Republicans have blocked the financial reform bill from reaching the Senate floor. On Monday, Democrats fell three votes short of the sixty needed to bring the measure up for debate. Another vote is expected later in the week as talks continue on reaching a bipartisan deal. Before the vote, the bill’s lead sponsor, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, touted the proposed consumer protection agency.
Sen. Christopher Dodd: “Where do you go to get a recall on a faulty mortgage or a credit card deal that’s corrupt or fraudulent or deceptive or abusive? Why shouldn’t we deal with financial products that can bring you to financial ruin, if we can’t address that, and yet you can do it with a toaster, a TV or an automobile? Our bill sets up a consumer financial product safety commission, bureau, division, that we’ve established in this bill, so that consumers themselves can have someplace to go to get redress. Rules can be written to protect them against abusive practices.”
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll, meanwhile, shows two-thirds of Americans support a financial overhaul that would restrict the activities of banks and other major financial firms.
Executives from the bailed-out Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs are appearing before a Senate hearing today amidst increasing scrutiny on their practices. On Monday, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said Goldman’s alleged unlawful activities extended beyond the single mortgage-related securities case that led to civil fraud charges earlier this month. Subcommittee chair Senator Carl Levin of Michigan held up copies of emails he says prove Goldman devised not just one but a number of complex deals that resulted in $3.7 billion in earnings for the company. Investigators say Goldman’s tactics centered around making negative bets, or shorts, that profited from the housing market’s collapse.
The US has extradited the former Panamanian president and CIA asset Manuel Noriega to France to face trial on money laundering charges. Noriega has been jailed in Miami since 1990 after his overthrow in the US invasion of Panama that killed up to 3,000 people. Noriega’s drug trafficking sentence ended two years ago, but he’s remained in jail while fighting France’s extradition request. Noriega’s attorney, Frank Rubino, criticized the US for failing to inform him of Noriega’s extradition.
Frank Rubino: “We have had no official recognition whatsoever. We’ve heard from the press, and you folks tell us that he’s on a plane to France as we speak.”
Reporter: “Is that normal practice?”
Rubino: “No, usually the government has — does things in a more professional manner and respects common courtesy. And we’re shocked that they didn’t. I’m surprised that they just didn’t put a black hood over his head and drag him out in the middle of the night.”
Noriega was previously a close US ally and a paid CIA informant despite known ties to drug trafficking. The Reagan administration began turning against him in the mid-1980s after Noriega became less cooperative in the US war on the Nicaraguan government and on US plans to retain effective control over the Panama Canal.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has signed an order barring Palestinians from working in Israeli settlements and selling settlement goods. It’s unclear if the order will apply to the estimated 30,000 Palestinians who currently work in Israeli settlements or just those who would otherwise seek employment in the future.
In Mexico, President Felipe Calderón has joined the voices of opposition to a new law in Arizona that forces police officers to determine the immigration status of someone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant. Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill on Friday following its approval in the state legislature earlier in the week. Opponents call it the harshest anti-immigrant measure in the country and a license for racial profiling. On Monday, Calderón said the measure will breed “racial discrimination.”
Mexican President Felipe Calderón: “A legislation, which opens the door to unacceptable racial discrimination, is set in motion. Mexico’s government will use everything in its power to defend the rights of Mexicans who are affected by this legislation, and we’ll spare no effort to ensure the dignity of every fellow compatriot.”
The law’s passage has spurred calls for a boycott of Arizona’s economy.
A new study released on the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster says the death toll is far higher than previously thought. In a book published by the New York Academy of Sciences, a Russian author and a Belarusian author say nearly one million people have died from exposure to radiation released by the Chernobyl reactor. According to the book, the disaster’s radioactive emissions may have been 200 times greater than the initial estimate of 50 million curies, and hundreds of times larger than the radioactivity from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The authors based their findings in part on Slavic sources they say have never been available in English.
The oil spill from last week’s oil rig explosion off the Louisiana cost has grown to cover 1,900 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico. The US Coast Guard and crews hired by the rig’s operator, BP, are struggling to contain the spill. The underwater well where the rig exploded continues to leak around 42,000 gallons of oil a day. Ed Levine of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said at least some of the oil will reach the Gulf Coast shoreline.
Ed Levine: “There will be shoreline impacts from this eventually. There’s no way that we will pick up all the oil that’s being released.”
Eleven workers remain missing since the explosion and are presumed dead. The wife of one of the missing workers, Natalie Roshto, has filed a lawsuit accusing BP of negligence in operating the rig. The suit also names the oil services giant Halliburton, which performed work on the well before the explosion.
A young US citizen who has been held in twenty-three-hour solitary confinement for nearly three years is set to go on trial Wednesday here in New York. Syed Fahad Hashmi is charged with providing material support to al-Qaeda in a case that rests on the testimony and actions of an old acquaintance who turned government informant after his own arrest. Hashmi is being prosecuted for a two-week period when the informant stayed at his home carrying rain gear that was allegedly later delivered to al-Qaeda members in Pakistan. Hashmi’s period in solitary confinement is believed to be one of the longest ever for a prisoner before trial. On Monday, Hashmi’s supporters held a rally to draw attention to his case. Hashmi’s brother, Faisal Hashmi, said he has no hope of a fair trial.
Faisal Hashmi: “He’s already lost the fair trial portion. The concept of a fair trial is lost. What we’re trying to do is work to highlight what’s going on in his case, and we hope that the people in the jury can see through this facade of justice.”
Hashmi’s supporters say they plan to continue weekly vigils throughout the trial.
And a federal appeals court has upheld a class action lawsuit against the retail giant Wal-Mart alleging gender discrimination against female employees. In a 6-to-5 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled hundreds of thousands of female Wal-Mart employees can sue the company as a single class over allegations they received lower pay and less promotions than male co-workers. The case could mark the largest class action employment discrimination suit in US history. Wal-Mart has sought to have each case tried individually and says it will appeal to the Supreme Court.