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HeadlinesSeptember 19, 2011

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Obama Proposes New “Buffett Tax” on Millionaires

Sep 19, 2011

President Obama is preparing to propose a new tax on millionaires as part of his plan to cut deficit by $3 trillion over the next 10 years. The White House says the effort is aimed at ensuring people who earn more than $1 million a year pay a minimum rate of tax that at least matches that of middle-class families. Dubbed the “Buffett Tax,” the proposal is named after billionaire U.S. investor Warren Buffett, who wrote earlier this year that rich people like him often pay less in tax than those who work for them. Meanwhile on Saturday, President Obama used his weekly address to urge Congress to pass his jobs bill.

President Obama: “I know some of them would rather wait another year to wage another election than work together right now. But most Americans don’t have the luxury of waiting. It was three years ago this week that a financial crisis on Wall Street made things much more difficult for working folks on Main Street. And too many are still hurting as a result.”

Yemen Intensifies Government Crackdown with Scores Killed in 48 Hours

Sep 19, 2011

In Yemen, the government’s violent crackdown on protesters has intensified significantly over the past 48 hours. At least 21 protesters have been killed today in the capital of Sana’a. Another 26 demonstrators were gunned down on Sunday. Salim Allaw was protesting in the streets of Sana’a on Sunday.

Salim Allaw, protester: “This is the 26th massacre of the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh during this period since the beginning of the revolution to now. The security forces of the Central Security objected to our peaceful march. And we announced it would be a peaceful march. We were not carrying weapons. They opened fire on us with heavy machine guns, and they used internationally banned gas.”

Yemen has has been mired in a political stalemate for months. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has clung to power, even though he has been in Saudi Arabia since June receiving medical treatment following an assassination attempt.

Report: U.S. Increases Drone Strikes in Yemen

Sep 19, 2011

The Washington Post reports the Obama administration has significantly increased the frequency of drone strikes in Yemen in recent months. The strikes have targeted members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. While the CIA has led the drone war in Pakistan, in Yemen the strikes are carried out by the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command.

Gaddafi Forces Claim Hundreds Killed in NATO Air Strike, Claim Capture of 17 European Mercenaries

Sep 19, 2011

In news from Libya, a spokesman for Col. Muammar Gaddafi is claiming NATO war planes killed 354 people in a strike on a hotel and a residential building in the Libyan leader’s hometown of Sirte over the weekend. The claim could not be independently verified. The news came as opposition forces failed to capture the Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid. Gaddafi’s troops, meanwhile, claim to have captured 17 foreign mercenaries, including fighters from Britain and France.

Documents Reveal Former U.K. Prime Minister Visited Gaddafi Prior to Release of Lockerbie Bomber

Sep 19, 2011

A spokesman has confirmed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in the months before Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber, was freed from jail. According to documents uncovered by the Sunday Telegraph, Blair visited Gaddafi in June 2008 and April 2009, once using the then-leader of Libya’s jets and bringing along an American billionaire.

U.S. Accuses Pakistani Government of Ties to Taliban-Linked Militants Blamed for Embassy Attack

Sep 19, 2011

The United States is accusing the Pakistani government of having links to the Taliban-allied Haqqani network of militants. The United States has blamed Haqqani of carrying out last week’s attack on the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan. Cameron Munter, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, made the charge in an interview on Radio Pakistan. The Haqqani network of militants was also the subject of a three-and-a-half-hour meeting on Sunday between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

United Nations Requests $350 Million in Flood Relief Aid for Pakistan

Sep 19, 2011

In news from Pakistan, the United Nations says it needs about $350 million to help millions of Pakistanis affected by massive flooding. The funds would reportedly be used to aid more than 5.4 million people in the provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan over the next six months. According to the United Nations, 223 people have been killed and 1.8 million have been displaced in Sindh province alone, while an estimated 665,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. Pakistan’s prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has canceled his scheduled appearance at the United Nations General Assembly this week in order to visit flood-affected areas. Timo Pakkala is the United Nations Resident Humanitarian Coordinator.

Timo Pakkala, United Nations Resident Humanitarian Coordinator: “This catastrophe at the moment, considering the already poor health and nutrition status, is really extremely serious for the people. And I want to emphasize the urgency of getting assistance to them. I do appeal to all of you to support the flood-affected people in Pakistan.”

Former FBI Director Calls for Troy Davis Execution to be Put Off

Sep 19, 2011

In Georgia, supporters of death row prisoner Troy Davis have been holding an around-the-clock vigil outside the Atlanta building where the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles will decide today whether to halt this week’s planned execution. Under Georgia law, only this board has the authority to grant clemency, not the governor, as is the case in many states. Davis is scheduled to die at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday by lethal injection. Former FBI Director William Sessions has become the latest high-profile figure to call for the execution to be put off. In a letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sessions writes, “[T]he evidence in this case — consisting almost entirely of conflicting stories, testimonies and statements — is inadequate to the task of convincingly establishing either Davis’ guilt or innocence. What do we want, Justice, when do we want it, now, thank you.”

