President Obama arrives in Japan today on the last stop of his ten-day Asia tour. Obama will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit amidst a dispute with the Japanese government over relocating the U.S. military base in Okinawa. Obama comes to Japan after South Korea, where he failed to finalize a long-stalled free trade deal. Before leaving Seoul, Obama defended last week’s $600 billion move by the Federal Reserve to buy up government bonds. Obama rejected critics’ claims the United States is waging a currency war by devaluing the dollar.
President Obama: “My simple point is to say that from everything I can see, this decision was not one designed to have an impact on the currency, on the dollar, it was designed to grow the economy. And there is some legitimate concern that we’ve had very low inflation, that a huge danger in the United States is deflation.”
As Obama defended U.S. monetary policy, he failed to win international backing in the U.S.-Chinese dispute over China’s currency. The U.S. has accused China of artificially manipulating the price of the yuan for economic gain. On the domestic front, President Obama said he remains opposed to Republican calls for extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. But he suggested he may compromise to ensure the cuts are preserved for those making less than $250,000.
President Obama: “With respect to the Bush tax cuts, what I’ve said is that I’m going to meet with both the Republican and Democratic leaders late next week, and we’re going to sit down and discuss how we move forward. My number one priority is making sure that we make the middle-class tax cuts permanent.”
The death toll from Haiti’s cholera outbreak has jumped to 800. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some 160 deaths have been recorded this week—more than half coming in the past 24 hours. The number of infections has also grown to 11,000. There are fears the disease could rapidly spread through the teeming camps for earthquake survivors around the capital Port-au-Prince. On Thursday, hundreds of residents demonstrated in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Cité Soleil to protest the response to the outbreak. A nurse in Cité Soleil said the number of infections is growing by the day.
Virgine Gauder: “The contaminations really increase every day like this. And now the concentration of the patients is in the slums, but today we saw already some patients outside the slums. Then we don’t know where we are going, but it increases every day, every day.”
Reports are emerging from Burma that the Burmese military junta has approved the release of jailed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nobel laureate’s latest prison term is set to expire on Saturday. She has spent 15 of the past 21 years in detention. Suu Kyi is expected to reject a conditional release if the Burmese junta insists she abandon political activity.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on Thursday in the latest bid to revive stalled peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. Clinton and Netanyahu reportedly discussed U.S. incentives for Israel to renew a partial settlement freeze. Last month, Israel rejected an Obama administration offer to back Israel’s insistence on maintaining a long-term military presence along the eastern border of a future Palestinian state. The U.S. also offered Israel military equipment and a pledge to veto U.N. resolutions on Arab-Israeli peace for at least a year. Netanyahu reportedly rejected the proposals even though the administration had asked for only a two-month extension of the freeze. Thursday’s talks came just three days after Israel announced it would build more than 1,000 settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem. Appearing with Netanyahu before the meeting, Clinton avoided mention of the latest settlement construction.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We’re going to be talking about everything. And I will save my comments beyond what I’ve already said to talk with the Prime Minister. I’m very pleased to be here and to have this opportunity to discuss with him how we’re going to move forward in the process.”
Wall Street firms are reportedly exploiting a loophole in financial reform legislation to continue the practice known as proprietary trading, in which banks trade financial securities from their own commercial accounts. Former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker had proposed the curbs to help undo some of the damage of the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had ensured the separation of commercial and investment banking. But according to the Financial Times, banks have continued the practice because the Volcker rule excludes “principal investments,” or long-term direct purchases of securities and assets.
A new DNA test has shown that a Texas prisoner executed ten years ago was convicted on insufficient evidence. According to the Innocence Project, a single hair used as the lone piece of physical evidence against Claude Jones did not actually belong to Jones and may have come from the murder victim. Jones was put to death on December 7, 2000, in the closing weeks of George W. Bush’s term as governor. The Innocence Project says Bush’s aides failed to inform him Jones was seeking genetic testing on the hair strand. Had the test been granted, the prosecution would not have had sufficient evidence to convict Jones under Texas law. The case was already thrown into doubt in 2003 when a key witness recanted his claim that Jones had confessed. In his five years in state office, Bush presided over the most executions of any U.S. governor in modern history.
And a coalition of media groups is criticizing the Fox Business Network for hiring the former CNN host Lou Dobbs for a new television program. Dobbs has been called the most influential spokesperson for the anti-immigration movement, and his journalistic practices have come under intense criticism. In a statement, the groups Media Matters for America and America’s Voice said, “[Lou Dobbs] spent years pursuing a dangerous crusade against immigrants, and his last few months there were dedicated to pushing ridiculous conspiracy theories about the president’s birth certificate. That style of 'journalism' may be par for the course at Fox, but that doesn’t make it right.”