Marches were held in Oakland, New York City and other cities Wednesday night to protest Tuesday’s violent crackdown on the Occupy Oakland movement. Many protesters expressed outrage over the shooting of Oakland protester Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Iraq war veteran whose skull was fractured Tuesday night when he was hit in the head by a projectile filed by police in Oakland. He is hospitalized in critical condition and is reportedly still unconscious. Video posted online shows a police officer threw a flash grenade at a group of protesters who attempted to care for Olsen after he was shot. Here in New York City, hundreds of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators held an unpermitted march Wednesday night to show solidarity with Oakland. New York City police said they arrested about a dozen people. Patrick Bruner is an organizer with Occupy Wall Street.
Patrick Bruner, Occupy Wall Street organizer: “Behind me you can hear people chanting, 'New York is Oakland, Oakland is New York,' and this is because we firmly believe that this is a worldwide problem, that this is an American problem. It is not just a problem with New York City. It is not just a problem with Oakland. Police are violent everywhere. The system is broken everywhere.”
While the police crackdown of Occupy Oakland has made international news, the Washington Post is coming under criticism for how it covered the story. On Wednesday, it ran a story titled “Protesters Wearing Out Their Welcome Nationwide.” Above the photo was a photo of a police officer petting a cat. The caption read: “A police officer in Oakland, Calif., pets a cat that was left behind by Wall Street protesters who were evicted from the grounds of City Hall.”
In news from Washington, Reuters is reporting Democratic lawmakers on the so-called supercommittee are proposing to make cuts to Medicare and Medicaid as part of a plan to slash the budget deficit by up to $3 trillion. The Democratic plan seeks around $400 billion in Medicare savings, with half coming in benefit cuts and the other half in cuts to healthcare providers. The Democratic proposal also reportedly identifies $100 billion in cuts to the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor.
On Wednesday, Leah Bolger of Veterans for Peace disrupted an open meeting of the congressional supercommittee.
Leah Bolger, Veterans for Peace: “The American people want to tax the rich and end the wars. That’s how we fix the deficit. And all this obfuscation with percentages of GDP, this is just trying to confuse the issue… The vast majority of the public want you to tax the rich, end the wars. We spend more on war commitments than the rest of the world combined. And this history of this vast, grotesque spending on wars and the war machine has depleted the base of this economy. We would have enough money for housing and healthcare and everything that we want, if we stopped spending our money in this black hole of the military machine. It’s very obvious. I speak for the 99 percent: end the wars, and tax the rich.”
European leaders have struck a controversial deal to provide more debt relief for Greece. Under the deal, private banks and insurers will accept a 50 percent loss on their Greek debt holdings in the latest bid to reduce Athens’ massive debt load to sustainable levels.
A new report by the Associated Press has revealed the New York City Police Department maintains secret intelligence files on Muslims who change their names to sound more traditionally American or who adopt Arabic names as a sign of their faith. While the department monitors anyone in the city who changes their name, those whose names sound Arabic or might be from Muslim countries are subjected to extensive background checks that include reviewing travel records, criminal histories, business licenses and immigration documents.
In banking news, former Goldman Sachs board member Rajat Gupta has been released on $10 million bail after pleading not guilty to six charges of insider trading. He was charged Wednesday on one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and five counts of securities fraud in one of the biggest insider trading cases in history.
A pair of Egyptian police officers were sentenced Wednesday to eight years in prison for the beating death of a 28-year-old man. The 2010 killing of Khaled Said helped to spark the Egyptian revolution that ultimately toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak. The officers were both charged with manslaughter. Members of Said’s family argued the sentence was too light, while supporters of the officers reportedly attempted to attack prosecutors in the courtroom.
In news from Libya, an official from the National Transitional Council is claiming Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s fugitive son, Saif al-Islam, wants to surrender and turn himself in to The Hague war crimes court. The NTC is claiming former Libyan intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, also wants to surrender. Both men are the subject of arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said Wednesday he will not recognize the new rebel-led government in Libya.
Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan president: “We don’t recognize the government that they have installed. NATO has installed a government in Libya by force of bombs, and with genocide—genocide and an assassination. They have murdered a president. No matter who the president was or if you like him or anyone else likes him, he was the president of Libya. They killed him and threw him into the desert. And beyond that, they are talking about some 50,000 dead—a true genocide, the destruction of a country.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa to the State Department on Wednesday.
Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State: “It’s a pleasure, once again, for me to welcome my colleague and counterpart, the foreign minister of Bahrain. He’s been here in consultations with many officials of our government, members of Congress, others who care deeply about Bahrain and our important relationship. And I’m looking forward to a wide-ranging, comprehensive discussion of our full agenda.”
The meeting comes at a time when human rights groups are criticizing the Obama administration for its continued support of Bahrain despite the kingdom’s recent deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters. Part of Wednesday’s meeting focused on a planned $53 million U.S. arms sale to Bahrain that has been temporarily put on hold. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland defended the arms sale, saying it would bolster Manama’s external defenses.
Twelve former Argentinian officials have been sentenced to life in prison for human rights abuses committed during Argentina’s dirty war. The convicted include Alfredo Astiz, known as Argentina’s “Blond Angel of Death.” Astiz and the other men convicted were accused of horrific crimes at the ESMA Naval Mechanics School, where about 5,000 dissidents were held and tortured between 1976 and 1983. Few of the captives survived.
President Obama unveiled his plan Wednesday to make college loans more affordable and easier to repay for millions of former students. 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. Obama outlined the plan during a speech at the University of Colorado in Denver.
President Barack Obama: “And when a big chunk of every paycheck goes toward student loans instead of being spent on other things, that’s not just tough for middle-class families, it’s painful for the economy, and it’s harmful to our recovery, because that money is not going to help businesses grow.”
During his speech in Denver, President Obama was interrupted by protesters calling on him to block the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.
President Barack Obama: “All right. Thank you, guys. We’re looking at it right now, all right? No decision has been made. And I know your deep concern about it. So we will address it.”
The protesters, who also held up a banner reading “Stop the Keystone Pipeline Project,” were then removed from Obama’s event.
A U.S. federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit accusing mining giant Rio Tinto of committing genocide and war crimes in Papua New Guinea, where it once ran one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines. In their lawsuit, current and former residents of the island of Bougainville claimed that Rio Tinto decimated the island and forced native workers to live in “slave like” conditions.
In Washington, lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House have approved a federal land swap Wednesday that would clear the way for mining giant Rio Tinto to create North America’s largest copper mine in Arizona. The swap would trade 2,400 acres of federal forest land in southeastern Arizona for about 5,300 acres of environmentally sensitive land controlled by a subsidiary of Rio Tinto. The federal forest is thought to contain billions of dollars worth of high-grade copper. Under current law, the mining company will not have to pay any royalties to the U.S. government for the mineral rights. A U.S. federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit accusing Rio Tinto of committing genocide and war crimes in Papua New Guinea, where it once ran one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines.
Conservation groups are praising the U.S. Department of Interior’s decision to place a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining near the Grand Canyon National Park and Lake Mead. The decision prevents only new mining claims.
In news from West Virginia, a former employee of Massey Energy was convicted of two felonies for his role in the cover-up of the Upper Big Branch mining disaster that left 29 miners dead last year. Hughie Stover worked as security chief for the mine. He was convicted of making false statements to FBI and Mine Safety and Health Administration investigators and of obstructing a federal investigation.
Former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter has been sentenced to up to 5.5 years behind bars in Pennsylvania after being convicted in connection to an underage sex sting. He was arrested in 2009 after exchanging explicit online messages with a detective posing as a 15-year-old girl. Ritter was a leading critic of the Iraq War.
Former Democratic Congressman Howard Wolpe of Michigan has died at the age of 71. In 1986, he helped pass the federal Anti-Apartheid Act against South Africa. The bill was initially vetoed by then-President Ronald Reagan, but the veto was overridden by Congress.