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The Pentagon says it’s suspended enforcement of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law barring openly gay men and women from the armed forces. On Tuesday, military officials said recruitment offices have been instructed to accept openly gay and lesbian applicants in accordance with a federal court injunction issued last week. But recruiters have also been told to advise applicants the ban may be re-imposed pending a Justice Department appeal. The Obama administration has sought to reinstate the ban to allow the Pentagon to conclude an internal review. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says it’s advised gays and lesbians not to apply for the armed forces because of the legal uncertainty. Here in New York, one of the most vocal critics of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Lt. Dan Choi, filed papers to re-enlist in the military after being discharged earlier this year. Standing outside the recruitment station in Times Square, Choi criticized President Obama for challenging the court’s repeal.
Lt. Dan Choi: “It’s very difficult for us to repeal ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ if President Obama continues to do nothing but say some words. Some people make their statements based on words. I make my statement based on service and action. And I hope that President Obama can do the same thing. When I think of ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I realize that the victims are not just the gay people who have been kicked out. Fourteen thousand is quite a bit of victims, but I’ve never claimed victimhood. The victims of ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ are those units that are stripped of the talented and capable team members, family members, and we do them a disservice — we do the entire military a disservice — when we discriminate against one kind of people.”
Federal investigators have opened a criminal probe of the improper approval of thousands of foreclosures by some of the nation’s largest banks. The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force says it’s conducting a multi-agency investigation of allegations lenders filed fraudulent documents to repossess homes. The firms are being investigated for allegedly misleading federal housing agencies and potential violations of federal laws on mail or wire fraud. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said banks could face legal action.
Robert Gibbs: “They have certain requirements under the law that have to be met, and if they’re not meeting those requirements, they certainly can face fines from us and they can face legal action from homeowners.”
The probe comes as the sheriff for Cook County, Illinois has announced he won’t enforce foreclosure evictions for three large banks caught up in the scandal. On Tuesday, Sheriff Thomas Dart said he won’t carry out evictions in Chicago and surrounding areas for Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial’s GMAC Mortgage. Bank of America and GMAC resumed foreclosures this week after suspending them in twenty-three states earlier this month. Dart says he won’t evict homeowners until the banks can prove the foreclosures are lawful.
The CIA has disclosed it failed to properly vet a Jordanian double agent before he carried out a suicide bombing at a CIA base in Afghanistan last year. The attack by Humam Khalil al-Balawi killed seven CIA agents and contractors, the worst for the agency since the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Lebanon. An internal probe found that a CIA officer in Jordan failed to report warnings that al-Balawi may have been working for al-Qaeda. Balawi was allowed access to the CIA base after claiming he had information to give to the CIA related to the whereabouts of al-Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.
New details have emerged on the Obama administration’s backing of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The New York Times reports US-led forces have allowed senior Taliban leaders to enter Afghanistan for meetings with Afghan leaders in Kabul. The talks have included leaders of three key Taliban factions, including the Quetta shura, which oversees the Taliban’s armed operations in Afghanistan. In at least one case, Taliban leaders flew into Kabul aboard a NATO aircraft.
A US soldier has been detained in Afghanistan following the shooting death of an Afghan prisoner. Afghan officials have identified the prisoner as Taliban commander Mullah Mohebullah and say he was shot dead after US-led NATO troops entered the prison where he was being held.
In Iraq, a convoy carrying UN special envoy Ad Melkert was attacked Tuesday in the city of Najaf. Melkert was unhurt in the incident. Earlier, he met with the Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani as part of a push for Iraq to form a coalition government.
Ad Melkert: “It is now high time that parties are ready to meet and that they are ready to do so around one table on the bases of the principles embodied in the constitution and without any preconditions.”
The Iranian government say it’s preparing to try the two jailed Americans Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal early next month. Bauer and Fattal were arrested in July 2009 after hiking near the Iran-Iraq border. A third hiker, Sarah Shourd, was freed last month. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton renewed calls for the pair’s release.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We continue to express our hope that the Iranian authorities will exercise the humanitarian option of releasing these two young men. We do not believe there is any basis whatsoever for them to be put on trial, and we regret that they and their families are being subjected to a criminal system that we do not think in any way reflects their actions.”
Britain is unveiling an austerity plan today including its largest public sector cuts since the Second World War. Over $128 billion in government spending will be slashed, along with at least 500,000 jobs. On the eve of the announcement, British unions held a large rally in central London. The head of Britain’s Trades Union Congress, Brendan Barber, denounced the cuts.
Brendan Barber: “These cuts will lose over a million jobs. And let’s be clear, this is not an economic necessity, but a political choice that they’re making.”
In campaign news, Delaware Republican Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell has ignited a new controversy after claiming the Constitution doesn’t require a separation of church and state. O’Donnell made the comment during a debate with Democatic rival Chris Coons after Coons said he opposes teaching creationism in public schools.
Christine O’Donnell: “Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state? Let me just clarify: You’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?”
Chris Coons: “Government shall make no establishment of religion.”
Christine O’Donnell: “That’s in the First Amendment?”
A new investigation has found over 17,000 doctors nationwide have received payments from seven major pharmaceutical companies to promote their products. According to ProPublica and several other media outlets, the number includes more than 380 doctors and other healthcare professionals who took in over $100,000 this year and in 2009. The actual number is believed to be far higher, because over seventy other drug companies haven’t disclosed their payments to doctors.
And the Obama administration has announced plans to spend up to $760 million to compensate Native American farmers for long-term discrimination in receiving government loans. The settlement comes in the Keepseagle case, which accused the Agricultural Department of denying thousands of loans to Native Americans while approving similar funds for white farmers and ranchers between 1981 and 1999. A similar settlement was reached for African American farmers earlier this year, but Republicans have blocked the funds.