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Thousands of Egyptians are gathering in Tahrir Square for a fourth day of mass protests against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Egypt was thrown into disarray on Monday when its civilian cabinet led by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf tendered its resignation. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has accused the Egyptian military rulers of brutality — sometimes exceeding that of former president Hosni Mubarak.
In environmental news, concentrations of the three main greenhouse gases blamed for global warming reached record levels in 2010 and will linger in the atmosphere for decades, even if the world stops emissions output today. That is the conclusion of a new study by the World Meteorological Organization released ahead of a major United Nations climate change summit that begins in South Africa next week. In related news, the Guardian newspaper reports the United States and other industrial nations have all but given up on forging a new treaty on climate change to take effect anytime before 2020. The Alliance of Small Island States called moves to delay a new treaty “reckless and irresponsible.”
The bipartisan so-called “supercommittee” has failed to reach an agreement on reducing the federal deficit. On Monday, Democrats and Republicans abandoned their effort for a sweeping deal after three months of talks failed to bridge deep divides over taxes and spending. A trigger of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over 10 years to military and domestic programs takes effect in 2013. President Obama faulted Republicans for the impasse.
President Barack Obama: “They continue to insist on protecting $100 billion worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, at any cost, even if it means reducing the deficit with deep cuts to things like education and medical research, even if it means deep cuts in Medicare. So, at this point at least, they simply will not budge from that negotiating position, and so far, that refusal continues to be the main stumbling block that has prevented Congress from reaching an agreement to further reduce our deficit.”
A new report from the Charlotte Observer has revealed banks are on pace to spend a record amount on lobbying this year in an attempt to weaken or repeal new financial regulations. Banks have spent $47 million in lobbying so far this year, up from $42 million at this time last year. Wells Fargo has spent $6 million on lobbying — an 80 percent increase over last year. Three years ago, Wells Fargo had five Washington lobbyists. Now it has 28. The massive amounts spent on lobbying has helped banks gain access to regulators. According to Public Citizen, Wall Street lobbyists have had more than 350 meetings with regulators to discuss weakening the Volcker Rule. During that same time, public advocacy groups like Public Citizen were granted only 20 meetings.
Two Occupy Wall Street protesters have sued the New York City Police Department for false arrest and excessive force arising from a protest at a Citibank branch last month. One of the protesters, 23-year-old Heather Carpenter, received national attention after a video was posted online showing an undercover police officer dragging her into the bank and then arresting her. Carpenter was detained moments after she closed her Citibank account.
Undercover police officer: “You were inside. You were inside with everybody else.”
Heather Carpenter: “I’m a customer. I’m a customer.”
Witness: “She is a customer.”
Heather Carpenter: “I’m a customer.”
Undercover police officer: “You were inside. Yes, but you were inside with the whole—no, no, no.”
witness: “What are you doing?”
Witness: “Hey, what the—hey!”
Witness: “What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing? This is all being documented right now. She’s not doing anything! She’s not doing anything wrong! Oh, my god! This is wrong! This is wrong! This is wrong! What you’re doing is wrong! This is wrong! You should be ashamed of yourself! Shame! Shame! Shame!”
Heather Carpenter was arrested along with her fiancé and others who attempted to close their accounts.
New research shows the nation’s 10 biggest banks could stand to lose as much as $185 billion in deposits over the next year as the movement to move money to credit unions and community banks expands.
Fifteen people were arrested at a sit-in against home foreclosures at a Bank of America branch in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Monday. Among those arrested was Lara Shepard-Blue.
Lara Shepard-Blue: “If Bank of America would lower the principal to the actual real value of the home, then we could keep families in their home and also help to spur an economic recovery for our city and across the country. So that’s why we got arrested. We’re also calling on them to stop evicting homeowners after foreclosure. They should be accepting rent from homeowners or agreeing to sell the house back to them. If they could afford the house at the current value, Bank of America should sell it back to them.”
Here in New York City, 15 students were arrested during a daylong rally against a tuition increase at the City University of New York. The arrests occurred in a lobby at Baruch College where the university’s trustees were meeting.
Meanwhile, at the University of California, Davis, students have set up a protest camp with tents near the site where campus police officers pepper-sprayed students on Friday as they were sitting down during a peaceful protest. On Monday, the campus police chief was put on administrative leave.
Questions are being raised over New York City’s handling of an alleged terror plot. On Sunday night, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly announced a 27-year-old Dominican-born man named Jose Pimentel had been charged on terrorism charges. But it has now to come to light that federal authorities, including the FBI, declined to join the local investigation, saying Pimentel did not appear predisposed or capable of carrying out an attack. It also appears federal authorities may have concluded that Pimentel had been entrapped by an undercover informant.
