The Federal Reserve and Treasury plan to announce a major new lending program today to jump-start frozen loan markets. The New York Times reports the program would, in effect, create a government bank to finance hundreds of billions of dollars in commercial debt, like car loans, student loans and business leases. The program is aimed at making it easier for consumers to borrow money.
This comes one day after President-elect Barack Obama introduced his new economic team, headed by Timothy Geithner, his choice for Treasury Secretary, and Lawrence Summers, who will serve as director of the National Economic Council in the White House. Obama instructed his team to draft a massive economic stimulus plan that would create 2.5 million jobs and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.
Sen. Barack Obama: "We can’t underestimate the challenges that we face. We also can’t underestimate our capacity to overcome them, to summon that spirit of determination and optimism that has always defined us and to move forward in a new direction to create new jobs, reform our financial system and fuel long-term economic growth. We know this won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. We’ll need to bring together the best minds in America to guide us, and that is what I’ve sought to do in assembling my economic team. I have sought leaders who could offer both sound judgment and fresh thinking, both a depth of experience and a wealth of bold new ideas, and, most of all, who share my fundamental belief that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street without a thriving Main Street."
ABC News is reporting Susan Rice has emerged as the leading candidate to be President-elect Obama’s nominee to be US ambassador to the United Nations. Rice was one of the Obama campaign’s top foreign policy advisers. Rice is a former member of President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council and a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. She opposed the US invasion of Iraq but has advocated for military action in case of humanitarian crisis. Two years ago, Rice co-authored an article advocating for US attacks against Sudan. She wrote that the United States should consider unilaterally striking Sudanese airfields, aircraft and other military assets. Rice wrote, “If the United States fails to gain U.N. support, we should act without it.”
200 psychologists have written President-elect Obama protesting the possible nomination of John Brennan to be either the National Intelligence Director or CIA Director. Brennan is a twenty-five-year veteran of the CIA and was one of George Tenet’s closest aides. Brennan has publicly supported the CIA’s policies of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" and extraordinary rendition. In their letter to Obama, the psychologists write, “His appointment would dishearten and alienate those who opposed torture under the Bush Administration.” Brennan served as Obama’s senior adviser on intelligence during the presidential campaign and is leading the review of intelligence agencies for Obama’s transition team.
A federal jury in Dallas, Texas has convicted the leaders of a Muslim charity on 108 criminal counts, including support of terrorism, money laundering and tax fraud. The five men all worked for the Holy Land Foundation, which was the largest Muslim charity in the United States until the Bush administration shut it down in 2001. The government accused the charity of funneling money to the Palestinian group Hamas. The defendants argued that the Holy Land Foundation was engaged in legitimate humanitarian aid for community welfare programs and Palestinian orphans. Holy Land’s former accountant Mohammad Wafa Yaish said, "It’s a sad day. It looks like helping the needy Palestinians is a crime these days."
The US military has decided to release Osama bin Laden’s former driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, from custody at Guantanamo and send him back to his home country of Yemen. Hamdan was held at the military prison for five years. In August, a military tribunal convicted him on two charges of material support for terrorism but acquitted him of the most serious charges. Military prosecutors had sought a thirty-year sentence, but he was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison, including the five he had already spent at Guantanamo Bay.
French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner says he has doubts about US President-elect Barack Obama’s plans to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Kouchner says plans to increase troop numbers would only work "in precise areas with a precise task." He says military power alone won’t stabilize the situation in Afghanistan.
Afghan police have arrested ten members of the Taliban for spraying acid at fifteen girls and teachers as they walked to school. Several girls suffered burns to the face and were hospitalized. One teenager couldn’t open her eyes days after the attack. The attacks were carried out by hard-line members of the Taliban who believe women should not attend school. One of the victims, sixteen-year-old Susan, has been left scarred on her face and hands. She was part of a group attacked in front of the school.
Susan: "It was 8:00 in the morning, I was going to school with my mother. Two men pulled up their motorbike towards us and threw acid on my face and my mother’s face."
Members of the Taliban have attacked and destroyed hundreds of schools across Afghanistan since 2001.
The website Talking Points Memo reports a candidate to become chair of the Republican National Committee was a longtime member of a white-only country club in South Carolina. Katon Dawson announced his candidacy for the RNC chair on Sunday. He is currently the South Carolina Republican chair. For twelve years, Dawson was a member of the Forest Lake Club. He resigned from the club in September after local media reports revealed that the country club’s deed had a whites-only restriction. The news come as the Republican Party struggles to attract African American supporters. At this year’s Republican National Convention, only thirty-six of the nearly 2,400 delegates were black, the lowest number in forty years.
Zimbabwe has blocked former President Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and South African human rights campaigner Graca Machel from entering the country to assess the humanitarian crisis there. The United Nations estimates about 6,000 people have contracted cholera in recent weeks in Zimbabwe, and almost 300 have died. Hundreds of people have crossed into South Africa seeking treatment. Jimmy Carter said the entire structure of the country has broken down.
Jimmy Carter: "We all have a feeling that the leaders of SADC do not know what’s going on inside Zimbabwe. I think they need to send in a team to make an assessment about what’s going on with the cholera, with starvation, with the crops, with the education system, with the monetary system, and report back to the leaders what’s going on. And I see no reason why the African Union, without interfering in the political negotiation, shouldn’t do the same thing. And I don’t see any reason why the United Nations shouldn’t also send a team into Zimbabwe, so the whole world will know what we have learned the last three days and what was just shared with you."