A class action lawsuit has been filed over the mass arrest of some 700 people taking part in a Saturday march over the Brooklyn Bridge during the Occupy Wall Street protests. Many protesters say they were arrested after believing they had the approval of the police to march on the roadway instead of the pedestrian crossing. The class action lawsuit accuses the New York City Police Department of “a premeditated, planned, scripted, and calculated effort to sweep the streets of protesters and disrupt a growing protest movement in New York.” The Occupy Wall Street protest enters a new phase today with what is expected to be it’s largest rally to date. The city’s municipal unions and university students are set to join the demonstrators for a march in Lower Manhattan.
Some of the nation’s largest banks are being accused of defrauding military veterans and taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars. In a new lawsuit, companies including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, CitiMortgage, Countrywide Home Loans, Washington Mutual Bank and GMAC Mortgage are accused of illegally raking in hundreds of millions of dollars through hidden fees in the refinancing of veterans’ homes. The loans have been available under a government provision for retired or active-duty veterans. The case was brought by two whistleblowers who work as mortgage brokers in Georgia. They allege over one million veterans may have been subjected to fraud, and that the fees may have pushed tens of thousands of loans into default or foreclosure, at massive cost to taxpayers.
President Obama continued his campaign for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans on Tuesday with a speech in Texas. Obama invoked the words of former President Ronald Reagan to bolster his argument.
President Obama: “A great American said that he thought it was 'crazy' that certain tax loopholes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary. All right? You know who this—who this guy was? Wasn’t a Democrat. Wasn’t some crazy socialist. It was Ronald Reagan. It was Ronald Reagan. Last time I checked, Republicans all thought Reagan made some sense.”
A new report is warning against a proposed tax holiday on overseas profits that corporate proponents say will boost the economy. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, 10 major corporations fired workers right after enjoying a tax holiday in 2004-2005. Overall, 58 corporations cut more than 600,000 jobs after collectively saving some $64 billion in taxes. Overseas profits are currently taxed at the 35 percent corporate rate; a proposed measure in the Republican-controlled House would reduce that to a one-time rate of just over five percent.
A Texas man has been freed from prison after DNA evidence cleared him of a murder he did not commit. Michael Morton had served nearly 25 years behind bars after being convicted for the 1987 murder of his wife, Christine Morton. The Innocence Project obtained testing linking the crime to another man. Shortly after his release, Morton choked up as he discussed his new-found freedom and his gratitude for not having been sent to death row.
Michael Morton: “I thank—I thank God this wasn’t a capital case, that I only had life, because it gave the saints here at the Innocence Project time to do this.”
At the United Nations, Russia and China have vetoed a U.S.- and European-backed Security Council resolution condemning Syria’s ongoing crackdown on opposition protesters. The rare double-veto follows months of negotiations on a measure that would hold the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for violence that has left an estimated 3,000 people dead. The vetoed draft had called on Syria to “cease the use of force against civilians,” release political prisoners and grant other “fundamental freedoms.” The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, condemned the veto.
Susan Rice: “The United States is outraged that this council has utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge and a growing threat to regional peace and security. Several members have sought for weeks to weaken and strip bare any text that would have defended the lives of innocent civilians from Assad’s brutality. Today two members have vetoed a vastly watered-down text that doesn’t even mention sanctions.”
The Iraqi government has stated its intent to have U.S. troops remain in Iraq beyond this year’s withdrawal deadline, but without the legal immunity sought by the Pentagon. The United States has signaled its willingness to stay in Iraq, but has insisted on immunity for troops as a precondition.
Palestinians rallied in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday against a U.S. congressional move blocking nearly $200 million in aid to Palestine. U.S. lawmakers have frozen the funds in a bid to subvert the Palestinian effort for statehood recognition at the United Nations. Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Hasan Abu-Libdeh said the aid freeze threatens development projects for Palestinians on the ground.
