Advocates for labor, women’s and immigration rights are celebrating a number of key victories in Tuesday’s state elections. In Ohio, voters defeated Republican Gov. John Kasich’s controversial limits on the collective bargaining rights of state employees. The issue came to a vote after a group collected 1.3 million signatures to place it on the ballot. Meanwhile, in Arizona, the architect of the state’s controversial anti-immigration law has lost his state senate seat in an unprecedented recall vote. Russell Pearce wrote Senate Bill 1070, which forces police to investigate the immigration status of people they have lawfully detained. In Mississippi, voters have rejected a far-reaching and stringent anti-abortion initiative known as the “personhood” amendment, that would have conferred rights on an embryo from the moment of conception. Meanwhile, in Maine, voters have defeated a Republican measure that barred same-day voter registration on election day.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency has raised new concerns over what it calls “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear activities. In a leaked report, the IAEA said “credible” evidence “indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.” The IAEA report comes amidst widespread speculation the Israeli government is gearing up for an attack on Iran. The Iranian ambassador to the IAEA condemned the report’s findings.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh: “This report is unbalanced, unprofessional and prepared with a political motivation and under political pressure mostly by United States. This is a pity that this report has diverted from normal practice. Has IAEA found, after 4,000 inspection, mandate inspection, even one gram of material diverted to military purposes? Have the agency found any smoking gun? Therefore, it seems that we are seeing the same scenario of the Bush administration once again, but performed by the director general of IAEA. This is a very dangerous game.”
Although Iran is expected to face calls for new sanctions, U.S. officials have already suggested the report may not contradict previous U.S. intelligence estimates that found Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program. Speaking to the National Journal, a senior administration official said, “The IAEA does not assert that Iran has resumed a full scale nuclear weapons program.” In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the United States will review the report before potentially seeking new sanctions.
Victoria Nuland: “The IAEA director [Yukiya] Amano has now put out his report in classified version to the member states. I understand it has been now leaked, but we are still considering this a classified document. We will need some time to study it.”
The Syrian government continues its assault on the city of Homs in an effort to retake a key center of opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The attack on Homs came less than a week after Assad accepted an Arab League peace plan to stop the violence. Syrian opposition leaders are meeting with the Arab League in Cairo today. Speaking in Geneva, a spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the United Nations’ new estimate of 3,500 deaths in the Syrian popular uprising is a conservative figure.
Ravina Shamdasani: “The brutal crackdown on dissent in Syria has so far claimed the lives of more than 3,500 Syrians. More than 60 people are reported to have been killed by military and security forces since Syria signed the peace plan sponsored by the League of Arab States, including at least 19 on Eid al-Adha on Sunday. You will find that our estimate of the death toll is relatively conservative compared to what others are saying, and this is because we rely on corroborated information for it, from credible sources on the ground, inside and outside Syria.”
The Obama administration has announced plans to expand offshore oil drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, while barring further projects on the East and West coasts. The new rules call for further drilling in areas of the Gulf of Mexico that are now under development, including some near Florida that had been off limits. Areas along the North Slope of Alaska and near the state’s southern shore will also be opened up for increased drilling. Meanwhile, the government is withdrawing all of the Eastern Seaboard from leasing consideration. Environmental groups say the expanded development puts sensitive coastlines, waters and fisheries at risk in Alaska and in the Gulf. In a statement, the Center for Biological Diversity said: “Ramping up offshore drilling raises the risk of disastrous spills, puts wildlife in harm’s way and deepens U.S. dependence on the fossil fuels driving the global climate crisis.”
Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain is refusing to abandon the 2012 presidential race in the face of sexual harassment allegations from four women. On Tuesday, Cain denied the claims of his latest accuser, Sharon Bialek, who said Cain groped her and tried to force her to commit a sexual act in 1997. Cain said he cannot even remember Bialek and called her allegations a ploy by the “Democrat machine.”
Herman Cain: “I tried to remember if I recognized her, and I didn’t. I tried to remember if I remembered that name, and I didn’t. The charges and the accusations, I absolutely reject. They simply didn’t happen. They simply did not happen. The fact is, these anonymous allegations are false, and now the Democrat machine in America has brought forth a troubled woman to make false accusations, statements, many of which exceed common sense, and they certainly exceed the standards of decency in America.”
