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The Occupy Wall Street movement marked its two-month anniversary on Thursday with a series of actions in New York City and nationwide. Here in New York City, protesters began the day with an action at the New York Stock Exchange, causing major disruptions and leading to a number of arrests.
Protester 1: “I’m out here today because I’m vastly underemployed and over-educated, and I believe that the 1 percent needs to do their fair share.”
Protester 2: “You know, they’ve got so many cops here, so many people in riot gear. This is a peaceful, nonviolent act from people as young as babies to grannies that are just participating in this. And it’s excessive, and Mayor Bloomberg should be ashamed of himself, as a mayor and also as a member of the 1 percent.”
Later in the day, hundreds, if not thousands, of students gathered in New York City’s Union Square. The student action then joined up for a massive rally in Foley Square that led to a march over the Brooklyn Bridge, with an estimated crowd of 32,000.
In Los Angeles, at least 73 people were arrested in a series of Occupy-related actions, beginning with a march through the downtown financial district where demonstrators held hands and formed a circle around a busy intersection, blocking traffic.
Protester 1: ’’I’m here because it’s solidarity with all the movements worldwide, from Egypt, Spain, Syria, Wall Street. We’re all here to change the world, to make it equal for everybody on this planet.”
Protester 2: “I’m here to support the movement and the people that are marching on Wall Street in New York today.’’
The Los Angeles protest came hours after Berkeley police tore down the tent encampment erected at the University of California, Berkeley. The tents had been set up at a rally attended by thousands on the campus on Tuesday. Also, around 50 people we were arrested outside a Bank of America tower where demonstrators held a rally and pitched tents. It was the third consecutive day to see mass arrests at a Bank of America site, following actions in San Francisco and Charlotte.
Scores of protesters were arrested in other actions across the country. In Chicago, 46 people were arrested after blocking traffic on a major downtown bridge in a protest against unemployment and cuts to federal programs. Those who were not arrested marched on to Chicago’s financial district where they surrounded the Chicago Board of Trade. Meanwhile, in Portland, at least 48 people were arrested after a march and a demonstration that saw hundreds of people occupy a downtown bridge. In Las Vegas, 21 people were arrested after blocking a street outside a federal courthouse. New York City saw the most arrests in the day after more than 200 were cuffed. Protests were held in a number of other cities, including Atlanta, Miami, Denver, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, St. Louis, Boston, Milwaukee, Nashville, Columbia (South Carolina), and Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Census says the number of children in the United States living in poverty rose by one million last year. Nearly one in three children, or 32.3 percent, now live in households considered poor.
The Obama administration has launched a review of all deportation cases currently before the immigration courts, with the stated goal of focusing on individuals deemed to pose safety risks while sparing those with no criminal record. The Department of Homeland Security has also started a parallel nationwide training program for enforcement agents and prosecutors. The United States has deported more immigrants in fiscal year 2011 than any other year on record.
On Capitol Hill, Energy Secretary Steven Chu appeared before a congressional panel on Thursday to face questioning on the Obama administration’s bailout of the failed solar energy firm Solyndra. The White House has faced scrutiny following the disclosure it rush to approve a $535 million loan guarantee to the firm despite warnings it had not been properly vetted. Solyndra went bankrupt despite the aid, laying off about a thousand workers. Opponents have accused Obama of rewarding a wealthy donor with ties to Solyndra for his financial backing. In his testimony, Chu said political considerations played no role in the Solyndra loan.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu: “The loan guarantee to Solyndra was subject to proper, rigorous scrutiny and healthy debate during every phase of the process. As the Secretary of Energy, the final decisions on Solyndra were mine, and I made them with the best interests of the taxpayer in mind. And I want to be clear: over the course of Solyndra’s loan guarantee, I did not make any decision based on political considerations. My decision to guarantee a loan to Solyndra was based on the analysis of professional—experienced professionals and on the strength of the information they had available to them at the time.”
Democrats have accused Republicans of over-blowing the Solyndra controversy in order to taint efforts toward a green economy. Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California said, “It is time for the Republicans to stop dancing on Solyndra’s grave and get serious about energy policy.”
New details have been revealed on the political maneuverings behind President Obama’s decision to reject tougher regulations on smog pollution earlier this year. The New York Times reports industry lobbying played a critical role in Obama’s rejection of standards proposed by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson. Mindful of White House concerns over opposition from corporate interests and state lawmakers, Jackson submitted a proposal she viewed as a major compromise, with a weaker limit on pollution and considerable leeway for compliance. The EPA recommended that ozone levels be limited to 65 parts per billion, estimating it would prevent as many as 7,200 deaths, 11,000 emergency room visits and 38,000 acute cases of asthma each year. But industry groups unleashed intense lobbying on lawmakers and White House officials. R. Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce, appeared to suggest his strategy was based on convincing the White House that hardships posed on industry from the new regulations was more important than protecting public health. Describing a meeting with Jackson, Josten said, “She listened to us, but then talked about how important it was to do this, the lung thing, the asthma thing, the kids’ health thing. She felt it was important to go ahead. The funny thing was nobody wanted to come right out and say, 'Are you guys thinking this through? Your boss is up for re-election next year… You're going to have a major negative impact on the economy.’” The New York Times also reports Obama’s chief of staff, William Daley, appeared to be heavily swayed after a lobbyist provided him with a map showing the smog rules would negatively impact industrial interests in a number of states up for grabs in the 2012 election. Daley also appeared to ignore figures provided by environmentalists showing little difference in job growth and the economy in areas that have adopted stricter ozone standards compared with those that have not.
