President-elect Barack Obama named former rival Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State on Monday and said Robert Gates would remain Defense Secretary. Other nominees include retired General James Jones to be National Security Adviser, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to be Secretary of Homeland Security and Susan Rice as ambassador to the United Nations.
President-elect Barack Obama: “To succeed, we must pursue a new strategy that skillfully uses, balances and integrates all elements of American power: our military and diplomacy, our intelligence and law enforcement, our economy and the power of our moral example. The team that we’ve assembled here today is uniquely suited to do just that.”
President-elect Barack Obama also nominated Eric Holder to be Attorney General.
President-elect Barack Obama: “Eric also has the combination of toughness and independence that we need at the Justice Department. Let me be clear: the Attorney General serves the American people, and I have every expectation that Eric will protect our people, uphold the public trust and adhere to our Constitution.”
In economic news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 680 points on Monday after the National Bureau of Economic Research declared that the country has been in a recession for nearly a year.
In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a fiscal emergency on Monday and warned that California could run out of cash within two months. Schwarzenegger said the state’s growing deficit could reach $28 billion by 2010. This comes as cities and states across the country are proposing sweeping cuts in services as they face record deficits. In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter has proposed closing eleven of the city’s libraries, disbanding seven fire companies, shutting down sixty-eight city pools and eliminating 800 government positions. In San Diego, the school department has slashed funding for teacher supplies. One high school teacher has begun selling ads on test papers to raise money to pay for the photocopying costs. Barack Obama is meeting with Democratic governors in Philadelphia today.
In one of his first exit interviews, President Bush appeared on ABC Nightly News Monday. Host Charles Gibson asked the President about the troubled economy.
President Bush: “I’m sorry it’s happening, of course. Obviously, I don’t like the idea of people losing jobs or being worried about their 401(k)s. On the other hand, the American people got to know that we will safeguard the system. I mean, we’re in. And if we need to be in more, we will.”
During the same interview, President Bush discussed the invasion of Iraq.
Charles Gibson: “What were you most unprepared for?”
President Bush: “Well, I think I was unprepared for war. In other words, I didn’t campaign and say, 'Please vote for me, I'll be able to handle an attack.’ In other words, I didn’t anticipate war. Presidents — one of the things about the modern presidency is that the unexpected will happen.”
Thailand is in a state of political turmoil after the nation’s constitutional court ordered the dissolution of the ruling People Power Party for electoral fraud. The court also ruled that the current prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat, and thirty-six other party members be banned from politics for five years. Minutes after the ruling, the PPP said members would regroup under a new name and propose a new prime minister. The court’s decision comes after weeks of anti-government protests, including a blockade of Thailand’s two main airports. On Monday, a protester was killed and twenty-two others were wounded in a bomb blast at the Don Muang Airport.
ABC News is reporting US intelligence agencies warned their Indian counterparts in mid-October of a potential attack from the sea against hotels and business centers in Mumbai. A second government source said specific locations, including the Taj Mahal Hotel, were listed in the US warning. Meanwhile, India has called on Pakistan to extradite twenty fugitives. India believes some of the twenty had links to other attacks in India.
A federal jury in San Francisco has cleared oil giant Chevron of any responsibility for the May 1998 shooting and killing of protesters in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Survivors of the 1998 shooting have argued that Chevron should be held accountable, because it paid the Nigerian military and transported them by helicopter to the oil platform. A group of nineteen Nigerian plaintiffs brought the landmark case against Chevron using the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreign nationals to sue in the US over international human rights violations. We’ll have more on the court ruling later in the show.
Monday marked the twentieth anniversary of World AIDS Day. Miguel D’Escoto, the president of the United Nations General Assembly, called on the international community to intensify efforts to fight AIDS.
Miguel D’Escoto: “The simple facts that two-and-a-half million people were infected with HIV last year and another 2.1 million died of AIDS around the world underscore the huge amount of work that remains to be done.”
Meanwhile, a new United Nations report published Monday is calling for increased HIV testing for newborns as young as six weeks old.
Jimmy Kolker of UNICEF: “The weakness of health systems, especially in those eastern and southern African countries where there’s high prevalence, the public sector clinics tend to be understaffed, the staff is poorly trained, the laboratories aren’t good, and those are all obstacles to achieving the scale-up that we need in order to reach the universal access for prevention, treatment, care and support for people affected by HIV/AIDS.”
A twelve-day United Nations conference on global warming has opened in Poland with pleas for urgent action to fight climate change despite the economic slowdown. The 192-member UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is aiming to craft a new international pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol by next year.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen: “I feel confident that the financial crisis will be overcome.
Recovery will come. However, climate change is not going to be less of a problem in the coming years. On the contrary, climate change will only grow stronger if we do not act now.”
Voters in Georgia head to the polls today for the state’s US Senate runoff between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin. The Democrats could still obtain a filibuster-proof Senate majority of sixty seats if Martin wins today and if Al Franken beats Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in the recount in Minnesota.
In New York, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office has agreed to drop charges against ten members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and five of their supporters who were arrested in October outside the presidential debate at Hofstra University. The so-called Hempstead 15 were charged with “disorderly conduct” and “failure to obey a lawful order.” The protesters were arrested as they tried to enter the debate in an effort to ask the candidates about the Iraq war, war resisters and veterans’ treatment. One of the veterans, Nick Morgan, is planning to sue Nassau County. Morgan was hospitalized after his face was trampled by a police horse.
In Texas, a judge has dismissed indictments against Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for their alleged role in the abuse of prisoners in private prisons in Texas. The indictment had cited Cheney’s investment in Vanguard Group, which owns an interest in private prisons in South Texas. Gonzales was accused of using his position while in office to stop an investigation in 2006 into abuses at one of the privately run prisons.
And the CEOs of GM and Ford have announced plans to drive from Detroit to Washington this week instead of flying in a corporate jet. GM CEO Rick Wagoner will make the nine-hour trip in a Chevrolet Malibu hybrid. Ford CEO Alan Mulally will drive a Ford Escape hybrid. The CEOs are returning to Washington to seek a $25 billion bailout of the auto industry.