Iran’s currency has hit an all-time low amidst a worsening financial crisis brought upon by U.S.-led sanctions. On Monday, the Iranian rial dropped more than 15 percent to its lowest point yet against the dollar, capping a three-month period that’s seen its overall value drop 57 percent. The prices of basic food staples in Iran are said to be rising by the day since a new round of Western sanctions took effect in July. At a public event in Washington on Monday, Thomas Pickering, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and under secretary of state, criticized the sanctions, saying: “We issue licenses for sales of food and medicine to Iran, but it is not legal for them to pay for it.” Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his government hasn’t wavered from its renouncement of nuclear weapons.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi: “If any country, any country, including Iran, uses weapons of mass destruction, that is the end of the validity, eligibility, legality — whatever, you name it — of that government. Weapons of mass destruction, as we said, is against humanity. It’s
something that is not at all acceptable.”
The British, French and German governments are expected to push for a further tightening of sanctions by the end of the month. Israel meanwhile is drawing little attention for refusing to take part in an upcoming conference on the establishment of a nuclear-free Middle East. The gathering is scheduled for December in Finland under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency. But at a recent meeting, Israeli nuclear chief Shaul Horev told diplomats that any deal for a nuclear-free zone under the U.N. would amount to “external coercion,” as opposed to “local initiative.”
The Obama administration is reportedly considering whether to begin unilateral military strikes on alleged al-Qaeda targets in North Africa. The Washington Post reports the deliberations center around concern over al-Qaeda gains in Mali as well as its acquisition of weapons from post-Gaddafi Libya. As part of its efforts in North Africa, the U.S. has launched secret intelligence operations, including the use of civilian aircraft to conduct surveillance over the Sahara Desert and the Sahel region.
New figures show September was Iraq’s deadliest month in more than two years. At least 365 people were killed in nationwide violence last month, more than half of them civilians. Nearly 700 people were wounded.
At least three people were killed in a U.S. drone strike on Monday in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. The identities of the victims remain unknown. The strikes come as anti-drone activists from Pakistan and around the world are gathering in Islamabad ahead of a two-day march this weekend.
In Bahrain, five of nine convicted medics have been arrested in a series of pre-dawn raids. The arrests come one day after Bahrain’s highest court upheld their sentences for treating demonstrators during anti-government protests last year. The longest sentence went to the former senior medic at Bahrain’s top hospital, Ali al-Ekry, who was given five years in prison. Just hours before he was arrested, Dr. al-Ekry told reporters he was unsure when he would be detained.
Dr. Ali al-Ekry: “Yes, well, in regards to our reaction to the verdicts today by reinforcing the appeals court verdict, we were expecting that, and we know that we are still targeted as medics for our role in the pro-democracy movement. I met with some today, and they expected the same, that there will be reinforcement with the verdict, and they believe also that they are innocent and they did no misdoing or wrongdoing.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase for alleged fraud in mortgage-backed securities issued by Bear Stearns. Schneiderman says investors were defrauded around $20 billion in buying packages of pooled mortgages and loans. Bear Stearns issued the securities before being acquired by JPMorgan Chase during the financial crisis of 2008. The case is the first against a major U.S. bank to come out of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, a White House-backed task force launched earlier this year to probe fraud in mortgage-backed securities.
The credit card giant American Express has agreed to pay $112.5 million to settle allegations of abusive debt collection and late-fee charges as well as deceptive marketing. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says Amex customers were illegally charged late fees based on a percentage of their debt while others were given the impression partial payment would result in the forgiveness of their remaining balance. The company will refund $85 million to customers and pay another $27.5 million to government agencies.
President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are campaigning in Colorado ahead of their first presidential debate Wednesday night in Denver. On Monday, Romney told supporters he looks forward to make his case.
Mitt Romney: “It will be a conversation with the American people that will span almost an entire month. We’ll get to describe our respective views. And I believe the people of Colorado will choose a better way forward for our country. We can’t afford four more years like the last four years.”
Tune into Democracy Now! on Wednesday, when we host a special expanded presidential debate, pausing after the questions to Obama and Romney to include equal time responses from presidential candidates Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.
Police in riot gear arrested at least 17 protesters who sat down in the middle of a road leading to a Wal-Mart warehouse in Elwood, Illinois, on Monday in a bid to support striking workers. The arrests were made after some 600 people sang, chanted and marched toward the warehouse, which is run by a contractor but supplies Wal-Mart stores. Warehouse workers went on strike more than two weeks ago amidst allegations of sexual harassment, dangerous working conditions, unpaid wages and retaliation against organizers. Managers reportedly fired several leaders and threatened others after they delivered a petition. The strike in Illinois follows another strike by some three dozen workers at a Wal-Mart supply warehouse in Southern California who have also pushed for fairer workplace conditions.
Demonstrators rallied in Washington, D.C., on Monday to mark the first anniversary of the city’s Occupy movement. Occupy protesters camped out in D.C.'s Freedom Plaza after the initial Occupy Wall Street protest sprung up in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park last fall. On Monday, Occupy protesters marched through the streets, blocked traffic and protested at the offices of lobbyists and corporations.
And the scientist, activist and former presidential candidate Dr. Barry Commoner has died at the age of 95. Commoner was an early advocate of environmental awareness and ran for president in 1980 to spread his ecological message. In a statement, the consumer advocate Ralph Nader said: “Dr. Barry Commoner should be considered the greatest environmentalist of the 20th century. … His great work is reflected in his many campaigns that succeeded and in raising public consciousness to the silent violence of toxic pollution.”