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The White House has announced President Obama won’t sign a congressionally approved bill that could have made it easier for banks to foreclose on homeowners. Consumer advocates had criticized the measure over a provision that would have limited homeowners’ ability to challenge foreclosure documents prepared in other states. The White House move comes amidst growing calls for a nationwide moratorium on home foreclosures following revelations major lenders may have committed fraud while forcing thousands of people out of their homes.
President Obama hit the campaign trail Thursday with a warning over a flood of private right-wing groups spending millions of dollars to influence the upcoming midterm elections. Speaking at Maryland’s Bowie State University, Obama cited a recent report from the Center for American Progress that the US Chamber of Commerce has used donations from foreign corporations to target Democratic candidates.
President Obama: “We learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections. And they won’t tell you where the money for their ads come from. So this isn’t just a threat to Democrats. All Republicans should be concerned. Independents should be concerned. This is a threat to our democracy.”
A federal judge has upheld a cornerstone of the new healthcare law requiring Americans to carry health insurance. On Thursday, US District Judge George Steeh rejected a challenge from the conservative group the Thomas More Law Center alleging that the measure is unconstitutional.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, has granted waivers to over thirty corporations exempting them from a key provision of the new healthcare law. Companies including the fast food giants McDonald’s and Jack in the Box, as well as the health insurer CIGNA, had warned they’d be unable to meet a new requirement banning annual caps on benefits. The administration says it’s issued the waivers to protect workers’ minimal coverage until the law takes full effect in 2014. But critics say the administration shouldn’t be intervening to protect the so-called “mini-med” plans because they don’t cover even basic emergencies.
A US Army colonel has recommended the court-martial of the first of twelve US soldiers accused of forming a secret “kill team” in Afghanistan. The soldier, Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, is charged with premeditated murder in the deaths of three Afghan civilians, assaulting a fellow soldier, and “wrongfully photographing and possessing visual images of human casualties.” The investigating officer who presided over Morlock’s preliminary hearing says there’s sufficient evidence to try him in military court. The officer’s recommendation has been submitted to a court-martial convening authority, which will issue a final decision in the coming weeks.
The group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War demonstrated in Washington, DC, Thursday to launch “Operation Recovery,” the first veteran-led campaign to stop the deployment of soldiers traumatized by multiple tours of duty. The veterans gathered outside the Walter Reed Army Medical Center before marching to Capitol Hill. The rally coincided with the ninth anniversary of the Afghan war. (Related Coverage: 'Operation Recovery': On 9th Anniversary of Afghan War, Veteran-Led Campaign Seeks to End Deployment of Traumatized Soldiers)
The jailed Chinese human rights activist and writer Liu Xiaobo has been awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Liu was cited for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights.” He was sentenced to eleven years in prison last year after spearheading a petition calling for freedom of assembly, expression and religion in China.
A new report from the group Refugees International says over 70 percent of refugee camps in Haiti lack proper management and face daily threats of violence and intimidation. An estimated 1.3 million displaced Haitians live in the camps nearly nine months after the January earthquake. The US has yet to deliver a cent of the $1.15 billion in new aid it pledged for Haiti earlier this year.
A Holland-based US professor and activist is accusing police in Belgium of abusing her as part of a crackdown on a recent protest for migrant rights. Dr. Marianne Maeckelbergh of Holland’s University of Leiden says she was taking pictures of the “No Border Camp” in Brussels when she was arrested. Maeckelbergh says Belgian police dragged her by her hair, chained her to a radiator, kicked her, and subjected her to verbal abuse as well as threats of sexual assault.
Former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs took to the airwaves Thursday after a Nation magazine exposé revealed he’s relied on undocumented workers for the upkeep of his multimillion-dollar estates and the horses he keeps for his daughter. Dobbs has been called the most influential spokesperson for the anti-immigration movement and has often used his broadcasts to criticize employers who break US law by hiring undocumented workers. Appearing on MSNBC, Dobbs said he isn’t responsible for the hiring of undocumented labor by contractors he employs.
Lou Dobbs: “The only person who would have been an illegal in any context would have been a landscaper who was working for the contractor working on my house in Florida. That may have happened. But that isn’t my employee, nor is it the reason I would have contracted with that landscaper. And to suggest I hired the person who is illegal, if indeed she can document there was someone illegal, is an absurdity.”
The author of the article, Isabel Macdonald, debated Dobbs on MSNBC as well as his radio broadcast. Earlier in the day, Macdonald discussed her article here on Democracy Now!
Isabel Macdonald: “I think it really highlights the extent to which Dobbs’s rhetoric about immigration is completely out of touch with the reality of the immigrant workers who form such an integral part of the American economy, especially when it comes to service sectors, and especially when it comes to the upkeep of the Dobbs’s own lifestyle.”
Federal officials say a surprise inspection has uncovered major safety violations that could have caused an explosion at another Massey Energy coal mine in West Virginia. The Mine Safety and Health Administration says Massey illegally cut too deeply into the coal seem and skipped mandatory tests at its Seng Creek Powellton Mine. Massey sites have come under increased scrutiny since twenty-nine workers were killed in an explosion at its Upper Big Branch Mine in April.
And the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has retired from public life. Tutu had announced earlier this year he would step down on October 7th, his seventy-ninth birthday. Tutu is widely known as one of the leading voices for peace, justice and human rights around the world. A central figure in the South African struggle against apartheid, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Tutu chaired the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and is a member of “The Elders,” a group of twelve activists and former public officials advocating for peaceful solutions to global conflicts.