The Republican-controlled House has passed a bill that would extend a Social Security payroll tax cut but add on a series of unrelated provisions opposed by Democrats. In addition to the tax cut, the bill also calls for speeding the construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would move tar sands oil from Canada to Texas. The vote comes in a defiance of a veto threat from President Obama, who has said he will reject any effort to link the tax cut to unrelated proposals. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the bill is “dead on arrival” in the Senate.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is vowing to ensure the protection of voting rights in states that have recently enacted controversial laws that critics say target low-income voters and people of color. In a speech on Tuesday, Holder said the Justice Department will aggressively review the laws, most enacted by Republicans in the name of fighting fraud. Eight states have enacted laws this year requiring voters to present state-issued photo ID. In his remarks, Holder cited the concerns of the Georgia Congress member and civil rights leader John Lewis.
Attorney General Eric Holder: “In my travels across this country, I’ve heard a consistent drumbeat of concern from many Americans who, often for the first time in their lives, now have reason to believe that we are failing to live up to one of our nation’s most noble and essential ideals. As Congressman John Lewis described it in a speech on the House floor this summer, the voting rights that he worked throughout his life — and nearly gave his life — to ensure are, and I quote, 'under attack … [by] a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, [and] minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process,' unquote.”
At least 32 people were killed in Syria on Tuesday in the latest violence during the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The deaths come one day after the United Nations estimated the toll since March has surpassed 5,000. At the United Nations, deputy U.S. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo criticized the U.N. Security Council for failing to take action against the Assad regime.
Rosemary DiCarlo: “My colleagues here are in touch with the Arab League. We are very much looking forward to the results of the meetings that are going to happen in a few days, and we will be solidly behind them in support of many of the things that they and we have called for, in particular an end, immediate end, to all the violence, a deployment of international human rights monitors, including the commission of inquiry, and freedom of movement for journalists, as well.”
Iran is rejecting a U.S. demand for the return of a U.S. drone that crashed near its eastern border earlier this month. The United States has acknowledged the drone was used as part of a CIA spy program that has sent many drones into Iran to purportedly monitor suspected nuclear sites. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson said, rather than seeking the drone’s return, President Obama should apologize.
Ramin Mehmanparast: “Mr. Obama has requested for the spy plane to be returned to the U.S. It seems that he has forgotten that our air space was violated. A spying operation was conducted, and international law has been violated.”
As the United States seeks the return of a drone from Iran, another U.S. drone has crashed at an airport in the island nation of Seychelles. U.S. officials say the aircraft was unarmed and used to monitor piracy off the East African coast.
The United Nations has issued a record $1.5 billion appeal for the humanitarian crisis in Somalia. On Tuesday, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, said the famine that has killed tens of thousands of people could worsen over the next year.
Mark Bowden: “We are literally on a knife edge this year, and if we don’t sustain our operations, I think it could be we could see serious problems develop, the areas that have recovered perhaps moving back into famine-like conditions and also increasing displacement.”
Unknown vandals have set fire to a mosque in Jerusalem amidst a wave of increasing attacks by Jewish settlers. In addition to the arson, the mosque was defaced with anti-Arab slurs and the “price tag” slogan associated with the settler campaign to vandalize Palestinian property. The incident comes hours after a group of settlers broke into an Israeli army base in the West Bank and destroyed property in an apparent protest against the dismantling of unauthorized outposts erected beyond the massive Jewish settlement blocs that already carve up Palestinian land. An Israeli army spokesperson said the settlers had been violent.
Col. Avital Liebowitz: “Over the night, some 50 rioters infiltrated into a military base in Judea and Samaria, the Ephraim Regional Brigade, where they acted in a very violent manner, throwing tires, laying nails on the roads and hurling rocks at some soldiers and commanders. The IDF sees this incident in a very severe manner. We’re working currently to cooperate with other security organizations in the country in order to investigate this matter.”
Palestinians have accused the Israeli government of failing to take action against the settler attacks. At the United Nations, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour called for the Security Council to weigh in on the vandalism and the Israeli government’s ongoing expansion of settlements.
Riyad Mansour: “We want the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility with regard to all these violations, especially the violation of the continuation of the illegal activities of Israel in the settlement front. And we will see what will be the result of this consultation to collectively decide on what is possible. Our desire is obvious. We want the most effective reaction from the Security Council.”
The latest wave of settler attacks has accompanied the Palestinian effort for statehood recognition at the United Nations. On Tuesday, the Palestinian flag was raised for the first time at the headquarters of the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO in France. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed the milestone.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “We hope this will bode well for Palestine becoming a member of other international institutions. We hope that this will be of good auspices. We know the noble ambitions of UNESCO in terms of peace, education, culture and science. And our admission today is a tremendous source of pride for us.”
New evidence has emerged News International executive chairman James Murdoch was warned of the phone hacking at his family’s media empire earlier than he has admitted to. On Tuesday, a British parliamentary inquiry released a June 2008 email chain from then-News of the World editor, Colin Myler, that Murdoch received. In the email to Murdoch, Myler described the hacking revelations as a “nightmare scenario.” Murdoch replied to the email within three minutes, but now claims he did not read the full email chain outlining the situation.
In Honduras, dozens of journalists clashed with soldiers outside the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday in a protest against a wave of killings targeting Honduran reporters. Soldiers threw tear gas at the journalists as they tried to enter the palace. Around two dozen journalists have been killed in Honduras since 2007, most of them since the June 2009 ouster of then-president Manuel Zelaya.
Honduran journalist Wendy Funez: “We came to ask for justice for 24 journalists that have been killed since 2003. We have read the stories of many colleagues who have been killed with clear signs of summary execution, which have been denounced by some human rights organizations.”
A coalition of environmental groups has filed a last-minute attempt to block the first auction of offshore oil drilling leases since the BP oil spill of April 2010. The federal government is scheduled to hold a sale today of leases covering more than 20 million acres of the Texas coast. In their complaint, the groups Oceana, Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity say the federal government has failed to take sufficient steps to prevent a repeat of the BP disaster.
Former Penn State football coach and accused child molester Jerry Sandusky appeared in court on Tuesday to waive a preliminary hearing in his ongoing sex abuse case. Sandusky faces 52 criminal counts for the alleged abuse of 10 boys. An attorney for one of the alleged victims said Sandusky was trying to avoid facing his accusers.
Howard Janet: “He doesn’t want to give these boys an opportunity to be heard directly, because his continued effort to try and accuse these boys of not being honest would have been completely shattered. Frankly, should have been shattered long ago. But for those who might want to think that maybe there is some semblance, some little crack of credibility, that would have been lost altogether.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is urging a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving. On Tuesday, the NTSB became the first federal agency to call for such a measure. The board estimates cell phone use contributed to 3,092 highway deaths last year — more than eight per day.