The Taliban has launched a coordinated attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul targeting the U.S. embassy and the headquarters of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. The Taliban attackers were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47s and suicide vests. At least four people were injured. The attack comes less than two months after Afghan forces assumed formal responsibility for security in the capital.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told NBC News that two Americans given eight-year prison sentences for spying and entering the country illegally will be released “in two days.” According to the Associated Press, Iran has set bail of $500,000 for the two men, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. A defense attorney for the men said the Iranian court would free Bauer and Fattal after the money was paid. The pair were arrested in 2009, along with their friend Sarah Shourd, after they mistakenly crossed from northern Iraq into Iran while on a hike. The men have adamantly denied the spy charges. Bauer is a freelance journalist who has contributed to Democracy Now! and other news outlets.
The White House said Monday President Obama is proposing cutting $467 billion in tax breaks for wealthier Americans and some companies to offset the cost of his job-creation plan. Obama is proposing limiting itemized deductions for Americans making $250,000 or more a year and ending tax breaks for oil companies, corporate jet owners and investment fund managers. Jack Lew is the White House budget director.
Jack Lew, White House budget director: “At its most simple level, what the President said on Thursday night stands and is just profoundly true: we can’t afford everything. We have to make choices. And I think if the American people were asked to make a choice between tax breaks for investment fund managers who get preferential treatment for carried interest and oil and gas industry tax breaks that treat oil and gas more favorably than other investments and corporate jets that are treated more favorably than commercial, that is not a hard choice for most Americans. If the choice is creating economic growth and jobs or tolerating the results of many years of inequities in the tax code.”
Bank of America, the largest bank in the United States, has announced plans to cut 30,000 jobs over the next few years. That is slightly more than 10 percent of its global workforce. The bank has already cut 6,000 jobs this year.
In news from Libya, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the head of the National Transitional Council, spoke before 10,000 supporters Monday in his first speech from Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli. The former Libyan justice minister called for unity and moderation.
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the National Transitional Council: “It’s a great honor for anyone to stand before this crowd in this situation and on this occasion and at a time when Libya and all Libyans get rid of the tyrants, so the Libyan people return dignified and honored by his action and his courage.”
Mustafa Abdul Jalil’s speech comes at a time when sharp splits are emerging in the ranks of Libya’s new rulers between Islamic conservatives and more secular figures competing for power. The Associated Press reports the rising tensions could jeopardize efforts to rebuild the country and form a cohesive state after six months of civil war.
Amnesty International has accused forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi and the Libyan rebels of committing war crimes. Amnesty warns that Libya risks descending into a bloody cycle of attacks and reprisals unless order can be established. Claudio Cordone is Amnesty’s senior director for research and regional programs.
Claudio Cordone of Amnesty International: “This report covers roughly the last six months of basically the battle for Libya, and we looked at abuses from the side of the Gaddafi forces, many war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity, but also there have been abuses on the part of the fighters who oppose Colonel Gaddafi and that have included, especially in initial days, people that have been lynched, whether Gaddafi soldiers, and also in the following weeks people suspected of having been part of the Gaddafi security forces, so-called mercenaries—many black Africans are being automatically assumed to be mercenaries—and others. And we are concerned now about the situation in the prison and in the detention centers.”
A senior Palestinian official said today the Palestinian Authority will go to the United Nations Security Council and seek full membership in the General Assembly next week, despite the looming threat of a U.S. veto. The announcement was made by Mohammed Shtayyeh, a senior member of Fatah’s central committee. His comment came one day after President Obama publicly confirmed for the first time that the United States will oppose any attempt by the Palestinians to achieve statehood—a move he described as a “distraction.” In an interview with Spanish-language reporters on Monday, Obama said, “If this came to the Security Council, we would object very strongly, precisely because we think it would be counterproductive. We don’t think that it would actually lead to the outcome that we want, which is a two-state solution.” If United States vetoes Palestinian statehood at the Security Council level, the general body of the U.N. General Assembly would likely then vote to grant the Palestinians enhanced observer status as a nonmember state. On Monday, Arab states announced plans to push for a full-fledged Palestinian state at the United Nations next week. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani is prime minister of Qatar.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, prime minister of Qatar: “The Arab states have agreed to refer to the United Nations the demand for full membership for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. And this committee has worked to gather the support of states for the right of the Palestinians to membership, and we have approved the necessary measures to achieve this initiative.”
