An attack at a prison in the Iraqi city of Tikrit has killed at least a dozen people and freed more than 80 prisoners. Reports on the details vary. A local official told the Associated Press prisoners had seized weapons from a prison storeroom, while other sources said militants attacked from the outside. A gun battle reportedly stretched for at least eight hours before authorities regained control. The prison houses inmates with ties to al-Qaeda, and some were awaiting execution.
A gunman opened fire Thursday inside a Minneapolis sign-making business, killing four people and wounding several others before turning the gun on himself. Three others were critically wounded. There are reports the shooter was a former employee of the business who had been laid off earlier in the day. The tragedy follows a rash of other mass shootings in the U.S. this year and is the latest act of violence involving a shooter with reported financial difficulties. The laid-off employee who killed a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building in New York City last month was reportedly facing eviction. Two weeks before that, a man in College Station, Texas, opened fire on a constable bringing him an eviction notice, killing two people before being fatally shot by police. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak spoke after Thursday’s shootings.
Mayor R.T. Rybak: “We are deeply, deeply sorry about what has happened here. The employees are together and are being cared for, and the neighborhood, as I mentioned, is secure and will be returning to relative calm. But obviously we will have a horrible crime scene that we’ll be dealing with over time.”
The California man reportedly behind an anti-Islam video that sparked global protests has been arrested and accused of violating the terms of his probation from a prior conviction for financial crimes. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was ordered held without bail Thursday after a federal judge deemed him a flight risk. Court documents show Nakoula has used at least 17 aliases. Following a 2010 check fraud conviction, Nakoula was forbidden under the terms of his probation from using computers or the Internet without permission from his probation officer. Meanwhile, an actress who said she was deceived about the nature of the film and did not realize it was anti-Islam is suing Nakoula in federal court.
Coalition leaders in Greece say they’ve reached a basic outline for an austerity package required to win over international lenders. The plan includes tax hikes as well as $15 billion in cuts to pensions, salaries and government spending. The proposal comes on the heels of mass anti-austerity protests in Greece amidst a general strike earlier this week. Spain, meanwhile, has announced its own plans for austerity cuts and tax hikes in a bid to strip $50 billion from next year’s budget. Spain’s austerity plans have also sparked a massive backlash, with protesters launching an “Occupy Congress” action earlier this week.
The United Nations refugee agency is warning up to 700,000 refugees could flee Syria by the end of the year amidst mounting violence between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and rebels opposed to his regime. The U.N.’s new forecast is nearly quadruple the previous estimate from June. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have already fled into neighboring countries including Turkey and Lebanon during the 18-month conflict.
Wealthy donors pledged Thursday to give at least $10 million to Democratic super PACs in the lead-up to the 2012 election. Billionaire George Soros is promising to give $1 million to the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action. The former hedge fund manager also plans to donate half-a-million dollars to a pair of super PACs supporting Democratic candidates for Congress. Even with the latest round of pledges, contributions by Soros this cycle still pale in comparison to some donors on the Republican side. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has pledged to spend up to $100 million to defeat President Obama and the Democrats this year.
President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney each campaigned Thursday in the hotly contested battleground state of Virginia. Both candidates attempted to court Virginia’s large population of military voters. In an address in the military town of Virginia Beach, Obama called for what he termed “economic patriotism.”
President Obama: “During campaign season, you always hear a lot about patriotism. Well, you know what? It’s time for a new economic patriotism, an economic patriotism rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a strong and thriving middle class.”
Mitt Romney meanwhile spoke at an American Legion hall in Springfield, Virginia, not far from the Pentagon. Romney criticized Obama over potential defense cuts and vowed to maintain U.S. military power.
Mitt Romney: “We’re going to make sure and restore the principles this nation was built upon of freedom and opportunity. We’re going to make sure and restore our economy and put people back to work, get rising take-home pay again. And we’re going to make sure we have a military that is second to none. I will do those things. I look forward to being the commander-in-chief, to being able to keep this nation strong. I make that commitment to you. I need your help. We’ve got to win in Virginia. I need your help to get the veterans here. We’ll keep America the hope of the earth. Thank you so very much.”
A new video, meanwhile, has raised questions about Mitt Romney’s repeated claims on the campaign trial that his business background would help him create jobs as president. The video released by the magazine Mother Jones shows Romney in a 1985 address describing the mission of Bain Capital, the private equity firm he co-founded and formerly ran, saying Bain’s goal is to “harvest” companies for profit.
