mistakenly identified their plane as a drug-smuggling aircraft.
A new report has found more than ninety trade unionists were murdered last year while defending workers’ rights. Thirty-nine of the murders occurred in Colombia. Guy Ryder of the International Trade Union Confederation said, "Governments have failed to do enough to protect workers’ rights, either at home or in their international diplomatic, economic and trade relations.”
The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting a former Marine has revealed the federal government created dossiers on Muslims and Arabs living in Southern California. Many of the files are said to have centered on the meeting spots of “people of interest,” including places of worship, businesses and travel plans. Gary Maziarz, a former Marine intelligence specialist, said he gave the secret government files to an antiterrorism watch group. Maziarz pleaded guilty last year to mishandling classified material and stealing government property. Until this week he had never spoken publicly about the secret dossiers.
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has publicly claimed he pushed Barack Obama not to allow former President Jimmy Carter to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Dershowitz told Shalom TV, "Barack Obama had to make a choice between his Jewish supporters and his anti-Israel supporters like Jimmy Carter, and he did not choose Jimmy Carter... It was a good decision, a wise decision, a moral decision." Dershowitz has harshly criticized Carter for publishing the book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
And a nineteen-year-old Army private named Tony Anderson has been sentenced to fourteen months of confinement after he refused to deploy to Iraq. Anderson said, “I don’t regret following my conscience. I know there must be consequences for my actions, and I must accept this fact."