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Talks at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban have entered their last official day, with focus now on a European Union-sponsored road map calling for a new climate treaty to be negotiated by 2015. The treaty would impose binding cuts on the world’s biggest emitters of the heat-trapping gases but would not likely go into effect until 2020. The E.U. plan has received support from key blocs at the talks, including a coalition of small island states and a grouping of the world’s least developed countries. But several of the world’s largest polluters, including the United States, China and India, have refused to back the deal so far.
Occupy Boston continues to stand after protesters defied a midnight deadline to evacuate their two-month-old encampment. Scores of protesters remain in Boston’s Dewey Park after police failed to move in when the deadline passed. The encampment’s size shrunk, however, after hundreds of demonstrators voluntarily left to avoid the threat of arrest. Many of those departing the original encampment have set up a new site at Boston’s Federal Reserve.
In Washington, a week-long protest, dubbed “Take Back the Capitol,” continued on Thursday with a series of demonstrations protesting corporate influence over Congress. More than 1,000 people turned out to protest at the offices of lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner.
Iran has filed a formal complaint after recovering a downed U.S. drone near its border with Afghanistan last week. 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. On Thursday, the Iranian foreign ministry summoned the Swedish embassy, which handles U.S. interests in Tehran, and said the Obama administration has increased what it called “provocative and covert actions.” Iran is demanding the United States provide “a full response and compensation.” At a White House news conference in Washington, President Obama reiterated the longstanding U.S. threat that no option is off the table when dealing with Iran.
Reporter: “Are you intentionally trying to ramp up the pressure on Iran? And given that you had stated that no options are off the table, should we take that to mean that you are considering some other options?”
President Obama: “No options off the table means I’m considering all options.”
Reporter: “Can you tell us exactly what those options might be?”
President Obama: “No.”
The 17 members of the eurozone are vowing to strike their own accord after a bid to change the broader European Union treaty failed. Leaders of the 27-member E.U. have gathered in Brussels in a bid to tackle the sovereign debt crisis threatening the eurozone. A proposal pushed by France and Germany to alter the E.U. treaty to include tighter fiscal controls failed after Britain refused to sign on. France and Germany now say they will push for separate changes within the 17 eurozone states.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of inciting unrest inside Russia as he grapples with massive protests. On Thursday, Putin said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had encouraged protests by joining in international criticism of controversial parliamentary elections. Thousands of people have demonstrated this week in a rare show of protest against Putin’s rule. Speaking in Belgium, Clinton said U.S. criticism of the elections was well-founded.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We expressed concerns that we thought were well-founded about the conduct of the elections, and we are supportive of the rights and aspirations of the Russian people to be able to make progress and to realize a better future for themselves, and we hope to see that unfold in the years ahead.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time has linked the natural gas drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, to polluting water supplies. On Thursday, the EPA said it had found fracking chemical compounds in the groundwater beneath a remote Wyoming community where residents have complained of contamination. The EPA has advised the residents not to drink the water. The finding could have major implications for areas around the country where gas companies are seeking state approval for massive fracking projects in shale formations.
Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before lawmakers on Thursday to apologize for the controversial gun-sting operation known as “Fast and Furious.” The operation saw U.S. agents encouraging the sale of thousands of guns to middlemen for Mexican drug cartels in an attempt to gain access to senior-level figures within Mexico’s criminal organizations. The U.S. Department of Justice was recently forced to withdraw a letter to Congress that mistakenly stated federal agents made every effort to seize the guns before they crossed over into Mexico. Speaking before the House Judiciary Committee, Holder called the operation “inexcusable.”
Attorney General Eric Holder: “The Department has devoted significant resources to this fight, and specifically to addressing the unacceptable rate of illegal firearms trafficking from the United States to Mexico. Unfortunately, in the pursuit of that laudable goal, unacceptable tactics were adopted as a part of Operation Fast and Furious. Now, as I have repeatedly stated, allowing guns to 'walk,' whether in this administration or the prior one, is wholly unacceptable. The use of this misguided tactic is inexcusable, and it must never happen again.”
Senate Republicans have blocked the nomination of former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray as the first head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama picked Cordray to head the bureau earlier this year and now says he has not ruled out making a recess appointment.
Former New Jersey governor and U.S. senator Jon Corzine appeared on Capitol Hill Thursday to make his first public defense of his brief stint at the helm of the failed commodities and derivatives brokerage house MF Global. Corzine resigned from the firm last month after it filed for one of the largest bankruptcies in American corporate history, with almost $40 billion in liabilities. It was the largest failure on Wall Street since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.
Jon Corzine: “Like all of you, I am devastated by the enormous impact on many people’s lives resulting from the events surrounding the MF Global bankruptcy. Of course, my distress and sadness pale in comparison to the losses and hardships that customers, farmers and ranchers and others, employees and investors, have suffered. Their plight weighs on my mind every day. As the chief executive officer of MF Global at the time of its bankruptcy, I truly apologize to all those affected.”
A gunman shot and killed a campus police officer at Virginia Tech University on Thursday before turning the gun on himself. The murder-suicide led to a four-hour lockdown of the campus, the site of the April 2007 massacre that marked one of the worst shooting rampages in U.S. history.
The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously approved a measure to support a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people entitled to constitutional rights. The campaign against corporate personhood was launched in response to the Supreme Court decision on the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opened the floodgates for unlimited corporate spending on election campaigns. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has just put forward a similar amendment on Capitol Hill dubbed the “Saving American Democracy Amendment” that would reverse the Citizens United ruling.
The funeral of Georgia activist Martina Correia, the older sister of former death row prisoner Troy Davis, will be held tomorrow morning in her home town of Savannah, Georgia. She passed away on December 1 after a more than decade-long battle with breast cancer. She was 44 years old. At the same time as she fought to save her own life, Correia struggled valiantly to save that of her brother’s. Davis was executed by the state of Georgia on September 21 despite major doubts about the case, including the recantation of seven of the nine non-police witnesses.
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