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Attorney General Eric Holder has revealed the U.S. Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, which this week began publishing more than 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
Eric Holder: “Along with other members of the administration, I condemn the action that WikiLeaks has taken. It puts at risk our national security, but in a more concrete way, it puts at risk individuals who are serving this country in a variety of capacities, either as diplomats, as intelligence assets, puts at risks the relationships that we have with important allies around the world. We have an active, ongoing criminal investigation with regard to this matter. We are not in a position, as yet, to announce the result of that investigation, but the investigation is ongoing.”
The Washington Post reports federal authorities are investigating whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917. Meanwhile, Assange says he plans to continue publishing secret documents. Assange told Forbes Magazine that WikiLeaks is preparing a massive leak of documents from a big U.S. bank early next year.
President Obama is coming under criticism from labor unions and progressive economists for proposing a two-year freeze on the salaries of some two million federal workers. Obama outlined his plan on Monday.
President Obama: “Today I’m proposing a two-year pay freeze for all civilian federal workers. This would save $2 billion over the rest of this fiscal year and $28 billion in cumulative savings over the next five years. And I want to be clear: this freeze does not apply to the men and women of our armed forces, who, along with their families, continue to bear enormous burdens with our nation at war.”
John Gage, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, called the pay freeze “a slap at working people.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “The president talked about the need for shared sacrifice, but there’s nothing shared about Wall Street and CEOs making record profits and bonuses while working people bear the brunt.”
Millions of American unemployed workers will soon lose their jobless benefits unless Congress extends the unemployment insurance program, which expires today. Republicans are opposing a plan to continue providing benefits to unemployed people who have been out of work longer than 26 weeks. Jobless benefits usually expire after six months, but since the recession took hold in 2007, Congress has voted to extend them for up to 99 weeks. Last year the unemployment program kept a record 3.3 million people from falling below the poverty line.
The Center for Public Integrity has revealed the Obama administration has doled out billions of dollars in stimulus money to oil giant BP and some of the nation’s other biggest polluters and granted them sweeping exemptions from the most basic form of environmental oversight. The administration has awarded more than 179,000 “categorical exclusions” to stimulus projects funded by federal agencies, freeing those projects from review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Coal-burning utilities like Westar Energy and Duke Energy, chemical manufacturer DuPont, and ethanol maker Didion Milling are among the other firms with histories of serious environmental violations that have won blanket NEPA exemptions.
Monday marked the opening of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico. The Mexican-born Nobel Prize-winning scientist Mario Molina spoke at the conference’s opening ceremony.
Mario Molina: “I urge you to reach agreement on concrete steps to move us closer to an international regime that formalizes the commitments that many nations have already made and that incorporates as well strong support for adaptation to climate change impacts. I also urge you to outline in some detail the steps that are required to reach a definitive agreement within the next few years.”
Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, also spoke.
Rajendra Pachauri: “We hope Cancún signifies a major step in action to deal with the challenge of climate change. The available scientific knowledge of this field justifies it, and the global community rightly expects it. Thank you very much.”
Only about 20 world leaders are expected to attend the Cancún talks. President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and most other leaders from the world’s wealthiest nations have no plans to attend. This is Mexico’s foreign minister Patricia Espinosa.
Patricia Espinosa: “Climate change has a very high cost for my country, Mexico. Like many of your countries, it is highly vulnerable to the effects of this phenomenon. The key to the success of these negotiations is to consolidate the legitimate individual interests and unite efforts in order to leave an important collective mark. It means that all countries should have access to sustained development that benefits our generation and those that follow.”
Greenpeace has filed a federal lawsuit against Dow Chemical and Sasol North America for engaging in corporate espionage. Also named in the suit are the public relation firms Dezenhall Resources and Ketchum and the now-defunct firm Beckett Brown International. The lawsuit alleges that corporate spies stole thousands of confidential documents from Greenpeace, including campaign plans, employee records, phone records, and donor and media lists. The suit also claims that agents infiltrated a community group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The spy operation was first exposed by investigative journalist James Ridgeway of Mother Jones magazine.
European Union antitrust regulators have launched a formal investigation into Google after several search service providers complained that the company had abused its dominant position by allegedly lowering the ranking of unpaid search results of competing services. The commission said it would also look into allegations that Google has implemented a series of policies to shut out competing search tools.
International election monitors say Haiti’s general election on Sunday was valid despite calls by 12 presidential candidates for the results to be thrown out. Monitors from the Organization of American States and CARICOM acknowledged observing irregularities at the polls, but they said that should not invalidate the election. Colin Granderson headed the team of international election observers.
Colin Granderson: “The mission has considered whether the irregularities it observed were of the magnitude and consistency that would invalidate the legitimacy of the process. Based on these observations in the 11 electoral departments, the joint mission does not believe that these irregularities, serious as some of them were, necessarily invalidated the process.”
In news from Asia, the Obama administration has rejected a Chinese proposal to hold emergency multiparty talks with North Korea. Beijing had called for the six-party talks to resume after a North Korean artillery barrage killed four people, including two civilians, on a South Korean island last week. Meanwhile, a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks indicates China supports the reunification of the Korean Peninsula if North Korea were to collapse. Cheng Guoping, the Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan, was reported to have told U.S. Ambassador Richard Hoagland that “China hopes for peaceful reunification in the long-term, but he expects the two countries to remain separate in the short-term.”
Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Children and 18 other aid organizations are calling on Israel to unconditionally lift the blockade of Gaza. A new report by the coalition says there has been “little improvement” for people in Gaza since Israel announced it was easing its economic blockade of the territory six months ago. Jeremy Hobbs of Oxfam said, “Israel’s failure to live up to its commitments and the lack of international action to lift the blockade are depriving Palestinians in Gaza of access to clean water, electricity, jobs and a peaceful future.”
A Pakistani man is threatening to sue the CIA after a U.S. drone strike killed his brother and his son. Kareem Khan said he would file the suit in Pakistan if he is not given $500 million within two weeks. His lawyer said CIA agents could be prosecuted in Pakistan as civilians because they do not have diplomatic immunity and are not members of the military.
In Oregon, the Somali American man accused of trying to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland has pleaded not guilty. Nineteen-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested Friday after an FBI sting operation. Lawyers for Mohamud suggested in court that the government may have manufactured a crime. Undercover FBI agents orchestrated much of the bomb plot, supplying Mohamud with money, providing materials to construct the fake bomb, and blocking Mohamud from leaving the Portland area to take a job in Alaska. Attorney Stephen Sady accused FBI agents of “basically grooming the individual” to commit a crime. In Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder denied that Mohamud was a victim of entrapment.
The Pentagon is scheduled to release the findings today of a 10-month study on the impact of lifting the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that bars openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military. The study includes a poll of some 115,000 troops and 44,200 military spouses. Officials familiar with the study’s results have said a clear majority of respondents do not care if gay men and lesbians serve openly, with 70 percent predicting that lifting the ban would have “positive, mixed or no results.” The survey results are based on responses to more than a half-million questionnaires distributed last summer.
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