In the largest loss since the crash of 1987, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell over seven percent on Thursday, closing below 9,000 for the first time in five years. Over the past six trading days, the Dow has plummeted over 2,200 points, or about 21 percent. USA Today reports the Standard & Poor’s 500 index is now on track for its worst year since 1931. Earlier today, global stock values plummeted in trading as fears grow of a worldwide recession. In Japan, the Nikkei Exchange closed down 9.6 percent. In Australia, stocks fell eight percent.
On Saturday, President Bush plans to host an emergency meeting with finance leaders from Britain, Italy, Germany, France, Canada and Japan. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, warned countries against taking actions that could destabilize the financial systems of their neighbors.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn: “Our view is that the situation is very serious, but at the same time that we can solve problems if we can act quickly, forcefully and cooperatively.”
Paul Wagner of Morgan Stanley said the current economic crisis is affecting Main Street as well as Wall Street.
Paul Wagner: “It’s hurt everybody. I mean, it’s hurt every single American. It truly has. It’s not just hurt the people on Wall Street. This has hurt every single mom and pop across the country. My sister, my mom, you know, my family, my friends, they’ve all lost money in the market now, because all of their money is tied up in 401ks and stock purchase plans and mutual funds and everything else. So, it’s a major ripple throughout our world, throughout the globe.”
New York University economics professor Nouriel Roubini is predicting that the US and global economy is heading towards a near-term financial meltdown. Roubini, who is often credited with forecasting the current crisis, writes, “At this point severe damage is done and one cannot rule out a systemic collapse and a global depression. It will take a significant change in leadership of economic policy and very radical, coordinated policy actions among all advanced and emerging market economies to avoid this economic and financial disaster.”
World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned developing nations may be particularly hard hit by the market meltdown.
Robert Zoellick: “The events of September could be a tipping point for many developing countries. A drop in exports will trigger a fall-off in investments. Deteriorating financial conditions, combined with monetary tightening, will trigger business failures and possibly banking emergencies.”
Meanwhile, concern is growing that the American auto giants General Motors and Ford could both face bankruptcy. On Thursday, GM’s stock plunged 31 percent to its lowest level in fifty-eight years. Stock in Ford Motors fell nearly 22 percent.
In other economic news, the website Politico is reporting Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd has no plans to subject the new bailout czar Neel Kashkari to confirmation hearings. Kashkari is the thirty-five-year-old Treasury official tapped by Secretary Henry Paulson to oversee the more $700 billion bailout. Like Paulson, Kashkari is a former employee of Goldman Sachs. Kashkari graduated from business school six years ago.
Finland’s former president Martti Ahtisaari has won the Nobel Peace Prize for a long career of peace mediation work. The announcement was made earlier today.
Nobel Committee: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008 to Martti Ahtisaari for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts.”
In 2005, Martti Ahtisaari helped secure an accord between Indonesia and rebels in Aceh. In 1990, he played a key role in securing Namibia’s independence from South Africa. Until March 2007, he mediated Serb-Albanian talks on Kosovo as the UN’s special envoy. This is Martti Ahtisaari speaking in 2005 after a peace deal was signed between Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement.
Martti Ahtisaari: “This achievement has only been possible with the commitment of the parties to find a peaceful, comprehensive and sustainable solution to the conflict in Aceh with dignity for all. The purpose of this peace process has been to give a new start for the people of Aceh to live their lives in peaceful, just and democratic society.”
Admiral Mike Mullen, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday the situation in Afghanistan will probably worsen over the next year. Mullen said, “The trends across the board are not going in the right direction. And I would anticipate next year would be a tougher year.” Mullen went on to say that US-led forces are “not going to be able to kill our way to victory in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” Meanwhile, the US is continuing to carry out drone attacks inside Pakistan. A missile attack on Thursday killed at least nine people.
The Army Times is reporting Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is asking the Pentagon to halt a $300 million program to produce pro-American news and public service messages in Iraq. Webb said, “At a time when this country is facing such a grave economic crisis…it makes little sense for the Department of Defense to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to propagandize the Iraqi people.” The Pentagon recently awarded a total of $300 million in new contracts to four contractors to produce pro-US propaganda for Iraqi audiences. The contractors are the Washington-based Lincoln Group, the LA-based Leonie Industries, as well as MPRI and SOSI, both based in Virginia.
