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US Special Forces assassinated a leading Islamic militant on Monday during a daytime raid in Somalia. Four US helicopter gunships bombed a pair of trucks carrying leaders of the militant group Shabab. US officials said six people died, including Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who has been described as the ringleader of an al-Qaeda cell in Kenya. US forces have been hunting him for years. Nabhan had been wanted for questioning in connection with a deadly car bombing of a beach resort in Kenya in 2002 and the near simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner.
President Barack Obama called on lawmakers and Wall Street Monday to accept what he described as the “most ambitious overhaul of the financial system since the Great Depression.” Obama’s speech on Wall Street came on the first anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
President Obama: “We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses. Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences and expect that next time American taxpayers will be there to break their fall. And that’s why we need strong rules of the road to guard against the kind of systemic risks that we’ve seen. And we have a responsibility to write and enforce these rules to protect consumers of financial products, to protect taxpayers, and to protect our economy as a whole.”
President Obama’s call for new financial regulations is facing fierce opposition from the securities and investment industries. A new report by the watchdog group Common Cause reveals the financial industry spent $42 million lobbying Congress during the first six months of the year. Nine of the top recipients of securities money so far this year are Democrats. Senator Charles Schumer of New York topped the list, taking in nearly $680,000 in campaign contributions. Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce has launched a multi-million-dollar campaign to kill the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency that would monitor the products that banks and other institutions sell to consumers, including subprime loans.
In other business news, a federal judge has overturned a $33 million settlement between Bank of America and the Securities and Exchange Commission over the $3.6 billion bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch executives just before the bank’s takeover by Bank of America. Judge Rakoff questioned why the SEC didn’t file charges against individual executives at Bank of America and Merrill Lynch who allegedly filed faulty disclosures to mislead investors about the size of the bonuses. Rakoff said of the settlement, “It is not fair, first and foremost, because it does not comport with the most elementary notions of justice and morality, in that it proposes that the shareholders who were the victims of the Bank’s alleged misconduct now pay the penalty for that misconduct.”
The Iraqi television reporter who threw his shoes at former President George W. Bush has been released from an Iraqi jail after serving a nine-month sentence. At a press conference today, Muntadhar al-Zaidi said Iraqi security forces tortured him with beatings, whippings and electric shocks after his arrest. Al-Zaidi became a hero in much of the Arab and Muslim worlds after he disrupted Bush’s last press conference in Iraq. Before throwing his shoes at the President, al-Zaidi shouted, “It is the farewell kiss, you dog.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has asked the State Department and Pentagon to investigate the death of Adam Hermanson, the twenty-five-year-old private security contractor who died after being electrocuted in his dormitory in Baghdad. Hermanson worked for the firm Triple Canopy. Reid said he wants to know whether Hermanson’s death resulted from faulty electrical work. Visit democracynow.org to listen or watch our recent interview with Adam Hermanson’s mother and brother.
Sen. Charles Schumer has asked the Justice Department’s antitrust division to investigate the recent sale of Diebold’s voting machines division to Election Systems & Software, the nation’s largest electronic voting machine vendor. Schumer said the deal could have “adverse implications on how our country votes.” According to Verified Voting, more than 120 million registered voters use one of these two companies’ systems.
In other news from Washington, the Senate has voted 83-to-7 to block the anti-poverty group ACORN from receiving any more federal housing funds. ACORN helps poor people fight foreclosures and fix tax problems. The organization has long been a target of Republican lawmakers and Fox News.
In New York, federal and city counterterrorism agents raided at least two apartments in Queens Monday in what was described as a preventive act. No arrests were made and no explosives or other weapons were found. The New York Times reported the raid occurred after a man of Afghan descent, under surveillance because of suspected al-Qaeda ties, visited New York City over the weekend and then left.
In Pakistan, eighteen poor women and children were killed in a stampede for food in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Monday. They were crushed to death in a crowd of people who had entered a building to collect flour and other supplies being handed out as charity.
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell held a two-hour meeting today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but they failed to reach a compromise on the contentious issue of West Bank settlement construction. Ahead of the talks, Netanyahu rejected US calls to freeze all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Human Rights Watch has suspended its senior military analyst Marc Garlasco after it was was revealed he is an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia and had written a book about Nazi-era medals. Garlasco’s hobby was first revealed last week by a website that has long been critical of Human Rights Watch’s work in Israel and the Occupied Territories. During the Gaza attack, Garlasco helped expose Israel’s use of white phosphorus munitions and discussed his findings in the media, including on Democracy Now! Garlasco has said his hobby was inspired by his German grandfather, who was conscripted into Hitler’s army. In an essay posted online last week, Garlasco called the Nazis “the worst war criminals of all time.” He described himself as a “military geek” whose interest grew out of his own family’s history.
The city of Philadelphia has announced plans to close its entire public library system on October 2 if the state legislature does not act on the city’s budget request. The city is also considering implementing a doomsday budget plan if the state legislature does not approve the city’s request for a temporary sales tax hike and a two-year deferral of payments into the pension fund. Under the plan, the city would eliminate court system funding, shut down all recreation centers, and lay off up to 3,000 workers, including police and firefighters.
Michael Moore has premiered his new documentary Capitalism: A Love Story at the Toronto Film Festival. The film deals with the crisis on Wall Street and its devastating effect on the lives of ordinary people. At a press conference in Toronto, Moore questioned why the the US government decided to bail out AIG and General Motors, but not Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.
Michael Moore: “I guess Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers weren’t making their proper contributions. You know, this kind of like the Mob, isn’t it? Those who make the proper payments to the head don, they get to live, and the others don’t. It’s such an unfair system all around. We need a democratic economy. We don’t have it, and I’m going to keep advocating for it.”
And Crystal Lee Sutton has died at the age of sixty-eight. Her fight to unionize Southern textile plants with low pay and poor conditions was dramatized in the film Norma Rae.