Banking Giant UBS Loses $2.3 Billion in Unauthorized Trades

Sep 19, 2011

In economic news, the Swiss banking giant UBS is now saying it lost close to $2.3 billion because of unauthorized trades committed by a single rogue equity trader based in London. On Friday, the UBS employee Kweku Adoboli was charged in London with fraud and false accounting dating back to 2008.

Book: Tim Geithner Ignored Presidential Order to Consider Dissolving Citigroup

Sep 19, 2011

A new book is claiming U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ignored an order from President Obama to consider dissolving the debt-ridden banking giant Citigroup as part of a reconstruction of major banks in March 2009. In his book “Confidence Men,” author Ron Suskind writes that Citigroup was one of several incidents where President Obama’s authority was “systematically undermined or hedged by his seasoned advisers.” Suskind also reports Larry Summers, former chair of the National Economic Council, once said at a meeting, “We’re really home alone. There’s no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes.”

Report: U.S. Cannot Account for Nearly Three Tons of Nuclear Material Shipped Overseas

Sep 19, 2011

A new report has found the U.S. government cannot account for nearly three tons of nuclear material it has shipped overseas. According to the Government Accountability Office, the United States cannot confirm the whereabouts of some 5,900 pounds of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium, enough material to make dozens of nuclear weapons. The United States relies on foreign nations to track the material once it is shipped overseas, but according to the GAO, nearly half of the international sites mandated to hold the dangerous material fail to meet International Atomic Energy Agency security guidelines.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Arrives in New York Vowing to Seek Full U.N. Membership

Sep 19, 2011

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has arrived to New York City and is vowing to stick to his plan to seek full United Nations membership for a Palestinian state. Abbas formally announced his plan on Friday.

Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President: “We should enjoy, like the rest of the people of this earth, freedom and liberty in a Palestinian state on the borders of the 4th of June 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The United States is vowing to veto the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. Security Council, and some U.S. lawmakers are threatening to cut off aid to the Palestinians if they refuse to back down from their plan. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected the Palestinian effort will fail. Mark Regev is spokesperson for Netanyahu.

Mark Regev, Israeli Prime Minister Spokesman: “The Palestinian decision to go to the United Nations is a mistake. It will not help peace and won’t help bring about Palestinian statehood. The only way to statehood is through negotiations, through peace negotiations. Israel has been continuously calling for the immediate resumption of peace talks, and up until now, the Palestinians have refused.”

Britain’s Largest Weapons Fair Promotes Sale of Illegal Torture Equipment, Cluster Bombs

Sep 19, 2011

Organizers of Britain’s largest weapons fair are facing criticism for promoting the sale of illegal torture equipment and cluster bombs. Last week, the Defense and Security International Fair in London attracted some 25,000 visitors from around the world. Among the items on display were leg cuffs, waist chains, lead chains and an “enhanced transport restraint system” promoted by a company called CTS-Thompson. The stall in which the items were displayed reportedly remained in operation until the human rights group Amnesty International intervened.

WikiLeaks Cables Reveal U.S. Efforts to Defend Cluster Bombs Around the World

Sep 19, 2011

Newly released diplomatic cables from the whistleblower website WikiLeaks reveal extensive international efforts on the part of U.S. officials to defend the use of cluster bombs around the world. While 62 countries have signed on to an international treaty banning the use, development, production of cluster munitions, the United States has continued to maintain the weapons are legitimate when used properly. A series of cables from 2008 show the United States attempted to pressure the Afghan government not to sign the treaty reportedly because the United States feared the implementation could impede the ability of U.S. forces to use cluster munitions in Afghanistan. The efforts ultimately failed: Afghanistan ratified the agreement last week.

U.S. Hikers Remain Detained Following Religious Delegation’s Visit to Iran

Sep 19, 2011

A delegation of Christian and Muslim religious figures is returning from Iran after attempting to secure the release of a pair of American hikers jailed for more than two years on espionage charges. In a statement, the interfaith delegation claimed to have urged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other officials to release Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. Bauer and Fattal were arrested in 2009, along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, while hiking near the Iraq-Iran border. Last week Ahmadinejad suggested the men were being pardoned and would be sent home within the coming days. The Iranian judiciary, however, quickly issued a statement saying the case is only under review and that no decision had been reached. According to the Americans’ lawyer, the release has been delayed because a judge needed to sign bail papers is on vacation until Tuesday. Some have speculated Ahmadinejad has been trying to get the Americans released in time for his visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City this week.

Brazil: Two Men Arrested in Connection with Amazon Environmentalist Murders

Sep 19, 2011

Brazilian authorities have arrested two brothers in connection with the murders of two Amazon environmental activists earlier this year. José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo, were killed in May. For years, they had been vocal critics of illegal loggers, cattle ranchers and charcoal producers that were operating in the Amazon.

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