Mitt Romney: “Bain Capital is an investment partnership which was formed to invest in start-up companies and ongoing companies, then to take an active hand in managing them, and hopefully, five to eight years later, to harvest them at a significant profit.”
Embattled Missouri congressmember and Senate candidate Todd Akin is again drawing criticism for new sexist remarks after claiming Democratic opponent Senator Claire McCaskill was more “ladylike” in her previous election six years ago. Akin drew a massive backlash and calls to drop out of the race against McCaskill after remarking that women rarely become pregnant from what he termed “legitimate rape.” Despite the criticism, Akin has remained in the race past a deadline earlier this week to remove himself from the ballot. His bid to unseat McCaskill is one of the most closely watched Senate races this year.
Florida has resumed its controversial efforts to purge voters from the rolls less than six weeks before the November election. Officials in Florida recently said they’d used a federal immigration database to identify about 200 non-citizen voters. That number marked a significant downgrade from Florida’s initial claim of nearly 200,000 possible non-citizen voters that was later reduced to a few thousand. The names of about 200 supposed non-citizens have been sent to local election officials, but there’s evidence even people on that list are citizens who have been mistakenly targeted. The Miami Herald reports one Latino immigrant ended up on the purge list even though he’d already sent proof of citizenship to officials during the first round of voter purging this summer.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is drawing widespread attention for his speech before the United Nations General Assembly Thursday when he literally drew a red line over Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu has repeatedly called for a “red line” that would trigger military action against Iran if crossed. During his address, Netanyahu pulled out a cartoonish diagram of a bomb with a fuse to help illustrate Iran’s alleged progress toward a nuclear weapon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “This is a bomb. This is a fuse. In the case of Iran’s nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium. And Iran has to go through three stages. By next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks, before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb. A red line should be drawn right here, before — before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu has made previous claims about the supposed urgency of Iran’s nuclear plans in a bid to spur U.S.-led international action. In 1992 — 20 years ago — Netanyahu said that Iran was just three to five years from developing a nuclear weapon. Iran meanwhile has repeatedly said its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. Responding to Netanyahu’s speech, Iran said it is strong enough to defend itself and reserved the right to retaliate if attacked.
Also speaking before the U.N. General Assembly Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Israel over Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, saying more than 500 settler attacks had been carried out on Palestinians since the beginning of the year. Abbas also vowed to continue seeking non-member status at the United Nations for Palestine. In his condemnation of Israeli government policy, Abbas invoked the term “Nakba,” or “catastrophe,” which refers to the period around Israel’s declaration of statehood in 1948 when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “Israel refuses to end the occupation and refuses to allow the Palestinian people to attain their rights and freedom and rejects the establishment of the state of Palestine. Israel is promising the Palestinian people a new catastrophe, a new Nakba.”
A new report finds U.S. drugmakers have paid $6.6 billion in penalties and fees to settle fraud allegations this year, already doubling what they paid last year. The advocacy group Public Citizen said the increased fees and penalties are still not enough to make a dent in drug company profits or to curb alleged behavior, ranging from overcharging Medicare to encouraging the prescription of drugs for unsanctioned uses. In July, GlaxoSmithKline settled for a record $3 billion over fraud charges, including allegations it failed to report key safety data on a diabetes drug linked to heart risks.
Financial firm Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay nearly $12 million to settle civil charges one of its executives gave campaign services to a Massachusetts public official in exchange for business. The Securities and Exchange Commission said former Goldman Vice President Neil M.M. Morrison used company resources to campaign for Massachusetts Treasurer Timothy Cahill, who made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010. Goldman failed to report the activities and went on to earn more than $7.5 million from the state’s bond deals.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing tough new standards for federal cleanup of the toxic material asbestos in a move that could impact contaminated sites across the country. The proposal relates to the mining town of Libby, Montana, where hundreds died after breathing asbestos dust from the mining of vermiculite, a mineral used in insulation, fireproofing material and other products. Cleanup efforts in Libby are still underway and have cost nearly $450 million over more than a decade. The EPA’s new standard for asbestos is 5,000 times stricter than the one used for earlier cleanups.
New research shows student debt has reached a record high in the United States, with nearly one in five households now burdened by debt from college loans. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of households with college debt doubled from 1989 to 2010 and jumped 15 percent over just three years from 2007 to 2010. Researchers found the poor are most heavily burdened by college debt, with student loans consuming nearly a quarter of household income for the poorest 20 percent of Americans.