Stock markets around the globe have plummeted over growing fears of a worldwide recession. In Japan, the Nikkei market has seen its worst two-day decline in nearly two decades. In India, the country’s main stock index suffered its second-worst single-day tumble in history. In Germany, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange dropped seven percent Monday, its steepest one-day decline since the Sept. 11 attacks. Monday marked the first day of trading since President Bush called for a $145 billion economic stimulus package.
President Bush: “By passing an effective growth package quickly, we can provide a shot in the arm to keep a fundamentally strong economy healthy. And it will help keep economic sectors that are going through adjustments, such as the housing market, from adversely affecting other parts of our economy. I’m optimistic about our economic future, because Americans have shown time and again that they are the most industrious, creative and enterprising people in the world. That’s what has made our economy strong. And that is what will make it stronger in the challenging times ahead.”
While President Bush said he was optimistic about the country’s economic future, many economists are making comparisons to the period prior to the Great Depression.
Martin Hennecke, of the Tyche Group: “What investors need to understand, it’s not just about subprime and mortgages, it’s really a big crisis of debt on all levels, even government debt hitting the West now, and that’s very significant. In our view, it’s just getting started, and it will really develop into a very, very severe recession, maybe a real depression of the style we saw in 1929.”
The United Nations is accusing Israel of collectively punishing the Palestinian population in Gaza by cutting off fuel supplies as part of a blockade of the Gaza Strip. On Sunday, Gaza’s only power plant was forced to shut down. John Ging, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza said hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were living in darkness this week.
John Ging: “We have run out of terms to describe the despair and the destitution of the ordinary civilian population over here. But the darkness of the Gaza city tonight is clear evidence, if evidence, more evidence were needed, of just how desperate the situation has become here now.”
Israel partially lifted the blockade earlier today and delivered 700,000 liters of fuel to Gaza. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports Israel is trying to thwart an effort by Arab states to win UN Security Council condemnation of the sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip.
On Saturday, John Dugard, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories, accused Israel of committing war crimes for carrying out bombing raids that killed and injured civilians.
Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Aryeh Mekel defended Israel’s actions.
Aryeh Mekel: “Israel is applying pressure on the terrorist organizations in Gaza in order to put an end to the daily barrage of rockets against Israeli citizens. We will continue to apply such pressure and use military tactics in order to convince the people that control Gaza that they have to put an end to this, that they have to stop attacking our citizens in southern Israel. We believe that no government would have acted differently, any government has the ultimate to responsibility to protect its citizens.”
Meanwhile, Hamas leader Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of slowly killing off the entire Palestinian population.
Sami Abu Zuhri: “What is happening in Gaza is not a passing ordeal, but it is a slow killing not only for one person but for an entire population through this tight siege and through the crimes of killing, which calls on everyone to stop this massacre before it’s too late. And Hamas bears the full responsibility on the American administration for these Zionist continuous massacres, because Bush is the one who gave the green light for the occupation during his last visit.”
A new United Nations reports paints a devastating picture of life in occupied Gaza and the West Bank. 79 percent of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip live in poverty. The water supply to the Gaza Strip is approximately half the international standard. The number of physical barriers in the West Bank increased last year to 563. Some 10,000 Palestinians who live in enclaves west of the West Bank wall are cut off from vital health and education services and from family and social networks. The United Nations released the report as part of its Consolidated Appeal to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the Palestinian population.
In campaign news, the focus of the Democratic race has turned to South Carolina, where the next Democratic primary will be held on Saturday. In a debate last night in Myrtle Beach, tensions repeatedly rose between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Obama criticized former President Bill Clinton’s role in the campaign.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: You talked about Ronald Reagan being a transformative political leader. I did not mention his name.
Sen. Barack Obama: Your husband did.
Clinton: Well, I’m here. He’s not. And…
Obama: OK. Well, I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes.
Moments later, Senator Obama defended his recent comments about Ronald Reagan.
Sen. Obama: Hillary, we just had the tape. You just said that I complimented the Republican ideas. That is not true. What I said — and I will provide you with a quote — what I said was, is that Ronald Reagan was a transformative political figure because he was able to get Democrats to vote against their economic interests to form a majority to push through their agenda, an agenda that I objected to. Because while I was working on those streets watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart.
