London’s High Court has ruled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited from the United Kingdom to Sweden to face questioning over alleged sex crimes. Swedish authorities want to question Assange over accusations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. Assange’s lawyers have argued the Swedish demand is legally flawed and that the sex was consensual. They are now considering an appeal to Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the European Court of Human Rights. Julian Assange spoke outside the court room after the ruling.
Julian Assange: “I have not been charged with any crime in any country. Despite this, the European arrest warrant is so restrictive that it prevents U.K. courts from considering the facts of a case, as judges have made clear here today. We will be considering [inaudible] step in the days ahead. The full judgment will be available on swedenversusassange.com. No doubt, there will be many attempts made to try and spin these proceedings as they occur today, but they are merely technical. So please go to swedenversusassange.com if you want to know what’s really going on in this case. Thank you.”
The Greek cabinet has backed Prime Minister George Papandreou’s controversial decision to hold a popular referendum on the European Union’s $179 billion bailout that is aimed to resolve the euro debt crisis. Greek officials have suggested the vote would probably be held in mid-January, but the interior minister said it could happen as early as December. But before that happens, Papandreou’s government will face a crucial confidence vote in parliament on Friday. Papandreou’s decision to put the bailout before a popular vote has outraged other European leaders. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany’s Angela Merkel have summoned Papandreou for crisis talks in Cannes, before a G20 summit of major world economies. Demonstrators are also gearing up to protest G20 summit that begins on Thursday.
Protester: “I am demonstrating because I’m fed up with finance, finance of the powerful, of spoiled money. I am fed up of tax havens. I am fed up of people starving while the banks are pocketing everything and taking taxpayers’ money to finance this [expletive]. That’s why I’m demonstrating, because I’m fed up. I’m fed up.”
In banking news, massive public outcry has forced Bank of America to drop a plan to begin charging many customers $5 a month to use their debit cards for purchases. The bank withdrew its plan after 21,000 people pledged to close their Bank of America checking accounts. Some 300,000 people also signed a petition on Change.org against the planned fee. Ed Mierzwinski, head of the consumer program at U.S. PIRG, said, “This is a victory for consumers who are voting with their feet. For the first time, a bank fee has bitten the bank.” Wells Fargo, Chase, Regions and SunTrust also canceled fees last week.
Occupy Wall Street protesters in Oakland are preparing for a citywide general strike today that will include marches, picketing outside banks, and an attempt to shut down the nation’s fifth-largest port. The staffs at two Oakland elementary schools and a small high school have decided to close their campuses for the day due to the strike. City officials also have agreed to allow “non-essential” government workers to use vacation, personal or furlough days to participate in the strike. Meanwhile, the city’s police union has slammed Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for her handling of the protests. In an open letter, the police union wrote, “Is it the city’s intention to have city employees on both sides of a skirmish line?”
Occupy protesters in New York City joined anti-police brutality activists in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville Tuesday to demonstrate against the controversial police tactic known as “stop and frisk,” which allows officers to detain and search citizens with little to no reason. Critics argue the tactic, which produces few arrests, creates a sense of institutionalized harassment in poor communities and communities of color. Christina Gonzalez is an Occupy Wall Street protester who joined the demonstration.
Christina Gonzalez, protester: “These are the communities that are affected, you know, a community like mine in Far Rockaway, communities like up in Harlem and communities like in Brooklyn and certain places in Queens. Like, these are the places where we really need to be. These are where the problems are. These are where we should be mobilizing more people to come out. And Occupy Wall Street has given a movement like this a chance, so that we can come out and network and get more people and raise awareness to people who are like, 'Hey, corporate greed is bad. Oh, but wait a minute. They're stopping people in the streets for absolutely no reason? OK, I wasn’t a part of that. I had no idea. Now I know, and now I’m here.’ So that’s the beautiful thing about it. It’s just bringing everybody together.”
Twenty-seven participants in the demonstration were arrested after engaging in a deliberate act of civil disobedience by blocking the entrance to the offices of the New York City Police Department’s 73rd Precinct, where “stop and frisk” rates are the highest in the city.
In New Mexico, the right of Occupy protesters to demonstrate has been upheld after an intervention by the American Civil Liberties Union. On Tuesday, the University of New Mexico renewed the demonstrators’ right to protest at Yale Park, where more than a dozen were arrested last week after the encampment’s original permit expired.
