Congressional leaders and the White House agreed Sunday to a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry. The biggest bailout in US history won the tentative support of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama. The House will vote on the bailout today. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the $700 billion package as a buy-in, not a bailout.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: "The party is over. The era of golden parachutes for high-flying Wall Street operators is over. No longer will the US taxpayer bail out the recklessness of Wall Street. And that’s the news that this legislation brings. Again, we want to insulate the American taxpayer, Main Street, everyday Americans, from the crisis on Wall Street. People have to know that this isn’t about a bailout of Wall Street. It’s a buy-in so that we can turn our economy around."
The Democrats backed down on their demand to give bankruptcy judges authority to alter the terms of mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure. Democrats also failed in their attempt to steer a portion of any government profits from the package to affordable-housing programs. According to the economist Dean Baker, the bailout includes no serious restrictions on CEO pay. However, the Democrats succeeded in securing some oversight for the program and some control of the finances. Under the proposed bill, half of the $700 billion will be immediately available, but the other half could be held back by Congress.
The agreement on the bailout comes as the financial crisis continues to spread across the globe. Earlier today, Britain seized one of the country’s largest mortgage providers, the Bradford & Bingley bank. Meanwhile, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have announced a $16 billion bailout for the financial services giant Fortis. Here in the United States, Citigroup is reportedly preparing to buy Wachovia bank.
On Friday night at the University of Mississippi, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama squared off on the economy and foreign policy in the first of three presidential debates. No third party candidate was invited to participate. Senator Barack Obama tied the current economic crisis to the Republican Party’s economic views.
Sen. Barack Obama: "Now, we also have to recognize that this is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policies promoted by George Bush, supported by Senator McCain, a theory that basically says that we can shred regulations and consumer protections and give more and more to the most, and somehow prosperity will trickle down. It hasn’t worked. And I think that the fundamentals of the economy have to be measured by whether or not the middle class is getting a fair shake."
During the debate, Obama referenced President Bush ten times. McCain never said Bush’s name. When asked about the economic crisis, John McCain called for a sweeping spending freeze.
Sen. John McCain: "How about a spending freeze on everything but defense, veteran affairs and entitlement programs."
Jim Lehrer: "Spending freeze?"
McCain: "I think we ought to seriously consider, with the exceptions of caring for our veterans, national defense and several other vital issues."
The foreign policy portion of the debate focused on Iraq, Iran, Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Sen. McCain: “I’m not prepared at this time to cut off aid to Pakistan. So I’m not prepared to threaten it, as Senator Obama apparently wants to do, as he has said that he would announce military strikes into Pakistan. We’ve got to get the support of the people of — of Pakistan. He said that he would launch military strikes into Pakistan. Now, you don’t do that. You don’t say that out loud. If you have to do things, you have to do things, and you work with the Pakistani government.”
Senator Barack Obama challenged McCain.
Sen. Obama: “Nobody talked about attacking Pakistan. Here’s what I said. And if John wants to disagree with this, he can let me know, that if the United States has al-Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out. Now, I think that’s the right strategy; I think that’s the right policy. And, John, I — you’re absolutely right that presidents have to be prudent in what they say. But, you know, coming from you, who, you know, in the past has threatened extinction for North Korea and, you know, sung songs about bombing Iran, I don’t know, you know, how credible that is. I think this is the right strategy.”
After the debate, Obama’s running mate Joseph Biden appeared on almost every newscast offering post-debate commentary. McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin gave no interviews. However, she did make headlines on Saturday. During a campaign stop in Philadelphia, a graduate student at Temple asked her whether the US should cross the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Palin said absolutely.
Sarah Palin: “If that’s what we have to do to stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should.”
On Sunday, Senator McCain attempted to retract Palin’s comment. The first and only vice-presidential debate will be held on Thursday at Washington University in St. Louis.
In Dayton, Ohio, two people were hospitalized Friday after someone gassed a mosque filled with over 300 Muslims celebrating the last ten days of Ramadan. Two men were seen spraying an unknown chemical into a room where babies and children were being kept while their mothers were engaged in prayers. People inside the mosque soon began coughing, tearing up and losing their breath. One adult and one child were take to a local hospital, others were treated at the scene. Tarek Sabagh, a board member of the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, said, "It’s very disturbing. Something like this has never happened before."
