President Obama is expected to unveil additional economic proposals today that will include an end to Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. In a speech from Cleveland, the White House says Obama will call on lawmakers to extend the tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans while returning those who make above $200,000 to pre-2001 levels. Obama will also propose another set of tax cuts on capital expenditures for businesses that Democrats say are intended to win Republican and corporate support.
In Iraq, two US troops were killed and another nine wounded Tuesday when an Iraqi soldier opened fire at a military base north of Baghdad. The soldier had apparently gotten into a dispute with an American during a sports match. The US military says he was killed after US troops returned fire. It was the first US deaths in Iraq since the Obama administration declared a nominal end to combat operations.
The United Nations has doubled its tally of rapes committed in eastern Congo since July and said it holds partial responsibility in failing to prevent them. The UN now says over 500 women, girls and babies were raped when Rwandan and Congolese rebels stormed the town of Luvungi and another nearby area. It took three weeks for the UN to respond, even though the town is just miles from a UN base. On Tuesday, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Atul Khare said the UN is partially at fault.
Atul Khare: “While the primary responsibility for protection of civilians lies with the state, its national army and police force, clearly we have also failed. Our actions were not adequate, resulting in unacceptable brutalization of the population of the villages in the area. We must do better.”
According to the UN, over 15,000 rapes were reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo in both 2008 and 2009.
The UN meanwhile has delayed release of a report accusing the Rwandan military of war crimes and possibly even genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A draft of the report leaked last month 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. The delay of the report comes after Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said its publication could spark Rwanda’s withdrawal from the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo: “We made it very clear to the highest authorities within the United Nations. And we’re saying today the United Nations has leaked the draft of this report, it has commented on the leaked drafts, which is why we’re also commenting on it, and we’re saying that we are very seriously considering withdrawing our troops from Darfur and that we have instructed our commanders to make contingency plans for our troops to come home.”
The report has now been delayed until next month.
In Los Angeles, protesters and police officers have clashed for two consecutive days over the fatal shooting of a Guatemalan immigrant. Police say they killed thirty-seven-year-old Manuel Jamines after he refused to drop a knife and lunged at three officers. Jamines was a day laborer and the father of three children. On Tuesday, twenty-two people were arrested after protesters clashed with police officers near where the shooting occurred.
The US government is facing a lawsuit seeking to end searches of international travelers’ laptops and other electronic devices without probable cause. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups filed suit asking a judge to declare the searches unconstitutional. The lawsuit says over 6,500 people have had their electronic devices searched at US border crossings in the past two years.
The Senate is facing renewed calls to finalize a $1.25 billion settlement for African American farmers in a class action lawsuit over longtime racial discrimination. The settlement was reached earlier this year, but Republicans have blocked the required congressional approval. On Tuesday, the head of the National Black Farmers Association, John Boyd, appeared outside a federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan with a mule, intended to symbolize the Civil War-era promises to freed black slaves. Speaking to Tavis Smiley of PBS, Boyd called for a cloture vote on the settlement by the end of the month.
John Boyd: “I’m interested in a cloture vote before the end of the month of September so that the black farmers can receive their settlement. This just has been going on too long. This has been going on too long. And if this fails, it’s not just a failure for the black farmers; this is a failure for black people in this country, and it would be a failure for the American people, if we can’t get this done.”
In electoral news, Arizona’s Democratic Party has filed a complaint over a Republican effort to recruit local election candidates onto the Green Party ballot to siphon off votes. A Republican operative named Steve May has openly admitted to signing up homeless people to run for state office and various local commissions. The Green Party has urged its supporters not to back the Republican-engineered candidates.
A former biotech analyst who blew the whistle on deceptive tactics at the Wall Street firm Rodman & Renshaw has been ordered to pay the company millions of dollars in damages. Matthew Murray was fired in 2006 after asking his superiors to downgrade a favorable rating of the biotech giant Halozyme Therapeutics, a big Rodman client. Rodman filed a complaint against Murray after he attempted to pass on his internal correspondence with company officials to Congress. Last month, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority sided with Rodman, awarding the company $10.7 million, a figure that could reach $15 million with interest.
Human Rights Watch has received a $100 million donation from the billionaire currency speculator and philanthropist George Soros. It’s Soros’s largest-ever donation to a non-governmental organization and the highest single donation the group has ever received.
George Soros: “Originally I wanted to give away all my money during my lifetime, but I changed my mind because the Foundation has now a mission that I think it can perform without me, and I think it will be a necessary mission, namely providing financial support to civil society to hold the governments accountable for their actions — how they spend their money and how they behave.”
And the Reverend Lucius Walker has died at the age of eighty. Walker was the executive director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization and the founder of Pastors for Peace. A longtime advocate for ending the US embargo of Cuba, Reverend Walker took part in a number of annual US-Cuba Friendship Caravans to Cuba. Speaking to caravan participants in 2009, Walker called for a radical shift in US policy.
Rev. Lucius Walker: “We don’t consider Cuba our enemy, but rather our neighbor. And as people who are motivated by the great teachers of faith, we believe that we are to love our neighbors. That means we have to act contrary to US policy, which is an imposition of a blockade against Cuba to try to force it to do the will of the US rather than to pursue its own path towards a better world.”