The US government has seized control of the mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in what could become the largest corporate bailout ever. The Treasury Department has pledged to provide as much as $200 billion to the companies as they cope with heavy losses on mortgage defaults. The two quasi-public companies own or guarantee just under half of the country’s $12 trillion in mortgage debt. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced the bailout.
Henry Paulson: “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so large and so interwoven in our financial system that a failure of either of them would cause great turmoil in the financial markets here at home and around the globe. This turmoil would directly and negatively impact household wealth, from family budgets to home values, to savings for college and retirement.”
The Republican and Democratic presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama both supported the bailout. Obama said the government needs to take steps to guard against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ultimately profiting from the government assistance.
Sen. Obama: “We have to protect taxpayers, not bail out the shareholders and management of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It is a challenging situation that’s been festering for a long time. There are some community and regional banks with potential exposure, including those serving low-income communities. We’re going to have to carefully address those situations, but we must not allow government intervention to protect investors and speculators who relied on the government to reap massive profits.”
In other economic news, the nation’s unemployment rate has reached 6.1 percent, a five-year high. The unemployment rate for African Americans is now in double digits, at 10.6 percent. Meanwhile, in Nevada regulators shut down Silver State Bank on Friday. It is the eleventh bank failure this year.
Civilian deaths in Afghanistan from US and NATO air strikes nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007. This according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. Air strikes killed at least 321 civilians in 2007, compared with at least 116 in 2006. The tally for this year is expected to be even higher.
The top commander of US forces in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, said Friday that he needed thousands of additional troops to combat violence along the border with Pakistan.
Earlier today, missiles fired by US drones killed at least seventeen people in a Pakistani village near the Afghan border. Local residents said the two drones fired three missiles at a house and a madrassa. Doctors said fifteen to twenty people were also wounded, most of them women and children. Last week, US commandos carried out a helicopter-borne ground assault in what was the first known incursion into Pakistan by US troops since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, condemned the ground assault that killed twenty people.
Hussain Haqqani: “Pakistan and the United States are partners in the war against terror. It does not suit the United States to enrage Pakistani people by unilateral actions, especially when those unilateral actions do not yield anything by way of getting any significant terrorists or militants. It is much better to let Pakistan act on its side of the border and to continue the cooperative relationship between Pakistan, NATO and the United States.”
Pakistani lawmakers have elected Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to become Pakistan’s next president, replacing General Pervez Musharraf, who resigned last month.
Asif Ali Zardari: “Today, Pakistan Peoples Party has completed a great road block, has gone over a great road block to complete the democratic process. I congratulate the nation, I congratulate the Parliaments. It is the philosophy of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in which we believe, which says democracy is the best revenge, the revenge from the dictators in the form of democracy.”
Asif Ali Zardari has little experience governing and has spent eleven years in jail on corruption charges. He will be sworn in on Tuesday.
In campaign news, a video has emerged of Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin telling ministry students at her former church that the US invasion of Iraq is a task from God.
Sarah Palin: “Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan. So bless them with your prayers, your prayers of protection over our soldiers.”
During the same address, Palin said the construction of a new oil pipeline in Alaska is God’s will.
Sarah Palin: “I can do my part in doing things like working really, really hard to get a natural gas pipeline, about a $30 billion project that’s going to create a lot of jobs for Alaskans, and we’ll have a lot of energy flowing through here. And pray about that also. I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that.”
The video of her speech was originally posted on the Wasilla Assembly of God’s website.
Meanwhile, the National Jewish Democratic Council has criticized Palin as being a “poor choice” to be vice president. The group described Palin to be “totally out of step with Jewish public opinion.” Just weeks before McCain tapped her to be his running mate, the executive director of Jews for Jesus, David Brickner, spoke at Palin’s church and blamed Middle East violence in part on Israeli Jews who didn’t accept Jesus. A spokesperson for McCain said that Palin attended the sermon but that she did not share his views.
On Sunday, Barack Obama, John McCain and Joe Biden all gave lengthy broadcast interviews on the morning talk shows, but Sarah Palin was nowhere to be seen. Since being named McCain’s running mate ten days ago, Palin’s only interview has been with People Magazine. During her campaign stops she has also refused to take questions from voters.
On Sunday, the McCain campaign announced Palin will sit down for multiple interviews with Charles Gibson of ABC in Alaska over two days, most likely Thursday and Friday. The campaign has not announced when Palin will give her first live interview.
The BBC is reporting two Polish intelligence sources have for the first time confirmed that the CIA ran a secret prison facility on Polish soil. One officer said the CIA used a secure site far from major towns that was close to a former military airport.
In the state of Georgia, a county judge has issued an order for Troy Davis to be executed on September 23. Last July, Davis came within twenty-four hours of execution before receiving a temporary stay. In 1991, Davis was convicted of murdering a white police officer, but since then many questions have been raised about his case. The murder weapon was never found. There’s no DNA evidence or other physical evidence. Seven of the nine non-police witnesses said they were coerced by police and have since recanted their testimony.
Amnesty International has condemned the police in St. Paul, Minnesota for deploying unnecessary and disproportionate use of non-lethal weapons on peaceful protesters during last week’s Republican National Convention. Police fired rubber bullets and used batons, pepper spray, teargas canisters and concussion grenades on peaceful demonstrations. Amnesty said some of the police actions appear to have breached United Nations standards and US laws on the use of force by law enforcement officials.
The Associated Press reports taxpayers in St. Paul should be off the hook for any damages stemming from claims of police misconduct related to the Republican National Convention. As part of a deal with the city, the Republican Party’s host committee bought insurance covering up to $10 million in damages and unlimited legal costs for lawsuits against the police. In St. Paul, some critics say the agreement only encouraged police to use aggressive tactics knowing they won’t have to pay damages.
The Financial Times reports the US military provided combat training to eighty Georgian special forces commandos only months prior to Georgia’s army assault in South Ossetia in August. The training was provided by senior US soldiers and two private military contractors — MPRI and American Systems, both based in Virginia.The revelation could add fuel to accusations by Russia that the US had orchestrated the war in the Georgian enclave.
A former Halliburton executive has pleaded guilty to orchestrating more than $180 million in bribes to senior Nigerian government officials. Albert Stanley used the bribes to help Halliburton win a contract to build a $6 billion liquefied natural gas plant in Nigeria. Several of the bribes were paid during the time when Vice President Dick Cheney led Halliburton.
In labor news, 27,000 workers at Boeing have gone on strike after contract talks broke down over pay, pensions and job security. The striking workers are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
And a top UN official is urging people to eat less meat in an effort to tackle climate change. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told the London Observer, “In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity.” The animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming has calculated that if the average British household cut their meat consumption in half, it would cut greenhouse gas emissions more than if car use was cut in half.