HSBC to Pay $1.9B in Money-Laundering Case

The banking giant HSBC has agreed to pay a reported $1.9 billion fine to avoid money-laundering charges in the United States. A Senate report earlier this year found Mexican drug cartels and firms allegedly linked to terrorism obtain financial services from HSBC, which it said provided a "gateway for terrorists to gain access to U.S. dollars and the U.S. financial system." Among other allegations, the bank reportedly supplied a billion dollars to a firm whose founder had ties to al-Qaeda and shipped billions in cash from Mexico to the United States despite warnings the money was coming from drug cartels. Because of HSBC’s status as one of the world’s largest banks, state and federal officials reportedly agreed to seek the fine over concerns that criminal charges would have hurt the global financial system. The New York Times reports the HSBC settlement reinforces questions over whether "certain financial institutions, having grown so large and so interconnected, are too big to indict." The HSBC settlement is expected to be formally unveiled today.

Standard Chartered Bank Fined for Allegedly Flouting U.S. Sanctions

Another British bank, Standard Chartered, meanwhile has agreed to pay a $327 million fine to federal and New York prosecutors to settle allegations of hiding hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions linked to Iran, Sudan and other U.S.-blacklisted countries. Regulators say Standard Chartered flouted U.S. economic sanctions to hide tens of thousands of transactions over nearly a decade, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in fees. Standard Chartered paid a separate $340 million fine to New York banking authorities earlier this year.

Michigan Gov. Snyder to Sign Anti-Union Bills Amid Protests

Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign a pair of anti-union bills today that would make his the 24th so-called "right-to-work" state in the country. The measures were pushed through in a surprise vote last week that sparked major protests at the state Capitol in Lansing.

Obama Condemns "Right-to-Work" Laws in Michigan

During a visit to a Detroit-area auto plant Monday, President Obama voiced his opposition to the Republican effort to pass anti-union legislation.

President Obama: "What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions. We shouldn’t be doing that. These so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money."

Mass Protests Expected in Egypt; Demonstrators Attacked in Tahrir Square

Egypt is bracing for new protests today over President Mohamed Morsi’s hotly contested effort to hold a referendum on a controversial draft constitution. Ahead of today’s rallies, masked gunmen attacked opposition protesters camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square overnight, injuring more than a dozen.

Mali Prime Minister Resigns Following Arrest

The prime minister of Mali has resigned following his arrest by soldiers who backed a military coup earlier this year. Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra took over an interim government in April after a military coup the previous month. Diarra has been accused of pursuing a personal agenda while Mali grapples with a crisis in the north where Islamist fighters have claimed vast tracts of territory. He had backed the deployment of a West African intervention force to oust the militants, a plan opposed by former coup leader Amadou Sanogo, who is believed to have given the order for Diarra’s arrest.

Death Toll in Philippines Typhoon Tops 715

The death toll from last week’s massive typhoon in the southern Philippines continues to grow by the day, now topping 715 people, with hundreds more missing. Typhoon Bopha was the most southerly typhoon ever recorded in the western Pacific and the strongest to hit the Philippines this year. More than 115,000 homes were destroyed and a number of communities completely wiped out.

EU Leaders Call for Unity in Nobel Acceptance Speeches

Leaders of the European Union accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway on Monday with a call for continued unity in the long aftermath of two previous world wars. In their joint acceptance address, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy stressed the need for European integration while European Commission President José Manuel Barroso urged the continent’s involvement in seeking global peace, including in Syria.

Herman Van Rompuy: "It will also be for the next generation to take this common adventure further. I hope they will seize this responsibility with pride."

José Manuel Barroso: "As a community of nations that has overcome war and fought totalitarianism, we will always stand by those who are in pursuit of peace and human dignity. And let me say it from here today: The current situation in Syria is a stain on the world’s conscience, and the international community has a moral duty to address it."

