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HeadlinesDecember 15, 2009

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COP15 Talks Resume Following Kyoto Walkout

Dec 15, 2009

Negotiations have resumed at the Copenhagen climate summit following Monday’s walkout by developing countries. The African-led protest centered around concerns richer nations are trying to “kill” the Kyoto Protocol by merging it with a separate negotiating track. Kamel Djemouai, the chair of the African bloc, said poorer countries would never accept the abandonment of Kyoto.

Kamel Djemouai: “The Kyoto Protocol took seven years to enter into force. The next treaty, I’m sure that it will take more than that, even if there will be a political will, because this process missed and lost all confidence and the main transparency in it from the most developing countries.”

The dispute was resolved with an agreement to resume informal talks along separate tracks.

Danish Police Raid Climate Justice Gathering

Dec 15, 2009

Meanwhile, outside the summit, Danish police are intensifying their crackdown on climate justice activists. Late last night riot police raided Copenhagen’s autonomous community of Christiania as it played host to a party organized by protest groups. Witnesses say police fired tear gas directly at the party as attendees were dancing and gathering inside. Some protesters were said to have thrown bottles at police and set fire to barricades. More than 200 people were reportedly arrested. The Christiania raid comes ahead of a massive act of civil disobedience planned for Wednesday. Organizers of the “Reclaim Power” action say they’ll disrupt the summit and hold a people’s assembly giving voice to those calling for climate justice.

Lieberman “Encouraged” Dems Will Drop Medicare Expansion

Dec 15, 2009

In healthcare news, independent Senator Joseph Lieberman appears to have successfully derailed the latest Senate Democratic healthcare proposal. Last week, Democrats reached agreement on a so-called “compromise” to abandon the public insurance option but expand Medicare by lowering the age of eligibility to fifty-five. Lieberman had previously said he supported Medicare expansion. But on Sunday, Lieberman surprised Democrats and announced he would now oppose the measure unless both the Medicare provision and any form of government-backed insurance plan were excluded. On Monday, Lieberman emerged from a meeting with top White House officials and Democratic senators to say he is “encouraged” his demands will be met.

Obama Urges Bank Execs to Free Up Loans

Dec 15, 2009

President Obama met with top financial executives at the White House Monday in what he called an effort to encourage lending to struggling Americans. Obama said he asked for more loans to small businesses and homeowners and support for a congressional overhaul of financial regulation.

President Obama: “Given the difficulty businesspeople are having as lending has declined, and given the exceptional assistance banks received to get them through a difficult time, we expect them to explore every responsible way to help get our economy moving again. If they wish to fight commonsense consumer protections, that’s a fight I’m more than willing to have.”

Obama’s call comes as a number of bailed-out firms continue to repay their taxpayer loans. On Monday, Citibank and Wells Fargo said they are moving ahead with repayments, which would help them reject government demands. In what some called an illustration of the government’s weakened position, the CEOs of the three largest bailed out firms — Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup — did not attend the meeting. They had waited until Monday to travel to Washington, but weather problems delayed their planes.

Bailed-Out Execs’ Salaries Averaged $28.9M Before Meltdown

Dec 15, 2009

The meeting was held as new figures showed CEOs of the top ten failed or bailed-out Wall Street firms were paid an average $28.9 million in the years leading up to the nation’s financial meltdown. According to Public Citizen, the executives’ average pay this decade amounts to 575 times the median income for US families.

Housing Activists Protest JPMorgan Chase

Dec 15, 2009

Meanwhile in New York, hundreds of protesters marched on the offices of the banking giant JPMorgan Chase to demand better treatment of customers facing foreclosure. Darren Duarte of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, NACA, said Chase’s policies are throwing homeowners out onto the streets.

Darren Duarte: “It’s Christmastime, people are being thrown out on the streets, and I think bankers could do more. The President is talking a lot about it, but he’s not requiring them or taking action. We want him to take action today.”

