The United States is teetering on the brink of default as tomorrow’s deadline to raise the debt ceiling approaches. On Tuesday, the Senate appeared to be moving closer to a deal to raise the debt limit and reopen the government, but House Republicans failed twice to produce their own plan. House Speaker John Boehner addressed reporters.
Rep. John Boehner: "Our leadership team met with our members today, trying to find a way forward, in a bipartisan way, that would continue to provide fairness to the American people under 'Obamacare.' There are a lot of opinions about what direction to go. There have been no decisions about what exactly we will do."
In Japan, at least 17 people are dead after a powerful typhoon whipped the eastern coast. It was the strongest typhoon to hit the area in 10 years. Typhoon Wipha raised fears about further damage to the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which has been plagued by radioactive leaks since it was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
In the Philippines, the death toll from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake has risen to 144, with nearly 300 more injured. The quake devastated the central islands of Bohol and Cebu, leveling homes and historic churches.
Negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear program are entering their second and final day in Geneva. On Tuesday, Iran gave a PowerPoint presentation outlining a proposal to curb its nuclear efforts in a bid to ease crippling economic sanctions. Iran’s deputy foreign minister said the other six countries attending the talks appeared receptive to Iran’s plan.
Abbas Araqchi: "We are very serious. We are not here to — just symbolically. We are not here to waste our time. We are serious for real target-oriented negotiations between Iran and the other side. And we believe that the plan that we have introduced has the capacity to reach that."
The Iranian and U.S. delegations also met separately for bilateral talks on Tuesday.
Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who has broken numerous stories about National Security Agency spying using documents from Edward Snowden, has announced he is leaving The Guardian newspaper. In a statement posted on his blog, Greenwald wrote that he had been "presented with a once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity that no journalist could possibly decline." Reuters reports Greenwald is joining a new media venture funded by eBay founder and multi-billionaire Pierre Omidyar.
In economic news, new research shows more than half of low-wage workers at fast-food restaurants rely on public assistance to survive — a rate double that of the overall workforce. According to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, low wages in the fast-food industry cost American taxpayers nearly $7 billion every year — that is more than the entire annual budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A companion report by the National Employment Law Project found McDonald’s alone costs Americans $1.2 billion annually by paying its workers insufficient wages. Last year the top 10 largest fast-food companies alone made more than $7.4 billion in profits.
A Yale University professor who won the Nobel Prize for Economics this week has warned rising economic inequality is the most pressing issue facing the United States. Robert Shiller, known for forecasting the dangers of the dotcom and housing market bubbles, was one of three Americans awarded the prize. He spoke on Monday.
Robert Shiller: "First of all, it’s not the financial crisis per se, but the most important problem that we are facing now, today, I think, is rising inequality in the United States and elsewhere in the world. This is a problem that has solutions. Many of them are financial solutions. Finance is substantially about risk management, and if it’s supplied right, if it’s democratized, that means if the real tools are made useful to real people and not to just a minority of people, it can help solve these problems."
The Public Accountability Initiative has revealed many purported experts who made the case for military strikes on Syria in the mainstream media had undisclosed ties to military contractors. The report identifies 22 commentators with industry ties that suggest a financial interest in war. While they appeared on television or were quoted as experts 111 times, their links to military firms were disclosed only 13 of those times. The study highlights the case of Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, who spoke on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and Bloomberg TV, and wrote a Washington Post op-ed urging U.S. strikes on Syria. In none of those appearances was it disclosed that Hadley serves as a director of Raytheon, the company that makes the Tomahawk cruise missiles widely touted as the weapon of choice for bombing Syria. Hadley earns more than $128,000 a year in compensation from Raytheon and holds more than 11,000 shares of Raytheon stock, which rocketed to an all-time high during the Syria debate.
A group of Guantánamo prisoners are vowing to continue their hunger strike against indefinite detention and prison conditions. The U.S. military stopped releasing data on the hunger strike last month after its tally of participants dropped to 19. But in an article translated by his lawyer and posted by Al Jazeera, Moath al-Alwi, a Yemeni man who has been in U.S. custody since 2002, says he has remained on hunger strike for nearly nine months despite painful force-feedings. He wrote: "The U.S. military prison staff’s intent is to break our peaceful hunger strike. The result can be read all over my body. It is visible on my bloodied nose and in my nostrils, swollen shut from the thick tubes the nurses force into them." Al-Alwi says some prisoners ended their hunger strikes to avoid force-feeding or give President Obama time to deliver on a renewed pledge to close Guantánamo. But "as for my brothers and me," he wrote, "we will remain on hunger strike. We pray that the next thing we taste is freedom."
A new analysis in the journal PLOS Medicine says close to half a million people have died as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Based on a survey of 2,000 Iraqi households, researchers estimated 405,000 people had died from the occupation, plus at least 55,000 more deaths missed because families had left Iraq. More than 60 percent of deaths were attributed to violence, with the rest stemming from the devastation of infrastructure and other war-related causes. Some earlier studies have put the toll of the Iraq invasion even higher. A 2006 report in The Lancet found 655,000 people died in the first 40 months of the war.