Hasan Abu-Libdeh: “This is an adverse decision…that turns the American Congress into one of the tools of Israeli pressure on the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian National Authority. But I would like to stress that the amounts that are being talked about are not aid to the PNA, but funds to implement projects on the ground in the Palestinian territories.”
A security court in Bahrain has sentenced 26 activists for taking part in pro-democracy protests earlier this year. According to the official Bahrain News Agency, the sentences range from five to 15 years. The rulings bring the total number of people in Bahrain convicted for participation in anti-government demonstrations to 60 in the last two days. Bahrain is a key U.S. government ally in the Middle East, hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Saudi Arabia has blamed an unidentified “foreign country” for clashes that left 14 people injured Monday night. The unrest took place in the gulf city of Qatif, located in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich eastern province. Residents say the protests started on Sunday after authorities detained the fathers of two activists wanted for their part in earlier unrest. More than 100 people were arrested when protests in the area broke out in February and March.
A new study is challenging the Obama administration’s claims that Colombia’s handling of the killings of labor activists has improved and warrants congressional approval of a long-delayed free trade deal. Human Rights Watch says there has been “virtually no progress” in convicting those who have killed labor activists in the past four-and-a-half years. Of 195 killings handled by a special prosecutor between January 2007 and May of this year, just six resulted in convictions.
In Greece, tens of thousands of people have begun a 24-hour general strike in response to deeply unpopular austerity cuts. Trains, schools and courthouses have been crippled by the mass walkout, while hospitals have been forced to rely on emergency staffing. International travel has been halted and public transportation slowed down. The strike was called by Greece’s two main labor unions, which represent some 2.5 million workers.
President Obama has decided to issue a waiver allowing continued U.S. military aid to four countries that use child soldiers for the second consecutive year. The Obama administration says it will waive penalties under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act to prevent a cutoff of military assistance to Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Yemen. According to Foreign Policy magazine, National Security Council Senior Director Samantha Power had promised NGOs last year that the waivers would not be renewed, saying the administration would exert pressure by “[working] from inside the tent.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has announced he will not be seeking the Republican presidential nomination. After weeks of speculation, Christie said now is not his time.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “Over the last few weeks, I’ve thought long and hard about this decision. I’ve explored the options. I’ve listened to so many people and considered whether this was something that I needed to take on. But in the end, what I’ve always felt was the right decision remains the right decision today. Now is not my time. I have a commitment to New Jersey that I simply will not abandon.”
A Michigan judge has temporarily blocked a law that would deny aid to welfare recipients who have received assistance for four or more years. According to Judge Paul Borman, the law, signed by Governor Rick Snyder and out into effect on October 1, did not adequately inform recipients about the change or their rights to repeal and constituted a violation of due process. The ruling was a response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of low-income families by the Center for Civil Justice, which claims some 25,000 parents and children would be affected by the new rules.
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is back in the news over a heated exchange with a reporter from Al Jazeera. In a sit-down interview, Rumsfeld refused to answer a question over criticisms he failed to deploy sufficient troop numbers during the Iraq invasion to secure Iraq’s borders.
Reporter: “Do you think that the numbers you went into the Iraq—the numbers of U.S. troops that you went into Iraq with did absolve you from the responsibility of tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed by the coalition and those criminals that you talked about?”
Donald Rumsfeld: “Are you going to stop?”
Reporter: “Give me a straight answer.”
Rumsfeld: “Look, you can characterize my answers any way you want, and you do it in a pejorative way.”
Reporter: “No, I do it with respect.”
Rumsfeld: “No, you don’t at all. Obviously, you are of that nature. It’s clear that your being, that you like to do that.”
Rumsfeld has a controversial history with Al Jazeera. Under his watch, the U.S. military attacked Al Jazeera reporters and staffers at least three times, including a 2003 bombing that killed correspondent Tareq Ayoub in Baghdad, and imprisoned several of its reporters. In 2004, Rumsfeld called Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Iraq war “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.”