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New figures show the recession brought on by the 2007 financial crisis has wiped out two decades of wealth for the average U.S. household. According to the Federal Reserve, the median U.S. family’s net worth declined nearly 40 percent by 2010 to $77,300, roughly the same level it was in 1992. Middle-income families saw the largest decline in wealth. The collapse of the housing market played a key role, with home values dropping 42 percent between 2007 and 2010.
The U.N. is warning of new dangers to Syrian civilians as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad escalates attacks on embattled areas and Syrian rebels target government forces and infrastructure. U.N. observers have witnessed Syrian forces attacking towns with a new display of air power as well as Syrian rebels intensifying operations against government targets. A spokesperson for the U.N. observer mission in Syria said civilians are increasingly trapped in the crossfire.
Sausan Ghosheh: "They reported the use of heavy artillery and mortar shellings as well as firing from helicopters, machine guns and small arms. In Talbiseh, also U.N. observers reported that the Free Syrian Army captured members, soldiers from the Syrian army. The impact of the heavy artillery shelling and machine gun firing was also heard and seen from over Khalidiya and the city center. UNSMIS also received reports that a large number of civilians are trapped inside the town, and we’re trying to mediate their evacuation to a safe place."
The U.N. has demanded immediate access to a number of areas amid heavy clashes between rebels and Syrian troops. A spokesperson for special enjoy Kofi Annan said civilians in Haffeh are particularly at risk.
Ahmad Fawzi: "Mr. Annan is particularly worried about the recent shelling in Homs as well as reports of the use of mortar, helicopters and tanks in the town of al-Haffeh in Latakia. There are indications that a large number of civilians are trapped in these towns. Mr. Annan demands that the parties take all steps to ensure that civilians are not harmed, and he also further demands the entry of the U.N. military observers into the town of al-Haffeh immediately."
The Supreme Court has refused to take up the cases of seven Guantánamo Bay prisoners despite previously ruling they have the constitutional right to challenge their detention in civilian court. The court originally affirmed the prisoners’ legal right to challenge their confinement and seek their release in a landmark ruling four years ago today. But on Monday, the justices rejected without explanation the appeals of seven of the 169 men currently held in the military prison.
In a separate decision, the Supreme Court also rejected an appeal from the former so-called "enemy combatant" José Padilla to reinstate a lawsuit seeking to hold former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials responsible for Padilla’s torture. Padilla was jailed for 43 months without charge in a Navy brig in South Carolina and is now serving a 17-year sentence. In denying Padilla’s appeal, the court let stand a federal appeals court ruling that his designation as an "enemy combatant" precluded him from the right to sue for alleged violations of constitutional rights, and that such cases are not entitled to judicial review. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said: "The Supreme Court’s refusal to consider Jose Padilla’s case leaves in place a blank check for government officials to commit any abuse in the name of national security, even the brutal torture of an American citizen in an American prison."
As many as 100 people are feared dead after two earthquakes struck a remote area in northern Afghanistan. Residents say roughly two dozen houses have been swallowed up in a massive landslide of mud and rocks.
The U.S. has withdrawn a negotiating team from Pakistan after failing to reach a deal with the Pakistani government over the reopening of NATO supply lines for troops in Afghanistan. The apparent stalemate is the latest sign of rising tensions between Pakistan and the United States. Last week Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. was losing patience with the Pakistani government over its failure to crack down on militants. Pakistan closed the supply routes to troops in Afghanistan after U.S. air strikes killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers last November. The U.S. has refused to apologize for the attacks. An unnamed U.S. official recently told the Associated Press the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is "the worst it has ever been."
Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is reportedly in stable condition after reports of a severe health crisis sparked rumors the imprisoned former leader had already died. Mubarak was said to be slipping in and out of consciousness and experiencing severe depression, and there were reports doctors at the prison hospital had used a defibrillator twice to resuscitate him on Monday. The 84-year-old Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month for his role in the killings of peaceful protesters during the uprising that ended his rule last year. His health problems come just days before a runoff presidential election between his former prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi.
The Justice Department and Florida have each announced plans to sue the other in an escalating standoff over the state’s controversial voter purge. Justice officials asked Florida last week to halt an effort to remove thousands of registered voters from the rolls, people Florida says are non-U.S. citizens. Critics say 87 percent of those targeted are people of color and say the purge is part of an effort to disenfranchise Democratic voters in a key election state. The Justice Department announced its lawsuit after Florida vowed to continue the crackdown, and Florida said it would bring a suit of its own over the federal government’s denial of access to a citizenship database.
A New York police officer has been indicted on manslaughter charges for the fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American teen. Eighteen-year-old Ramarley Graham was shot at close range in his grandmother’s apartment on February 2nd after being chased into the house by narcotics detectives. Graham was trying to empty a bag of marijuana into the toilet before he was killed. The indicted officer has been identified as 30-year-old Richard Haste. He is expected to turn himself in on Wednesday.
A trial has begun for eight Occupy Wall Street protesters on trespassing charges stemming from their arrest at New York’s Trinity Church in December. The protesters had scaled a fence onto church-owned property after Trinity refused to give them sanctuary following their eviction from Zuccotti Park at the time.
The Justice Department is seeking to avert a potential congressional vote on bringing contempt charges against Attorney General Eric Holder related to a probe into the controversial gun-sting operation known as "Fast and Furious." The operation saw U.S. agents encouraging the sale of thousands of guns to middlemen for Mexican drug cartels in an attempt to gain access to senior-level figures within Mexico’s criminal organizations. Republicans have threatened to charge Holder over his refusal to hand over documents about the program. Democrats have accused Republicans of blatant political theater in targeting Holder and his staff.
The CEO of the celebrated U.S. hygiene products company Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps was arrested outside of the White House on Monday protesting the U.S. ban on industrial hemp farming. David Bronner locked himself inside a steel cage along with several hemp plants that he harvested for oil.
David Bronner: "We spend over $100,000 a year buying hemp seed oil from Canadians, from Canadian farmers. We’ve been trying over 10 years to be able to grow and purchase hemp seed oil from American farmers, and we’re just getting really frustrated with Obama, who as a state senator from Illinois voted twice for industrial hemp cultivation, but as a president has ignored us completely. This is not a drug. This is like a poppy seed bagel. You know the poppy seed comes from the bread seed poppy, a non-drug cultivar of the opium poppy. It’s the same thing with industrial hemp. The rest of the world is moving on — Canada, China, Europe — and American farmers are just cut out."
Bronner was detained after several hours inside the cage when police broke open the lock.
The Obama administration has announced Commerce Secretary John Bryson will take an immediate medical leave of absence after getting involved in two car crashes over the weekend. Bryson was found unconscious behind the wheel after colliding with the same car twice and then crashing into another vehicle. Aides say he suffered a seizure.
The Navy has announced a U.S. drone has crashed in a swamp in Maryland not far from Washington, D.C. The drone is one of five Global Hawk aircraft used by the Navy for maritime surveillance. The crash could hinder efforts by military and law enforcement officials to use drones for domestic operations.
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