In news from South Korea, lawmakers have ratified a so-called free trade deal with the United States. Opposition lawmakers largely abstained from the vote, and one politician set off a tear gas canister inside the parliament as a sign of protest. South Korean farmers and some workers oppose the deal, saying it threatens their livelihoods. The deal with South Korea is the largest trade agreement the United States has signed since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1994. The deal has also been opposed by numerous labor unions and watchdog groups in the United States. According to Public Citizen, the deal is projected to cost 160,000 American jobs, many in areas like high-speed trains, solar and computers.
Newly released data from the U.S. Department of Commerce confirms U.S.-based multinationals have been slashing jobs at home while hiring millions of workers overseas. The Wall Street Journal reports between 1999 and 2009 U.S. multinationals cut payrolls at home by 864,000. Meanwhile, they added 2.9 million workers abroad.
The Pakistani Taliban has reportedly declared a nationwide ceasefire in an effort to pursue peace talks with the government. According to a senior commander with the movement, the ceasefire has been in effect for the last month. The statement supports other recent Taliban announcements that peace talks are underway.
The United States, Britain and Canada each announced sanctions against Iran’s central and commercial banks Monday. The move is seen as an effort to cut Iran off from the international financial system in the wake of a recent United Nations report that details warnings about Iran’s nuclear activities. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner described the reasoning behind the sanctions.
Timothy Geithner, U.S. Treasury Secretary: “If you are a financial institution anywhere in the world and you engage in any transaction involving Iran’s central bank or any other Iranian bank operating inside or outside Iran, then you are at risk of supporting Iran’s illicit activities, its support — its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its support for terrorism and its efforts to deceive responsible financial institutions, and to evade sanctions. Any and every financial transaction with Iran poses grave risk of supporting those activities. So financial institutions around the world should think hard about the risks of doing business with Iran.”
Additionally, the United States has levied sanctions against companies involved in Iran’s nuclear industry, as well as on its petrochemical and oil industries. On Tuesday Russia’s Foreign Ministry posted a statement slamming the move, writing that it “sees such extraterritorial measures as unacceptable and against international law.” The statement goes on to argue that the sanctions seriously obstruct constructive dialogue with Tehran.
A Syrian cameraman was found dead Sunday with his eyes gouged out in the town of al-Qasir. Ferzat Jarban, who was last seen being arrested, is the first journalist to be killed in Syria since the Committee to Protect Journalists started documenting journalist fatalities in 1992.
The oil giant Chevron has been fined $28 million by the government of Brazil over an offshore oil spill. On Monday, President Dilma Rousseff met with a number of her environment and energy ministers to discuss the matter, one day after Chevron claimed full responsibility for leaking some 2,400 barrels following the rupture of a well on November 7. The company has admitted it caused the accident by wrongly estimating pressure and rock strength in the reservoir it was targeting.
George Buck, Chevron Brazil CEO: “Chevron takes full responsibility for this incident. We responded to it quickly and effectively, and we will continue to respond to it. Any oil on the surface of the ocean is unacceptable to Chevron, and we will work diligently until there is none.”
While the spill is relatively small and largely contained, Chevron could face increased fines from Brazil’s national petroleum agency, ANP, and the state of Rio de Janeiro. Carlos Minc is the state’s environment secretary.
Carlos Minc, Rio de Janeiro Environment Secretary: “We will file a civil action for compensations to damages and diffused goods such as marine biodiversity and coastal environment. And it is important to mention that in a public lawsuit there is not a $25 million limit. Our initial estimate is that this value could double: it could reach $55 million.”
A New York law firm criticized for mocking the homeless is closing. Steven J. Baum P.C. is one of the largest-volume mortgage foreclosure firms in the state. Last month, leaked photos published by the New York Times showed employees of the firm dressed up as foreclosure victims, squatters and homeless people at a 2010 Halloween party. Their office was decorated to look like a row of foreclosed homes. The firm has been under investigation by the New York attorney general’s office and has agreed to a $2 million fine for filing misleading documents in state and federal courts.
In other business news, there is a major development in the collapse of Jon Corzine’s brokerage firm MF Global. As much as $1.2 billion of customer investments are now missing — double previous estimates.
A new survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University has found that viewers of Fox News are less informed about world events than people who do not watch any news. The study found viewers of Fox are 18 points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government, six points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government, compared to those who watch no news. Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Dan Cassino said, “The results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all.”
At least 4,000 protesters marched outside Fort Benning in Georgia calling for the closing of the controversial training base for soldiers from Latin American military forces, formerly known as the School of the Americas. Organizers said they wanted to “transform Fort Benning from a place that trains assassins into a place of memory and nonviolent resistance.”