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Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has sealed a deal with the opposition on forming a national unity government to approve a $180 billion international bailout. Under the deal, Papandreou will stand down when the new government takes over. Papandreou narrowly won a confidence vote on Friday, but had been under continuing pressure to resign amid chaos over the Greek debt crisis. Papandreou announced the formation of a crisis government on Friday.
George Papandreou, Greek prime minister: “The steps we have before us are clear. We must assure our partners that Greece immediately, without any delay, does everything that is needed to implement the October 26 agreement. Second, we announce, the parties together, that the agreement will be supported with wider political support and through a concentrated effort for the creation of a national unity government.”
Political analysts warn the debt crisis in Greece could spread to Italy and other European countries. George Pagoulatos is a professor at Athens University.
George Pagoulatos, Athens University professor of economics and business: “Time is of the utmost importance, because the eurozone is operating not on political time anymore, but regarding on a time that corresponds to the speed with which the markets operate, and there is an ongoing debt crisis in Italy. And the Greek problem has to be cast aside and ring-fenced so that it does not contaminate the ability of the eurozone to deal with the rest of the problems that are of a much more serious nature.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres warned on Sunday that an Israeli attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely. Peres’ comments comes just days before a highly anticipated report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear program. According to the Washington Post, the report will claim Iran has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon. The IAEA report is also expected to state that Iran has received crucial technical assistance from foreign weapon scientists from Russia, Pakistan and North Korea. Meanwhile, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that Israel will not warn them before taking military action against Iran’s alleged nuclear facilities. One official said the United States is “absolutely” concerned that Israel is preparing an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
In other news from the region, Israeli forces intercepted two Gaza-bound boats in international waters on Friday to prevent the boats from breaking the blockade on Gaza. The boats made up the Freedom Waves to Gaza flotilla. Israel detained the 27 activists on board as well as all of the journalists, including Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz. Many of the journalists and passengers have been released, but Jihan remains in detention. Israel defended its decision to intercept the boats in international waters.
Ari Shalikar, Israeli Army spokesman: “A short while ago, the Israeli navy boarded the two vessels which were on their way to break the maritime security blockade which was imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. We are talking about a very clear case of provocation, and we maintain our right to defend our borders.”
The nation’s official unemployment rate fell slightly to 9 percent in October, but government figures show just 80,000 jobs were added in the month. According to economist Dean Baker, at the current pace it will take more than 33 years to return to the pre-recession rates of unemployment. Meanwhile, unemployment checks have now run out for the majority of Americans out of work, a shift that points to a growing crisis of long-term unemployment. Early last year, 75 percent of unemployed workers received unemployment checks. Now the figure is just 48 percent.
A new analysis of census data shows the wealth gap between younger and older Americans has rapidly increased in recent years. The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35. The wealth gap is now more than double what it was in 2005 and nearly five times the disparity a quarter-century ago, after adjusting for inflation. The median net worth for younger-age households is now just $3,600, down by 68 percent from a quarter-century ago.
The Occupy Wall Street encampment and protest movement has entered its eighth week. Here in New York City, protesters will be hosting their first spokescouncil meeting today, a development in the decision-making process for the movement. Meanwhile, police continue to crack down on Occupy protesters across the country. In Florida, 13 people were arrested on Sunday while attending a First Amendment teach-in in Orlando. At least 24 people have been arrested over the last two days in Atlanta, Georgia, including five people early this morning. In California, police arrested 11 protesters in Riverside while breaking up the protest encampment.
Protests were held across the country Saturday to mark Bank Transfer Day, a campaign to move accounts from big banks into community banks or credit unions. Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich spoke at Occupy Los Angeles after the Bank Transfer Day march.
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor: “Because of Occupy L.A. and the Occupy movement around America, this country is beginning to discuss an issue and a set of issues it has avoided discussing for years, and that is the increasing concentration of income and wealth and political power at the very top of this country and what that has done to the economy and what that has done to our democracy.”
In California, the Guardian newspaper has revealed a second Iraq War veteran involved in Occupy Oakland has suffered serious injuries after being beaten by the police. Kayvan Sabehgi, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is in intensive care with a lacerated spleen. He says he was beaten by police close to the Occupy Oakland camp on the same day another Iraq War veteran protester, Scott Olsen, suffered a fractured skull after being shot in the head by a police projectile.
The New York Times has revealed the United States has been secretly deploying commando squads to battle drug cartels across Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years. The commando unit has reportedly been used in Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program began under President George W. Bush and has continued under the Obama administration.
In defiance of a peace plan agreed to last week, Syrian forces continue to attack Homs and other cities. Pro-democracy activists say at least 23 people died Sunday, including at least 16 in and around Homs. The United Nations estimated more than 3,000 people have died since protests began seven months ago. On Sunday, Syrian activists gathered outside the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan.
Unidentified Syrian: “What a state we are in at this time of Eid. This year’s Eid comes amid destruction, killing and displacement. We are here near the (Syrian) embassy to say to this criminal regime that they have lost legitimacy and they must go.”
In news from Africa, an Islamist militant organization is being blamed for a series of attacks on Friday that killed as many as 150 people. The United States warned that the group, Boko Haram, may strike hotels and other targets in the capital Abuja during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The Colombian military has killed Alfonso Cano, the commander of the Colombian rebel group the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). Cano died on Friday in southwestern Colombia. He was shot three times following an aerial bombardment of a FARC encampment. Cano had led the FARC since 2008.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega appears headed for a landslide re-election victory. Early results show the Sandinista leader received more than 60 percent of the votes. Since taking office in 2007, Ortega has vastly expanded Nicaragua’s anti-poverty programs and has boosted spending on health and education programs.
In Guatemala, former military general Otto Pérez won Sunday’s presidential election, making him the first former military official to win the presidency in Guatemala since the end of the military dictatorships in 1986. Pérez has vowed to deploy troops on the streets and increase the size of the police force in an effort to fight crime and drug cartels. Human rights groups have accused Pérez of being directly involved in the systematic use of torture and acts of genocide in Guatemala in the 1980s.
In Thailand, the death toll from the country’s worst flooding in half a century has topped 500. Floodwater is now threatening Bangkok’s subway system. Evacuations have been ordered in 11 of Bangkok’s 50 districts. Some of Bangkok’s outer neighborhoods are completely submerged.
Major Gen. Peter Fuller, a top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has been relieved of his duties after comments he made to Politico disparaging Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Fuller called the leaders of the Afghan government “isolated from reality.” Fuller also slammed Karzai’s recent remark that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan in a war against the United States. Fuller said, “Why don’t you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You’ve got to be kidding me. … I’m sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion, and now you’re telling me, 'I don't really care?’” Fuller repeatedly said the Afghan leaders don’t appreciate the sacrifice that the United States was making in “blood and treasure” for the sake of their country.
Some 10,000 protesters surrounded the White House on Sunday calling on President Obama to reject the proposed 1,700-mile Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The protest came exactly a year before the 2012 election. Protesters included Carol Fisher.
Carol Fisher, protester: “I’m here because I had to be, on behalf of my grandchildren, to be able to say, in the face of the rising tide of environmental degradation, political paralysis and the influence of corporations in our entire systems, that there were people that are saying 'No,' there were people that are saying 'Enough,' and that we are with—our focus is on the future and on the health of our planet, of our children, of our democratic systems.”