Bank of America has joined JPMorgan Chase in suspending foreclosures in twenty-three states following revelations that employees at several lenders had approved thousands of foreclosure affidavits and other documents without proper vetting. In Massachusetts, one Bank of America employee admitted she signed as many as 8,000 foreclosure documents a month and “typically” did not read any of them because of the high volume. Attorneys general in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois and Ohio have all launched investigations into what appears to be widespread fraud by the nation’s major banks and lenders. It is unknown how many homeowners lost their homes due to foreclosure fraud. Banks are expected to seize a record 1.2 million homes this year, a twelvefold increase since 2005.
In Washington, the NAACP, labor unions and scores of progressive organizations gathered on Saturday for the “One Nation Working Together” rally. The focus of the rally was jobs, justice, education and peace, as well as support for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections.
The Rev. Al Sharpton: “We need jobs. We’ve bailed out the banks. We bailed out the insurance companies. Now it’s time to bail out the American people.”
Large-scale protests are continuing in Europe against planned budget cuts and sweeping economic reforms. In France, hundreds of thousands marched in Paris Saturday calling on President Nicolas Sarkozy to drop plans to raise the retirement age from sixty to sixty-two.
Iraq appears one step closer to finally forming a new government seven months after parliamentary elections were held. On Friday, backers of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr threw their weight behind Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Sadr is an influential cleric with close ties to Iran. But it is still unclear if al-Maliki has enough support to form a new government as Sunni politicians are threatening to boycott a Maliki government.
In Brazil, a presidential runoff vote is set for later this month after no candidate gained 50 percent of the votes in Sunday’s closely watched election to replace Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula’s hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, won 47 percent of the vote.
A historian at Wellesley College has uncovered evidence that US government researchers deliberately infected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea in the 1940s in experiments conducted without the subjects’ permission. Details of the study were uncovered by medical historian Susan Reverby. On Friday, State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley said the Obama administration has apologized to the Guatemalan government.
P.J. Crowley: “Yesterday afternoon, Secretary Clinton called President Colom of [Guatemala] to express both her shock at the discovery of the details of this research and also to apologize on behalf of the American people. During the course of the conversation, she also invited Guatemala to participate fully in the investigation that we will carry out to determine the facts behind this research.”
In Pakistan, armed men have set on fire twenty oil tankers carrying supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan. It was the third such strike on supply trucks since Friday. Last week the Pakistani government blocked a NATO supply route after a cross-border helicopter attack mistakenly killed three Pakistani troops.
The Wall Street Journal reports the US military has begun loaning Predator and Reaper drones to the CIA to give the agency more firepower to carry out strikes inside Pakistan. A record number of CIA drone strikes were launched in September.
Wired.com has revealed a shell company run by Blackwater has won a piece of a five-year, $10 billion State Department contract to provide security services to diplomatic missions around the world. The shell company, “International Development Solutions,” is at least the thirty-fourth front company formed by Blackwater to help it win government contracts.
The news blog, The Upshot, has revealed the US Army has used local CBS television affiliates in Georgia and North Carolina as training posts for some of its psychological-operations personnel. Active-duty soldiers worked at the stations WRAL and WTOC as part of the Army’s Training with Industry Program. The PSYOPS soldiers learned broadcasting and communications expertise that they could apply in their mission to influence the emotions, motives and ultimately the behavior of foreign audiences.
Three Ecuadorian police colonels are under criminal investigation for rebellion and attempted assassination following last week’s police revolt against President Rafael Correa. On Saturday, President Correa attended the funeral for Juan Pablo Bolaños, one of five people killed in last week’s unrest.
Rafael Correa: “The twenty-four-year-old student, Juan Pablo Bolaños, went with 6,000 people to rescue the president at 6:00 or 7:00 at night. They met them with bullets, with tear gas, with snipers on the rooftops. How can your soul be so little to do that? How can you call that being police? The police themselves should be the ones that arrest the very worst elements. And if they have any dignity, those bad elements, they should surrender their weapons, their uniforms, their badges, because they do not deserve to be called police.”
In the occupied West Bank, Jewish settlers set a Palestinian mosque on fire early this morning in the village of Beit Fajjar, south of Bethlehem. The fire damaged parts of the mosque and destroyed about a dozen copies of the Quran. Local officials say the fire was set by settlers who opposed calls for another freeze on settlement building in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority condemned the arson, describing it as “a serious escalation in settler violence” against the Palestinians. On Saturday, Palestinian officials suspended talks with Israel unless Israel halts all building at West Bank settlements.
Yasir Abed Rabbo, executive committee of the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization: “The Palestinian leadership holds Israel responsible for obstructing the negotiations and the political process and thwarting the political efforts of the American administration, the Quartet and the entire international community. Likewise, the Palestinian leadership confirms that the resumption of negotiations requires tangible steps to prove they are serious — at the forefront of them, a freeze on settlements, without conditions or exceptions.”
Two Israeli solders have been convicted of using a nine-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield by forcing him to search for suspected booby traps on their behalf in 2009 during the assault on Gaza. An attorney said the soldiers are being scapegoated by the Israeli military.
Ilan Katz: “These two soldiers are the ones who pay the price for the mistakes of senior people, and the system thinks that if they are convicted the world will get off Israel’s case. Whoever thinks this is severely mistaken.”
The United Nations has issued its long-awaited report documenting atrocities in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo that left five million people dead between 1993 and 2003. Part of the report accuses the Rwandan military of war crimes and possibly even genocide. The report said Tutsi-led Rwandan troops and their rebel allies killed tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: “Because the laws of war forbid the killing of civilians, it points to crimes against humanity and, in some instances, may well amount to genocide. But the report makes clear that it’s only a court of law that can determine what crimes have been — are suspected of having been committed.”
The Rwandan government protested the release of the report and has threatened to withdraw from the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s foreign affairs minister: “It is a report that is destabilizing for the region. We have seven countries named in this report. None of us has been contacted. None of us was given a chance to respond to the accusations. We are accused by anonymous people. We don’t know who is investigating.”
In political news, New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is coming under criticism for receiving $3 million in tax breaks by promising to create more jobs in the Buffalo area. According to an investigation by the New York Daily News, Paladino created only twenty-five jobs. To justify tax breaks in one instance, he sold a dozen vacant lots he owned to himself and then claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars in “real property investments.” Paladino is a multi-millionaire real estate developer backed by the tea party. He has campaigned on a platform attacking government spending.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned media giant News Corporation has donated another one million dollars to a business coalition campaigning against Democrats in the midterm elections.
News Corp.’s holdings include Fox News Channel, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. The donation to the Chamber of Commerce comes just two months after Murdoch made a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association.
CNN has fired anchor Rick Sanchez after he called Jon Stewart a bigot and said that “everybody that runs CNN is a lot like Stewart.” During the same interview, Sanchez questioned whether Jews should be considered a minority. Sanchez, who was born in Cuba, was one the most high-profile Latino journalists on TV.