Stock prices are continuing to fall sharply across the globe today following the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, two of the world’s largest investment banks. On Monday, the Dow Jones index fell 504 points. It was the Dow’s sixth-largest point drop ever. The shakeup on Wall Street has seen the 158-year-old investment bank Lehman Brothers declare bankruptcy and the 94-year-old Merrill Lynch being bought by Bank of America in a $44 billion deal. Forbes magazine said the United States is now facing perhaps the worst financial crisis since the banking panic that former President Franklin Roosevelt faced in 1933.
Fears are growing that the nation’s largest savings and loan, Washington Mutual, and the nation’s largest insurance company, American International Group, could also go under. On Monday, Washington Mutual had its credit rating cut to junk by Standard and Poor’s. The bank’s stock value has dropped 94 percent over the past year. And the Wall Street Journal reports the Federal Reserve has asked Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to help make up to $75 billion in loans available to AIG. Stock in AIG plummeted 61 percent on Monday.
On the campaign trail, Senator John McCain said that the fundamentals of the economy remain strong.
Sen. John McCain: "You know that there’s been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street. And it is — people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult time. And I promise you we will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall street. We will reform government. And this is a failure."
Senator Barack Obama accused McCain of subscribing to the same economic philosophy as President Bush.
Sen. Barack Obama: “For eight years, we’ve had policies that have shredded consumer protections, that have loosened oversight and regulation and encouraged out-sized bonuses to CEO’s while ignoring middle-class Americans. The result is the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression. And I certainly don’t fault Senator John McCain for these problems, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to, because it’s the same philosophy we’ve had for the last eight years.”
The death toll from Hurricane Ike has reached at least forty, as Texas mounts its largest-ever rescue effort. 2,000 people have been rescued from flooded areas. More than 30,000 evacuees are still living in public shelters. The hurricane devastated Galveston, Texas and parts of Houston, where the 100 mile-an-hour winds peeled sheets of steel off the city’s skyscrapers. In Galveston, flooding was eight to ten feet deep in some areas of the city. Hurricane Ike hit the heart of the nation’s oil and petro-chemical industry. The storm destroyed at least ten oil production platforms and damaged oil pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico. The local media in Galveston reports some of the floodwater is filled with oil and chemicals. Some two million Texans remain without power. Officials say it could be weeks before power is restored throughout the region. Meanwhile, the sheriff of Galveston Island is coming under criticism for refusing to evacuate 1,000 people being held at the county jail ahead of the hurricane.
Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles has refused to grant clemency to Troy Davis, even though seven of the nine witnesses against him have since recanted. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia criticized the board’s decision. He said, “This is a case that should disturb the conscience of us all.” Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed next Tuesday, September 23. Democracy Now! Coverage of Troy Davis Case
The Bush administration has announced it plans to supply the Israeli Air Force 1,000 new bunker buster bombs built by Boeing that are designed to penetrate fortified facilities located deep underground. The Jerusalem Post reports the bombs would likely be used in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress about the planned sale of the GBU-39 bombs over the weekend. Congress has thirty days to object to the $77 million deal.
Eight South American leaders met in Chile Monday for an emergency summit on the crisis in Bolivia. Bolivian President Evo Morales accused right-wing opposition governors of trying to stage a violent coup to topple his democratically elected government. On Friday, martial law was declared in the Bolivian province of Pando after up to thirty peasant supporters of Morales were killed by Peruvian and Brazilian mercenaries hired by the local governor. Morales accused the opposition of committing crimes against humanity.
Evo Morales: "It is important for some groups to listen to the feelings of South America, of its presidents, that call to return the institutions of the state taken over by some violent people in some cities. We hope that those groups respect human rights. We hope that those that called for independence and separation under the pretext of autonomy work toward the unity of all Bolivians."
At the emergency summit, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet voiced support for Bolivia’s government.
Michelle Bachelet: "We (South American leaders) declare that our respective governments energetically reject and will not recognize any situation that implies a civil coup, a break in institutional order, or anything that compromises the territorial integrity of the Republic of Bolivia."
Several Bolivian governors — with apparent backing from the United States — have rejected Morales’ efforts to rewrite Bolivia’s constitution, to break up big land holdings, to give parcels to poor Bolivian Indians and to redistribute the country’s revenues from lucrative gas fields. On Sunday, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg left Bolivia after being expelled by the Bolivian government. Morales accused Goldberg of inflaming the protests and helping the opposition.
Tension between the US and Venezuela is also on the rise as Venezuela has expelled the US ambassador in Caracas. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused the Bush administration of trying to overthrow Evo Morales.
Hugo Chavez: "They are toppling Evo in front of us. They are harassing an entire people in front of our noses, and we cannot remain with our arms crossed. We cannot stay quiet.”
Meanwhile, the Bush administration has expelled the Venezuelan ambassador from Washington and declared that two top Venezuelan intelligence officials have supported narco-terrorist activities in the region.
