Police in Oakland, California, have arrested more than 400 Occupy Oakland protesters, as well as a number of journalists, in one of the largest mass arrests since the nationwide Occupy protests began last year. Police fired tear gas, bean bag projectiles and flash grenades. The protest began when activists attempted to take over a vacant convention center to establish a new headquarters and to draw attention to the problem of homelessness. A group of protesters later entered Oakland City Hall and caused some property damage. Protesters and Oakland officials blamed each other for sparking the violence.
In Washington, D.C., the National Park Service has said it will begin enforcing a ban today on Occupy protesters camping overnight in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, two parks near the White House where they have been living since October.
The Republican presidential candidates have entered their final full day of campaigning in Florida ahead of Tuesday’s primary. The latest polls suggest former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will easily beat former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Romney has soared in the Florida polls after he began to directly attack Gingrich’s record. On Friday, the Romney campaign issued a campaign ad that featured a 15-year-old news clip of NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw reporting on Gingrich’s ethic violations.
Tom Brokaw: “Good evening. Newt Gingrich, who came to power, after all, preaching a higher standard in American politics, a man who brought down another speaker on ethics accusations, tonight he has on his own record the judgment of his peers, Democrat and Republican alike. By an overwhelming vote, they found him guilty of ethics violations. They charged him a very large financial penalty, and they raised—several of them—raised serious questions about his future effectiveness.
Mitt Romney: I’m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.
The Romney campaign have so far ignored requests by NBC and Tom Brokaw to remove the ad. Talking Points Memo is reporting Romney has spent five times more money on TV ads in Florida than Gingrich. On the campaign trail, Romney compared Gingrich to Goldilocks.
Mitt Romney: “This last one, Speaker Gingrich said he didn’t do so well because the audience was so loud. The one before, he said he didn’t do so well because the audience was too quiet. This is like Goldilocks, you know, got to have it just right. When I debate the President, I’m not going to worry about the audience, I’m going to make sure that we take down Barack Obama and take back the White House.”
Newt Gingrich, who picked up an endorsement from former presidential candidate Herman Cain, has attempted to position himself as the true conservative in Florida’s race.
Newt Gingrich: “We ran a moderate in 1996, and we lost. We ran a moderate in 2008, and we lost. I think the only way to defeat Barack Obama is to run a solid conservative, who can make the case for our values, our beliefs, our programs. I’m very proud to run on a Reagan-Gingrich record and to say I want to be the best job-creation, paycheck president in American history, by focusing on jobs.”
ABC News is reporting the casino company run by the principal financial backer of Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid, Sheldon Adelson, has been under criminal investigation for the last year by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission for alleged bribery of foreign officials. The probe centers on Andelson’s casino operations on the Chinese island of Macau. Adelson and his wife have so far given at least $10 million to the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future.
An investigation by ProPublica and NPR News has revealed Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage giant, has placed multi-billion-dollar bets that pay off if homeowners stay trapped in expensive mortgages with interest rates well above current rates. Freddie began increasing these bets dramatically in late 2010, the same time that the company was making it harder for homeowners to get out of such high-interest mortgages.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced plans to unilaterally impose a 0.1 percent tax on financial transactions in France starting in August, a move strongly opposed by the nation’s financial sector. Sarkozy said, “There’s no reason why deregulated finance, which brought us to the current situation, can’t participate in the restoration of our accounts.”
The Wall Street Journal reports a group of senior Egyptian generals landed in Washington, D.C., on Sunday to try to mend relations following a December raid on several U.S.-backed human rights organizations in Cairo. Egypt is now preventing a group of American employees from the organizations from leaving the country. The Americans include Julie Hughes, director of the National Democratic Institute in Egypt.
Julie Hughes: “Again, NDI’s program is to support a democratic transition that has been defined by the Egyptian people, and we look forward to a dialogue that clarifies who we are and what we do. If there are misunderstandings about the work that we do in Egypt, our motivations for being here, and the impact that it has, then we look forward to clearing them up.”