The protest was held as part of NACA’s “Save the Dream Tour” to pressure banks to restructure mortgages. The group says over 350,000 people have taken part in eleven cities nationwide.

Report: US Considers Drone Attacks on Pakistani City

Dec 15, 2009

In Pakistan, the US is reportedly considering expanding drone attacks beyond tribal areas into the major city of Quetta. The Los Angeles Times reports senior US officials have argued in favor of launching or threatening the attacks as a means to pressure the Pakistani government to crack down on Taliban leaders. Quetta has a population of 850,000.

Iran to Try Jailed US Hikers

Dec 15, 2009

The Iranian government has announced plans to try three Americans detained after mistakenly hiking into Iran earlier this year. It’s unclear when the trial will begin or what charges will be applied. Last month an Iranian prosecutor accused the three of espionage. On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected Iran’s charges.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “The three young people who were detained by the Iranians have absolutely no connection with any kind of action against the Iranian state or government. In fact, they were out hiking and unfortunately, apparently, allegedly walked across an unmarked boundary. We appeal to the Iranian leadership to release these three young people and free them as soon as possible.”

Iran’s announcement comes days after it called on the US to release eleven Iranian citizens it says are jailed in US prisons.

HRW: UN Mission Abets Congo Killings

Dec 15, 2009

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo is being accused of complicity in the killings of hundreds of innocent civilians. In a new report, Human Rights Watch says the UN mission has abetted the killings of at least 1,400 civilians and a number of rapes. The report calls on the UN to immediately suspend its collaboration with the Congolese army.

Ex-Israeli FM Cancels UK Visit After Arrest Warrant Issued for Gaza Assault

Dec 15, 2009

In Britain, former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has canceled a scheduled visit after a British court issued a warrant for her arrest. The warrant cited Livni’s role in the US-backed Israeli attack on Gaza nearly a year ago that killed over 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians. It the first time a British court had issued an arrest warrant for a sitting or former Israeli minister. The warrant was rescinded after the court determined Livni would not be visiting Britain.

Chile to Hold Runoff Vote

Dec 15, 2009

Chile is headed to a runoff vote after Sunday’s presidential election failed to produce a clear winner. Right-wing billionaire Sebastian Pinera came out ahead with 44 percent of the vote. He’ll face off against former Chilean President Eduardo Frei in a second round next month.

Peace Activists Launch New Antiwar Coalition

Dec 15, 2009

Back in the United States, several antiwar groups have formed a new coalition to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other US military actions abroad. The group “End US Wars” held an inaugural rally Saturday in front of the White House. Democratic Congress member Dennis Kucinich was among those to address the crowd.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “We have money for war, but not for jobs; money for war, but not for healthcare; money for war, but not for education; money for war, but not for housing; money for war, but not for peace — billions for bailouts, bonuses and bombs.”

Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of Gitmo Torture Suit

Dec 15, 2009

The Supreme Court has refused to review a lower court’s dismissal of a suit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top US military officials for the torture of four former Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Last year the DC Circuit Court ruled the four have no constitutional rights and don’t qualify as “persons” under the law. The Obama administration had asked the Supreme Court to reject the appeal. The lead attorney in the case, Eric Lewis, said, “The final word on whether these men had a right not to be tortured or a right to practice their religion free from abuse is that they did not. Future prospective torturers can now draw comfort.”

Canadian Anti-Olympic Activist Denied US Entry

Dec 15, 2009

And a Canadian activist has been barred from entering the United States to speak out against the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver. On Friday, Marla Renn of the Olympic Resistance Network said she was detained and interrogated for six hours before being returned to Canada.

Marla Renn: “When I arrived at the American border, I was picked out of the line before I reached my turn to step up to the wicket. And I was questioned specifically about what I was going to be doing in Portland and questioned quite extensively about who I knew there and the purposes of why I was going to be there. I was subsequently refused entry based on the fact that I haven’t been employed for the last three months.”

Local activists have criticized the Vancouver Olympics for displacing and sidelining low-income residents, as well as infringing on indigenous land rights.

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