The Justice Department has opened a criminal probe of a $2 billion trading loss at the nation’s largest bank, JPMorgan Chase. JPMorgan acknowledged the loss last week, saying it had come out on the losing end of a risky bet in derivatives. On Tuesday, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon faced angry shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in Tampa.
Jamie Dimon: “This should never have happened. I can’t justify it. Unfortunately, these mistakes were self-inflicted. We are fully engaged now in doing a thorough review of the issues that led to these losses. There are many lessons here and many changes in policy and procedures that are already being implemented. In addition, all corrective action will be taken as necessary.”
The loss has renewed calls for tougher regulation of Wall Street, with critics saying JPMorgan would have avoided the loss under regulations it opposed. Speaking for a group of shareholders, Peter Skillern of Reinvestment Partners said Dimon has too much power on JPMorgan’s board.
Peter Skillern: “Jamie Dimon is both the CEO and the chair, which is equivalent to being your own boss. And accountability is the problem that we’re having with the loss of $2 billion in derivatives. The unit wasn’t properly overseen. So who oversees that unit? Jamie. Who oversees Jamie? Jamie. That’s the problem: he’s his own boss. The board of directors is supposed to hold the executive accountable.”
Meanwhile, outside the meeting, a number of protesters gathered to denounce corporate greed.
Denise Diaz: “The big banks need to be broken up, as well as reducing principal for homeowners that are underwater with their mortgages, and clearly for them to stay out of—keep their money out of the politics, which is really destroying our democracy right now.”
House Speaker John Boehner has revived the hard-line Republican stance on the debt ceiling. On Tuesday, Boehner said he would again block another increase to the federal debt limit unless it was offset by larger cuts to government spending. A similar move from Boehner and House Republicans last year consumed Washington and nearly brought about a U.S. default on its national debt. As Boehner issued the threat, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigned in Iowa, where he challenged President Obama’s record on the economy.
Mitt Romney: “President Obama is an old-school liberal whose first instinct is to see free enterprise as the villain and government as the hero. America counted on President Obama to rescue the economy, to tame the deficit and help create jobs. Instead, he bailed out the public sector, gave billions of your dollars to companies of his friends, and added almost as much debt to this country as all the prior presidents combined. The consequence is that we are now enduring the most tepid recovery in modern history.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is being accused of taking part in a raid that mistakenly killed four civilians in Honduras. According to local officials, a helicopter carrying Honduran and U.S. officers opened fire on a boat crossing a river that they thought was smuggling illegal drugs. Instead, the attack allegedly killed two women — both of whom were pregnant — and two men. Four others were also wounded. The Honduran military and the DEA have yet to respond to requests for comment. U.S. forces are in Honduras operating out of at least three military bases as part of the drug war.
At least 21 civilians have allegedly been killed in the latest violent attack reported in Syria. Local activists say the victims were shot dead by Syrian forces firing on a funeral procession in the province of Idlib. A convoy of U.N. monitors was also reportedly hit. At the United Nations, a U.N. spokesperson urged the Syrian government to accept international efforts to deliver aid to Syrians in need.
Martin Nesirky: “The joint special envoy (Annan) remains extremely concerned about the plight of a million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance, and he also strongly urges the government to accept the conditions for a scaling up of humanitarian assistance without further delay. And the joint special envoy also underlines the need for a speedy agreement consistent with the government’s commitment to allowing unimpeded access and provision of assistance to Syrians in need.”
In other Syria news, the Washington Post reports Syrian rebels have received a boost in weapons aid from foreign countries including the United States in recent weeks. Large shipments of arms have reportedly made it into rebel hands and have apparently helped them make gains on Syria’s military after months of setbacks. The weapons have been paid for by Persian Gulf countries and partly coordinated by the United States. U.S. officials say they have also expanded contacts with rebel forces to share intelligence.
Palestinians across the Occupied Territories rallied Tuesday to mark the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes during the period around Israel’s declaration of statehood in 1948. Clashes were reported across the West Bank in standoffs between Israeli troops and Palestinian demonstrators. Dozens of Palestinians were treated for rubber bullet wounds after being shot by Israeli troops at different flashpoints.
