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Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts has died after a bout with brain cancer. He was seventy-seven years old. Kennedy served in the Senate for forty-six years, earning the nickname the “liberal lion” for his steadfast advocacy of progressive causes. In recent years, Kennedy endorsed President Obama’s bid for the White House in what was seen as a key turning point in the presidential campaign. Kennedy voted against authorizing the Iraq war in 2002, later calling it the best vote he ever cast in the Senate. He was the last surviving brother of the generation of Kennedys who dominated US politics in the 1960s.
In Afghanistan, at least forty-three people have been killed and another sixty-five wounded in a bombing in the city of Kandahar. It was one of the deadliest single attacks Afghanistan has seen in months.
Meanwhile, four US troops were killed in a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan. The deaths make 2009 the deadliest year for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion of 2001. At least 295 foreign troops have died this year, surpassing last year’s toll of 294. This month is also the war’s second-deadliest for US troops, with forty-one casualties.
In Honduras, the coup regime has rejected the latest international effort to broker the return of the ousted President Manuel Zelaya. On Tuesday, the coup government met with visiting foreign ministers from the Organization of American States. The installed President Roberto Micheletti again rejected a Costa Rican-mediated proposal to restore Zelaya and said the coup government will proceed with new elections in November. Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno criticized the coup regime’s stance.
Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno: “In all the meetings, the commission demonstrated in a clear manner that the agreement of San Jose, recognized internationally as the basis for national reconciliation, is the immediate, balanced and viable path to the achievement of the reinstatement of the order of law in Honduras. The commission laments that on this occasion support for the agreement of San Jose has not been obtained and calls on the different sectors of Honduran society to support the agreement.”
The US, meanwhile, has announced it will stop issuing most visas at its embassy in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa to further isolate the coup regime. The US has recently faced criticism for not taking stronger steps against the coup, including the suspension of trade with Honduras.
In financial news, the Obama administration is predicting a $9 trillion deficit over the next ten years. The figure is nearly $2 trillion more than what the White House projected in March. But officials say the budget outlook has worsened after factoring in the nation’s ongoing economic meltdown. This year’s deficit is expected to reach $1.6 trillion, the highest on record. Despite the budget woes, the Obama administration has rejected calls to lower US military spending, by far the highest in the world.
President Obama has announced the renomination of Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke. Bernanke was first appointed by former President George W. Bush to succeed then-Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan and has been criticized for failing to foresee the financial meltdown. On Tuesday, Obama said the White House’s economic policies are strengthening the nation’s financial recovery.
President Obama: “The actions we’ve taken to stabilize our financial system, to repair our credit markets, restructure our auto industry, and pass a recovery package have all been steps of necessity, not choice. They have faced plenty of critics, some of whom argued that we should stay the course or do nothing at all. But taken together, this bold, persistent experimentation has brought our economy back from the brink. They’re steps that are working.”
A new study shows most of the top lenders eligible for billions of dollars under the government’s homeowner assistance program were also key players in the subprime loan market. According to the Center for Public Integrity, twenty-one of the top twenty-five financial institutions under the $75 billion Making Home Affordable program specialized in subprime loans. The proliferation of subprime loans was one of the key factors behind the nation’s financial collapse. The subprime-linked firms include JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Countrywide. Recent figures also show less than ten percent of borrowers eligible for assistance under the program have actually received loans.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has unveiled a plan that he says will build the institutions and infrastructure necessary to declare a provisional Palestinian state within the next two years. Fayyad said his government is seeking a state within the 1967 borders.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: “We call on our people to unite behind this program and the government’s vision to transform it into a reality. This is the path to freedom. This is the path to the creation of the independent state of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital. And yes, this can and must happen within the next two years.”
Fayyad’s announcement came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the start of a trip to Europe. Netanyahu dismissed one of Palestinians’ central demands: sovereignty over East Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I say Jerusalem is not a settlement. The settlement issue is outstanding. It has to be one of the issues resolved in the negotiations alongside with the Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state and effective demilitarization arrangements for any future peace agreement. But our position is that Jerusalem is the united capital of the Jewish people.”
Back in the United States, a leading Democratic donor has been arrested and charged with seeking to defraud the financial giant Citibank. Hassan Nemazee is accused of submitting forged documents to secure a $74 million loan. Nemazee has given at least $150,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee since 2006 and supported several other leading Democratic politicians.
And in West Virginia, two activists have halted work at a Massey Energy mountaintop removal site after occupying a pair of treetops above Pettry Bottom and Peachtree. The tree-sitters are members of Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice, which have staged a series of recent actions against mountaintop removal. The activists are calling on Massey Energy to stop the blasting and fund healthcare and home repair for local residents.