The Supreme Court appears poised to uphold Michigan’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action at state colleges and universities. An appeals court previously ruled the ban violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. But during oral arguments Tuesday, Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly claimed the 14th Amendment "protects all races," not "only the blacks."
The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear a case challenging the Obama administration’s major regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and factories. The court will review a federal appeals court decision that unanimously upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to curb carbon dioxide and other gases that fuel global warming.
In New York City, the trial has opened in a lawsuit by Chevron against the victims of its pollution in Ecuador. The Ecuadoreans won a landmark $18 billion judgment against Chevron in 2011 for widespread contamination resulting from toxic dumping by Texaco, which Chevron later bought. Now, Chevron is suing the victims and their U.S. lawyer, accusing them of using bribery. Critics say Chevron is attempting to evade accountability for environmental devastation they say led to some 1,400 deaths from cancer. Han Shan, a communications consultant for the victims, spoke as Ecuadorean villagers and their supporters rallied across from the courthouse Tuesday.
Han Shan: "Nearly every single person who’s been named as a defendant in Chevron’s retaliatory RICO suit has loved ones, has family members who have died, who have contracted cancer, who have suffered from birth defects and other oil-related illness due to Chevron’s contamination. This lawsuit essentially rubs salt in their wounds."
Florida has executed a convicted murderer using a never-before-used drug cocktail that appeared to make him retain consciousness longer as he died. William Happ was injected with the sedative midazolam, despite concerns it might not work properly and could inflict cruel and unusual punishment. Florida used the drug as a substitute for pentobarbital, which has been in short supply after the Danish manufacturer prohibited its use in executions. William Happ was pronounced dead 14 minutes after his execution began Tuesday evening. He reportedly appeared to remain conscious longer and to move more frequently while unconscious than prisoners given the old drug.
A rape case in Maryville, Missouri, has sparked national outrage after the charges were dropped against a well-connected high school football player and the victim’s family was forced to leave town amid daily harassment from residents. Last January, 14-year-old Daisy Coleman blacked out after being given large amounts of alcohol at a party. She was then allegedly raped while another boy videotaped the attack. Coleman’s 13-year-old friend was also allegedly raped the same night. Coleman was then dropped on her front porch, barely conscious, in 22-degree weather, where her mother found her in the morning. Despite evidence and interviews supporting the case against the accused, prosecutors dropped the felony charges. Coleman’s alleged rapist, Matthew Barnett, is the grandson of a powerful local political figure. In the months that followed, Coleman’s mother was fired — her boss admitted the case was a reason — and her children were routinely harassed and threatened. Later, the family’s house was burned down; the cause remains unknown. The case was described in the Kansas City Star and has since gone viral. On Monday, the hacker group Anonymous posted a video comparing Maryville to Steubenville, Ohio, where high school football players raped a 16-year-old girl.
Anonymous: "If Maryville won’t defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if justice system has abandoned them, then someone else will have to stand for them. Mayor Jim Fall, your hands are dirty. Maryville, expect us."
Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who was forced to resign amid claims of sexual harassment by at least 17 women, has pleaded guilty to felony imprisonment and battery. The charges stem from separate incidents where Filner allegedly put one woman in a headlock and restrained her, kissed another against her will and groped a third. Under the plea deal, Filner will avoid prison time, serving three months of home confinement and three years of probation.
The son of a Wisconsin Sikh temple president killed in a shooting rampage says he will run as a Democrat to challenge Republican Rep. Paul Ryan in next year’s congressional race. Amar Kaleka told the Associated Press he will file paperwork today to launch an exploratory committee. Kaleka is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker whose father, Satwant Kaleka, was among six worshipers killed last August when a white supremacist opened fire at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Among other issues, Kaleka says he has been angered by Congress’ failure to pass stronger background checks for gun buyers.
Voters in New Jersey are going to the polls today to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Newark Democratic Mayor Cory Booker is leading in the polls against Republican rival, Steve Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota and former state director of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie called the special election at a projected cost of $24 million rather than waiting three weeks until Election Day, when he himself is up for re-election.
The actor and activist Harry Belafonte is suing the children of his close friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The dispute centers on three documents Belafonte tried to put up for auction in 2008 in order to benefit a nonprofit that works with street gangs. The documents include King’s outline for a speech on Vietnam and notes that were in his pocket when he was assassinated. Belafonte says they were given to him rightfully by King and others. But they have been in legal limbo after King’s heirs claimed they were taken without permission, one of several attempts by the heirs to reclaim control of King’s documents. Belafonte is now asking a federal court to uphold his rightful ownership. He told The New York Times, "The papers are symbolic. It’s really about what happened to the children, and I feel that somewhere, in this one area, I really failed Martin."