A woman in Minnesota has credited the support of Occupy protesters in allowing her more time to move out of her foreclosed home. Ruth Murman, a small business owner who has not received a paycheck in three years, approached Occupy Minnesota protesters to help her secure two more weeks to vacate her home. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Bank and GMAC contacted her repeatedly to settle the dispute.
Occupy protesters in London won a major victory Tuesday when St. Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London dropped plans to evict the protest encampment from church grounds. The Right Reverend Michael Colclough is the canon pastor of St. Paul’s.
Right Reverend Michael Colclough, St. Paul’s canon pastor: “The chapter has today decided not to go ahead with any legal action against the protesters that surround the cathedral… Sometimes we make mistakes. We then have the humility to say that, and we set out on another path. But I don’t think any member of chapter would be ashamed of saying that today.”
Protester Tanya Paton has been serving as a liaison between the Occupy movement and the church.
Tanya Paton, protester: “We’re delighted. I mean, we’ve never sought to get involved in an argument with the church, and it was never our intention to cause the sort of disruption that they’ve had by us being, you know, here to occupy. And we’ve always wanted to address the social issues and the economic issues, and I think the distraction of legal action and eviction have taken away from that very thing that we both share in common with the church in raising these really, really fundamentally important issues.”
Several religious leaders in Britain criticized St. Paul’s for even considering evicting the protesters. Phil Summers is a senior minister at a Methodist church in Tower Hamlets.
Phil Summers, senior Methodist minister: “Jesus was constantly saying being rich is not necessarily a good thing and needs addressing, and those who have too much power and too much wealth should look at themselves, and even talked about temples being torn down and systems being changed and the poor being fed. So, I mean, the basic point that the people here have is a basic gospel point.”
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz is reporting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are trying to muster a majority in the cabinet in favor of military action against Iran. Netanyahu and Barak have reportedly persuaded Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to support such an attack. Earlier today, Israel reportedly test-fired a ballistic missile.
Israel announced on Tuesday plans to build 2,000 new settlement homes and to freeze the transfer of tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority. One Israeli official admitted the measures were agreed to as punishment after the vote at UNESCO. On Monday, the United Nations cultural body voted to grant Palestine full membership. Most of the new settlement homes will be built in occupied East Jerusalem, an area Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state.
Phone and internet service in the West Bank and Gaza has been largely cut off after all Palestinian IP addresses came under a sustained hacker attack. Palestinian officials said the sites were attacked in an “organized” manner, using mirror servers. It is unclear who was behind the attack, but some Palestinian officials blamed Israel.
Human Rights Watch is condemning a Turkish court decision to imprison a publisher and a political science professor as part of a crackdown on members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party. Since October 27, at least 50 people have been arrested for having links to Kurdish organizations. Over the past two-and-a-half years, thousands of people associated with the Peace and Democracy Party or related political circles have been charged for alleged links to outlawed Kurdish groups. Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch said, “We are seeing the Turkish police casting the net ever wider in the crackdown on legal pro-Kurdish politics.”
The office of a French satirical newspaper has been burned down just one day after the paper published a special Arab Spring edition mocking the Islamic faith. The cover of the newspaper showed a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad stating, “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter!” Muhammad was also listed as a guest editor of the newspaper.
In news from Japan, the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant revealed today it had found radioactive particles in a reactor which could be a result of recent nuclear fission. Utility officials said gas from inside the Fukushima plant’s No. 2 reactor indicated the presence of radioactive xenon. The discovery marks a possible setback in efforts to bring the plant to a safe, cold shutdown this year.
The San Onofre nuclear power plant in San Clemente, California, was partially evacuated on Tuesday due to a non-radioactive ammonia leak.
Four members of a Georgia militia were arrested on Tuesday for plotting to attack government officials with explosives and the biotoxin ricin. Prosecutors said the men wanted to attack U.S. Justice Department officials, federal judges and Internal Revenue Service agents.
Grocery chain Safeway has declined to press charges against a woman and her husband who were arrested last week in Hawaii and detained for accidentally leaving a store without paying for $5 worth of sandwiches they ate while shopping. The couple was handcuffed and detained for hours, even though the woman was 30 weeks pregnant. Their two-year-old daughter was taken away by state Child Welfare Services officials and not returned for 18 hours.