Protests have erupted in Spain over a massive new package of spending cuts and tax hikes to obtain a rescue of the country’s banks. In an address to parliament earlier today, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy unveiled an austerity package of nearly $80 billion involving a new sales tax and cuts to public spending. Rajoy said the measures were demanded by the European Union as a condition for an emergency bailout of Spain’s banks agreed to on Tuesday.
Egypt’s top court has blocked Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s order for the country’s parliament to reconvene. On Tuesday, the Supreme Constitutional Court affirmed a previous decision to declare the parliament unconstitutional, a ruling that prompted Egypt’s military rulers to dissolve the parliament last month. The ruling came hours after Egypt’s parliament defiantly convened a brief session and approved a measure to seek legal advice on how to respond to the court’s ruling. After the latest decision was handed down, thousands of Morsi supporters gathered outside parliament and in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Mohamed Salah: “The constitution is made for Egyptian people. If there is no Egyptian people, it will be no court. So I think the court should respect the opinion of Egyptian people, because these people, they come — in the parliament, come from us. We voted for them.”
U.N. peace envoy Kofi Annan continued an effort to mediate an end to the violence in Syria with visits on Tuesday to Iran and Iraq. Speaking in Tehran, Annan rejected the U.S. position that Iran should be kept out of the talks.
Kofi Annan: “The essence of the six-point plan — stopping the violence, releasing detainees, allowing humanitarian access — should be seen as a package. A package, if implemented, would help create the environment and the conducive climate for political talks, political talks between Syrians to determine their own political future. I believe, as you’ve heard me say on many occasions, that Iran has a role to play. And my presence here explains that I believe in that. I don’t speak for other countries.”
Syrian opposition groups continue to oppose any talks with President Bashar al-Assad that would preserve his regime. Speaking from neighboring Turkey, a spokesperson for the Syrian National Council said negotiations should only focus on Assad’s departure.
Mahmoud Osman: “This brutal regime, which kills day and night, this regime is over, and the Assad family will be erased from Syria’s history. They should find a safe refuge for themselves. We, the National Council, will only negotiate with the regime on one thing, which is how Assad will leave Syria, and that’s it.”
President Obama hit the campaign trail in Iowa on Tuesday, one day after calling for extending the Bush-era tax cuts to Americans making less than $250,000 a year. Drawing a contrast with Republican rival Mitt Romney, Obama said those making above that amount should return to the tax levels they paid before Bush took office.
President Obama: “I believe that we should make sure the taxes on 98 percent of Americans don’t go up, and then we should let the tax cuts expire for folks like me, for the top 2 percent of Americans. So, anybody making over $250,000 a year, including me, we’d go back to the tax rates that we were paying under Bill Clinton, which, by the way, was a time when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and created plenty of millionaires to boot.”
In his remarks, President Obama also continued with a campaign theme of linking Romney to the outsourcing of U.S. jobs following reports about the practices of Romney’s former company, Bain Capital.
President Obama: “Governor Romney has experience owning companies that were called pioneers in the business of outsourcing. My experience has been working with outstanding members of labor and great managers to save the American auto industry. And as long as I’m president, I will keep fighting to make sure jobs are located here in the United States of America.”
Addressing supporters in Colorado, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney called Obama’s latest tax proposal “another kick in the gut” that would hurt the U.S. economy.
Mitt Romney: “So your taxes are going to be the same. And then, for others, for job creators and small businesses, he announced a massive tax increase. So at the very time the American people are seeing fewer jobs created than we need, the president announces he’s going to make it harder for jobs to be created. I just don’t think this president understands how our economy works.”
New research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has further reinforced the connection between recent extreme weather and climate change. Scientists found global warming made a heat wave in Texas last year 20 times more likely than it would have been in the 1960s, while warmer temperatures in Britain last November were made 62 times more likely. In particular, researchers said global warming is likely worsening heat waves and also noted an intensified water cycle connected to both increased droughts and drenching rain. The new research affirms what scientists have long predicted about the rise in extreme weather under climate change. This year the U.S. has seen record rains, historic droughts, devastating wildfires and blistering heat that’s killed dozens of people.
A government probe has found negligence by the Canadian company Enbridge led to the 2010 oil spill in the Kalamazoo River — the most expensive onshore spill in U.S. history. More than 840,000 gallons of oil spilled into Michigan waterways after the rupture of an underground oil pipeline carrying Canadian oil into the United States. On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board released a probe confirming Enbridge was aware as early as 2005 that its pipeline was cracked and corroded but failed to take action. NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman and board member Robert Sumwalt said Enbridge had ignored a number of red flags.
Deborah Hersman: “For more than 17 hours in over three shifts, the people controlling the pipeline did not respond to the alarms, the pressure differentials, or even follow their own safety procedures that were established following another catastrophic release in 1991.”
Robert Sumwalt: “It’s evident that this accident did not just occur because of corrosion in a pipeline. What this investigation has shown is that this accident was the result of corrosion throughout many vital safety aspects of the Enbridge organization.”
Enbridge’s safety mechanisms were so flawed that the company didn’t know its pipeline was gushing oil into the Kalamazoo River for 17 hours, during which it twice pumped more oil into the ruptured line.
Ten environmental groups have filed suit to challenge the oil giant Shell’s safety plans for oil drilling in the Alaskan Arctic. In a statement, the groups say government regulators “rubber-stamped plans that rely on unbelievable assumptions, include equipment that has never been tested in Arctic conditions, and ignore the very real possibility that an [oil] spill could continue through the winter.” Shell is set to begin exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas later this summer.
A Palestinian soccer player who staged a hunger strike over the course of four months has been released after three years in an Israeli prison without charge or trial. Mahmoud al-Sarsak was greeted by thousands of supporters on Tuesday as he returned home to the Gaza Strip. Last month, he agreed to end his hunger strike in return for hospital care and an early release. Sarsak was one of more than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners to take part in a coordinated hunger strike to protest Israel’s policy of administrative detention.
Bolivian President Evo Morales has revoked the mining license of the Canadian mining company South American Silver following a series of protests by indigenous groups. Thousands of people marched on Bolivia’s capital last month, and a group of protesters later took workers hostage to demand that South American Silver give up control of the Malku Khota mine. On Tuesday, Morales said he had listened to protesters’ demands.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “Are you going to be mad at each other like angry siblings because of an international company that has come to loot our natural resources? We have realized that we had to live like our ancestors did, like you consciously do. These resources belong to the Bolivian state and its people, therefore to be exploited and explored by the government with the help of the natives from the region. That’s what the accord is all about.”
Public sector workers in Scranton, Pennsylvania, are battling the city’s mayor in court after he unilaterally cut their pay to the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour amidst a financial crisis. Scranton Mayor Christopher Doherty cut his own pay and that of the workers after the city reportedly had only $5,000 in the bank last week. Unions representing the workers won an injunction against the pay cuts, but the city instituted them anyway. The unions are now asking a judge to hold the mayor and city in contempt, as well as challenging the city over unpaid overtime and disability pay cuts. Scranton is just one of a handful of cities facing public budget woes. On Tuesday, city leaders in San Bernardino, California, voted to file for bankruptcy after a report found the city faces a massive budget deficit. It’s the third city in California to seek bankruptcy protection in less than a month, following Mammoth Lakes and Stockton.
The Episcopal Church has become the largest U.S. denomination to approve same-sex unions. At its annual convention, church members voted to allow priests to bless same-sex relationships. The ceremony would include prayers, vows and the exchange of rings, but would fall short of being considered a marriage.
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