President Obama is vowing to take executive action on immigration reform before the end of the year. In a news conference one day after the Republicans’ midterm victory, Obama said he had waited long enough.
President Obama: "I think it’s fair to say I’ve shown a lot of patience and have tried to work on a bipartisan basis as much as possible, and I’m going to keep on doing so. But in the meantime, let’s figure out what we can do lawfully through executive actions to improve the functioning of the existing system."
Obama had previously vowed to take executive action before the end of the summer, but then delayed his move until after the midterms. Although he offered no details, Obama’s executive action will likely include a reprieve to slow his record-breaking deportations.
President Obama will host congressional leaders from both parties at the White House on Friday. In response to the Republican victory in the Senate and gains in the House, Obama said he has received a message both from voters who turned out and the many more who stayed home.
President Obama: "As president, I have a unique responsibility to try and make this town work. So, to everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too."
After the midterms, Republicans’ top priorities will be to push through approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would carry carbon-intensive tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. Obama said he is open to working with Republicans on energy issues, but will await the State Department’s review process on Keystone.
President Obama: "On Keystone, there’s an independent process. It’s moving forward, and I’m going to let that process play out. … When I travel to Asia or I travel to Europe, their biggest envy is the incredible, home-grown U.S. energy production that is producing jobs and attracting manufacturing, because locating here means you’ve got lower energy costs. So our energy sector is booming. And I’m happy to engage Republicans with additional ideas for how we can enhance that."
In his own news conference one day after the midterms, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said approving the Keystone XL and cutting corporate taxes will top his agenda in 2015.
Sen. Mitch McConnell: "We need to embrace the energy revolution that is going on in our country, promote it. It’s hugely advantageous to America, not only in the area of energy independence, but employment. I mean, the employment figures connected with Keystone are stunning. ... The president has indicated he is interested in doing tax reform. We all know having the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world is a job exporter. All this talk about job exportation, what’s exporting jobs is having the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world."
McConnell is the presumptive Senate majority leader for when Republicans take control of Congress in January.
The head of the World Health Organization has said the pharmaceutical industry is partially to blame for the rapid spread of Ebola. Speaking at a conference in Benin, Margaret Chan said drug companies have shunned efforts to find a cure for Ebola because it impacts impoverished countries unable to afford expensive drugs.
Dr. Margaret Chan: "The research and development incentive is virtually non-existent. A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay. WHO has been trying to make this issue visible for ages. Now people can see for themselves."
Chan also faulted the absence of effective public health systems in the West African countries worst hit by Ebola: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The latest U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria have reportedly targeted the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said overnight bombings targeted Nusra in the northwest. Al-Nusra scored a major victory last week after seizing control of Syria’s Idlib province.
Unrest continues in the occupied West Bank and in Jerusalem. On Wednesday, a Palestinian driver killed an Israeli pedestrian and wounded 14 others after ramming his car into them on the side of a road. Three Israeli soldiers were also wounded in a similar incident nearby. The attacks reportedly came in response to Israeli forces storming the al-Aqsa compound after Palestinians protested the planned entry of extremist Israelis. The clashes come as Israel announced plans for 500 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem. Jordan has recalled its ambassador to Israel in protest of what it calls an "increasing and unprecedented Israeli escalation." At the United Nations, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour asked the Security Council to intervene.
Riyad Mansour: "This explosive situation, in which extremists in the Israeli government and among the settlers and other extreme groups are trying to push the region into religious confrontation, and that attitude and behavior will take us to a place where we don’t know the results of that intensification of this sensitive situation in occupied East Jerusalem."
Tens of thousands of people have marched in Mexico City and across Mexico to protest the disappearance of 43 students missing from the southern state of Guerrero for nearly six weeks. Demonstrators have denounced the inability of the federal and state governments to find the students and continued to call for them to be returned alive. The students disappeared following a police ambush, and it is believed they were turned over to a drug gang with close ties to the mayor of Iguala and his wife. The fugitive couple were arrested this week, but there is still no news of the students’ whereabouts. One group of demonstrators has been marching from Iguala toward Mexico City. Speaking in the state of Morelos, Israel Castrejon compared the disappearance to the Tlatelolco student massacre of 1968.
Israel Castrejon: "The reason for this march is to stop the homicide of youths that has existed for the past two decades. It seems that being young is a crime. It seems they want to exterminate this generation, as they did 48 years ago."
In New York City, about 100 people gathered to block traffic in front of the Mexican Consulate to demand justice for the missing students and protest the role of the Mexican government. Three people were reportedly arrested. Speaking at a news conference, Juan Carlos Ruiz of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island said U.S. support for the Mexican military is fueling violence in Mexico.
Juan Carlos Ruiz: "Today we can say this military aid is responsible for the massacres of our students, for the criminalization of our kids, for the disappearance of an unknown number of people. It is estimated that 80,000 people are missing since former President Calderón declared his war on drugs — at least 80,000. But we know that there are more than 120,000, or even 150,000. Mexico, the Mexican land, is a cemetery."
A Kuwaiti national has been freed from Guantánamo Bay after a nearly 13-year imprisonment without charge. Fawzi al Odah is only the second low-level Guantánamo prisoner to be freed this year despite President Obama’s declared intent to close the prison. Odah has been repatriated to Kuwait, where he will remain in custody for one year.
Marriage equality bans have been overturned in two more states. On Wednesday, a circuit judge in St. Louis struck down Missouri’s LGBT marriage ban as unconstitutional. The ruling came one day after a federal judge overturned a similar ban in Kansas. More than 30 U.S. states now allow marriage equality.
The death sentence of a Texas prisoner has been overturned after prosecutors withheld evidence that could have aided his defense. Alfred Dewayne Brown was convicted in 2005 for the murder of a Houston police officer in a robbery gone wrong. Brown has always maintained his innocence. His death sentence was nixed after lawyers found records of a phone call he had said he made from his girlfriend’s apartment at the time of the murder. Prosecutors say the phone record was withheld by accident, not intentionally. The case now goes to a lower court, but it’s unclear if prosecutors will retry it.
The top state energy lobby in Texas has filed an injunction to stop a voter-approved ban on hydraulic fracking. Voters in Denton made their town the first in Texas to ban the drilling technique by approving a ballot measure on Tuesday. Denton is known as the birthplace of fracking, which is widely used throughout Texas. The Texas Oil & Gas Association says the ban "is inconsistent with state law." Anti-fracking measures were also approved Tuesday in Athens, Ohio, and California’s San Benito County. In a statement, the Center for Biological Diversity said: "As voters showed, if regulators won’t protect them from fracking pollution, local communities will use the ballot box to protect themselves."
Voters in Richmond, California, have rejected an attempt by the oil giant Chevron to influence the local city government. Chevron spent more than $3 million to back a slate of pro-Chevron candidates for mayor and city council in Tuesday’s election. But none of Chevron’s candidates won, with voters electing the candidates the company opposed. The vote comes two years after a massive fire at Chevron’s oil refinery in Richmond sent 15,000 residents to the hospital. According to one tally, Chevron’s failed effort cost it $72 per voter.