Greece remains in a state of turmoil as Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou faces a vote of no confidence today — one day after he dropped plans to support a national referendum on the European $179 billion bailout package. Papandreou has so far rejected calls to step down, but it is unclear if he can survive today’s confidence vote. Papandreou backed away from his call for a public vote on the bailout after coming under intense pressure from European leaders. He addressed the nation on Thursday.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou: “Rejection of this agreement, either because of a referendum, either because of elections, either because we would not have a parliamentary majority, or because of a weakness in being able to carry out decisions, means an exit from the euro. It means an exit from the euro.”
On Thursday, Greek union members and civil servants marched on the parliament in Athens to protest the terms of the bailout package.
Ilias Vrettakos, ADEDY union vice president: “The solution is a change in policy. The policies carried out by this government were barbaric and detrimental to society, leading from dead end to dead end. The continuation of these policies will lead the people to poverty and deprivation. It will destroy the country. We are fighting to overturn these policies, and we don’t care which party is the one following them.”
Italy has agreed to be closely monitored by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. The IMF and European leaders are pressing Italy to adopt a program to cut pensions and expand privatization of state resources. The European debt crisis is topping the agenda at the G20 summit in Cannes, France. Outside the meeting, activists are calling for new taxes on financial transactions in order to raise millions of dollars to fight poverty around the world. Backers of the so-called Robin Hood tax include Oxfam and the World Wildlife Foundation. British actor Bill Nighy spoke on behalf of Oxfam.
Bill Nighy: “We need to fix the system. The Robin Hood tax goes some way to helping to fix the system. Sure, the situation in Greece is serious and dramatic. There is no reason for that to impede the progress of the Robin Hood tax to any degree. If anything, it makes it more urgent, because the poor, in the end, are the people who are targeted. They are the people who catch it the worst.”
In the latest news from Occupy Wall Street, at least 16 people were arrested Thursday while protesting outside the New York City headquarters of Goldman Sachs. Among those arrested were journalist Chris Hedges and the performance artist and activist Reverend Billy.
In California, Oakland police are now saying at least 80 protesters were arrested late Wednesday and early Thursday following the general strike. While the main protest was peaceful, clashes broke out between police and a small group of protesters at night. The storefronts of several banks and stores were vandalized.
In Washington, D.C., about 30 protesters occupied part of the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday to protest Republican opposition to President Obama’s jobs bill. The protesters were from a new group called “OurDC.” The protest came as Senate Republicans blocked $60 billion in funding for roads and infrastructure projects. Republicans opposed the bill because it relied on a surtax on people earning more than $1 million a year.
The U.S. Department of Energy says the global output of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that causes more heat to be trapped in the atmosphere, has soared to the largest amount on record — higher than the worst case scenario outlined by scientists from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just four years ago. The total amount of carbon pumped into the air globally jumped by 6 percent in 2010. One scientist described it as a “monster” increase. Pollution from China and the United States accounted for more than half the increase in emissions last year.
In news from Syria, dozens of people have been killed in the city of Homs since Thursday, despite Syria’s agreement to end the bloodshed. Earlier today, Syrian forces in tanks renewed artillery fire in the flashpoint Baba Amr district of the city.
In Bahrain, the 70-year-old father of a prominent opposition figure died Thursday, a day after he was attacked by riot police. Ali Hasan al-Dehi was the father of Hussein al-Dehi, deputy head of Al-Wefaq, Bahrain’s largest Shiite opposition group.
Israel has announced it will join the United States in freezing funding of UNESCO following Monday’s vote to grant the Palestinians membership in the U.N. cultural body. Israel had previously pledged $2 million annually to UNESCO.
Mark Regev, spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Government budgets that were earmarked for UNESCO will now go to support projects, regional projects, Middle East projects, designed to encourage cooperation in science, culture and education. These projects will bolster peace, and not undermine peace, as done the recent decision by UNESCO.”
Besides freezing funding to UNESCO, Israel has ordered the construction of 2,000 new settlement homes on occupied land and suspended the transfer of tax revenue it collects for the Palestinians. Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, defended the Palestinian effort to join UNESCO.
Riyad Mansour: “We are trying to become like others in joining this very important U.N. agency as a full member to be involved in a collective process with the rest of humanity in defending treasures of humanity, historical sites, religious sites, and being involved in an active way with cultural issues and scientific issues.”
The BBC is reporting the Palestinian effort to achieve full membership at the United Nations has been dealt a possible setback. A U.N. diplomat told the BBC that Britain, France and Colombia have told U.N. Security Council members they would abstain in any vote on Palestinian membership.
Voters in Nicaragua and Guatemala head to the polls on Sunday. In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega is projected to win a second consecutive term. He heads the Sandinista National Liberation Front. In Guatemala, retired general Otto Pérez is leading in the polls. If elected, General Pérez would become the first former military official to win the presidency in Guatemala since the end of the military dictatorships in 1986.
The Cuban government announced a major economic reform Thursday. For the first time since the 1959 revolution, Cuba is allowing Cubans to buy and sell their own homes. Cuban officials have expressed hope the rule change will generate new tax revenue and spur new housing development.
A new investigation by the Applied Research Center has revealed the Obama administration deported 46,000 parents of U.S.-born children during the first six months of the year. The data on parental deportations does not reveal how many children each of these parents had or whether their children remained in the United States or left with their parents. The Center estimates there at least 5,100 children in foster care who face barriers to family reunification because their mother or father has been detained or deported.
House Democrats have written letters to all 50 secretaries of state to oppose new voter identification laws that would make voting more difficult. Republican lawmakers in a number of states have passed laws that require specific types of photo identification to cast ballots, reductions in the number of early voting days, and tougher laws on collecting registrations. Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said, “Empowering people to vote, enhancing their ability to vote, ought to be our agenda, not impeding and undermining their right to vote.”
The Japanese government has announced it will give $11.5 billion of public money to the nuclear power facility operator TEPCO to help the company deal with the fallout from the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Along with the huge costs of reconstruction, closing the plant and decontamination, TEPCO faces billions of dollars in compensation claims from people and businesses affected by the nuclear crisis.
Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin passed a new policy on Thursday to allow lawmakers to carry concealed weapons on the floor of the State Assembly and for the public to have concealed guns in the viewing gallery. At the same time, lawmakers are now barring the public from using cameras or holding signs in the public gallery. On Tuesday, 18 people were arrested for taking photographs inside the Assembly Gallery, including Matt Rothschild, the editor of the Progressive Magazine. Rothschild was arrested after he took out his iPhone to photograph the police arresting someone else for taking a photograph. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, a Democrat, has jokingly suggested an amendment to allow protest signs in the galleries — if they are taped to a weapon.
CNBC is reporting MF Global has announced the resignation of Jon Corzine days after the company filed for one the largest corporate bankruptcies in U.S. history.