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Polls continue to show a narrowing presidential race after a wide lead by President Obama over the past month. A Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll says Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are tied among likely voters at 45 percent each, echoing the findings of a Pew survey on Monday. Campaigning in the battleground state of Ohio, President Obama again took aim at Romney’s vow to cut funding to PBS.
President Obama: “Just last week when we were on stage together, Governor Romney decided that instead of changing his plan, he’d just pretend it didn’t exist. 'What $5 trillion tax cut? I don't know anything about a $5 trillion tax cut. Pay no attention to that tax cut under the carpet, behind the curtain.’ When he’s asked how he’ll cut the deficit, he says he can make the math work by eliminating local public funding for PBS. Now, by the way, this is not new; this is what he’s been saying every time he’s asked the question: 'Well, we can cut out PBS.' So, for all you moms and kids out there, don’t worry, somebody’s finally getting tough on Big Bird.”
Also campaigning in Ohio, Mitt Romney criticized President Obama for focusing on what he called “saving Big Bird.”
Mitt Romney: “These are tough times with real serious issues, so you have to scratch your head when the president spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird. I actually think we need to have a president who talks about saving the American people and saving good jobs and saving our future.”
Ohio is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the state’s effort to prevent early voting the weekend before the election. Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature had barred early weekend voting, claiming state officials need the time to prepare for Election Day. But last month a U.S. district court ruled the state had failed to provide a convincing argument, and must extend early weekend voting to all, not just members of the military. Democrats have accused Republicans of seeking to block early voting in a bid to disenfranchise those likely to cast their ballots for President Obama. Asking the Supreme Court to intervene, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted called the ruling ordering early voting “an unprecedented intrusion.”
The Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to a 2008 law granting immunity to telecom companies that aided the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless domestic spy program. Groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union had brought the case, consolidating 33 different lawsuits against the companies after a lower court ruled that the firms are protected by congressionally mandated retroactive immunity. An appeals court upheld the case’s dismissal last year, and on Tuesday the Supreme Court declined to hear it without comment. The ruling could mark the end of legal attempts to hold the telecom firms accountable for the spying. In a statement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said: “After 11 years and multiple congressional reports, public admissions and media coverage, the only place that this program hasn’t been seriously considered is in the courts.”
The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit accusing the banking giant Wells Fargo of making reckless mortgage loans that ultimately cost the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance claims. Wells Fargo is alleged to have abused the Federal Housing Administration Program by recklessly handing out loans and forcing the government to foot the bill when borrowers could not pay. In a statement, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York said: “Yet another major bank has engaged in a longstanding and reckless trifecta of deficient training, deficient underwriting and deficient disclosure, all while relying on the convenient backstop of government insurance.” The lawsuit comes two months after Wells Fargo agreed to pay a settlement of at least $175 million for discriminating against African-American and Latino borrowers.
The head of Turkey’s military is vowing to respond with more attacks if mortar fire from Syria continues to hit Turkish territory. Speaking earlier today, Turkey’s chief of staff said Turkish forces would use “greater force” in the event that shelling from Syria hits the Turkish side of the border. Turkey has launched strikes inside Syria and deployed additional troops to its border after shelling last week from Syria killed five Turkish civilians. At a summit in Belgium, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said his military alliance is prepared to act against Syria to defend Turkey, but declined to specify any details.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “We have taken the steps necessary to make sure that we have all plans in place to protect and defend Turkey. But I think you understand very well why we can’t go into details when it comes to such plans. But obviously Turkey can rely on alliance solidarity. But let me stress once again, the focus of the international community should be to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria. It’s absolutely outrageous what we are witnessing there.”
Tens of thousands of anti-austerity protesters gathered in Athens, Greece, Tuesday during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades as protesters tried to reach Merkel, whom they hold partly responsible for the deep cuts Greece is being forced to adopt in exchange for an international bailout. Tuesday’s protest was one of the largest in months, with dozens of protesters reportedly detained.
In Brazil, indigenous groups have occupied the construction of a major hydroelectric dam in the Amazon rain forest, bringing work on the project to a halt. The $11 billion Belo Monte Dam project was initially approved over the objections of indigenous communities who have brought numerous challenges, citing environmental concerns and the fear of mass displacement. Construction has resumed over the past month after being put on hold to address those complaints. The group Amazon Watch says dozens of indigenous activists have joined a 24-day occupation accusing the construction consortium behind the project of flouting agreements.
The Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling denying the oil giant Chevron’s bid to block an $18 billion fine for polluting Ecuador’s rain forest since the 1970s. Amazonian residents won the judgment last year after a long-running case seeking damages for Chevron’s dumping of billions of gallons of toxic oil waste. The initial ruling called on Chevron to pay $8.6 billion, but then rose to more than double that amount after Chevron failed to apologize. Chevron was appealing a lower court decision that threw out an injunction the company had won to block enforcement of the fine, but on Tuesday the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal without comment.
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 young boys. Sandusky was found guilty in June on 45 of 48 counts during a trial that saw many of his victims come forward to testify. The Sandusky case sparked a major scandal at Penn State after it was revealed longtime head coach Joe Paterno and top school officials failed to alert police after hearing of the abuse. At his sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Sandusky maintained his innocence in the case. Outside the courtroom, Pennsylvania prosecutor Joe McGettigan said Sandusky deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Joe McGettigan: “The victims’ statements were a vivid reminder of the defendant’s brutal crimes, though no reminder was needed. And frankly, the defendant’s behavior and statements today were consistent with the behavior throughout the period of time covered by the trial. That is, he displayed deviance, narcissism, a lack of feeling for the pain he caused others and, to the end, an unwillingness to accept responsibility.”
A billionaire corporate executive has sent a notice to employees warning them of job cuts should President Obama be re-elected. In a memo sent to 7,000 workers, Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel writes: “If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. … This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone. So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job.” Before the letter, Siegel was perhaps best known for building the largest private home in the United States.
The Nation magazine has released what is said to be one of the few known audio recordings of New York City police questioning a young man of color under the department’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” program. The audio was recorded last June by a Harlem teenager named Alvin, who says he was stopped frequently by police. On the recording, police officers can be heard telling the teenager he looked suspicious because he had his hood up and was “looking back” at them. They also threaten Alvin with physical violence and use racialized language, calling him a “mutt.”
Officer: “You wanna go to jail?”
Alvin: “For what?”
Officer: “Shut your [expletive] mouth, kid!”
Alvin: “What am I getting arrested for?”
Officer: “Shut your mouth!”
Alvin: “What am I getting arrested for?”
Officer: “For being a [expletive] mutt! You know that?”
Alvin: “That’s a law? Being a mutt?”
Officer: “Who the [expletive] do you think you’re talking to?”
Alvin: “Because you’re over here telling me, why I have a bookbag, why I have a bookbag on, and said, for my hoodie.”
Alvin: “While they’re holding me — the sergeant’s holding me like this. He’s like, ’I’m gonna — I’m gonna break your arm.’ I’m like, 'Why are you — you're gonna break my arm?’ He’s like, 'Yeah, then I'm gonna punch you in the face.’ I was, ’You’re gonna punch me in the face?’ He’s like, 'Yeah.' He’s like, 'And then I'm gonna arrest you.’ I’m like, 'Arrest me for what?' He’s like, 'For being a mutt.'”
New York City police, by their own count, conduct more than 1,800 stop-and-frisks every day. More than 20 percent of those stops reportedly involve force. People of color are disproportionately targeted. About 87 percent of people stopped last year were black or Latino.