Bialek was the first of Cain’s alleged victims to publicly identify herself. Also Tuesday, another woman, Karen Kraushaar, confirmed publicly for the first time she had accused Cain of sexual harassment when they both worked for the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Occupy Wall Street protesters are embarking on a two-week walk today from New York City to Washington, D.C. Inspired by the marches of the Civil Rights Movement, the demonstrators plan to march 20 miles a day, stopping at a number of occupations, including Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; and Newark, New Jersey. The 300-mile march will conclude on November 23, with a protest at the White House against tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Protesters remaining in New York City have purchased dozens of military-grade camping tents in preparation for the cold winter months ahead.
On Tuesday, the New York City occupation played host to 1960s musical icons David Crosby and Graham Nash. The duo played four songs for a packed crowd gathered in Zuccotti Park.
A prisoner jailed for nearly a decade at the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is appearing before a military tribunal today on charges of orchestrating the deadly attack on the U.S.S. Cole. Abd al-Nashiri is accused of overseeing the planning of the October 2000 bombing, which killed 17 sailors and wounded 40 others. Nashiri’s case will mark the first death-penalty war crimes trial at Guantánamo under President Obama. The military tribunal was initially canceled in 2009 as part of Obama’s pledge to close the prison. But trials have resumed after Obama reversed his position earlier this year. Nashiri has claimed he confessed to the Cole bombing after undergoing repeated torture in U.S. custody. He was waterboarded dozens of times. On Tuesday, Nashiri’s attorney denounced the military trial as a sham.
Richard Kammen: “It has been publicly reported, of course, that Mr. al-Nashiri was in CIA custody and was tortured. And so, one of the very powerful arguments that we intend to make at every stage of the proceedings is that by torturing Mr. Nashiri, the United States has really lost all moral authority to try and kill him. It’s going to look like a court, but it is not a real court. There is nothing about this that is fair, legitimate. This is a court organized to convict. It is a court organized to kill.”
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has confirmed he will step down following widespread pressure over Italy’s economic crisis. Berlusconi says he will resign after implementing economic reforms demanded by the European Union. With the third biggest economy in the eurozone, the economic crisis facing Italy is considered to be far more dangerous than that in Greece. James Walston, a professor at the American University in Rome, said Berlusconi had lost the support of his closest allies.
James Walston: “Even his closest advisers have realized that Berlusconi has lost his magic. The sort of problems which Italy is facing are ones which Berlusconi is both unwilling and incapable of dealing with. And they, from close advisers and collaborators like [Under-Secretary Gianni] Letta and [Secretary-General of the People of Freedom Party Angelino] Alfano to all sorts of back-benchers, have decided that they do not want to be part of a government which causes major problems, and possibly catastrophic problems, for Italy and for the European Union.”
President Obama made a trip to the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Tuesday to unveil new initiatives on early childhood education. Speaking in Philadelphia, Obama announced that education centers preparing children for kindergarten under Head Start will receive further evaluations in order to receive federal funding. Obama also blasted Republicans for opposing his education policies.
President Obama: “The Republicans in Washington have been trying to gut our investments in education. Earlier this year, nearly every Republican in the House voted for a budget that would have cut hundreds of thousands of children from Head Start. They’ve tried to cut Pell Grants for college students. They just voted against a jobs bill that would have put 400,000 teachers back in the classroom. Their argument is that we don’t have the money. And what I’ve said is we can make these investments in our children without adding to the deficit simply by asking people who make more than a million dollars a year to pay a little more in taxes — not right now, but starting in 2013.”
Attorneys for thousands of Haitian cholera victims have announced a lawsuit against the United Nations for bringing the disease to Haiti and then failing to contain it. Some 450,000 Haitians have been sickened, and more than 6,000 have died, since the cholera outbreak erupted in October 2010. The cholera epidemic is believed to have originated with a battalion of Nepalese troops with the U.N. peacekeeping mission. Attorney Brian Concannon announced the lawsuit Tuesday on Democracy Now!.
Brian Concannon: “The U.N. put out a report in May that demonstrated the U.N. was at fault for the introduction and the spread of cholera, although the report has a conclusion that’s disjointed from the facts that are in that, and the U.N. is failing to officially acknowledge responsibility, nor is it responding as if—responding adequately to slow down and—slow down the epidemic and treat the victims.”
Former U.S president Jimmy Carter continues a visit to Haiti seeking greater rebuilding efforts for those made homeless by the January 2010 earthquake. Carter called on foreign governments to end interference in Haiti’s reconstruction.
Jimmy Carter: “My own hope is to build homes here for poor folks and also to have—to take home 500 ambassadors, who will be promoting the importance for the world helping Haiti with their own elected government, I hope with minimum outside interference, in the decisions made by the leaders that you all have elected.”