Norwegian peace organizations and opponents of the European Union protested the award, citing the 27-nation bloc’s role in the global arms trade, austerity measures and foreign wars.

Colorado Enacts Law Allowing Recreational Pot Use

Colorado has enacted its new law allowing the recreational use of marijuana one month ahead of schedule. On Monday, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order legalizing marijuana’s recreational use following its approval by state voters in a ballot measure last month. Colorado follows Washington state, which enacted a similar law on Thursday.

In Reversal, Obama to Accept Corporate Funds for Inauguration

President Obama is under criticism for agreeing to accept corporate funding for his second-term inauguration next month. The New York Times reports donors have been offered a number of sponsorship options including the top tier of $1 million for institutions and $250,000 for individuals. The plan differs from Obama’s 2009 inauguration, when corporate, lobbyist and political action committee donors were banned and individual contributions were capped at $50,000. It also follows the Democratic National Committee’s move this summer to renege on a vow to stage its convention in Charlotte without corporate donors. Ironically, Obama’s corporate-sponsored inauguration will take place on January 21st — the two-year anniversary of the Citizens United ruling allowing unlimited outside spending on political campaigns. Criticizing the move, the transparency watchdog the Sunlight Foundation said: "[President] Obama said unlimited donations sully our democracy, threaten public service, and weaken representation — and he has now chosen to embrace them."

Former IMF Head Strauss-Kahn Settles Sexual Assault Suit with Hotel Maid

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has reached an out-of-court settlement with the New York hotel maid who accused him of sexually assaulting her in May 2011. The claim by Nafissatou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, forced Strass-Kahn to resign from the IMF and dashed his hopes of running for the presidency in his native France. After Monday’s hearing confirming the settlement, Diallo thanked supporters along with her attorney.

Nafissatou Diallo: "I just want to say I thank everyone who supported me, all over the world. I thank everybody. I thank God, and God bless you all. Thank you very much."

Kenneth Thompson: "Ms. Diallo is a strong and courageous woman who never lost faith in our system of justice. With this resolution, she can now move on with her life. And we thank everyone for their support and prayers."

Thousands Protest Chinese Rule of Tibet Outside U.N. Amid Rise in Self-Immolations

Thousands of people demonstrated outside the United Nations on Monday to call for an end to Chinese rule in Tibet. The protest comes after dozens of Tibetans protesting Chinese control have set themselves on fire in recent weeks. The group of largely Tibetan demonstrators in New York City accused China of increased brutality and repression. At least 92 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 — 28 of them in November alone. Among the most recent was a 17-year-old girl who died after setting herself alight in a Tibetan region of China Sunday evening.

Intel Report: Asia’s Power to Surpass U.S. and Europe Combined

A new report from the U.S. intelligence community says Asia will become more powerful than both the United States and Europe combined by the year 2030. The National Intelligence Council predicts Asia will possess more "overall power" when population size and other factors are taken into account. The Council also predicts China will surpass the United States to become the world’s largest economy within the next 20 years. Other projections include a looming global decline in food and water resources that could see nearly half the world’s population living in areas hit by "severe water stress."

Report: Bangladeshi Factory Billed Wal-Mart Subcontractor on Day of Fatal Fire

Details continue to emerge on the retail giant Wal-Mart’s ties to the Bangladeshi garment factory where 120 workers died in a fire last month. The New York Times has revealed that at least two subcontractors were using the Tazreen factory to make Wal-Mart goods when the fire occurred. Wal-Mart has claimed it cut ties to a lone company that had used the factory before the fire. But documents recovered in the fire’s remains show the factory had billed one of the two Wal-Mart subcontractors on November 24, the very day of the fire. Previously recovered documents have shown that five of the factory’s 14 production lines were devoted to making Wal-Mart apparel. Two people involved in worker safety oversight in Bangladesh have also revealed that Wal-Mart played a key role in blocking the improvement of electrical and fire safety at Bangladeshi factories during a 2011 meeting.


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