Israel is threatening to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip after breaking an informal ceasefire with a series of ongoing deadly attacks. On Wednesday, an Israeli air strike assassinated Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing. The bombing continued throughout the day and night, killing at least 13 civilians, including a baby and a mother pregnant with twins. More than 100 Palestinians were also wounded, and the toll is expected to rise. At least three Israelis were killed today when Palestinian rockets hit a residential building in the town of Kiryat Malachi, the first Israeli fatalities since the latest fighting began. Israel says it has launched the strikes to prevent Palestinian rocket fire, but the latest round of violence began last week when Israeli troops killed a young boy in Gaza. The situation has escalated since Saturday, when Palestinian militants fired at an Israeli military vehicle near the Israel-Gaza border. After Palestinian militant groups agreed to an informal truce on Monday, Israel broke two days of quiet on Wednesday. At the United Nations, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour condemned the Israeli government.
Riyad Mansour: "There is no justification whatsoever for assassinating any Palestinian by Israel, the occupying power. They have assassinated a number of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Our understanding, that the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza so far is nine, and the number is increasing, and there is a large number of people injured. The assassination was later on accompanied by attacks from the sea against the Gaza Strip from Israeli naval units, and they are mobilizing a large number of forces, ground forces, with the possibility of moving in the Gaza Strip."
Israel’s attack on Gaza marks its largest since the U.S.-backed operation that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians nearly four years ago.
President Obama appeared before reporters at the White House on Wednesday for his first news conference since winning a second term. During his remarks, Obama made some of his most extensive comments on climate change to date, acknowledging that his administration had fallen short in taking on global warming.
President Obama: "We haven’t done as much as we need to. So, what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers and elected officials, to find out what can — what more can we do to make short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary, a discussion, a conversation across the country about what realistically can we do long term."
Despite vowing to take action on climate change, Obama also said he would not advance any environmental policy that overrides economic concerns.
President Obama: "There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices. And understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused, on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody is going to go for that. I won’t go for that."
President Obama is coming to New York today to view the damage in Staten Island from Superstorm Sandy.
During the Wednesday news conference, President Obama said he would refuse to accept any extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in talks on averting the so-called fiscal cliff.
President Obama: "We cannot afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. What we can do is make sure that middle-class taxes don’t go up. We can eliminate loopholes and deductions that have a distorting effect on our economy. I believe that we have to continue to take a serious look at how we reform our entitlements, because healthcare costs continue to be the biggest driver of our deficits. So, there is a package to be shaped, and I’m confident that parties — folks of good will in both parties can make that happen."
The oil giant BP has reportedly agreed to pay a record criminal fine for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast. According to Reuters, BP will plead guilty to criminal misconduct and pay a massive penalty that will surpass the $1.3 billion record held by the drug giant Pfizer. The reported settlement could be unveiled as early as today.
The eurozone has officially fallen back into a recession in the face of the ongoing sovereign debt crisis. New figures today show European Union economies collectively saw a contraction of 0.1 percent between July and September, the second consecutive decline. The news comes one day after millions of workers across the European Union took part in an unprecedented general strike against austerity measures such as tax hikes and spending cuts. Dubbed the "Day of Action and Solidarity," it was the first time unions engaged in coordinated strikes across the European continent.
Two leading Republican senators are vowing to block any future promotion of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over handling of the deadly September 11th attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Rice has been mentioned as a potential successor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during President Obama’s second term. Flanked by fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Senator John McCain of Arizona vowed to thwart any Senate confirmation for Rice.
Sen. John McCain: "Let’s see what — let’s see what — what happens here, but we will do whatever is necessary to block the nomination that’s within our power as far as Susan Rice is concerned. While we await the findings and recommendations of the administration’s internal review of the Benghazi attack, it’s essential for the Congress to conduct its own independent assessment. Let me be clear: There is no credibility amongst most of us concerning the administration and the numerous controversies and contradictions that have been involved in their handling of this issue."
Responding at his news conference in Washington, President Obama defended Rice and issued a challenge to her detractors.
President Obama: "If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous."
Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California has announced plans to stay on as House minority leader through the 2014 mid-term elections. Pelosi disclosed the news as she stood with a group of incoming female members of Congress. NBC’s Luke Russert asked whether Pelosi’s move prohibited the Democratic Party from grooming a new generation of leaders.
Luke Russert: "Some of your colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on prohibits the party from having a younger leadership and will be hurt — and hurts the party in the long term. What’s your response?"
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: "Next, next. I guess, oh, you’ve always asked that question, except to Mitch McConnell."
The now former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is again under scrutiny for a leaked recording discussing President Obama’s supporters. In a conference call with donors, Romney blamed his loss on Obama’s "gifts" to various groups, including African Americans and Hispanics.
Mitt Romney: "What the president — president’s campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote. What the president did is he gave them two — two things: One, he gave them a big gift on immigration with the DREAM Act amnesty program; number two, put in place 'Obamacare,' which is — which basically is $10,000 a family. I mean, it’s a proven political strategy, which is, give a bunch of money from the government to a group and, guess what, they’ll vote for you. The giving away free stuff is a hard thing to compete with."
Romney went on to include young people and college students in his list, saying: "Forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift. Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, 'Obamacare' also made a difference for them because, as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people." Romney’s comments come days after his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, chalked up Obama’s victory to the president’s strength in "urban areas." But some top Republicans are already distancing themselves from Romney’s remarks. Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called Romney’s statements "absolutely wrong," adding, "We have got to stop dividing American voters."
Workers at a Wal-Mart supply warehouse in Elwood, Illinois, have filed charges of unfair labor practices against the site’s four operators. The workers walked off the job for three weeks this fall amidst allegations of sexual harassment, dangerous working conditions, unpaid wages and retaliation against organizers. The workers returned to the job after winning pledges for an end to workplace retaliation as well as the restoration of full back pay. Workers at a Wal-Mart supply warehouse in Mira Loma, California, are staging a one-day strike today over what they say are unsafe and unsanitary conditions. The actions in Illinois and California mark the latest in a series of protests against labor conditions at Wal-Mart sites nationwide.
A subsidiary of Bank of New York Mellon has agreed to pay a $210 million fine for concealing the fraud of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff. Prosecutors say Mellon’s Ivy Asset Management unit uncovered major problems with Madoff’s business but continued to profit from steering clients to his investments.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, nine environmental activists have been arrested after staging sit-ins at Bank of America branches to protest the company’s financing of the coal industry. Protesters temporarily shut down four branches across Charlotte — which is home to the banking giant’s world headquarters — accusing Bank of America of "bankrolling climate change." The action was part of a Rainforest Action Network campaign to confront the bank for its leading role in funding the coal industry, including the controversial practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.
And a Saudi national in the United States on a student visa has been sentenced to life in prison for an attempted bomb plot. Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari was convicted in June of purchasing chemicals and equipment with the intent to make a bomb. His alleged targets included former President George W. Bush and three former U.S. military officials stationed at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq where scores of Iraqis were tortured.