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HeadlinesOctober 18, 2010

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GOP Gains Fundraising Advantage Ahead of Midterm Election

Oct 18, 2010

Newly disclosed campaign records show Republicans have benefited from a surge in campaign donations in recent months. The Wall Street Journal reports the Republican candidates in the ten closest Senate races raised $41 million in the third quarter, nearly three times as much as their Democratic candidate opponents. The difference was most striking in Nevada, where Republican Sharron Angle raised $14 million, seven times as much as her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Meanwhile, the Center for Responsive Politics reports outside groups, including some funded by secret donors, have spent $167 million so far in the 2010 election cycle. That’s up from about $70 million four years ago. A recent study of TV ad buys in September and early October found that outside groups were spending nine times as much on Republicans as Democrats.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Campaign in Ohio

Oct 18, 2010

To help struggling Democratic candidates, President Obama hit the campaign trail over the weekend. On Sunday he and First Lady Michelle Obama addressed a crowd of 35,000 at Ohio State University in Columbus. It was the first time the President campaigned with his wife since 2008.

President Obama: “The Republican leadership made a calculation. It was a tactical decision that if they just sat on the sidelines, if they didn’t lift a finger to help, if instead they opposed us every step of the way, if they said no even to policies that historically they had agreed to, that historically they had sponsored and adopted, they figured they could ride people’s anger and frustration all the way to the ballot box.”

Recent polls suggest the Republican strategy may be working. As many as 100 House seats are seen as in play on November 2, almost all of which are held now by Democrats. Republicans need a net pickup of thirty-nine seats to take the House.

Alaskan Journalist Detained & Handcuffed by Private Guards for GOP Candidate

Oct 18, 2010

In news from Alaska, private security guards working for Republican US Senate candidate Joe Miller detained and handcuffed a journalist on Sunday after the reporter attempted to interview the Tea Party favorite. Tony Hopfinger, an editor at the Alaska Dispatch, was attempting to ask Miller about why he was disciplined while working as a part-time attorney for a local governmental body. Private security guards from the firm Drop Zone accused Hopfinger of trespassing and assault, but local police officers declined to arrest him. Hopfinger talked to the Alaskan TV station KTUU after he was let go.

Tony Hopfinger: “I mean, I asked him some hard questions that I thought, you know, we need to get some answers to. He’s being sued by two newspapers and us right now over his employment at the [Fairbanks North Star] Borough. And he hasn’t denied the accusations, so I was asking — I started asking about that. That’s where this all came from.”

Ex-Countrywide CEO to Pay $67 Million Settlement

Oct 18, 2010

In economic news, the former head of Countrywide Financial, Angelo Mozilo, has agreed to pay a record $67 million to settle allegations by the Securities and Exchange Commission that he committed fraud and insider trading for his role in the subprime mortgage crisis. Although the settlement is the highest ever paid for by an executive of a public company, it is just a fraction of what Mozilo earned at Countrywide. Between 2001 and 2006 Mozilo took home $470 million, making him one of the highest-paid CEOs in the country.

1,500 French Gas Stations Run Out of Fuel as Labor Protests Intensify

Oct 18, 2010

In France, protests are intensifying against a plan by President Nicolas Sarkozy to raise the retirement age from sixty to sixty-two. Striking workers have shut down all of France’s oil refineries and gas depots. Around 1,500 gas stations have run out of fuel, and the French government has admitted that the country’s biggest airport, Charles de Gaulle in Paris, might only have enough fuel to last until tonight. Many flights scheduled for tomorrow are expected to be canceled. Millions of French workers and students have taken to the streets in recent weeks.

Benoît Hamon, spokesperson for the Socialist Party in France: “What we can see is that the strikes are spreading, go slows are multiplying, the young people are increasingly mobilized, and the workers are not backing down. Now it’s up to the government to return to reason, and the leaders to return to reason, so that the project is suspended and negotiations are resumed.”

Hundreds of Hilton Hotel Workers Go on Strike

Oct 18, 2010

In other labor news, hundreds of workers at Hilton hotels in Chicago, San Francisco and Honolulu have gone on strike. Union leaders from UNITE HERE have accused the hotel’s owner, the private equity firm Blackstone Group, of trying to “lock workers into cheap recession contracts.”

Scores of Stimulus Opponents Sought Money out of Public View

Oct 18, 2010

A new report from the Center for Public Integrity shows scores of Republicans and conservative Democrats who voted against the $787 billion stimulus subsequently wrote letters requesting funds for projects in a massive, behind-the-scenes letter-writing and phone-call campaign.
Those asking for money include Tea Party favorites like freshman Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former presidential candidates Ron Paul and John McCain, and Republican congressional leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana. Many Democratic leaders who had boasted they prevented lawmakers from inserting special spending requests in the stimulus law also engaged in the behind-the-scenes letter writing to secure funding afterward, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Al-Maliki Visits Iran to Meet Ahmadinejad

Oct 18, 2010

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has arrived in Iran to hold talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The trip comes one day after the Guardian newspaper reported Iran helped broker the deal that resulted in Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr backing al-Maliki’s attempt to form a new government. Since elections were held in March, al-Maliki and former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi have been locked in a protracted battle over who will serve as prime minister. On Sunday, Allawi accused Iran of trying to destabilize Iraq and the region.

