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A new congressional study has found the incomes for the wealthiest one percent of Americans nearly tripled over the last three decades, far outpacing income growth for all other groups. Between 1979 and 2007, the average real after-tax household income grew by 275 percent for the wealthiest Americans. Income grew by just 40 percent for middle-class Americans during the same period. The study also found the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans made more money in 2007 than the rest of the country combined. Democratic Rep. Sandy Levin of Michigan said the report was “the latest evidence of the alarming rise in income inequality.”
Oakland police repeatedly fired tear gas and flash grenades Tuesday night as protesters attempted to retake the Occupy Oakland encampment outside City Hall. The protest began 12 hours after police conducted a pre-dawn raid on the Occupy Oakland site, arresting nearly 100 protesters. Many of the detained protesters are being held on $10,000 bail each.
In Georgia, Atlanta police have arrested more than 50 protesters who had been camping out in Woodruff Park for the past two weeks. More than 2,500 people have now been arrested across the country since the Occupy Wall Street movement began Sept. 17.
In New York City, more than 100 students, teachers and educational activists occupied the city’s Board of Education meeting Tuesday night to protest the city’s education policies, including budget cutbacks, layoffs, large class sizes and an overemphasis on standardized testing. After New York City School Chancellor Dennis Walcott and school board members fled the meeting, an impromptu people’s “general assembly” was held. Speakers included an eight-year-old student named Indigo.
Indigo, eight-year-old student: “Mic check. I’m Indigo, and I am an eight-year-old third grader, and I’m sad Ms. Cunningham is doing work for free. I don’t think it’s fair that teachers are getting laid off. The thing that would help me learn more would be if we had smaller classes. My teacher, Ms. Lamar, has to shout to be heard. We also need more support for teachers. At the beginning of the year, we had 32 children.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement was a topic of conversation Tuesday night when President Obama appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
Jay Leno: “As president, you look out your window, do you see this Occupy Wall Street movement?”
President Barack Obama: “Yeah.”
Leno: “What do you make of it?”
President Obama: “Look, people are frustrated. And that frustration has expressed itself in a lot of different ways. It expressed itself in the Tea Party, and it’s expressing itself in Occupy Wall Street. I do think that what this signals is that people in leadership, whether it’s corporate leadership, leaders in the banks, leaders in Washington, everybody needs to understand that the American people feel like nobody is looking out for them right now.”
The Obama administration outlined a new effort Tuesday to help college graduates struggling to pay off student loans. A key part of the plan will allow college graduates to cap their federal student loan repayments at 10 percent of their discretionary income starting in January, two years before the cap was due to take effect under federal law. Outstanding student loans in the United States are projected to reach a record one trillion dollars this year, a larger sum than credit card debt.
In news from Libya, the bodies of at least 267 people have been found in mass graves in Sirte, the hometown of slain Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi. It appears many of the dead were summarily executed. Local residents described the mass grave.
Libyan citizen: “There are 300 bodies here. We found them in more than one place. Most of them are residents of Sirte. Some are from the Mahari Hotel, who we found with their hands tied and shot in the head. Most of them were wounded.”
The news comes as reports that surfaced on Monday indicated 53 Gaddafi supporters were killed in a similar fashion in Sirte. The New York-based group Human Rights Watch said, “This latest massacre seems part of a trend of killings, looting and other abuses committed by anti-Gaddafi fighters who consider themselves above the law.”
Violence in Yemen continues to escalate despite a call for a ceasefire announced by the embattled government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. At least seven protesters were killed in the capital city of Sana’a Tuesday, as Saleh told the U.S. ambassador that he would sign a deal to step down—an offer he has made several times before. Despite the claims, government troops were still firing into crowds of protesting civilians late into the evening Tuesday. Protesters described being attacked by Yemeni forces.
Yemeni protester: “We were walking in the street of al Zeraah. They told us walk in peace, and when we arrived to the area, they besieged us from behind, and a military vehicle sprayed us from the front, and then we were fired upon by bullets. They opened fire, threw stones at us, fired tear gas, water.”
The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to condemn the U.S. embargo against Cuba for the 20th year in a row. The final vote was 186 to two. The United States and Israel were the only nations to vote against the resolution. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said that the sanctions have caused direct economic damages of close to $1 trillion to the Cuban people over nearly half a century.
Bruno Rodríguez, Cuban foreign minister: “The only thing that has changed over the last 50 years, Mr. President, has been the blockade and the hostile, aggressive policy of the United States, in spite of the fact that this policy has not worked or will it ever. However, what the U.S. government wants to see changed will not change. The Cuban government will continue to be the government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
American Ambassador Ronald Godard criticized the United Nations vote on the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
Ronald Godard, U.S. Senior Adviser, Western and Eastern Affairs: “For yet another year, this assembly is taking up a resolution designed to confuse and obscure. But let there be no confusion about this. The United States, like most member states, reaffirms its strong commitment to supporting the right and the heartfelt desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their future. And let there be no obscuring that the Cuban regime has deprived them of this right for more than half a century.”
In news from the United Nations, another member of the U.N. Security Council, South Africa, has publicly declared its support for Palestinian statehood. The government said in a statement, “South Africa looks forward, sooner (rather) than later, to welcoming Palestine as the 194th member of the United Nations.” Meanwhile, the United Nations body UNESCO is preparing to vote as early as this week to grant Palestine membership in the body. The United States has threatened to cut off U.S. funding for UNESCO if it approves full Palestinian membership.
In San Francisco, more than 1,000 protesters rallied outside a President Obama fundraiser at the W Hotel on Tuesday. One protester was Susie Tompkins Buell, one of the most generous Democratic Party donors in the nation. Bell, the co-founder of Esprit, said of Obama, “I don’t even know what he stands for.” Bell and other protesters were calling on Obama to block the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.
In business news, the oil giant BP reported it made $4.9 billion over the last three months. This compared with $1.8 billion a year earlier.
Former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta is expected to surrender to the FBI today. He is facing criminal charges for leaking corporate secrets to hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam. Gupta becomes the most prominent business executive arrested in a growing insider trading probe.
In Colorado, more than 300 customers of Wells Fargo pulled their money out of the state’s largest bank on Tuesday. The action was organized by the Colorado Progressive Coalition as part of a week of actions called “The Mile High Showdown.”
Eight former and current officers with the New York City Police Department have been charged in federal court for accepting thousands of dollars to transport illegal weapons, including assault rifles, into the state, along with other outlawed contraband. According to a complaint, the officers and four other men transported M-16 rifles and handguns, as well as what they believed to be stolen merchandise, across state lines. Five of the officers are still on duty.
In news from South America, another Brazilian activist who campaigned against illegal deforestation of the Amazon has been assassinated. João Chupel Primo, 55 years old, was killed on Saturday. He is the eighth environmentalist farmer to be killed since May in the Amazon.
The Senate in Uruguay voted Tuesday to revoke an amnesty law protecting scores of former officials who served during the country’s dictatorship from 1973 to 1985.