New York City’s ongoing demonstration against Wall Street continued over the weekend by taking its message to a new location in Lower Manhattan and incorporating a 24-hour art exhibit on Wall Street itself. On Saturday afternoon, thousands of supporters gathered in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, north of the protesters’ encampment in the Financial District, for a general assembly meeting. The New York City Police Department responded by dispatching large numbers of personnel and vehicles in an apparent attempt to prevent the protesters from establishing a second base of operations. Meanwhile, that evening, protesters gathered in the historic Morgan building on Wall Street, the former headquarters of JPMorgan, for an art show comprised of work created by the protesters themselves, including protest signs that have been used in marches throughout the city in recent weeks. Meanwhile, “Occupy” protests continue to spread to scores of cities across the country. In Washington, D.C., Ralph Nader commented on the growth of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.
Ralph Nader: “There is an Occupy movement in every city, town, village, farmland in America, all linked, all linked and all pursuing fair play, pursuing justice, pursuing decentralized power, pursuing what the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag ends with. We try to get great emphasis, right? 'With liberty and justice for all.'”
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., was closed Saturday afternoon after security guards used pepper spray to repel more than 100 demonstrators who were told they could not enter the building while carrying signs. The protesters from the “Stop the Machine” occupation targeted the museum because of an exhibit on drones. Immediately after the confrontation, The American Spectator, a conservative publication, posted an article by assistant editor Patrick Howley, in which he revealed he had consciously infiltrated the group of protesters in order to discredit their movement. Howley wrote the protesters lacked the nerve to confront authority and admitted to running through the lobby of the museum, provoking guards to use their pepper spray. In the article, Howley calls the museum the scene of his crime and admits he was the only person to make it fully inside, despite orders from security guards.
Authorities in Des Moines, Iowa, arrested 32 people who had joined approximately 150 to 200 others occupying a local park in solidarity with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. In Seattle, at least three people were arrested in connection with an occupation protest that has drawn hundreds to the city’s downtown area. Fourteen protesters were arrested in at a park in Sacramento, California, Sunday morning, days after police took more than 20 activists into custody. In an interview on ABC This Week, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi expressed support for the “Occupy Wall Street” movement’s message.
Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader: “I support the message to the establishment, whether it’s Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen. We cannot continue in a way that does not—that is not relevant to their lives. People are angry.”
In Britain, more than 2,000 people staged a sit-down protest on the Westminster Bridge Sunday to protest planned cuts and privatization at the National Health Service. The protest was organized by health workers and the group UK Uncut. Protesters held a “general assembly” in the middle of the bridge, similar to those organized by protesters on Wall Street in New York City.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the U.S. government has obtained a controversial type of secret court order to force Google and the internet provider Sonic.net, Inc. to turn over information from the email accounts of WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum. The government’s request included the email addresses of every person Appelbaum had corresponded with for the past two years. The government obtained the secret order even though the 28-year-old Appelbaum has not been charged with a crime. Both Google and Sonic reportedly pressed unsuccessfully to be allowed to inform Appelbaum of the secret court orders. The U.S. Justice Department is also trying to force Twitter to hand over information about Appelbaum’s account as well as the accounts of two other WikiLeaks volunteers.
Wired.com has revealed a computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other war zones. The military has not said whether the virus was introduced intentionally or by accident.
In news from Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says U.S troops can stay in Iraq as trainers beyond a 2011 withdrawal date, despite a decision by the country’s leaders to reject immunity for any American soldiers. Iraq’s leadership agreed last week that U.S. troops can stay on for training, but without the legal protections demanded by Washington.
Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq prime minister: “Since the need for training exists and all the political blocs acknowledge that, we have a number of choices. Now there is dialogue between us and the Americans, including a proposal for the U.S. troops to be part of NATO, as we have an agreement with NATO. The parliament is currently discussing a law that could allow U.S. experts and trainers to stay as part of a 300-strong NATO training mission.”