Soldier to Face Court-Martial over “Kill Team” Charges

Oct 18, 2010

An Army commander has ordered Spc. Jeremy Morlock to face a general court-martial for allegedly murdering three Afghan men and for being part of a secret “kill team” in Afghanistan that murdered unarmed civilians at random and collected body parts, such as fingers, for trophies. If convicted, Morlock could face life in prison without parole. Morlock is one of twelve US soldiers accused of forming the secret kill team.

Tides Foundation CEO Urges Advertisers to Boycott Fox News

Oct 18, 2010

In media news, the founder and CEO of the Tides Foundation has written to advertisers of Fox News asking them to remove all of their ads from the network or risk having blood on their hands. In July, a fan of Fox News broadcaster Glenn Beck was arrested for plotting to assassinate employees of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU. The gunman, Byron Williams, admitted Beck’s show inspired him to plot the attack. For months Beck has railed against the Tides Foundation, accusing the San Francisco-based non-profit of being part of a secret left-wing plot to take over the government. In his letter to advertisers on Fox News, Drummond Pike of the Tides Foundation wrote, “The next 'assassin' may succeed, and if so, there will be blood on many hands. The choice is yours. Please join my call to do the right thing in this regard and put Fox News at arm’s length from your company by halting your advertising with them.” Recipients of the letter included JPMorgan Chase, BP, GEICO, Chrysler and GlaxoSmithKline.

EPA Official: Reject Permit for Mountaintop Removal Mine in WV

Oct 18, 2010

The Obama administration has moved a step closer to retroactively revoking the largest mountaintop removal mining permit in West Virginia history. A regional official from the Environmental Protection Agency has recommended denying the Clean Water Act permit for the Spruce Mine, in part because it will bury nearly seven miles of streams. The EPA estimates the mine would also destroy 2,300 acres of forest.

US Accuses China of Illegally Subsidizing Clean Energy Projects

Oct 18, 2010

The Obama administration has announced plans to investigate whether China is breaking international trade rules by heavily subsidizing Chinese manufacturers of wind turbines, solar energy products, energy-efficient vehicles, and technologically advanced batteries. China responded by sharply rebuking the White House, accusing the Obama administration of playing election-season politics.

China Demonized in Dozens of US Campaign Ads

Oct 18, 2010

The news comes as dozens of Democratic and Republican candidates have publicly demonized China ahead of the midterm election. According to the New York Times, at least twenty-nine candidates have unveiled advertisements suggesting that their opponents have been too sympathetic to China. The National Republican Congressional Committee is running this ad in Indiana.

RNCC Ad: “Is Baron Hill running for Congress in Indiana or China? Baron Hill supported the $800 billion failed stimulus package that created renewable energy jobs in China. His big spending programs will force us to keep borrowing money from, you guessed it, China. So Hill’s creating massive new debt here, while he created renewable new energy jobs over there. Baron Hill, for Indiana or China? We fired him once. The National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.”

Burma Bars Foreign Observers and Reporters from Election

Oct 18, 2010

The Burmese military junta has announced no foreign election observers or reporters will be allowed into the country to cover the November 7 election, Burma’s first in twenty years. Supporters of jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi have already called for a boycott of the election, which they say will be unfair and undemocratic. Suu Kyi’s party won the 1990 elections, but the military junta refused to recognize the results.

Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award Honors Activists

Oct 18, 2010

And the Washington-based progressive think tank Institute for Policy Studies has honored two Latin American groups and a US labor group with the annual Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award. The Honduran Platform on Human Rights was cited in the international category for its work documenting and investigating abuses since the June 2009 coup that overthrew Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. Bertha Oliva de Nativi of the Committee of Family Members of Detained and Disappeared in Honduras accepted the award on behalf of the five other groups that comprise the Platform.

Bertha Oliva de Nativi: “Nothing is normal in our country since June 28. A coup does not mean more power for the people. It means police and military violence, more repression, and only makes the victim count increase every day. So with this award, I want to ask that we unite and demand that the United States stop financing the police and military forces in our country.”

The Guatemalan National Police Archives also received special recognition for its work unearthing human rights abuses during Guatemala’s thirty-six-year internal conflict. In the domestic category, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network was honored for fighting to improve working conditions for day laborers in the United States. Pablo Alvarado accepted the award.

Pablo Alvarado: “In the face of indignity, exploitation, humiliation, hatred and bigotry, stigma, fear, and in some places, terror, like in Maricopa County, Arizona, there is courage, courage to peacefully resist, courage to defend and protect ourselves and, yes, even courage to love our detractors.”

The Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award is named for the Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his colleague Ronni Karpen Moffitt, who were murdered in Washington by agents of the US-backed Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet in September 1976.

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