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Stock values are plummeting across the globe in the wake of Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade the credit rating of the United States. On Wall Street, the Dow lost 634 points, or 5.5 percent, on Monday. It was the sixth-largest point decline ever. Stocks in Bank of America, the nation’s largest bank, fell more than 20 percent, in part because of a $10 billion lawsuit from AIG alleging a “massive” mortgage fraud. The head of the European Central Bank says the world is now facing the worst financial crisis since World War II. On Monday afternoon, President Obama dismissed S&P’s downgrading of the U.S. credit rating.
President Obama: “I know we’re going through a tough time right now. We’ve been going through a tough time for the last two-and-a-half years. I know a lot of people are worried about the future. But here’s what I also know. There will always be economic factors that we can’t control — earthquakes, spikes in oil prices, slowdowns in other parts of the world. But how we respond to those tests, that’s entirely up to us. Markets will rise and fall, but this is the United States of America. No matter what some agency may say, we’ve always been and always will be a AAA country.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron has cut short his vacation and is recalling Parliament following a third night of unrest across Britain. More than 450 people have been arrested in the largest street riots and looting Britain has seen in decades. Armored vehicles are now patrolling parts of London. Fires burned through the night in several sections of the city. Rioting has spread to Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol. Riots first broke out on Saturday night in the north London section of Tottenham following a vigil for Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black man shot dead by police. British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg rejected links between Duggan’s death and the riots.
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg: “The violence we saw last night had absolutely nothing to do with the death of Mr. Duggan. It was needless, opportunistic theft and violence, nothing more, nothing less, and it is completely unacceptable. And the people who have suffered are those who’ve lost their businesses, shopkeepers who have lost their shops, families who have lost their homes, and of course many people who have felt very frightened in their own neighborhoods. And that’s why this government stands side by side with those people in those communities who utterly condemn the violence and the theft.”
Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone said sweeping government spending cuts for education were in part to blame for the violence. Nina Power of Roehampton University writes in The Guardian that the unrest was sparked by a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures. Power writes that the richest 10 percent in Britain are now 100 times better off than the poorest, and that social mobility in Britain is worse than any other developed country.
The United Nations refugee agency has begun flying aid into the capital of famine-stricken Somalia for the first time in five years. In the last 90 days, 9,000 children under the age of five have died in Southern Somalia alone. On Monday, USAID administrator Raj Shah warned hundreds of thousands of Somali children could die in the famine unless more help arrives. In Washington, President Obama approved $105 million in relief aid for the Horn of Africa region — but that is just a fraction of what the United States spends on the military in the region. The United Nations fears rising malnutrition rates will lead to more deaths. Rozanne Chorlton is the Somalia country representative for UNICEF.
Rozanne Chorlton, UNICEF, Somalia Country Representative: “We are seeing now that the proportion of malnourished children who are severely malnourished is already at 50 percent. This is an extremely, extremely worrying proportion, because normally that would be around five or 10 percent, so it means that 50 percent of malnourished children are at nine times greater risk of death than children who are healthy.”
Human rights groups say the death toll in Syria’s ongoing crackdown has now surpassed 2,000 people. At least five people were killed in the besieged Syrian city of Hama Monday, including two girls from the same family, a six-year-old and an 11-year-old. In the east, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad continued to shell the provincial capital of Deir ez-Zor, where residents say 65 people have been killed since Sunday. Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign minister has traveled to Damascus to urge Syrian leaders to end the crackdown. India, Brazil and South Africa are also sending envoys to stress similar demands. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain each withdrew their diplomats from Syria, increasing Arab pressure on the embattled government in Damascus.
President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta vowed to stay the course in Afghanistan Monday, while remembering the 30 U.S. troops killed in an attack on Saturday. The military is planning to transport the remains of the service members to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, but in a controversial move, the Pentagon has barred the media from covering the return ceremony. On Monday, Defense Secretary Panetta spoke at a ceremony where Adm. Bill McRaven became the new head of Special Operations Command in Tampa.
Leon Panetta, U.S. Secretary of Defense: “We owe them our deepest gratitude for their willingness to put their lives on the line, for their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their nation. But we also must pledge to them and to their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause for which they gave their lives: the cause of a secure and safer America.”
The New York Times has revealed Japanese officials withheld key information in the days after the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that resulted in many local residents seeking refuge in areas directly in the path of radiation emanating from the nuclear plant. Residents in Fukushima were initially instructed by town officials to head north to a district called Tsushima. Local officials mistakenly believed the winter winds would be blowing south. The officials were never notified by the Japanese government that a government computer system designed to predict the spread of radioactive releases showed the winds would blow north, carrying radiation directly to Tsushima. One local mayor said the withholding of information was akin to “murder.”
A federal court has refused to dismiss a lawsuit against former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for his role in crafting policies that led to torture in Iraq. In a two-to-one decision Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled two American citizens allegedly tortured at a U.S. military base in Iraq have adequate evidence suggesting Rumsfeld was personally responsible for their treatment and not entitled to qualify for immunity. The plaintiffs, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, were reportedly arrested and tortured after collaborating with the FBI in an investigation of their employer in Iraq, the private security company Shield Group Security. The company subsequently revoked the men’s credentials for entering Iraq’s so-called Green Zone, effectively barring them from the safest part of the country. Shortly thereafter, they were arrested and detained by U.S. troops. The men were moved to Camp Cropper and subjected to physical and psychological torture at the hands of U.S. forces. Vance was held for three months and Ertel for six weeks. The two men were eventually released and never charged with a crime. Monday’s decision comes just one week after another U.S. district judge ruled a separate tortured-related lawsuit against Rumsfeld could proceed to trial.
The National Climatic Data Center is reporting July was the fourth-warmest month in U.S. history. Oklahoma’s statewide average temperature of 88.9 degrees Fahrenheit was the warmest monthly statewide average temperature on record for any state during any month. July was also the hottest month ever in Texas. In Dallas, the temperature exceeded 100 degrees on 30 of the 31 days in July.
Voters in Wisconsin are heading to the polls today for an unprecedented series of recall elections. Six Republican state senators are facing recalls after they supported Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting bill earlier this year. Democrats would regain control of the Senate if they win three of the recall elections.
Two white Mississippi teens have been linked to the unprovoked murder of a black man. Prosecutors say Deryl Dedmon, Jr., and John Aaron Rice explicitly sought an African American to harm when they left a party in late June. Along with other young people, the two drove to a black area where they found James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old black auto plant worker. The teens severely beat Anderson while yelling “white power!” and other racial epithets. Surveillance footage then shows Dedmon’s truck driving over Anderson, killing him instantly. Dedmon has been charged with murder and faces a double life sentence, while Rice’s murder charges have been reduced to aggravated assault. The other teens involved in the incident have not been charged.
In religious news, the Catholic priest Father Roy Bourgeois is facing expulsion from the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers because of his continued public support for the ordination of female priests. Bourgeois has refused to recant his views.
In news from Latin America, nine Salvadoran soldiers accused of taking part in the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador were arrested and handed over to a judge after turning themselves in on Monday. The move comes three months after Spain’s highest court ordered the capture and processing of 19 suspects in the killings.
In Arizona, 10 protesters were arrested Monday morning after they chained themselves together and blocked the road leading to the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff. The activists were protesting plans for a ski resort, called the Arizona Snowbowl, to use recycled sewer water to make artificial snow on a mountain considered sacred by 13 Native American tribes.