At least 31 people were killed across Syria on Sunday. On Saturday, 50,000 mourners took to the streets to Kurdish-dominated Qamishli to protest the killing of opposition leader Mashaal Tammo. Activists said at least five people were killed when security forces opened fire at his funeral. Tammo was the founder of the liberal Kurdish Future Movement Party and a former political prisoner.
The nation’s official unemployment rate held steady at 9.1 percent in September as more than 14 million Americans remained out of work. In September, 103,000 jobs were created, but economists say employers need to create about 200,000 jobs a month for a year to bring the jobless rate down by a percentage point. They need to add about 125,000 jobs a month merely to keep up with growth of the workforce population. Meanwhile, the National Women’s Law Center says the recent job reports have been particularly bad for women due to the large job cuts at federal, state and local government agencies. Of the 103,000 jobs created last month, only 4,000 went to women. Since June 2009, men have gained over 1.1 million jobs, while women have actually lost 264,000 jobs. On Saturday, President Obama used his weekly address to push for passage of his jobs bill.
President Barack Obama: “Right now, hundreds of thousands of teachers and firefighters and police officers have been laid off because of state budget cuts. This jobs bill will put a lot of these men and women back to work. Right now, there are millions of laid-off construction workers who could be repairing our bridges and roads and modernizing our schools. Why wouldn’t we want to put these men and women to work rebuilding America?”
New research shows household income has declined more in the two years after the recession officially ended than it did during the recession itself. Between June 2009 and June 2011, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 6.7 percent, to just under $50,000. During the recession household income fell 3.2 percent. Overall, the 9.8 percent drop in income from the start of the recession to this June appears to be the largest in several decades. The researchers described the decline as “a significant reduction in the American standard of living.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law the state’s Dream Act, which would allow some undocumented immigrants to receive public aid to attend college. The law is expected to benefit 2,500 students.
In news from California, federal prosecutors have announced a major crackdown on the state’s medical marijuana industry. Marijuana is legal for medical use in California, but the state laws conflict with federal law, which does not recognize any legal use for marijuana. It is unclear whether similar crackdowns will follow in other states. Benjamin Wagner is U.S. attorney in Sacramento.
Benjamin Wagner, U.S. attorney: “We are not focused on backyard grows with small amounts of marijuana for use by seriously ill people. We are targeting commercial operations which profit from growing and distributing marijuana, and which often use the trappings of state law for cover but in fact are abusing state law.”
Many medical marijuana users criticized the Obama administration’s move to crack down on the industry.
Steve Younesien, medical marijuana user: “I just don’t understand this whole, what do you call it, business of controlling this stuff. This is the best painkiller I’ve ever used in my life.”
The State Department is coming under increasing criticism over its review process of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The New York Times has revealed the State Department assigned an important environmental impact study of the pipeline to a company with financial ties to pipeline operator TransCanada. That study found the 1,700-mile pipeline would have “limited adverse environmental impacts.” According to the Times, the State Department allowed TransCanada to solicit and screen bids for the environmental study. TransCanada eventually recommended a Houston firm called Cardno Entrix to the study. In its marketing materials, Cardno Entrix has described itself as a “major client” of Keystone.
In campaign news, Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith became the hot topic this weekend in the Republican presidential race after a prominent backer of Texas Gov. Rick Perry described Mormonism as a cult. Robert Jeffress, a Baptist minister from Dallas, made the comment to reporters at the “Values Voter Summit” in Washington, D.C.
Robert Jeffress, Baptist minister: “The decision for conservative, evangelical Christians right now is going to be: do we prefer somebody who is truly a believer in Jesus Christ or somebody who is a good moral person but is a part of a cult? And it’s not politically correct to say, but it’s true: Mormonism is a cult.”
Meanwhile, Texas Rep. Ron Paul won the straw poll at the Values Voter Summit with 37 percent of the vote. Herman Cain placed second. Mitt Romney, who won the 2007 straw poll, received just four percent of the vote.