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President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are heading to Long Island today for their second presidential debate. Tonight’s debate at Hofstra University comes just three weeks before the general election. It will include both foreign and domestic policy issues in a town hall setting that gives undecided voters in the audience the opportunity to question the candidates. The final debate will be next Monday in Boca Raton, Florida, and will focus on foreign policy issues.
The New York Times is reporting the Pentagon and State Department are speeding up efforts to help the Libyan government create an elite commando force to help counter the country’s fractious militias. Under the plan, U.S. Special Operations Forces would train about 500 Libyan troops. According to a Pentagon document, the Libyan commando force will be designed to “counter and defeat terrorist and violent extremist organizations.” On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton assumed responsibility for last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has called for a ceasefire in Syria during the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Brahimi made the call while he was in Iraq after holding talks in Iran. Brahimi said that the conflict in Syria represented a threat to world peace but denied he was seeking peacekeepers for the country. Meanwhile, Turkish officials have announced more than 100,000 Syrian refugees are now living in the country. Ejder Kaya is the president of the Turkish Disaster Management Agency.
Ejder Kaya: “As of today, we do have indeed more than 100,000 refugees in Turkey. Indeed, we call them as our guests, indeed, because we treat them as our guests. So we do have almost 13 camps running, up and running as of today, again, and we do have other camps under construction. We are trying our best indeed to get ready for those who are in need for shelter and for humanitarian needs.”
The European Union has announced sweeping new sanctions against the Iranian banking and energy sectors, cranking up financial pressure on Tehran. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she hoped that the new sanctions would draw Iran into serious negotiations on its nuclear program. Humanitarian groups are warning the sanctions could have a devastating impact on the Iranian civilian population.
The United States and Israel are preparing to begin their largest joint air and missile defense exercise. As many as 3,500 U.S. personnel and 1,000 members of the Israel Defense Forces are expected to take part in the three-week exercise. Britain and Germany will also participate.
In news from Guantánamo Bay, a U.S. military judge refused to allow a discussion about torture during a pretrial hearing on Monday in the death penalty case against five prisoners including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. Before their transfer to the Guantánamo U.S. Naval Base in 2006, the defendants were held for years in secret CIA prisons where all five have said they were tortured during interrogations. David Nevin is an attorney for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
David Nevin: “I’m talking about the United States of America tortured my client for three-and-a-half years. It’s a capital case. Do you think that’s something I might want to talk to Mr. Mohammed about? Well, of course it is. But there, defined as 'contraband' in the rules [of what detainees can talk about] is quote-unquote 'the detention of any detainee.'”
Attorney David Nevin went on to criticize the overall court proceedings at Guantánamo.
David Nevin: “It is a court that is designed to achieve a conviction and to do it in such a way that the truth never comes out about what was done to our client, who did it and why, and what it means.”
Thousands of protesters gathered outside the Portuguese parliament Monday night to protest sweeping austerity cuts and tax hikes in country’s budget for next year. The harsh new budget draft, aimed at meeting the strict conditions of a massive European bailout, would see the average income tax rise by more than 3 percent. About 2,000 protesters gathered Monday night to protest the budget and demand the resignation of the government.
Protester: “I am here today, like everyone else, protesting against the 2013 budget and against the government, which is always implementing new measures that don’t make any sense — and they don’t live up to them.”
The Guardian reports a U.S. businessman has dumped about 100 metric tons of iron sulphate into the ocean off the Canadian coast as part of a risky for-profit geoengineering venture that appears to violate two international resolutions. California businessman Russ George dumped the iron to spark an artificial plankton bloom that now appears to stretch up to 10,000 square kilometers. The plankton is supposed to absorb carbon dioxide as part of a controversial tactic called “ocean fertilization” that could produce profitable carbon credits. But scientists have raised concerns the process could irreparably damage ocean life and might even worsen global warming. George has previously failed to conduct similar dumps near the Galápagos and Canary Islands, prompting the Spanish and Ecuadorean governments to bar his vessels. The recent dump happened in July off the west coast of Canada, where the head of the local Haida Nation said it was touted as a “salmon enhancement project.” The Haida Nation president said the local people would have rejected the project if they had known of any potential negative consequences to the ocean.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has announced September 2012 was tied for the warmest September on record worldwide. September marked the 331st month in a row with a global temperature above the 20th-century average. The last below-average temperature for any month was February 1985.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a class action discrimination lawsuit against Morgan Stanley for pedaling predatory subprime loans to African-American borrowers in Detroit. The lawsuit alleges Morgan Stanley lent billions of dollars to New Century, a now-defunct subprime lender, and pressured it to make loans to borrowers who could not afford them. Morgan Stanley later packaged the loans and sold them to pension funds and other large investors.
Cuba has announced it will scrap broad travel restrictions to make it easier for Cubans to travel abroad. For the first time in 50 years, Cubans will no longer need to obtain an exit visa and letter of invitation in order to leave the island. Beginning in January, Cubans will be allowed to simply show a passport and a visa from the country they are traveling to, if needed.
The head of a soup kitchen in Ohio has accused Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan and campaign staffers of ramrodding their way into the soup kitchen so that Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall. According to news accounts, Ryan arrived at the soup kitchen after the food had been served, the patrons had left, and the hall had been cleaned. Photos show Ryan washing dishes that had reportedly already been cleaned. Brian Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, criticized the Ryan team for using the soup kitchen for a staged photo op. Antal said: “They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors. The photo op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”
In New York City, two police officers are under investigation after video emerged showing them brutally beating a young man inside a Jewish community center in Brooklyn. The officers claimed 21-year-old Ehud Halevy had attacked them during the incident last week. But surveillance video appears to contradict that claim. Instead, it shows one officer punching Halevy in the head, then delivering repeated blows while a second officer appears to be holding him down. The second officer also beats Halevy with her baton for more than two minutes. Police had reportedly been called to the Alternative Learning Institute for Young Adults when Halevy refused to leave after a center volunteer found him sleeping on a couch. But a center director said Halevy had permission to sleep there. Halevy was charged with felony assault on police and three misdemeanors. Since the video emerged, the New York City Police Department and Brooklyn district attorney’s office have both opened investigations. One of the officers, Luis Vega, has been placed on modified duty. New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind condemned the beating.
Dov Hikind: “This behavior is unconscionable. And if not for the video camera to record what happened, we might actually believe that Ehud attacked the police officers. And he never did. He’s charged with felonies. He’s charged with all kinds of crimes. And now I wonder how many other times are New Yorkers charged with serious crimes, and there is no video camera to tell the story.”