Among the other the other Americans blocked from leaving is Sam LaHood, director of the International Republican Institute’s program in Egypt. His father is Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The visiting Egyptian generals are expected to have meetings scheduled at the State Department, with members of Congress and at the Pentagon.
A powerful group of Washington lobbyists has ended their contract with Egypt. Former Republican Congressman Bob Livingston, former Democratic Congressman Toby Moffett and longtime lobbyist Tony Podesta began lobbying for dictator Hosni Mubarak four years ago and continued lobbying for the Egyptian military after Mubarak resigned.
Yemeni President President Ali Abdullah Saleh has arrived in New York after being granted State Department approval. A Yemeni official said Saleh is on a “short-term private medical visit.” He was seriously wounded in June, when the presidential palace in Sana’a was bombed. Saleh arrived in the United States one week after Yemen’s parliament granted him blanket amnesty and granted all those who served with him immunity from prosecution for using deadly force against anti-government protesters over the past year.
The New York Times is reporting senior Iraqi officials are outraged over the State Department’s stepped-up use of unarmed surveillance drones following the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. Iraqis have complained the drones are an affront to Iraqi sovereignty. One Iraqi official said, “Our sky is our sky, not the U.S.A.’s sky.” The State Department is said to have about two dozen drones in Iraq. Some have wingspans as short as 18 inches.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has admitted he believes some people within the Pakistani government knew Osama bin Laden was hiding in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. Panetta has also confirmed the CIA used a Pakistani doctor to help establish bin Laden’s whereabouts. The doctor, Shakil Afridi, set up a fake vaccination campaign in the city in an effort to get DNA from the bin Laden family. He is now being held in Pakistani custody.
In news from Asia, dozens of activists marched outside the U.S. embassy in Manila on Saturday to denounce a possible expansion of the U.S. military presence in the Philippines. Renato Reyes is a spokesperson for the New Patriotic Alliance.
Renato Reyes: “We are very opposed to the plans to re-align and deploy more U.S. troops in the Philippines, and we are very aware that this is in line with the U.S. strategy to build up its armed forces in Asia to counter China. And we feel that the Philippines might be caught in the rising tension between the two countries if we allow the U.S. to base their troops in this region.”
The Obama administration is taking a number of steps to expand U.S. military power in Asia. On Friday, the Philippines defense minister confirmed the country was considering a U.S. proposal to deploy surveillance aircraft in the Philippines. Meanwhile, the United States is planning to station up to 2,500 marines in the Australian city of Darwin and to deploy warships in Singapore.
Human Rights Watch is calling on the Indonesian government to drop treason charges against five Papuan independence activists. The five activists were arrested in October when Indonesian security forces used deadly force to break up a gathering of the Papuan People’s Congress.
China is facing an environmental catastrophe following a massive discharge of the carcinogen cadmium into a river. The flow of cadmium is now threatening the drinking water of one million residents of the city Liuzhou. Outside the city, cadmium concentrations are eight times higher than safety levels.
Former death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal has been taken out of solitary confinement and moved to the general population of a prison in Pennsylvania. The move comes seven weeks after prosecutor Seth Williams announced he would not pursue the death penalty against the imprisoned journalist. Abu-Jamal is now being held at the medium security facility SCI Mahanoy in Frackville, Pennsylvania. His wife is scheduled to visit him today. They are expected to be allowed to hug for the first time in three decades. On Sunday, Abu-Jamal spoke to Noelle Hanrahan of PrisonRadio.org and talked about what comes next in his case.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: “You know, back to the drawing board, as the old saying goes. We have to work and take the next step, which is, of course, not this. So, that’s the job that has to be done. I trust we will do it.”
Operator: “You have 60 seconds remaining.”
Mumia Abu-Jamal: “I believe we will do it. Give my love to everybody and tell them I’m thankful for all of our people. They’ve made one step. We have one more to go. On a move.”