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This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
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A federal appeals court has reinstated the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law barring openly gay men and women from the armed forces. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel granted the Obama administration’s request to stay an injunction issued against the ban last week. The stay will remain in place while the court weighs the administration’s challenge to last month’s ruling that the ban is unconstitutional. The move comes just one day after the Pentagon said it would respect the ban’s reversal and accept openly gay and lesbian recruits. Though it claims to oppose the ban, the White House pushed for its reinstatement because it wants the Pentagon to first complete an internal review.
Several large banks have reportedly begun talks with state attorneys general in the nationwide probe of fraudulent foreclosures. According to the Wall Street Journal, executives at lenders including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have met with the Florida attorney general. Last week attorneys general from all fifty states launched a joint probe into alleged fraud by the nation’s biggest lenders in submitting documents to force thousands of people out of their homes.
On Wednesday, New York’s top judge said banks will now be required to affirm that documents filed in support of foreclosures are accurate. Judge Jonathan Lippman of New York State Court of Appeals said the requirement is the first of its kind nationwide.
In related news, the banking giant Wells Fargo has again dismissed calls to review its foreclosure practices. On Wednesday, Wells Fargo issued a statement calling its procedures “sound and accurate.” Wells Fargo has faced scrutiny after a company vice president said she had signed as many as 500 foreclosure documents in a two-hour span without reviewing them nor even understanding what she was signing. Wells Fargo issued the statement as it reported a third-quarter profit of $3.3 billion, the best quarter in its history.
The Obama administration has confirmed reaching a $60 billion deal to sell advanced military aircraft to Saudi Arabia. It would be the largest-ever single arms deal in US history. Under the agreement, Saudi Arabia could buy or upgrade over 150 F-15 fighters and purchase nearly 200 new helicopters. Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, unveiled the deal in Washington.
Andrew Shapiro: “This proposed sale has tremendous significance from a strategic regional perspective. It will reinforce our longstanding security partnership with Saudi Arabia, as Ambassador Vershbow will briefly discuss after my comments. It will send a strong message to countries in the region that we are committed to support the security of our key partners and allies in the Arabian Gulf and broader Middle East.”
Congress will have thirty days to review the deal before it can be finalized.
President Obama is on a four-day campaign swing to rally voters ahead of the midterm elections. Obama kicked off his trip in Oregon Wednesday before heading off to California, Nevada and Minnesota.
President Obama: “You’re going to be fired up, because in less than two weeks — in less than two weeks, you can set the direction of this state and this country, not just for the next two years, but for the next four years, not just for the next ten years, for the next twenty years. Just like you did in 2008, you can defy the conventional wisdom. Yes, you can. Yes, you can.”
In Iraq, a US soldier has been charged with the killing of two other soldiers and wounding another in Fallujah last month. Army Specialist Neftaly Platero was charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. The military says the soldiers had gotten into a verbal altercation that turned violent.
Federal prosecutors have announced they won’t file criminal charges against a former operative for the private military firm Blackwater accused of killing an Iraqi security guard in 2006. The operative, Andrew Moonen, was reportedly intoxicated when he shot and killed Raheem Saadoun, who was on duty protecting Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi. Moonen is the latest former Blackwater employee to evade prosecution. Last year a federal judge threw out all charges against five Blackwater operatives involved in the 2007 Nisoor Square massacre that killed seventeen Iraqi civilians.
In Afghanistan, election officials have thrown out over 1.3 million votes cast in last month’s parliamentary elections. The Afghan Independent Election Commission says nearly a quarter of 5.6 million ballots cast were invalid.
New figures show Israel has rapidly expanded settlement construction in the occupied West Bank since lifting a partial freeze last month. According to the Israeli group Peace Now, ground has been broken on over 600 new homes — four times the pace of the previous two years. Speaking in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US remains opposed to settlement expansion.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “It’s no secret that we are in a difficult period. When President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu came to Washington last month to relaunch direct negotiations, we knew there would be setbacks and struggles. Our position on settlements is well known and has not changed.”
Three environmental advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit accusing the oil giant BP of endangering wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico. The suit from Defenders of Wildlife, the Gulf Restoration Network and the Save the Manatee Club says BP has violated the Endangered Species Act by harming the twenty-seven endangered or threatened animal species in the Gulf region. Today marks the six-month anniversary of the BP oil spill. We’ll have more on this story later in the broadcast.
In media news, National Public Radio has severed ties with longtime analyst Juan Williams after Williams said he is nervous flying aboard airplanes with Muslim passengers. Williams made the comments on Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor.
Juan Williams: “Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality. I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
And Fox News is also making headlines today with a lawsuit from a former employee who says he was fired after complaining about racial abuse. Harmeen Jones, an African American, says he endured a daily barrage of “racist, sexist, and extremely offensive comments” against blacks, Muslims, Jews, women and Hispanics while working at Fox News headquarters in New York. Jones says he was let go after filing an internal complaint.