The Financial Times is reporting U.S. taxpayers will subsidize part of the $26 billion settlement owed by five leading banks to resolve claims over faulty foreclosures and mortgage practices. A clause in the provisional agreement, which has not been made public, allows the banks to count future loan modifications made under a previous foreclosure-prevention initiative toward their restructuring obligations for the new settlement. Neil Barofsky, the former special inspector-general of the TARP, said this means the mortgage settlement is essentially another bailout for the banks.
Eurozone finance ministers are expected to approve a second bailout worth $171 billion for Greece today. The vote comes one day after thousands of Greeks took to the streets to protest against austerity measures. Stathis Anestis, a Greek union leader, spoke out.
Stathis Anestis: “They are insisting on a policy that is choking us, that is driving us to catastrophe. They have to understand that in real life, this policy is disastrous for both society and the economy. That is why we continue to protest, and we will continue as long as they keep insisting on these dead-end policies.”
Hundreds of thousands of workers protested across Spain Sunday against the government’s latest austerity measures that make it easier to slash pay and lay off workers.
Top U.S. and British officials publicly urged Israel on Sunday not to attack Iran over the country’s disputed nuclear program. In separate interviews, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said an Israeli attack on Iran would have grave consequences for the entire region. Gen. Dempsey appeared on CNN.
Gen. Martin Dempsey: “I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us. I mean, I think that the economic sanctions and the international cooperation that we’ve been able to gather around sanctions is beginning to have an effect. I think our diplomacy is having an effect, and our preparedness. I mean, fundamentally, we have to be prepared. And that includes, for the most part, at this point, being prepared defensively.”
Dempsey’s comment came as the Obama administration and the Israeli government continue to engage in intense talks over Iran. A delegation headed by U.S. National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon arrived in Israel on Saturday. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, will travel to Israel later this week. On Sunday, Iran’s Oil Ministry announced it is halting oil shipments to Britain and France.
Al Jazeera is reporting Syrian activists have called for a “Day of Defiance” after security services fired on mourners attending a massive funeral in Damascus on Saturday. On Sunday, Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Syria could be sliding into a civil war. Hague made the comment after opponents of President Bashar al-Assad assassinated a Syrian prosecutor and judge. Here in the United States, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called on the United States to begin arming the Syrian rebels in an effort to topple President Assad.
The U.S.-backed Bahraini government has deported four more international human rights observers, bringing to 12 the number expelled over the past week. The activists visited the Gulf state as part of the Witness Bahrain effort to monitor the country’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
A Palestinian prisoner being held in Israel without charges or trial has begun his 65th day on hunger strike. Khader Adnan has refused to eat since he was arrested in mid-December. Doctors say he is at immediate risk of death. In a video posted online Sunday, Khader Adnan can be heard yelling from his hospital room, saying, “the strike continues until there’s dignity and freedom.” Adnan is being held under so-called “administrative detention,” which means Israel can detain him indefinitely without trial or charge. Randa Adnan, Khader’s wife, said, “His health is regressing. His health situation is getting worst. But his morale is strong, and he believes this situation will end with his victory.”
The Associated Press has revealed the New York City Police Department monitored Muslim college students at schools throughout the Northeast including Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania. In one case, the NYPD sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York where he recorded students’ names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s campaign co-chair in Arizona, Sheriff Paul Babeu, has stepped down after allegations emerged that he was gay and that he once threatened to deport his ex-boyfriend to Mexico. Babeu serves as sheriff of Pinal County in Arizona and is currently running for Congress.
Republican Rick Santorum has come under criticism for questioning President Obama’s Christian values. Santorum accused the President of being motivated by a phony theology not based on the Bible.
Rick Santorum: “It’s not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but none—no less a theology.”
In campaign finance news, the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked a century-old Montana ban on corporate campaign spending. Earlier this year, the Montana Supreme Court ruled the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case did not apply to the state.
Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is reportedly preparing to donate an additional $10 million to a Super PAC supporting Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. The Adelson family has already given the Super PAC $11 million. The Center for Public Integrity reports the contributions are among the largest publicly reported donations to a single entity in federal campaign history.
A coalition of environmental and watchdog groups have filed a lawsuit to block the license that U.S. regulators issued last week for the country’s first new nuclear reactors in more than 30 years. The Atlanta-based Southern Company is attempting to build two new reactors at the Vogtle plant near Waynesboro in eastern Georgia, near the South Carolina border.
A Moroccan-born man was arrested on Friday in Washington, D.C., on terrorism-related charges for allegedly planning to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol. The man, Amine El Khalifi, was arrested on his way to the Capitol in what turned out to be an FBI sting operation. At the time of his arrest, Khalifi was carrying what he believed to be was an explosive and a gun, but all of the items were given to him by the undercover agent.
Prison officials in California have confirmed a 27-year-old prisoner died earlier this month while on a hunger strike. Christian Alexander Gomez died six days after he and 31 other prisoners in the Corcoran State Prison’s administrative segregation unit began refusing food to protest restrictions on access to health, good food and legal services.
In news from China, the manufacturing giant FoxConn has announced plans to increase wages for many of its workers and reduce overtime hours at its factories. Foxconn is one of the biggest manufacturers of products for Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other electronics companies. Its labor practices have come under intense scrutiny in recent months.
ESPN has fired one employee and suspended another for using a racist phrase in connection to the New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin. After the Knicks lost Friday night, ESPN posted a story on its mobile site headlined “Chink in the Armor.” Lin is the NBA’s first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.