Newly released data show the number of borrowers defaulting on federal student loans has jumped sharply in recent years, especially for students at for-profit schools. The U.S. Department of Education said Monday the national default rate has risen to 8.8 percent—nearly twice the rate in 2005.
Officials with the Nuclear Safety Authority in France claim they have detected no radioactive leaks following an explosion at a nuclear plant near the Mediterranean Sea on Monday. The blast killed one person, seriously burned another, and injured three others. According to the company’s website, the Centraco nuclear facility, located some 18 miles from the city of Avignon, possesses and conditions low-level nuclear waste. France is the most nuclear-dependent nation on the planet, with 58 nuclear reactors across the country.
An Oakland-area children’s museum has canceled an art exhibit featuring work by Palestinian youth depicting Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008 and 2009. Last week, officials with Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art informed the organizers of the exhibit, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, that the project had become too controversial and distracted from the museum’s mission of bringing art education to children. The art, created by Palestinian children between the ages of nine and 11, included images of bombs dropping, tanks and people getting shot.
It was 40 years ago today when New York State police raided a state prison in Attica, New York, ending a prison uprising to protest inhumane conditions at the facility. For four days the unarmed prisoners held 39 prison guards hostage. On Sept. 13, then-New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ordered armed state troopers to raid the prison. Troopers then shot indiscriminately more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition. In the end, 39 men would die, including 29 prisoners and 10 guards. After the shooting stopped, police beat and tortured scores of more prisoners. Newly uncovered audio recordings reveal that President Richard Nixon enthusiastically supported the violent operation when he spoke by phone with New York Governor Rockefeller on the day of the raid. Rockefeller confides in the president that before the raid he thought it was possible that as many as 300 prisoners could be killed, but went ahead with the operation anyway. This tape was obtained by University of New Hampshire at Manchester historian Theresa Lynch.
Operator: “I have Governor Rockefeller for you, sir.”
President Richard Nixon: “Hello.”
Operator: “There you are.”
Nelson Rockefeller: “Mr. President.”
Nixon: “I know you’ve had a hard day, but I want you to know that I just back you to the hilt, and I was sitting here talking to Bob Haldeman. I didn’t get your call because I’ve had a Cabinet meeting, and then I had a meeting with business leaders right afterwards, and I’ve been—I just got out. But the courage you showed and the judgment in not granting amnesty, it was right, and I don’t care what the hell the papers or anybody else says. I don’t care what they say. I think that you had to do it that way, because if you would have granted amnesty in this case, it would have meant that you would have had prisons in an uproar all over this country.”
Rockefeller: “That’s right, absolutely.”
Nixon: “And you did the right thing. It’s a tragedy that these poor fellows were shot, but I just want you to know that’s my view, and I’ve told the troops around here they’re to back that right to the hilt.”
Rockefeller: “Well, aren’t you great, Mr. President. I only called you because I wanted to alert you that we were going in.”
Rockefeller: “And when we went in, we couldn’t tell whether all 39 hostages would be killed and maybe two or three hundred prisoners.”
Throughout the tapes, President Nixon discusses the racial component of the uprising, describing the prison rebellion as “basically a black thing.” Nixon would go on to erroneously state that all of the victims of crackdown were African American, downplaying the multiracial leadership within Attica at the time of the uprising.
Nixon: “Tell me this, is this—are these primarily blacks that you’re dealing with?”
Rockefeller: “Oh, yes, the whole thing was led by the blacks.”
Nixon: “I’ll be darned. Are all the prisoners that were killed blacks? Or are there any whites?”
Rockefeller: “I haven’t got that report, but I have to—I would say, just offhand, yes.”
Rockefeller: “We did it, though, only when they were in the process of murdering the guards, or when they were attacking our people as they came in to get the guards.”
Nixon: “You had to do it.”
Rockefeller: “And otherwise we recaptured all the cell blocks and so forth without shooting a shot. And no troopers were wounded. One of them—well, one of them was in the leg. But…”
Nixon: “Only one trooper was wounded?”
Rockefeller: “That’s right.”
Nixon: “Good, good, good.”
Rockefeller: “It really was a beautiful operation.”