A federal judge in New York has rejected a proposed $285 million settlement between Citigroup and the Securities and Exchange Commission over Citigroup’s sale of toxic mortgage debt. Judge Jed Rakoff said the proposed settlement was "neither reasonable, nor fair, nor adequate, nor in the public interest." Rakoff described Citigroup as a recidivist and said a $285 million settlement was "pocket change to any entity as large as Citigroup." The SEC had accused Citigroup of selling a $1 billion of deceptive mortgage-backed securities in 2007 just as the nation’s housing bubble was about to burst. Citigroup made $160 million in profits on the transaction, while investors lost $700 million.
The Bloomberg news agency has revealed new details about how the Federal Reserve secretly committed more than $7 trillion to save the nation’s largest banks in 2008 and 2009. According to a new report, the banks made an estimated $13 billion in income because the government was loaning money at below-market rates. Recipients of the secret loans included Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley.
A United Nations commission of inquiry has accused the Syrian military and security forces of committing crimes against humanity including murder, torture and rape. Paulo Pinheiro served as chair of the U.N. inquiry.
Paulo Pinheiro, chairperson, independent commission of inquiry: "The commission has concluded based on its findings that members of the Syrian army and security force have committed crimes against humanity in their repression of a largely civilian population in the context of a peaceful protest movement. These crimes include murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence of comparable gravity, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty, which occur in different locations."
The United Nations estimated Syrian security forces have killed at least 3,500 people, including 256 children, since the pro-democracy protests began. One soldier testified that he had defected after witnessing the shooting of a two-year-old girl by an officer who said that "he did not want her to grow into a demonstrator."
Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis are demonstrating across the country today to demand President Ali Abdullah Saleh face trial for charges ranging from corruption to deadly crackdowns on protests. Last week, Saleh signed a deal in Saudi Arabia in which he agreed to step down in return for immunity from prosecution for himself and his family. Mass protests have taken place since Saleh returned to Yemen Saturday night. On Monday, Yemeni Nobel Peace laureate Tawakkul Karman traveled to The Hague to ask the International Criminal Court to investigate Saleh.
Tawakkul Karman, Nobel Prize winner 2011: "I promised the people in Yemen, the youth, the whole people in Yemen, women, children, all them, I told them that after they announced that I win Nobel Peace Prize, that the first job I will do is taking the file of criminal—of crimes of Ali Saleh to the ICC. I am here to tell ICC they have to try Ali Saleh and all his regime when they kill people."
Egypt is in the second day of its first parliamentary elections since the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak earlier this year. Turnout was reported to be high on Monday. In other news, the Egyptian military is reportedly in the process of purchasing 21 tons of tear gas from the U.S. company, Combined Systems. Workers at the Suez seaport say an initial seven-ton shipment of the U.S.-made tear gas has already entered the port. Egyptian forces have used the tear gas in an attempt to break up the recent mass protests against military rule in Tahrir Square.
The United Nations is criticizing the newly installed Libyan government for holding about 7,000 prisoners without access to any legal process.
In Durban, South Africa, a major United Nations conference on climate change has entered its second day. The talks in Durban have been described as the last chance for world leaders to set another round of legally binding greenhouse gas emissions targets before the first stage of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012. Tasneem Essop works with the World Wide Fund for Nature in South Africa.
Tasneem Essop, World Wide Fund for Nature in South Africa: "We do run the risk of losing the Kyoto Protocol, the only rules-based system that we have. And what would be devastating is that the sum total of all of that could once again break down the trust that we have in the multilateral process, the only process that is inclusive and gives voice to the most vulnerable. So, we’re coming to this COP with all in play. This allows for the risks that I have spoken about, but also the opportunities that can exist for parties to, in fact, rise to the occasion. And the missing element, we believe, is political leadership."
Selwin Hart, a climate negotiator from Barbados, called on wealthy nations to do more to help protect member of AOSIS, the Alliance of Small Island States.
Selwin Hart, Alliance of Small Island States: "The physical consequences will be extinction for some of the small island developing states, and that is not a deal that we’re prepared to sign up to. The chair of AOSIS was quite clear. At the heart of any agreement should be the principle that no country is expendable. We cannot afford, and we should not—it is just morally and ethically indefensible to sign an agreement that will result in the demise of a single nation state."
Democracy Now! will be broadcasting from the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban next week.
Longtime Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts has announced he will not seek re-election.
Congressman Barney Frank: "I don’t want to be torn between a full-fledged campaign in a district with 325,000 new people and my obligation to the existing constituents, and that’s reinforced by the fact that I would have a hard time going to 325,000 new people, some of them in areas that I’m not very familiar with, like the Blackstone Valley, and say, 'By the way, I would like to be your congressman for two years,' because it was always clear that I would be retiring after the next term."
Barney Frank is the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. While serving as the chair of the committee, he successfully won passage of the Dodd-Frank Act that introduced new financial regulations on Wall Street. Frank has represented Massachusetts’ 4th congressional district for 30 years. In 1987, Frank came out as gay, becoming the first member of Congress to do so voluntarily.
A Georgia woman has come forward to say she carried on a 13-year affair with Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain. The allegation comes just weeks after it emerged that the National Restaurant Association had to pay settlements to two women who accused Cain of sexual harassment. Cain denied he had an affair but acknowledged being friends with the woman.
Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, the Occupy Oakland protester who was injured last month after authorities fired non-lethal projectiles into a crowd, has been released from the hospital. Yesterday IndyBay.org posted an interview with Olsen, who suffered a fractured skull and was placed in a medically induced coma as a result of his injury. Olsen says his thoughts are clear, but he has struggled to regain his speech. Olsen answered questions about the ongoing investigation into the incident that led to his hospitalization.
Scott Olsen, Iraq War veteran, Occupy protester: "You would think something like this wouldn’t take too long to find out who’s responsible, but it’s been over a month. How long does it take to see who fired this at me?"
Olsen went on to urge all parties involved in the Occupy protests, including law enforcement and demonstrators, to pursue nonviolence.
Scott Olsen, Iraq War veteran, Occupy protester: "To all of them, I would have to say, stay peaceful, because that’s what this is about. It’s about working together, working with one another, and it’s about being open with each other, and that’s how we can solve our problems."
An anticipated eviction of Occupy Los Angeles was averted Monday despite a deadline set by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Though thousands of protesters faced off against officers carrying batons and riot cuffs yesterday, just four arrests were made. City officials have not said whether they will make another attempt to clear the City Hall encampment.
The Israeli military has apologized to a photographer from the New York Times for strip-searching and humiliating her at a security checkpoint. Lynsey Addario says she was forced to go through an X-ray machine three times even though she told Israeli officials she was pregnant. Soldiers reportedly watched and laughed at her while she was forced through the machine. Addario said she had worked in more than 60 countries, but had never been treated with "such blatant cruelty." In March, Addario was among four reporters captured in Libya by forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi and held for six days.
The parent company of American Airlines has declared bankruptcy.
Court-appointed psychiatrists in Norway have reportedly concluded that mass killer Anders Behring Breivik is criminally insane. This means Breivik could be committed to a psychiatric institution indefinitely rather than face a jail term for killing 77 people in July.