The U.S. government has begun a partial shutdown for the first time in 17 years after Congress failed to break a partisan deadlock by a midnight deadline. Some 800,000 federal workers are to be furloughed, and more than a million others will be asked to work without pay. The shutdown was spearheaded by tea party Republicans who backed a House bill tying continued government funding to a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of a tax to pay for it. The Democratic-controlled Senate insisted on funding the government through November 15 without conditions. On Monday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said House Republicans have failed the nation.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “As we gather here right near Statuary Hall, I’m reminded that President Washington, when he was leaving office, cautioned against political parties that were at war with their own government. And here we are tonight. You do not use the threat of shutting down government to try to advance your policy agenda. That’s just not the way it works. And that’s what is called irresponsible, and that is why this is the tea party government shutdown.”
Despite the government shutdown, a key initiative in the Affordable Care Act begins today. Individuals seeking health insurance under the new program can now enroll online through new federal and state marketplaces. On Monday, President Obama said he would not negotiate over the enactment of his signature healthcare law.
President Obama: “Let me clear about this: An important part of the Affordable Care Act takes effect tomorrow, no matter what Congress decides to do today. The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down. This is a law that passed both houses of Congress, a law that bears my signature, a law that the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional, a law that voters chose not to repeal last November.”
President Obama has renewed the threat of military force against Iran just days after speaking by phone to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. In an appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjanmin Netanyahu at the White House, Obama said the United States reserves the right to launch military strikes should diplomacy fail. Netanyahu then called on Obama to maintain sanctions against Iran and even tighten them should it make nuclear advances.
President Obama: “Our hope is that we can resolve this diplomatically, but as president of the United States, I’ve said before and I will repeat, that we take no options off the table, including military options, in terms of making sure that we do not have a nuclear weapons in Iran that would destabilize the region and potentially threaten the United States of America.”
Prime Minister Benjanmin Netanyahu: “If diplomacy is to work, those pressures must be kept in place. And I think they should not be lessened until there is verifiable success. And, in fact, it is Israel’s firm belief that if Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during negotiations, the sanctions should be strengthened.”
Obama’s phone call with Rouhani on Friday marked the highest-level contact between the United States and Iran since 1979. In response to Netanyahu’s comments, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said: “We have seen nothing from [him] but lies and actions to deceive and scare.”
United Nations chemical weapons experts are arriving in Syria today to launch their mission on destroying the Assad regime’s stockpile. The mandate was established in the U.N. Security Council resolution adopted last week. It sets a timeline of mid-2014 for the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical arsenal. In an address to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem continued the regime’s denial of using chemical weapons, claiming foreign governments are supplying them to Syrian rebels.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem: “There remains the challenge that is facing all of us whether those who are supplying terrorists with these types of weapons will abide by their legal commitments, since terrorists who used poisonous gases in my country have received chemical agents from regional and Western countries that are well known to all of us.”
The arrival of the U.N. disarmament experts comes as a team of inspectors have completed their second mission investigating alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria. A final report is expected later this month.
The latest disclosures from the leaks of whistleblower Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency is storing the Internet metadata of millions of people for up to a year, regardless of whether or not they are linked to an investigation. The stored metadata includes vast personal records of Internet use, including browsing history and account passwords. The online information is stored in a database code-named “Marina.”
Thirty-three people have been detained in Texas after crossing into the United States from Mexico as part of a protest against record deportations. Thirty undocumented youths who lived in the United States as children, as well as three of their parents, are being held at the Laredo crossing. It is the second time in three months that undocumented immigrants have attempted to re-enter the United States through an official point of entry. A group called the “Dream 9” was held for three weeks after trying to enter the United States in July. All nine are now seeking asylum. On Monday, the 30-plus activists marched across a bridge connecting Mexico to the United States wearing graduation caps and gowns, chanting, “Undocumented and unafraid.”
Two Marine Corps generals have been forced into early retirement over a security lapse in Afghanistan last year. Major Generals Charles Gurganus and Gregg Sturdevant were found to have committed a series of errors that led to a militant attack on a U.S. base, leaving two marines dead and a number of warplanes destroyed. The forced resignations of high-ranking officers are the first in the Marine Corps since the Vietnam War.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has announced the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats over what he says are efforts to destabilize his government. In a televised address, Maduro called out the diplomats by name.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro: “Three North American diplomats. I’ve told Foreign Minister Elías Jaua to proceed with their immediate expulsion from the country. They have 48 hours to leave the country. Kelly Keiderling, Elizabeth Hunderland, David Mutt: Get out of Venezuela! Yankee, go home! Get out of Venezuela!”
Maduro says the three met with “extreme right” opposition groups in a bid to disrupt Venezuela’s electrical power grid and sabotage its economy. In a statement, the U.S. embassy said it “completely rejects” Maduro’s allegations.
Thousands of people rallied in Port-au-Prince on Monday to mark the 22nd anniversary of the first U.S.-backed ouster of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected leader. Monday’s protest doubled as a rally against Haitian President Michel Martelly, who is facing pressure to call long-delayed senate and municipal elections.
A pair of hunger-striking Canadians jailed in Egypt for more than a month without charge have spoken out for the first time about their ordeal. John Greyson, a Toronto filmmaker, and Tarek Loubani, a doctor, were arrested in Cairo on August 16. The two were slated to visit Gaza, where Greyson was to film Loubani as he trained emergency room doctors. In a statement smuggled out of their prison cell, Greyson and Loubani say they were arrested after rushing to the scene of a mass shooting by state forces of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Greyson says he began filming the shooting’s aftermath while Louhani treated some of the injured. They say they were then “arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a 'Syrian terrorist,' slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries.” They’ve since been held in cockroach-infested jail cells with as many as 36 other people. Over the weekend, Egyptian authorities confirmed their imprisonment has been extended another 45 days, still without charge.
A British university is pulling its more than $1 million investment in a military firm that makes parts for armed U.S. drones. The University of Edinburgh announced its divestment from the company Ultra Electronics following a campaign from students and human rights activists. Ultra supplies air navigation systems for the U.S. fleet of Predator and Reaper pilotless drones.
Student activists from the City University of New York are continuing protests against the school’s hiring of former CIA director and military general David Petraeus to teach a class. On Monday, demonstrators rallied outside of a building where Petraeus’ course has been relocated following several rallies.
Justin James: “Just seeing the few videos that were released on YouTube, it was terrible. You know, like you’re seeing them getting cuffed and kneed and just like mushed around. And it’s just like why would they go to these extremes? Why would you need that, if it’s really just an innocent class?”
Student: “Even though they beat me down, I’m still not scared! I’m still not scared, and I won’t stop until we have Petraeus and ROTC out!”
Six CUNY students are facing charges following their arrest at a protest last month. Prior to heading the CIA, Petraeus commanded U.S. troops in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.