In Ecuador, voters appear to have approved a new constitution, handing a major victory to President Rafael Correa. The website UpsideDownWorld reports the new constitution will expand access to healthcare, social security and education, while increasing state control over the economy. On Sunday, Rafael Correa celebrated the victory.
Rafael Correa: "Today, Ecuador has decided on a new nation. The old structures are defeated. This confirms the citizens’ revolution."
A Justice Department investigation has recommended former attorney general Alberto Gonzales not be referred to a federal grand jury for his role in the 2006 firings of nine US attorneys. But the New York Times reports the probe offers a blistering critique of the political motivations that led to the firings. The report is expected to produce evidence that Gonzales’s chief of staff Kyle Sampson was carrying out directives crafted by more senior officials, including Gonzales, White House adviser Karl Rove, and former White House counsel Harriet Miers.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate has approved a $634 billion spending bill. The legislation includes a $25 billion bailout for the auto industry, the elimination of a longstanding ban on offshore oil drilling and a record Pentagon budget totaling nearly half a trillion dollars.
Meanwhile, the House voted Saturday to approve a deal to lift a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with India. The deal will allow India to expand its nuclear power industry without requiring it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty as other nations must.
The New York Times reports the US Army has deployed an advanced US radar system on Israeli soil allowing early detection of incoming ballistic missiles. The system is being set up in the Negev Desert and will be operated initially by an American crew.
In Syria, a car bomb in a suburb of Damascus killed at least seventeen civilians on Saturday. The bombing occurred near a Shiite shrine frequently visited by Iranian and Iraqi pilgrims. Earlier today, at least five people died in a suspected car bomb attack on a military bus carrying soldiers in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
Afghanistan’s most prominent female police office has been assassinated in the city of Kandahar. Malalai Kakar was the head of the city’s department on crimes against women. The Taliban claimed credit for the killing. About 750 police officers have been killed in Afghanistan in the past six months.
Here in New York, Nepal’s new prime minister, Prachanda, spoke on Friday night for the first time since successfully leading the decade-long Maoist rebellion against Nepal’s monarchy. Last month, Prachanda was overwhelmingly voted in as Nepal’s new premier by lawmakers in the country’s constitutional assembly. Earlier this year, Nepal’s national assembly voted to abolish the monarchy.
Prachanda: "This is a new beginning, which will give every man and woman the freedom and opportunity by creating social, economic and political justice and fairness to all. And the basis of all this development would be multi-party competition, democratic dispensation, inclusive state, rule of law, freedom of press and opinions, and the respect for fundamental human rights, above all. We will ensure a just, prosperous, stable and peaceful society."
In Mexico, police have arrested a man for raping and killing an American activist named Marcella Grace Eiler. She had spent time in Oaxaca as an international human rights observer, photographer, journalist and translator. She was also connected to Arizona Indymedia.
Police in Seattle arrested twenty-four people Friday after a raid on a homeless encampment known as Nickelsville. Over the past week, homeless residents had set up 150 tents on property owned by the city. On Saturday, a new tent city was set up in a nearby parking lot. Homeless advocates say tent cities are increasingly showing up across the country due to the foreclosure and economic crisis.
And the Oscar-winning actor, philanthropist and activist Paul Newman has died at the age of eighty-three. His films included The Hustler, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Color of Money. Newman was also a longtime antiwar, anti-nuclear and women’s rights activist. Paul Newman once said being named on Richard Nixon’s enemies list was the “highest single honor I’ve ever received." In 1969, he spoke out in favor of the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.
Paul Newman: "We’re here to support one of the main themes of the moratorium, which is business as usual. We are actors, but I don’t remember that anybody asked us to give up our citizenship papers when we became actors. And so, we’re here obviously as citizens protesting what we feel is the tragedy of the Vietnamese war. So, we are asking, respectfully, that people just don’t go to our films on November 14th."