At least six people have died in a major storm that tore through a number of southeastern states. The victims were killed in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, with effected areas also seeing injuries, power outages and damage to buildings.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading to Burma next month as part of a thawing of ties with the ruling military junta. Clinton’s visit would mark the first by a U.S. secretary of state in 50 years. Speaking at a summit in Bali, President Obama said he sees “flickers of progress” in Burma.
President Obama: “After years of darkness, we’ve seen flickers of progress in these last several weeks… We want to seize what could be a historic opportunity for progress and make it clear that if Burma continues to travel down the road of democratic reform, it can forge a new relationship with the United States of America. Last night, I spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi directly and confirmed that she supports American engagement to move this process forward.”
As news broke of Clinton’s visit, Burma’s pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, announced she will run for parliament in Burma’s next elections. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy will register for the vote after boycotting last year’s elections.
Tens of thousands of people are rallying in Egypt today as part of the ongoing protests calling for a quicker transition from military to civilian government. Massive crowds have gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, as well as in the town of Alexandria. Organizers have dubbed the protest the “Friday of One Demand,” calling on Egypt’s military rulers to hand over power without delay.
The Obama administration is reportedly considering a request from Kenya for military assistance in Kenya’s month-old military operation inside Somalia. A force of 2,000 Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia last month in a bid to target the militant group al-Shabab. According to the Los Angeles Times, Kenya has made an urgent appeal to the White House for intelligence and logistical support.
Thousands of people rallied in Greece’s capital of Athens on Thursday to oppose austerity measures and mark the 38th anniversary of the student uprising against the Greek dictatorship. The protest was the first since a new Greek cabinet took office earlier this week as part of a shake-up to address the country’s economic crisis.
Protester: “The message in 1973 at the Polytechnic was 'rise up.' The message today is 'disobey, overturn the policies of the government, and overturn the policies of capitalists,' so we can have a different model for growth, and for a society that serves the working people.”
Brazil has opened an investigation of the oil giant Chevron after a major oil spill off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. A well at a Chevron drilling site has released unknown amounts of oil into the sea. A top Brazilian police official called the spill an “environmental catastrophe.”
Fabio Scliar: “This is a great environmental disaster; no doubt this is an environmental catastrophe. This area is a migratory route where many marine species go by. The dimensions of the spill are much bigger than the company would like to admit.”
The California Supreme Court has ruled opponents of same-sex marriage can challenge a ruling overturning the state’s gay marriage ban. The ban, known as Proposition 8, was lifted in August. The case is expected to ultimately come before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a probe of the Miami police over a spate of fatal shootings of young men. Miami police have killed at least eight men in the last 16 months — all but one of them are African American. The Miami investigation brings to 18 the number of police departments nationwide currently under Justice Department review.
A veteran journalist is accusing the National Press Club of censorship for suspending him in response to his questioning of a member of the Saudi royal family at a news conference earlier this week. The journalist, Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy, questioned Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Sa’ud.
Sam Husseini: “There’s been a lot of talk about the legitimacy of the Syrian regime. I want to know what legitimacy your regime has, sir. You come before us, representative of one of the most autocratic, misogynistic regimes on the face of the earth. Human Rights Watch and other reports of torture, detention of activists. You squelched the democratic uprising in Bahrain. You tried to overturn the democratic uprising in Egypt. And indeed you continue to oppress your own people. What legitimacy does your regime have?”
Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Sa’ud: “Well.”
Husseini: “Other than billions of dollars and weapons?”
Peter Hickman, National Press Club: “Sam, let him answer.”
Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Sa’ud: “Would you like to come and speak here?”
Turki: “Would you like to come and speak here, give a speech?”
Husseini: “I’d like you to try to answer that question.”
Turki: “I will try my best, sir. Well, sir, I don’t know if you’ve been to the kingdom or not?”
Husseini: “What legitimacy do you have, sir?”
Turki: “Have you been to the kingdom?”
Husseini: “What legitimacy does your regime have, other than oppressing your own people?”
Turki: “Obviously you haven’t” —
William McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club: “Put your question and let him answer. We have a whole room of people.”
Husseini: “He [Turki] asked me a question. He asked me, and I responded.
Turki: “No, you did not respond. Anyway, ladies and gentlemen” —
Hickman: “Go ahead” —
Turki: “I advise anybody who has these questions to come to the kingdom and see for themselves. I don’t need to justify my country’s legitimacy.”
Days after that exchange, Husseini received a letter from the National Press Club informing him he would be suspended for two weeks. In response, Husseini said, “I engaged in tough journalism with a powerful government official from an autocratic regime that is allied with the U.S. government. This apparently warrants suspension from the National Press Club.”