President Obama and other world leaders have conceded that a binding deal to combat climate change won’t be reached until at least next year. Asia-Pacific leaders, including President Obama, have backed a proposal to only reach an interim political agreement at next month’s climate talks in Copenhagen while postponing contentious decisions on emissions targets, financing and technology transfer until sometime in 2010. The delay has frustrated those who feel time is running out to prevent calamitous levels of climate change. Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change described the compromise deal as a severe disappointment. He said the scientific consensus on global warming demands immediate action, not stalling tactics.
New government data shows nearly 50 million Americans — including a quarter of all children — struggled to get enough to eat last year. The Department of Agriculture found that nearly 17 million children lived in households in which food at times was scarce last year, four million children more than the year before. The government data has startled even anti-poverty advocates. Vicki Escarra, president of Feeding America, said, “This is unthinkable. It’s like we are living in a Third World country.” The total number of Americans going hungry is likely even higher. The report is based on 2008 data when the unemployment rate maxed out at 7.2 percent. Since then the unemployment rate has jumped to over ten percent. David Davenport runs the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.
David Davenport: “I anticipate that as the months go on, the next four to six months, we’ll continue to break distribution records, we’ll continue to have to expand programs like the mobile pantry, and we’ll continue to have to do more and to do it with less resources.”
In other economic news, the housing crisis appears to be worsening. The overall delinquency rate for home mortgages has reached a new high. Over six percent of all mortgage loans were sixty or more days past due during the third quarter. In Nevada, the delinquency rate reached 14.5 percent. In California, the rate has topped ten percent.
A coalition of organizations including the NAACP and the AFL-CIO are calling on President Obama to do more to create jobs. The groups argue that the $787 billion stimulus program has not gone far enough to fight unemployment. On Monday, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke warned that it will take time before the job market recovers.
Ben Bernanke: “Jobs are likely to remain scarce for some time, keeping households cautious about their spending. As the recovery becomes established, however, payrolls should begin to grow again at a pace that increases over time. Nevertheless, as net gains of roughly 100,000 jobs per month are needed just to absorb new entrants into the labor force, the unemployment rate likely will decline only slowly, if the economic growth remains moderate, as I expect.”
A new government audit has found that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York mismanaged the $85 billion bailout of AIG by refusing to use its considerable leverage to wring concessions from AIG’s trading partners. This resulted in the New York Fed paying full market value for assets underlying credit default swaps written by AIG to Goldman Sachs and other banks. This was done even though at least one bank, UBS, offered to cancel the contracts for less.
In international news. Palestinian officials are coming under increasing pressure to back down from its threat to ask the United National Security Council to recognize Palestine as an independent state. The idea of seeking UN intervention has been gaining steam in the Arab world due to the current impasse in peace negotiations with Israel.
Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator: “The declaration of independence took place in 1988, and now it’s not the time for Palestinians to make more unilateral declarations. It is time to create the Palestinian independent state. The key here is the Security Council, for the Security Council to recognize the Palestinian state on the borders of the 4th of June 1967 and its capital East Jerusalem.”
Last night the US State Department issued a statement opposing the Palestinian proposal: “It is our strong belief and conviction that the best means to achieve the common goal of a contiguous and viable Palestine is through negotiations between the parties.”
The United States has announced it will attend an International Criminal Court meeting this week as an observer for the first time since The Hague court was set up in 2002. The US signed the ICC treaty during Bill Clinton’s presidency, but it was never ratified by Congress. Clinton’s successor George W. Bush later rejected the idea of joining the court.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has blocked the further release of any photographs depicting abuse or torture of foreign prisoners, saying their release would endanger American soldiers. Federal courts have repeatedly rejected the government’s arguments to block the release of the photographs, but Congress voted last month to give Gates new powers to keep them private.
In Arizona, five people, including two Roman Catholic priests, were arrested Sunday at Ft. Huachuca, home of the US Army Intelligence Center. The protesters were carrying a statement opposing the use of torture and calling for the civilian oversight of all military interrogation practices.
In healthcare news, the New York Times has revealed that biotech lobbyists recently ghostwrote statements by dozens of lawmakers that were submitted into the Congressional Record. The lobbyists were employed by Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss drug giant Roche. Genentech estimates that forty-two House members picked up some of its talking points — twenty-two Republicans and twenty Democrats.
In other medical news, the New York Times reports the drug industry has raised the wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs by about nine percent in the past year. By at least one analysis, it is the highest annual rate of inflation for drug prices since 1992. Critics say the industry is trying to establish a higher price base before Congress passes legislation that tries to curb drug spending in coming years.
In media news, the nation’s oldest gay and lesbian newspaper, the Washington Blade, has abruptly closed. Staffers learned on Monday that the paper’s owner, Window Media, was filing for bankruptcy and immediately shutting down the forty-year-old paper. Window Media was the nation’s largest publisher of newspapers serving the gay and lesbian community. Also shut down Monday were the Southern Voice, David Atlanta, the South Florida Blade, 411 magazine and the Houston Voice.
Attorney General Eric Holder is being urged to launch a hate crimes probe after the body of a gay Puerto Rican teenager was found burned, decapitated and dismembered. Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado was an openly gay nineteen year old. In an interview on Univision, a local police investigator appeared to blame the victim. The investigator said, “Someone like that, who does those kind of things, and goes out in public, knows full well that this might happen to him.”
Newly disclosed documents reveal the FBI tracked the renowned historian and broadcaster Studs Terkel from 1945 to 1990 because the agency suspected him of being a communist. The news was first reported by the New York City News Service, a project of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer died last year at age ninety-six.
And we end today’s headlines with sad news from here in the Bay Area: the longtime KPFA producer and host Andrea Lewis has died at the age of fifty-two after suffering a heart attack. She was the co-anchor of KPFA’s Evening News and the host and producer of KPFA’s Sunday morning public affairs program. In 2002 she was the recipient of a National Federation of Community Broadcasters Golden Reels Award. She also wrote for The Progressive magazine. [“Listen to Max Pringle’s tribute to Andrew Lewis on KPFA (MP3)”: http://media.libsyn.com/media/democracynow/MaxPringleAndreaLewisObit-ok.mp3]