In campaign developments, a new study has found that nearly 100 percent of John McCain’s recent campaign advertisements have been negative. The study by the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin examined campaign ads during the week of September 28 through October 4. During the same period, 34 percent of Barack Obama’s ads were negative. On Thursday morning, the McCain campaign issued its first ad tying Obama to the 1960s militant Bill Ayers. During a campaign stop later in the day, McCain accused Obama of having a “clear radical, far-left, pro-abortion record.” Senator Barack Obama criticized McCain’s approach during a campaign stop in Dayton, Ohio.
Sen. Obama: “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re not — they don’t seem to want to talk about the economy. They want to talk about me. And his campaign actually said this. I quote them: they said, 'If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.’ Well, I’ve got news for John McCain. This isn’t about losing a campaign; this is about Americans here in Dayton who are losing their jobs and losing their homes and losing their life savings. It’s about young people losing hope and losing direction.”
The New York Times has found nearly 3,000 donations to Barack Obama came from people with apparently fictitious donor information. Although the contributions represent a tiny fraction of the record $450 million Obama has raised, the paper reports the questionable donations raise concerns about whether the Obama campaign is adequately vetting its unprecedented flood of donors.
The head of the Israeli army’s northern command says Israel will use disproportionate force on Lebanese villages used by Hezbollah to fire rockets if another war is fought against Lebanon. Major General Eisenkot said, “We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.” Eisenkot went on to say, “This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved.”
Meanwhile, tension remains high in the Israeli town of Acre after clashes between Jewish and Palestinian residents. The fighting began on Wednesday night when a group of Jewish teens attacked a Palestinian man for driving his car through a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. The attack sparked a day of riots that saw Palestinian and Jewish residents of the town hurling rocks at each other. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports Israeli police warded off hundreds of Jewish rioters, chanting “death to Arabs.” Ahmed Tibi, one of the few Palestinians in the Israeli Knesset, called the violence a “pogrom perpetrated by Jews against Arab residents.”
The city of St. Paul, Minnesota is being sued $250,000 over a controversial house raid two days before the start of the Republican National Convention. On August 30, St. Paul police, FBI and Homeland Security agents raided the home of Michael Whalen. Whalen and his tenants and guests, including members of the group I-Witness Video, were held at gunpoint for several hours.
And finally, much of the news media is catching up on a story Democracy Now! covered five months ago. On May 13, former Military Intelligence Sergeant Adrienne Kinne appeared on the program and talked about how she was personally ordered to eavesdrop on Americans working for news organizations and NGOs in Iraq.
Adrienne Kinne: “Over the course of my time, as we slowly began to identify phone numbers and who belonged to what, one thing that gave me grave concern was that, as we identified phone numbers, we started to find more and more and more numbers that belonged not to any organizations affiliated with terrorism or with military — with militaries of Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere, but with humanitarian aid organizations, non-governmental organizations, who include the International Red Cross, Red Crescent, Doctors Without Borders, a whole host of humanitarian aid organizations. And it also included journalists.”
Last night, Adrienne Kinne and another military linguist appeared on this ABC News report.
Brian Ross, ABC News: “This is the first time any of the actual intercept operators, the people who listen in and record phone calls on behalf of US intelligence agencies, the first time any of them has come forward. President Bush says they only listen to Americans if it involves al-Qaeda. These two say, 'Not true.'”
During her interview in May on Democracy Now!, Adrienne Kinne also revealed that she saw secret US military documents that listed the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad as a possible target, even though it was filled with journalists. In 2003, the US military shelled the hotel, killing two journalists: Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Jose Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish television network Telecinco. The military has maintained the shelling was accidental.
Adrienne Kinne: “One of the instances was the fact that we were listening to journalists who were staying in the Palestine Hotel. And I remember that, specifically because during the buildup to Shock and Awe, which people in my unit were really disturbingly excited about, we were given a list of potential targets in Baghdad, and the Palestine Hotel was listed as a potential target. And I remember this specifically, because, putting one and one together, that there were journalists staying at the Palestine Hotel and this hotel was listed as a potential target, I went to my officer in charge, and I told him that there are journalists staying at this hotel who think they’re safe, and yet we have this hotel listed as a potential target, and somehow the dots are not being connected here, and shouldn’t we make an effort to make sure that the right people know the situation? And unfortunately, my officer in charge, similarly to any time I raised concerns about things that we were collecting or intelligence that we were reporting, basically told me that it was not my job to analyze, it was my job to collect and pass on information, and that someone, somewhere higher up the chain, knew what they were doing.”