The US government has announced its second major financial bailout this month, agreeing to take over the troubled insurance giant American International Group, or AIG. At an $85 billion cost, the New York Times calls it the most radical intervention in private business in the central bank’s history. The AIG bailout comes just weeks after the government takeover of the federally chartered mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. More on this story after headlines.
The troubles on Wall Street continue to dominate talk on the campaign trail. In Colorado, Senator Barack Obama blamed the economy’s woes on Bush administration policies.
Sen. Barack Obama: “What we’ve seen the last few days is nothing less than the final verdict on an economic philosophy that has completely failed. And I am running for president of the United States, because the dream of the American people must not be endangered anymore.”
Meanwhile, Senator John McCain has backtracked from previous comments the “fundamentals” of the American economy are “strong.” Campaigning in Miami, McCain said “the top” of the economy is broken.
Sen. John McCain: “The top of our economy is broken. We’ve seen self-interest, greed, irresponsibility and corruption undermine the hard work of the American people. It’s time to set things right, and I promise to get the job done as your president.”
In Iraq, General Ray Odierno has replaced General David Petraeus as the top military commander of the US occupation. Petraeus oversaw the so-called US surge that increased the occupation by 30,000 troops. On Tuesday, hundreds of residents of the Baghdad district of Sadr City protested the visit of Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Iraq. Gates was in Baghdad for the transfer of command to General Odierno. Sayyid al-Husseini of the Sadrist Movement said the US has ignored Iraqi public opinion.
Sayyid al-Husseini: “Big demonstrations have been staged in front of the office of al-Sadr to condemn and denounce the visit of the US defense secretary, because these people refuse the visits of any US official whilst demanding the pullout of US occupation gradually from Iraq or issue a timetable for their withdrawal.”
In Yemen, at least sixteen people have been killed in an attack on the US embassy in the capital Sanna. A suicide bomber reportedly drove a vehicle into the embassy compound, followed by armed militants who opened fire. It’s the second attack on the US embassy in Yemen this year.
In Afghanistan, four troops in the US-led coalition have been killed in a roadside bombing. 2008 has already passed last year as the deadliest so far for the US occupation of Afghanistan.
In other news from Afghanistan, new details are being revealed about US plans to expand its main prison there, Bagram Air Base. USA Today reports the Bush administration will increase so-called intelligence operations at Bagram. The Pentagon is seeking to hire more interrogators to question prisoners and provide intelligence for battlefield operations. The US plans to increase Bagram’s capacity from 600 to 1,000 prisoners. Several former prisoners have described conditions of harsh torture at the Bagram jail.
In Bolivia, opposition governors have agreed to talks with President Evo Morales amidst an ongoing political crisis. On Tuesday, Bolivian troops arrested opposition governor Leopoldo Fernandez of the Pando province. Fernandez was accused in the massacre of up to thirty peasant Morales supporters last week. Government minister Susana Rivero said the government had approved martial law in Pando in response to the killings.
Susana Rivero: “The Bolivian government has made a decree of martial law in the department of Pando. And the military forces of the nation are authorized by the constitution to enter and to do that work that corresponds.”
The opposition governors have rejected Morales’ plans to redistribute Bolivian oil wealth to its indigenous majority. Last month, Morales won a critical referendum on his presidency with more than 60 percent of the vote. We’ll have more on Bolivia later in the broadcast.
In Haiti, relief efforts slowly continue following weeks of deadly tropical storms and hurricanes. Some 1,000 people have been killed and more than a million displaced since the first storm hit the island last month. The city of Gonaives remains vulnerable to water-borne disease as residents try to salvage the remains of their homes. Raphael Chuinard of the World Food Program said the combination of health risks and desperate residents have forced food distribution to move outside the city.
Raphael Chuinard: “We started last week by distributing food within the city in various areas in the city, but it has been quite difficult because of the tension in the city and for security reasons and for health reasons, because to avoid to have the beneficiaries at risk in the pressure of the crowd, we decided to have the food distribution centers a little bit outside of the city for the moment.”
The Bush administration has pledged just $10 million to emergency relief in Haiti. Gonaives resident Nadege Yliome appealed for more Western aid.
Nadege Yliome: “We would like to ask people to help take care of us, because children can’t bear this. We are older and can spend two days without eating, but children can’t. I have two children. One is eight and the other one is
four years old. They are now in the countryside.”
Meanwhile, in Cuba, the Cuban government has announced the total damage from back-to-back hurricanes will top $5 billion. Hurricanes Gustav and Ike damaged areas across the island, with more than 60,000 homes destroyed. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has rejected a Cuban plea for a temporary lifting of the US embargo. Cuba said it would use the repeal to buy desperately needed supplies from North American companies. But the White House said it would only offer Cuba $2 million in relief aid. The White House initially offered just $100,000 but increased the figure after coming under criticism. In a statement, the Cuban foreign ministry responded, “Our country cannot accept a donation from the country that blockades us.”
And in Israel and the Occupied Territories, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held their last meeting Tuesday before Olmert’s Kadima party picks a new leader. Abbas said Palestinian demands remain as they always have: a state in the West Bank and Gaza and the right of return for displaced refugees.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “We demand East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and it is land occupied since 1967. We demand the right of return to refugees. We demand the ’67 borders. We demand rights to West Bank water. We demand security and peace. We all know, and even many in Israel say, that settlement activity is illegal, and we say this is illegal.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz are the leading candidates to replace Olmert. Mofaz has recently come under scrutiny after it was revealed he called for the mass killing of Palestinians while commanding the Israeli army during the Second Intifada.
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