The make-up of the congressional “super committee” tasked with cutting the national deficit has been finalized after House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi submitted her picks. On Thursday, Pelosi selected Democratic Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, and Rep. Xavier Becerra of California.
Speaking at a battery plant in Michigan, President Obama renewed a call for Americans to pressure lawmakers on helping the economy.
President Obama: “The only thing keeping us back is our politics. The only thing preventing these bills from being passed is the refusal of some folks in Congress to put country ahead of party. There are some in Congress right now who would rather see their opponents lose than see America win.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has confirmed he will enter the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Perry is expected to make a formal announcement on Saturday.
The news that Texas Gov. Rick Perry will join the presidential race comes as the top Republican hopefuls held a televised debate ahead of a straw poll in Iowa. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann touted her opposition to the “cap and trade” energy bill, citing her measure targeting energy-smart light bulbs.
Rep. Michele Bachmann: “When it came to cap and trade, I fought it with everything that was in me, including I introduced the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, so people could all purchase the light bulb of their choice. I also believe—I also believe that big government is hurting the United States. We need to have small government.”
Hours before the televised GOP debate, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney drew scrutiny after publicly declaring that “corporations are people.” In an appearance at the Iowa State Fair, Romney made the assertion in response to crowd members who urged him to back tax hikes on the wealthy in order to fund Social Security and Medicare.
Mitt Romney: “For the coming decades going to be able to balance our budget and not spend more than we take in, we have to make sure that the promises we make in Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are promises we can keep. And there are various ways of doing that. One is we could raise taxes on people.”
Romney: “Corporations are people, my friend. We can raise taxes on — of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. So, where do you think it goes?”
Heckler: “In their pocket.”
Romney: “Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. OK. Human beings, my friend.”
New figures were released showing that amidst high unemployment and economic stagnation, the nation’s top 500 non-financial companies are sitting on $1.12 trillion in cash and short-term investments. According to the Wall Street Journal, the figure marks a 59 percent increase from 2008.
A former Pennsylvania judge has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for a so-called “kids-for-cash” scheme, in which he took money in exchange for sending juvenile offenders to for-profit detention centers. Former Luzerne County judge, Mark Ciavarella, Jr., received more than $2.8 million in bribes and kickbacks for putting juveniles into detention centers owned by his friends. Speaking before his sentencing, Ciavarella refused to admit he had accepted money in return for jailing children. Outside the courtroom, Sandy Fonzo, whose son committed suicide following a lengthy detention ordered by Ciaverella, expressed relief at the sentence.
Sandy Fonzo: “It’s an outrage that he still continues [to deny kickbacks], but today he is going to prison for 25 to 28 years. He’s being taken today. And to me, that just means everything.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has thrown out thousands of juvenile convictions handed down under Ciavarella’s watch. Ciavarella will now face a number of civil lawsuits from the children he sentenced and their families.
A new report from a team of British and Pakistani journalists estimates U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed as many as 775 civilians, including 168 children. Overall, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports some 2,292 people have died in the drone attacks since 2004. As many as 69 children were killed in the bombing of an Islamic school in 2006. The report also challenges a recent claim by President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, that no civilians have been killed in the drone attacks for nearly a year. According to researchers, at least 45 civilians were killed in 10 U.S. attacks during the last year.
Libyan rebels say they have captured several areas of the port city of Brega from the regime of Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Heavy fighting has been underway in Brega, with reports of at least seven rebels killed. Meanwhile, dozens of Libyans rallied in Tripoli on Thursday to protest a NATO air strike that allegedly killed some 85 civilians earlier this week. The Gaddafi regime claims 33 children were among the dead. NATO maintains it struck a legitimate military target. A protester called on the United Nations to help put an end to the bombings.
Protester: “Mr. Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary-General, we are the families of the victims who were killed by NATO air strikes on Majar village, which killed 85 martyrs. Most of them were children and women. We are appealing to you to take a firm stand against these crimes, which NATO commits every day.”
Syrian forces continue to attack civilians in the crackdown on opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Reports today say at least 11 people have been killed in raids near the Lebanon border. On Thursday, journalists were granted access to the city of Hama, following a four-day assault by Assad’s forces.
Hama Resident: “They have been ruling us for 50 years. Assad’s rule has lasted for 50 years. Through our determination, God willing — and we address Bashar al-Assad specifically — we will remove you by force. We will remove him by force. We are on our own. Look at us. We have nothing. They attacked us with tanks, they attacked us by airplane, with every means within their power, and we have nothing. They burned down our shops, our homes, and confiscated our belongings. Hama is burned down and torn to the ground. Go and check the alleys. People are dying of hunger. We have nothing but our god.”
The Obama administration has pledged an additional $17 million for relief efforts in the famine-stricken Horn of Africa. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the new funding.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “On Monday, President Obama announced that in light of the current crisis, we are making available an additional $105 million in emergency funding. Today I’m announcing another $17 million on top of that, with $12 million designed specifically for helping the people of Somalia. That brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance to the region to more than $580 million this year. We are reaching more than 4.6 million people with this aid.”
The United States is the largest donor of aid in the Horn of Africa but still spends more money in Africa on military efforts.
The Israeli government has formalized approval for the construction of 1,600 new settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem. An Israeli citizen taking part in the protests in Tel Aviv criticized Israeli officials for presenting settlement construction as a solution to Israel’s housing woes.
Protester: “This government is building houses for what’s going to be Palestine. Many Israelis need apartments and don’t have it, and they go and build building or houses for Palestine, which is ridiculous. And again it proves people—many people in the government can take everything and manipulate it so it will fit their own small, narrow interest and the way of thinking.”