Senator Clinton later criticized Senator Obama’s voting record as a state senator in Illinois.
Sen. Clinton: Well, you know, Senator Obama, it is very difficult having a straight-up debate with you, because you never take responsibility for any vote, and that has been a pattern. You, in the — now, wait a minute. In the Illinois state legislature…
Clinton: Just a minute. In the Illinois state senate, Senator Obama voted 130 times present. That’s not yes, that’s not no. That’s maybe.
Prior to last night’s debate, presidential contender Dennis Kucinich filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission after CNN excluded him from the debate. Kucinich accused CNN and its parent company Time Warner of arbitrarily establishing criteria for participation in the debate.
On Saturday, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in the Nevada caucus by six points — but due to the caucus rules, Obama actually won more delegates. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the Republican caucus in Nevada; Texas Congressman Ron Paul placed second. Meanwhile, Senator John McCain narrowly beat Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary in South Carolina.
New information has come to light about the growing controversy over the millions of missing White House emails. Last week Congressman Henry Waxman revealed the White House had failed to preserve emails for at least 473 days. In addition, Vice President Cheney’s office shows no electronic messages preserved on sixteen separate days. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has analyzed the sixteen days when Cheney’s office claims it has no email archives. One of the days is September 30, 2003, the same day the Justice Department and FBI announced they were investigating who outed former CIA agent Valerie Plame. Cheney’s office is also missing emails from October 4, 2003, the day the Justice Department demanded that the White House turn over “all documents that relate in any way” to the leak of Plame’s identity.
The Canadian government has removed the United States and Israel from a watch list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured, after coming under pressure from U.S. and Israeli officials. The Canadian Foreign Minister is now claiming that the United States and Israel were wrongly placed on a list that also included Syria, China, Iran and Afghanistan. The original document cited the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay and lists U.S. interrogation techniques including “forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation.” Amnesty International Canada said it was disappointed by the Canadian government’s reversal. Amnesty’s Alex Neve said, “When it comes to an issue like torture, the government’s main concern should not be embarrassing allies.”
A series of vigils and protests are scheduled today in Washington and around the country to mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade that affirmed a women’s constitutional right to abortion. The National Organization of Women plans to hold its annual vigil today outside the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, opponents of a woman’s right to choose are holding their annual March for Life in Washington. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee plans to address an anti-choice rally in Atlanta. During last year’s Values Voter Summit, Huckabee said Roe v. Wade had resulted in a holocaust. Huckabee also attempted to link the issue of abortion to the need for immigrants to fill jobs in the United States.
Mike Huckabee: “Sometimes we talk about why we’re importing so many people in our workforce. It might be for the last thirty-five years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973.”
In media news, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times has forced out the paper’s top editor after he refused to cut newsroom jobs. James O’Shea is the fourth editor at the paper to be fired in the past three years for refusing to slash the paper’s news budget.
In news from Jena, Louisiana, dozens of white separatists gathered on Monday to protest the Martin Luther King holiday. The rally was organized by the Mississippi-based Nationalist Movement. The Associated Press estimated the rally drew about fifty white separatists. In September, tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied in Jena to demand justice for the six African American teenagers known as the Jena Six. The Jena Six drew national attention after they were charged with attempted murder after a white student was injured in a schoolyard fight. The fight occurred several months after white students hung nooses from a tree under which black students had sat.
And the radio trade magazine Radio and Records has decided to revoke a lifetime achievement award to New York radio broadcaster Bob Grant. Grant had been scheduled to receive the award in March. Critics of Grant said he had a long history of airing racist propaganda on the airwaves. He has repeatedly called African Americans savages and sub-humanoids. In 1992, Grant described Haitian refugees as “swine” and “sub-human infiltrators” who multiply “like maggots on a hot day.” Grant once said then-New York Mayor David Dinkins looked like “the men’s room attendant at the 21 Club.” Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have publicly defended Bob Grant. Hannity said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that Bob Grant is a great, great pioneer of free-speech radio.”