Syrian troops have launched a bloody assault to retake Homs, Syria’s third largest city. Less than a week after agreeing to an Arab League peace deal, the Syrian government has begun waging what many are saying is its most violent crackdown in the eight-month uprising. At least 110 people have been killed in the past five days in Homs. The United Nations says at least 3,500 people have now been killed in Syria since the crackdown began in mid-March. The Arab League has called for an emergency meeting, but it will not be held until Saturday.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is coming under increasing pressure to resign as Italy struggles to deal with its worsening economic crisis. Earlier today, one of Berlusconi’s main coalition partners, Umberto Bossi of the Northern League, urged him to step aside ahead of a crucial budget vote. With the third biggest economy in the eurozone, the economic crisis facing Italy is considered to be far more dangerous than Greece. Many economists believe that Italy’s borrowing costs are approaching levels that may force the nation to ask for a massive bailout — far bigger than the bailouts for Greece, Ireland or Portugal.
A woman accused Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain of improperly touching her in 1997 while he was the head of the National Restaurant Association. At least two other women had lodged formal complaints against Cain when he was head of the restaurant association, but Sharon Bialek has become the first to appear in public and make a statement. Bialek said she and Cain had dinner together in Washington, D.C., and she asked him to help her find a job. She said the incident took place in a parked car after dinner.
Sharon Bialek, Cain accuser: “I thought that we were going to go into the offices so that he could show me around. At that time I had on a black pleated skirt, a suit jacket and a blouse. He had on a suit with his shirt open. But instead of going into the offices, he suddenly reached over, and he put his hand on my leg, under my skirt, and reached for my genitals. He also grabbed my head and brought it towards his crotch. I was very, very surprised and very shocked. I said, 'What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend. This isn't what I came here for.’ Mr. Cain said, 'You want a job, right?' I asked him to stop, and he did. I asked him to take me back to my hotel, which he did, right away.”
Speaking at a news conference in New York City, Sharon Bialek explained why she had decided to speak publicly about Herman Cain.
Sharon Bialek: “I’m coming forward to give a face and a voice to those women who cannot, or for whatever reason do not wish to, come forward, and on behalf of all women who are sexually harassed in the workplace but do not come out of fear of retaliation or in public humiliation. I really didn’t want to be here today and wouldn’t have been here if it had not been for the three other women who have alleged sexual harassment against Mr. Cain. I want you, Mr. Cain, to come clean, just admit what you did.”
Herman Cain is planning to respond to the accusation at a press conference today. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Cain said, “There’s not an ounce of truth in all of these accusations.”
It is voting day in many parts of the country. In Ohio, early polling suggests voters may be on track to defeat legislation that would ratify Republican Gov. John Kasich’s controversial limits to the collective bargaining rights of state employees. The issue was placed on the ballot after a group created after Kasich’s law was passed this spring gathered 1.3 million signatures to oppose the measure.
The architect of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration law is fighting to defend his position in the State Senate amid a recall election today. Russell Pearce is being challenged by fellow Republican Jerry Lewis. Pearce wrote Senate Bill 1070, which forces police to investigate the immigration status of people they have lawfully detained.
In Mississippi, citizens are voting on a bill that would establish that a fertilized human egg is a person. Both the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor in Mississippi are in favor of the measure, which would confer rights on an embryo from the moment of conception. If passed, the measure would make Mississippi the first state ever to grant constitutional rights to embryo. The consequences of such a move remain unclear, although many speculate it could make infertility treatments and birth control illegal, and would all but certainly lead to a ban on abortion.
In Philadelphia, a longtime anti-poverty activist is running for the so-called “peoples’ sheriff.” Cheri Honkala, a member of the Green Party, says if she is elected she will oppose foreclosures and refuse to evict people out of their homes.
New census data shows a record 49.1 million Americans — 16 percent of Americans — are now living in poverty. On Monday, the government released the new figures based on a revised formula of poverty. The new number shows three million more people are living in poverty than the official measure released in September. The new data shows 16 percent of Americans 65 or older are now living in poverty, a far higher figure than previously studies have show. The Washington Post reports the biggest factor increasing the poverty rate for seniors under the new formula was out-of-pocket medical expenses. The new data also shows 28 percent of Latinos and more than 25 percent of African Americans are living in poverty. Without food stamps, another five million would be living in poverty.