France inaugurated new President François Hollande on Tuesday following his election victory earlier this month. Hollande won the vote on a wave of anti-austerity sentiment, making him the first Socialist party member to lead France since 1995. In his inaugural address, Hollande vowed to tackle France’s economic woes.
President Hollande: “I am assessing even today the weight of the obligations which our country faces: massive debt, weak growth, high unemployment, damaged competitivity, and a Europe which is struggling to recover from economic crisis. But I declare right now that nothing is fated. From now, a collective and unanimous will, a clear and fixed direction.”
Greece will hold new elections next month following the collapse of talks for a new unity government. The recent second-place finisher, Greece’s Radical Left Coalition, refused to join with center-left parties over their backing of austerity measures required for an international bailout.
British prosecutors have unveiled charges against Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the now-defunct News of the World tabloid over the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed the media empire of Rupert Murdoch. On Tuesday, Brooks was accused of hiding documents, computers and other materials from the police, as well as conspiring to remove records from Murdoch’s London headquarters.
Alison Levitt: “Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Rebekah Brooks, between the 6th of July and the 19th of July 2011, conspired with Charles Brooks, Cheryl Carter, Mark Hanna, Paul Edwards, Daryl Jorsling and persons unknown to conceal material from officers of the Metropolitan Police Service.”
In a brief statement to reporters, Brooks professed her innocence and said she is being unfairly targeted.
Rebekah Brooks: “Whilst I’ve always respected the criminal justice system, I have to question today whether decision was made on a proper, impartial assessment of the evidence. I understand and need — and know that there needs to be a proper and thorough investigation, and I am baffled by the decision to charge me today.”
Virginia’s Republican-led House has rejected the judicial nomination of an openly gay prosecutor after opponents said he would push an activist agenda. Tracy Thorne-Begland, a former Navy officer and fighter pilot, failed to gain the necessary majority when lawmakers voted 33-to-31 to support him, with 10 abstaining. Thorne-Begland was the only candidate among more than three dozen judicial nominees to be rejected. Two decades ago, Thorne-Begland appeared on ABC’s “Nightline” and disclosed his sexual orientation in a challenge to the military’s ban on openly LGBTQ servicemembers. Republicans have accused him of “homosexual advocacy” and said his sexual orientation would render him unable to be impartial. Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring denounced the vote.
Michael Herring: “Where’s the empirical evidence that once a gay person puts on a robe, he or she advances this gay agenda? I don’t even know what a gay agenda is.”
A lengthy Columbia Law School investigation has revealed the state of Texas executed an innocent man more than two decades ago. Carlos DeLuna was killed by lethal injection on December 8, 1989, for stabbing a woman to death in a gas station. But DeLuna told the jury he had witnessed another man, named Carlos Hernandez, wrestling with the victim in the gas station on the night of the murder. Prosecutors ridiculed him, saying police had been unable to find Carlos Hernandez, despite the man’s lengthy criminal record and his reported confessions to friends and relatives that he had committed the crime. Hernandez was also known for carrying the same knife believed to be the murder weapon. The two men physically resembled each other and were sometimes mistaken for twins. But much of the case against DeLuna rested on the eyewitness testimony of a man who later admitted he had trouble telling one Latino from another. The study, conducted by Professor James Liebman and a dozen of his students, appears in the spring edition of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review.
ABC News has obtained a medical report that claims Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman had injuries to his face and head a day after he shot and killed the African-American teenager in Sanford, Florida. The report shows Zimmerman was diagnosed with a “closed fracture” of his nose, black eyes, two cuts on the back of his head and a minor back injury. Zimmerman has insisted he shot Martin in self-defense, but recordings of phone calls from the scene show Zimmerman pursued the unarmed teenager in defiance of a dispatcher’s instructions. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and has been in hiding since making bail last month.
The Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes has died at the age of 83. His books include “The Death of Artemio Cruz,” “Terra Nostra,” and “The Old Gringo.” Fuentes was known as a highly prolific author who infused his literary works with history, culture and politics. He was a key figure in the Latin American literary boom of the 1960s and ’70s and was also known for his political and cultural essays.
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