On the campaign trail, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain continue to sweep through battleground states as the election nears. In Virginia, Obama responded to Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s recent suggestion certain parts of the nation are “anti-American.”
Sen. Barack Obama: “Let me tell you something. There are no real or fake parts of this country. We are not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this country. We all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from.”
McCain, meanwhile, was in Ohio, where he repeated a familiar campaign theme that suggests Obama is a “socialist.”
Sen. John McCain: “After months of campaign trail eloquence, we’ve finally learned what Senator Obama’s economic goal is. As he told Joe the plumber right here in Ohio, he wants to, quote, 'spread the wealth around.' He believes in redistributing the wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.”
In other campaign news, the McCain campaign has been forced to admit it’s spent more than $150,000 on Palin’s clothes and accessories since she became the Republican vice-presidential nominee in August. Republicans say they’ve always intended to donate the clothes to charity after the elections. But critics say the spending reinforces the perception Republicans have falsely constructed an image of Palin as being in touch with average Americans.
Overall, a new report says the cost of this year’s presidential and congressional campaigns will together hit a record $5.3 billion. The Center for Responsive Politics’ estimate includes spending from candidates, political parties and political action groups. The $5.3 billion figure marks a $1 billion increase over 2004.
The Bush administration is reportedly considering a $40 billion measure to assist homeowners at risk of foreclosure and the banks they’ve borrowed from. According to the Wall Street Journal, the plan would give banks a financial incentive to restructure mortgages by having the government share in losses on the new loans. The chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Sheila Bair, is expected to unveil the plans in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee later today.
Meanwhile, the research firm RealtyTrac is reporting foreclosures increased 21 percent last month over the same period last year. But September foreclosures fell from August, dropping 12 percent. For the third quarter, foreclosures were up a staggering 70 percent compared to the same period in 2007.
In other financial news, currencies and stocks continue to slide amidst ongoing fears of a worsening recession. On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a new low after suffering its seventh biggest point-drop in history. Several major companies have announced layoffs this week, including 1,500 at the internet giant Yahoo and 7,200 at the pharmaceutical company Merck. Hugh Johnson of Johnson Illington Advisors says the signs point to more job cuts across the board.
Hugh Johnson: “Some of the statements that are being made by the executives of a number of companies are not particularly encouraging. They’re essentially saying that business not only was bad in the third quarter, but it’s likely to remain bad in the fourth quarter and beyond. In other words, the recession is really affecting corporate earnings and looks like it’s going to continue to affect corporate earnings, and that’s obviously demoralizing a lot of investors.”
The White House, meanwhile, says it will convene a global summit on the economic crisis in Washington on November 15th.
Nine people have been reportedly killed in a US air strike on a religious school in Pakistan. Four of the dead were found in the rubble of the school. Another two people were injured. US officials say the school has links to the Taliban. It was the latest in a series of escalating US air attacks within Pakistan’s borders.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports Pakistan plans to arm tens of thousands of tribal fighters to take on Taliban forces in its western border region. The strategy would replicate the US backing of the Sunni “Awakening” movement in Iraq. A group of US military trainers began operating inside Pakistan last month.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has also asked the International Monetary Fund for financial aid to avoid defaulting on billions in loans.
In Afghanistan, nine Afghan soldiers have been killed and another four injured in an errant US air strike. Pentagon officials called the attack a case of mistaken identity. The bombing was the latest in a series of deadly US-led attacks.
NATO officials have now quietly admitted a number of Afghan civilians were killed in southern Helmand province last week. The victims included several women and children. Afghan officials and residents say eighteen people died in the attack.
In the Occupied Territories, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is accusing the Israeli government of turning a blind eye to ongoing settler harassment of Palestinian farmers. Palestinians have come under repeated attack from nearby settlers during the annual olive harvest. Fayyad accused the settlers of “terrorism.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: “This is nothing short of terrorism by the settlers, in complete violation — their being here, in itself, is illegitimate, as you know, and to engage, in addition to all of that, in acts of violence against our citizens, particularly at this time of the year, a time when they pick the olives, with all that the olive tree signifies.”
In Washington State, a federal judge has ruled the military can’t retry Ehren Watada, the first Army officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq. US District Judge Benjamin Settle says a second court-martial would violate Watada’s right against double jeopardy. Watada’s first court-martial ended in a mistrial. He had faced up to six years in prison.
Natives of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean have been dealt a major legal setback in their long-term battle to return home. British forces expelled the islanders forty years ago to make way for a US military base at the archipelago’s largest island, Diego Garcia. The base has been used to launch bombing missions on Iraq and Afghanistan. On Thursday, the British High Court overruled a lower court decision that Chagos inhabitants be allowed to return to every island except Diego Garcia. The US has long campaigned to deny inhabitants the right to return to any of the sixty-five islands. The Chagossians say they may now take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
In other news from Britain, the British High Court has condemned the Bush administration for refusing to turn over documents in the case of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner who says he was tortured in US custody. The prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, alleges his confession to terrorism charges was given only after he had his penis sliced by a blade. The State Department has previously warned releasing the documents would cause “serious and lasting damage” to security relations between the US and Britain and jeopardize British “national security.” In a new ruling, the British judges say they might intervene to compel the White House to hand over the documents to Mohamed’s lawyers.
The American Civil Liberties Union says the expansive powers of border guards is creating what it calls a “Constitution-free Zone” for large swaths of the US. The ACLU says because the government is claiming border and customs powers extend 100 miles inland, many Americans are being subjected to privacy invasions that wouldn’t normally be allowed. The so-called 100-mile “border region” includes nine out of the top ten major metro areas and two-thirds of the US population.
And jurors have begun deliberating in the trial of Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. Stevens faces seven felony charges for receiving payments and gifts from the now-defunct oil services company VECO.