In Chicago, more than 1,000 senior citizens joined forces with Occupy Chicago on Monday to protest cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. After a large march, about 50 people were arrested for blocking traffic on the street.
In New York City, hundreds of protesters marched across the island of Manhattan to the Occupy Wall Street encampment based in Lower Manhattan. New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat took part in the march.
Adriano Espaillat, New York state senator: “The council member and I began this, because our communities, for over decades, have been in a permanent recession. You know, we have double-digit unemployment rates. We have a lack of affordable housing, healthcare. We have very great needs. And for many years, even in affluent times, when the economy was doing better, we were left behind. So the message has been sent by the people in Occupy Wall Street, we know very well. For decades we know that message, and we want to show solidarity. We want to change the face of that movement to ensure that we also are part of that movement, to ensure that we pass the millionaires’ tax that will bring greater resources to the state government, so we don’t have to do the cuts.”
In California, a video has been posted online showing an Oakland police officer shooting a rubber bullet or bean bag projectile directly at a person who was filming the protest on the night of the general strike.
In a recent interview with USA Today, former president Bill Clinton offered some of his thoughts on the Occupy Wall Street movement. “They have an amorphous set of resentments for which I sympathize,” Clinton said. “I don’t think Americans can continue this level of income inequality.” Clinton went on to suggest a change in the movement’s strategy, however, arguing the encampment in New York City would benefit from a discussion with political leaders such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo or Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was overheard last week calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “liar” in private remarks to President Barack Obama at the G20 summit.
The comments were overheard by a group of journalists. Sarkozy said in French about Netanyahu, “I can’t stand him anymore. He’s a liar.” President Obama responded, “You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day.” The conversation apparently began with Obama criticizing Sarkozy for voting in favor of the Palestinian U.N. membership bid in UNESCO, despite opposition from the United States and Israel.
The U.S. State Department’s inspector general has opened a “special review” of the department’s handling of permitting for the 1,700-mile Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, which could delay the final decision on the line until after the 2012 election. Opponents of the pipeline have expressed concern that the company the State Department hired to conduct environmental impact statements on the pipeline had financial ties to TransCanada. The inspector general’s announcement came a day after some 10,000 pipeline opponents formed a ring around the White House to protest the pipeline.
The Australian Senate has approved a landmark law to force the country’s 500 worst-polluting companies to pay a tax on their carbon emissions. Australia is the highest emitter per capita in the industrial world due to a heavy reliance on coal to generate electricity. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard supported the measure.
Julia Gillard, Australian prime minister: “Today, Australia has a price on carbon as the law of our land. This comes after a quarter-of-a-century of scientific warnings, 37 parliamentary inquiries, and years of bitter debate and division. Today, our nation has got this done. It has taken the most effective step it can to cut carbon pollution.”
Former President Jimmy Carter is visiting Haiti as part of an effort by Habitat for Humanity to build homes for the homeless following last year’s devastating earthquake. Speaking to reporters, Carter expressed disappointment that reconstruction efforts have been so slow.
Former President Jimmy Carter: “I’ve only been here one day, and I’ve seen—and we’ve driven through Port-au-Prince and through part of the large city. I don’t see any evidence of building homes for poor families. I see a lot of reconstruction of very large houses, you know, where rich people live. Well, my understanding is that the pledges of funding have been quite large, but the actual delivery of the money and the spending of money for homes has been very slow. And I’ll be sharing this opinion with the United States officials and with United Nations officials when I return to the United States.”
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted a stay of execution to Hank Skinner, who was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday. Skinner was convicted of the 1993 deaths of his girlfriend and her two sons in Pampa, Texas. Questions have arisen over his guilt because multiple items from the crime scene have not been tested for DNA.
Michael Jackson’s personal doctor, Conrad Murray, has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for giving the singer a fatal dose of the powerful anesthetic propofol. The drug, which is normally used in surgery, was ruled the main cause of Jackson’s death at the age of 50.