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The Democratic-controlled House has narrowly passed a $106 billion spending bill to expand the war in Afghanistan and to continue funding the war in Iraq. Thirty-two antiwar Democrats voted against the measure, as did all but five Republicans. The Republicans opposed a part of the bill to increase funding for the International Monetary Fund. The final vote was 226 to 202. Congressman Dennis Kucinich voted against the war funding.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “We’re destroying our nation’s moral and fiscal integrity with the war supplemental. Instead of ending wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan now by appropriating only enough money to bring our troops home, Congress abdicates its constitutional authority, defers to the President, and asks for a report. That’s right. All we’re asking for is a report on when the President will end the war.”
Dennis Kucinich also criticized the increased funding for the International Monetary Fund.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “There’s money, too, for the IMF, presumably to bail out European banks, billions for the IMF, so they can force low- and middle-income nations to cut jobs, wages, healthcare and retirement security, just like corporate America does to our constituents. And there’s money to incentivize the purchase of more cars, but not necessarily from the US, because a Buy America mandate was not allowed. Another $106 billion, and all we get is a lousy war. Pretty soon that’s going to be about the only thing made in America: war.”
The United Nations is reporting a record number of internally displaced persons received UN assistance in 2008. 14.4 million people were registered as living under UN care. Another 11.6 million internally displaced persons were left to fend for themselves or receive assistance from other agencies. The total number of internally displaced persons has increased even more since the end of 2008 due to fighting in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia.
Anti-government protesters are filling the streets of Tehran again today calling for last week’s election results to be thrown out. Supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi accuse President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of rigging the election. On Tuesday, backers of Mousavi and Ahmadinejad both held massive rallies. Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has called for a new election under the watch of international observers.
In Washington, President Obama resisted calls for the United States to take a direct stance on the situation in Iran.
President Obama: “It’s not productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the US President meddling in Iranian elections.”
Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain criticized Obama’s handling of the crisis.
Sen. John McCain: “He should speak out that this is a corrupt, flawed sham of an election. The Iranian people have been deprived of their rights. We support them in their struggle against a repressive, oppressive regime. And they should not be subjected to four more years of Ahmadinejad and the radical Muslim clerics.”
Meanwhile, the Iranian government has revoked press credentials for foreign journalists and ordered journalists not to report from the streets. Much of the video footage from Iran is now coming from Iranian citizens who are posting video to YouTube and other sites. Amateur video posted on the internet earlier today appears to show members of the Revolutionary Guard firing at a crowd of demonstrators from the roof of their building in Tehran on Monday. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said today it will pursue legal action against websites that it claimed were inciting people to riot, as well as the people who post material to the websites.
President Obama is expected to sign a presidential memorandum today to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, but he will stop short of pledging full health insurance coverage. Obama is making the announcement at a time when he is facing growing anger among gay supporters over his administration’s recent decision to file a legal brief supporting the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. During the presidential campaign, Obama called for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act as well as the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Meanwhile, a new report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has found that the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people killed in bias-motivated attacks increased by 28 percent last year. The group documented twenty-nine killings in 2008, the highest number recorded since 1999.
In economic news, President Obama is expected to propose today the creation of an independent and powerful Consumer Financial Product Safety Commission to regulate financial products such as mortgages and credit cards. The McClatchy Newspapers reports that as part of the proposal, the Federal Reserve and other bank regulators would lose their oversight over mortgages, credit cards and other financial products that are sold to consumers. At the same time, Obama is proposing expanding the Fed’s role as the regulator of the nation’s largest banks, such as JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, to include other giant financial firms, such as the insurance companies AIG and MetLife.
Meanwhile, a leading economic forecaster is projecting that much of the country will not return to peak employment until at least 2012, and many cities won’t return to recent peaks until 2014 or later. Six million jobs have been lost since the recession began eighteen months ago.
Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians in Gaza were being treated “more like animals than human beings.” Carter made the comment after touring the Gaza Strip for the first time since the Israeli attack.
Jimmy Carter: “Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than like human beings.”
Jimmy Carter also called for an investigation into war crimes committed by Israel.
Jimmy Carter: “There is no explanation. The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, in Cairo, in Washington, and in the capitals of Europe, throughout the international community. This abuse must cease. The crimes committed against you must be investigated. The walls must be brought down, and the basic right of freedom must come to you.”
Meanwhile, new attention is being paid to a State Department opinion issued during Jimmy Carter’s administration regarding Israeli settlements. In 1979, a State Department legal adviser issued an opinion that stated the establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories is “inconsistent with international law.” The opinion cited Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The legal opinion has never been revoked or revised. On Tuesday, Israel’s newly appointed ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, claimed that Israel does not have the ability to halt all settlement building.
Michael Oren: “This is a country of law, and citizens of the state of Israel have rights under that law. And if a person has purchased a house, if a person has taken out a contract for building a house, if a corporation is involved in a construction activity, the Israeli government does not have the right under Israeli law to stop them. And if it tries to, they will appeal to the (Israeli) supreme court, and my guess is, the supreme court will view in favor of those appellants.”
The future of the Israeli settlements is expected to be discussed at today’s meeting in Washington between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman lives in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim.
A new report by the Obama administration says global warming is “unequivocal and primarily human-induced.” The Washington Post reports the study details how climate change will affect certain parts of the United States. In the Northeast, the heaviest rainstorms have become 67 percent heavier since 1958, as warmer weather evaporates more water vapor into the atmosphere to feed storm clouds. Around the Great Lakes, snowstorms could get heavier as ice recedes and exposes more open water. By 2100, parts of the South could experience 150 days a year with temperatures higher than ninety degrees.
Peruvian Prime Minister Yehude Simon has announced plans to resign following the bloody clashes between indigenous activists and the police. Simon has led negotiations with indigenous groups protesting decrees to foreign oil and gas development in the Amazon jungle. Meanwhile, the Peruvian Foreign Ministry has announced that it has granted safe passage to indigenous leader Alberto Pizango to leave Peru for Nicaragua, which has granted him political asylum. On Tuesday, Bolivian President Evo Morales accused Peruvian President Alan Garcia of committing genocide.
Evo Morales: “I’m convinced that what happened in Peru is genocide caused the free trade agreement. Privatization hands South America and Latin America’s Amazon forests over to multinationals. Now the free trade agreement is causing genocide not just in Latin America, but all over the world.”
In other news from Peru, protesters have blocked access to one of the country’s largest gold mines. Peru is the world’s sixth-largest gold producer.
In Somalia, the police chief of the capital Mogadishu has been killed in a day of heaving fighting between government forces and Islamic militants. More than 250 people have been killed in Somalia over the past month.
On Capitol Hill, Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada has admitted he had an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer. Ensign was seen as a potential candidate for president in 2012. Ensign is a born-again Christian who was a member of the Promise Keepers, a male evangelical group that promotes marital fidelity. Ensign had once claimed he never met behind closed doors with women staff members and would not travel alone in a car with a woman who was not his wife. In 2007, Ensign urged Idaho Senator Larry Craig to resign after his arrest in a men’s bathroom for alleged lewd conduct.
The federal trial of former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana has begun. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors told jurors Jefferson had squeezed hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from people who sought his help. Jefferson has been charged with sixteen counts, including bribery, racketeering, obstruction of justice and money laundering. In 2005 the FBI raided Jefferson’s Capitol Hill home and found $90,000 wrapped in foil and stuffed in food containers in a freezer.
And doctor Leo Orris has died at the age of ninety-three. He was a pioneer in environmental medicine and discovered the causative link between tobacco and cancer in 1958.