In election news, the Michigan Messenger reports the chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of a Republican effort to challenge some voters on Election Day. The Republican plan to challenge voters who have defaulted on their house payments is likely to disproportionately affect African Americans who are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. In Michigan, more than 60 percent of all sub-prime loans were made to African Americans. John McCain’s campaign stands to benefit in other ways, as well, from the burgeoning number of foreclosures in Michigan. McCain’s regional headquarters are housed in the office building of foreclosure specialists Trott & Trott. The firm’s founder, David Trott, has raised between $100,000 and $250,000 for the Republican nominee.
In Alaska, 1,500 people took part in a protest Sunday organized by a new group called Alaska Women Reject Palin. The Anchorage Daily News described the event as the largest demonstration in Anchorage in recent memory. Earlier in the day, the Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin spoke at a smaller rally of supporters in Anchorage.
In other campaign news, Barack Obama raised a record $66 million in August. Two months ago, Obama became the first major party candidate to opt out of the federal public financing system since the system started in 1976.
In Pakistan, security officials said Monday that Pakistani troops had fired on US military helicopters and forced them to turn back to Afghanistan. The incident took place near a village in the tribal region of South Waziristan where US commandos in helicopters conducted a deadly raid earlier this month.
In Los Angeles, about 200 Afghan Americans gathered in front of Federal Building on Sunday to protest the escalation of the US war in Afghanistan. Protesters included Dr. Nafisa Abdullah.
Dr. Nafisa Abdullah: "People are tired of war for thirty years, and I think we have to help them in terms of education, in terms of health, cultural exchanges, things of that nature — not to bring more armies and more soldiers in Afghanistan to go and kill." (Video Courtesy: Fatima Mojaddidy & Arash Yousufi)
In India, five small bombs ripped through several crowded markets in the span of twenty-five minutes in the Indian capital of New Delhi on Saturday. At least twenty-two people died, and ninety people were injured.
In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe has signed a power-sharing agreement with opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai. Under the deal, Mugabe has relinquished some of his powers for the first time in nearly three decades of rule. Under the deal, Tsvangirai said he will control the police force and chair a new council of ministers.
Morgan Tsvangirai: "I have signed this agreement because I believe it represents the best opportunity for us to build a peaceful, prosperous democratic Zimbabwe. I have signed this document because my belief in Zimbabwe and its peoples runs deeper than the scars I bear from the struggle. I have signed this agreement because my hopes for the future is stronger than the grief I feel for the needless suffering of the past year."
In other news from Africa, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has declared an oil war and has threatened all international industry vessels that approach the region. The group known as MEND said it is deploying hundreds of heavily armed fighters to carry out attacks on the oil industry in the Niger Delta. In recent days the militants attacked facilities owned by Chevron and Shell.
In Virginia, fourteen protesters were arrested Monday after they locked themselves to steel drums at the construction site of a coal-fired power plant being built by Dominion. Critics say the 585-megawatt power plant poses health risks to Appalachians and will result in an increase in mountaintop coal removal.
In news about the so-called war on drugs, police in the United States arrested a record 870,000 people last year on marijuana violations. That’s an average of nearly 2,400 people a day. Annual marijuana arrests have nearly tripled since the early 1990s.
In Vermont, three of the state’s largest unions have endorsed a third party candidate, Anthony Pollina, to be governor. The Vermont chapter of the National Education Association, the AFL-CIO and the Vermont State Employees Association have all endorsed Pollina over his Democratic and Republican rivals.
And third party political activist Peter Camejo has died at the age of sixty-eight. Camejo helped found the Green Party of California in 1991. He ran three times for governor of California and ran as Ralph Nader’s vice-presidential running mate in 2004. In a statement, Ralph Nader said, "Peter used his eloquence, sharp wit and barnstorming bravado to blaze a trail for 21st century third-party politics in the U.S.” In 2003, Peter Camejo appeared on Democracy Now! and called for elections to be decided by an instant runoff voting system.
Peter Camejo: “When I ran for governor in the recall, I got seven percent of the vote in San Francisco. We just got 47 percent of the vote last night. And what that means is people are perfectly willing to vote for a Green, and I think they would be perfectly willing to vote for a Dennis Kucinich or any of the candidates that are simply being rejected, but the electoral system doesn’t allow it when you don’t have a runoff system in place, where you don’t have IRV, instant runoff voting, a form through which people can vote. People are forced into trying to calculate their lesser evil choice and throw their support in that direction. Now, the Democrats do have in some states proportional representation, and people will feel free to vote for whoever they want. The electoral system isn’t set up right. That’s one thing that’s hurting those candidates that are expressing a more definitive antiwar view. The truth is, in the debate of the Democrats, it that the major candidates, the Democratic Party leadership, is not against what Bush has done; it’s how he’s done it. They wanted the UN to be the one that invades and takes over Iraq, and they want to share the spoils with Germany and France. They want more international allies when they do their illegal international creations of the empire. And, you know, I think in America we need to debate this. And one of the things, once the primaries are over, is there will be no voice against George Bush unless a Green runs.”