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Republican presidential candidates gathered in Michigan last night for the latest in a series of nationally televised debates. The sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain received only a brief mention, with the crowd booing when Cain was asked to address them. Cain called the allegations "unfounded."
Herman Cain: "The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations. That’s what that’s about. They don’t care about the character assassination; they care about leadership and getting this economy growing and all of the others problems we face."
Despite the harassment controversy, Cain later made disparaging remarks about former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Herman Cain: "In the previous Congress, it was H.R. 3400, and what that does, it’s already been written. We didn’t hear about it in the previous Congress, because Princess Nancy sent it to committee, and it stayed there."
At the Wednesday night Republican national debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry committed what some are calling the biggest gaffe of the campaign so far. Perry began listing off the three government agencies he’s vowed to abolish if elected — but then couldn’t remember the third one on his list.
Gov. Rick Perry: "It’s three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the—what’s the third one there? Let’s see."
Ron Paul: "You need five."
Gov. Rick Perry: "Oh, five, OK. So, Commerce, Education and the—ummm..."
John Harwood: "EPA?"
Gov. Rick Perry: "EPA, there you go. No."
John Harwood: "Seriously? Is EPA the one you were talking about, or...?"
Gov. Rick Perry: "No, sir. No, sir. We were talking about the, ummm, agencies of government. EPA needs to be rebuilt, there’s no doubt about that."
John Harwood: "But you can’t name the third one?"
Gov. Rick Perry: "The third agency of government I would do away with, the Education, the, uhhh, Commerce, and let’s see. I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops."
Perry later said he was calling for the Department of Energy to be abolished. After the debate, he said he may not have remembered the agency, but he remembers his conservative principles.
The main suspect in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole has appeared before a U.S. military tribunal after nearly a decade behind bars at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Abd al-Nashiri was arraigned Wednesday on charges of overseeing the planning of the October 2000 bombing, which killed 17 sailors and wounded 40 others. His case marks the first death-penalty war crimes trial at Guantánamo under President Obama, despite Obama’s pledge to close the prison. Nashiri has claimed he confessed to the U.S.S. Cole bombing after undergoing repeated torture in U.S. custody. Chief prosecutor Mark Martins discussed the charges against Nashiri.
Mark Martins: "According to the charges referred for trial by military commission, Mr. al-Nashiri planned the complex series of attacks, known as the 'boats operation,' with Osama bin Laden and Khallad bin Attash, and carried them out with various forms of assistance and participation from 23 other named individuals. According to the charges, Mr. al-Nashiri made extensive preparations to implement the al-Qaeda 'boats operation,' some of which he accomplished personally and some of which he directed others to accomplish."
Iran is vowing to continue with its nuclear program, despite a new report from the U.N.'s atomic watchdog suggesting military-related activities. Tensions escalated this week after the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency cited what it calls "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear activities. On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would not retreat "an iota" from its nuclear program, including the enrichment of uranium. In Washington, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said the United States is considering a new push for sanctions.
Mark Toner: "These are very serious allegations, serious charges, and it’s incumbent on Iran to at last engage with the IAEA in a credible and transparent manner to address these concerns. And I don’t want to rule anything out, but I don’t want to rule anything in. We’re looking at ways that we can apply pressure. We’re always doing that."
In Syria, the opposition Syrian National Council has called for a general strike today in protest of the Assad regime’s deadly crackdown in Homs. More than 100 people have reportedly been killed after Syrian forces launched a new attack on Homs last week.
A Brazilian court has given the go-ahead for the construction of one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams, over the objections of local indigenous communities and environmentalists. On Wednesday, the court ruled construction of the Belo Monte Dam in the northern state of Para would proceed, despite a mass movement against the project. Federal prosecutors in the state had filed a motion to stop the construction until indigenous groups were consulted and given access to environmental impact reports. The Brazilian government claims the dam will provide clean, renewable energy and serve the country’s growing economy. Critics argue the dam will devastate wildlife and the livelihoods of some 40,000 people who live in the area.
James Murdoch, the son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has denied misleading a British parliamentary inquiry over the phone-hacking scandal that has consumed his father’s company, News Corporation. The younger Murdoch, News Corp.’s chief operating officer, faced lawmakers in London again today. Murdoch repeatedly denied he had been given evidence of "wider spread phone hacking" at a crucial meeting in 2008. Former News Corp. executives have testified James Murdoch was made aware of widespread phone hacking at his newspapers, contrary to his July testimony.
A U.S. Air Force mortuary has acknowledged that it dumped portions of the remains of troops in a local landfill after cremation. Officials from Dover Air Force base in Delaware, the main point of entry for the nation’s war dead, say the practice occurred from 2003 through 2008. They claim the procedure was limited to fragments or portions of body parts that could not be immediately identified or were later recovered from the battlefield. The officials say relatives of the fallen service members had approved some manner of disposal. Family members of the deceased troops, however, were reportedly not notified of exactly how their loved ones’ remains were disposed of. The base is now the subject of a federal investigation for gross mismanagement.
Jefferson County in Alabama has filed the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history after failing to refinance nearly $4 billion in debt. Jefferson County was mired in debt after reaching a complicated scheme with Wall Street investors to finance the cost of rebuilding a broken sewer system. The county reached an agreement with the Wall Street giant JPMorgan to refinance through interest rate swaps, but later sued the firm after its debt ballooned on what was initially a $250 million project.
Penn State has fired the iconic college football coach Joe Paterno, as well as the school’s president, in the fallout over the apparent cover-up of child sexual abuse committed by a former assistant coach. The school has been mired in controversy following the disclosure Paterno, school president Graham Spanier, and other top school officials failed to alert police after hearing that Paterno’s former defensive coach, Jerry Sandusky, had sexually abused young boys. An apparent witness disclosed the abuse in 2002, but Sandusky was not arrested until last week. Considered a legendary figure in U.S. sports, the 84-year-old Paterno was in his 46th year as Penn State’s football coach. He had initially announced plans to retire at the end of the season but was fired on Wednesday following a meeting of the Penn State board of trustees. Hours later, rioting broke out at a student protest in support of Paterno, with at least one vehicle overturned and damaged.
And this latest news, the homeless numbers in New York have reached their highest ever. More than 40,000 people are homeless in New York City.