The partial shutdown of the federal government has entered its 14th day with a deadline looming this week to raise the nation’s borrowing limit. Hopes for a deal to reopen the government have shifted to the Senate after negotiations between President Obama and House Republicans collapsed. On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled progress in talks with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Sen. Harry Reid: “I’ve had a productive conversation with the Republican leader this afternoon. Our discussions were substantive, and we’ll continue those discussions. I’m optimistic about the prospects for a positive conclusion to the issues before this country today.”
House Democrats are criticizing their Republican counterparts for making a little-noticed rule change they say blocked them from reopening the government. The Democrats say House rules should have allowed them to force a vote on a budget bill that had already passed the Senate. But on the eve of the shutdown, the House Rules Committee passed a measure effectively barring anyone except House Majority Leader Eric Cantor from taking such action. Democratic Congressmember Chris Van Hollen of Maryland questioned Speaker Pro Temp Jason Chaffetz about the rule change on Saturday.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen: “So, Mr. Speaker, just so I understand the situation, parliamentary inquiry, H.Res. 368 changed the standing rules of the House to take away from any member of the House the privilege of calling up the Senate bill to immediately reopen the government, is that right?”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz: “It did change the operation of the standing rule.”
Right-wing Republicans attempted to shift blame for the shutdown onto the White House during a protest Sunday at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Republican Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz joined former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as a crowd of protesters pushed past barricades at the memorial, which has been closed under the government shutdown. Senators Lee and Cruz were among the Republicans who helped ensure the shutdown by refusing to fund the government unless the White House agreed to defund the Affordable Care Act.
Congress faces a deadline of Thursday to raise the the U.S. borrowing limit or risk defaulting on its debts. Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde said default would have a global impact.
Christine Lagarde: “If there is that degree of disruption, that lack of certainty, that lack of trust in the U.S. signature, it would mean massive disruption the world over, and we would be at risk of tipping yet again into recession. That was the impression around that big table.”
Christine Lagarde joined corporate leaders and finance chiefs at the annual IMF/World Bank meeting in Washington, D.C., which was dominated by concerns over the U.S. fiscal standoff. Outside the meeting Saturday, a coalition of civil society groups condemned the World Bank’s investment in fossil fuel projects and mega-dams, which they say harm the environment and destroy the livelihoods of people around the world.
The Air Force has fired the two-star general in charge of all land-based nuclear missiles, citing a “loss of trust and confidence in his leadership and judgment.” Major General Michael Carey oversaw 450 nuclear missiles at three bases across the United States. He has been under investigation for “personal misbehavior.” There are reports his dismissal may have been at least partly related to alcohol use. Carey’s firing came two days after the Navy dismissed another top commander charged with overseeing the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Vice Admiral Tim Giardina was fired amid an investigation into alleged gambling issues. He served as second-in-command at U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees all nuclear-armed missiles and would provide launch orders if the United States launched a nuclear attack.
In India, a powerful cyclone has killed at least 23 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes and more than a million acres of crops. Nearly a million people were evacuated from the coast ahead of Cyclone Phailin, the strongest tropical storm to hit India in more than a decade. Meanwhile, Vietnam has begun evacuating more than 180,000 people from coastal areas in preparation for Typhoon Nari, which blasted the Philippines over the weekend, killing at least 13 people.
In Syria, gunmen kidnapped seven aid workers in Idlib province Sunday as they were returning to Damascus in a convoy. Six of the kidnap victims work for the Red Cross, while the seventh is a volunteer with the Syrian Red Crescent.
In Egypt, an U.S. citizen held in detention for six weeks has been found dead in his jail cell in an apparent suicide. James Lunn was detained during a security sweep in the Sinai Peninsula in late August. Egypt’s Interior Ministry claims Lunn was in the area of a car-bomb attack on a police station and was found with a “computer and maps of important facilities.”
The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved a request by the National Security Agency to extend its dragnet collection of U.S. phone records. The Office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper disclosed the court’s approval on Friday. Clapper has previously denied before Congress that the NSA collects such data, but the Obama administration has touted a policy of declassifying select information following leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Snowden continued to criticize the NSA’s spy programs after receiving an award from U.S. whistleblowers last week in Russia.
Edward Snowden: “People all over the world are realizing that these programs don’t make us more safe. They hurt our economy. They hurt our country. They limit our ability to speak and think and to live and be creative, to have relationships, to associate freely.”
Click here to watch our extended discussion with the four former government officials who met with Snowden in Russia last week.
Critics of the NSA are using a state highway clean-up program to protest the agency. The group Restore the Fourth has “adopted” a stretch of highway that runs past the agency’s massive data facility in Bluffdale, Utah. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, that means signs bearing the group’s name, which is a reference to the Fourth Amendment, will be displayed outside the NSA building. Restore the Fourth says they will carry more signs protesting NSA spying as they pick up litter near the data center.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have agreed on the key points of a deal that would keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond next year. But the two sides remain at odds over the U.S. insistence that its troops be guaranteed immunity from prosecution under Afghan law. Kerry said the issue is a deal breaker for the United States.
On Sunday, a U.S. soldier was shot dead in southeastern Afghanistan by a man wearing an Afghan security force uniform. The shooter reportedly escaped after opening fire on U.S. soldiers. It was the third such attack in less than a month.
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by Taliban gunmen, has criticized U.S. drone strikes during a meeting with President Obama. The Obamas invited Yousafzai to the White House Friday in order to honor her work on behalf of girls’ education. But the White House statement did not mention another topic raised at the meeting. In her own statement, Yousafzai wrote: “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact,” she said.
In Chile, thousands of Mapuche indigenous people and their supporters took to the streets of the capital Santiago in an anti-Columbus Day march Saturday. The Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group. They are calling for the return of ancestral lands and an end to the targeting of Mapuche activists under an anti-terrorism law. One protester condemned the day marking 521 years since Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas.
Meulen Huencho: “Today is not a day to celebrate. It is a day to condemn and repudiate all the abuses that we’ve suffered for more than 500 years. We’re here today to tell the Chilean state and current government that we shall resist, that we shall be in defense and in resistance to what’s happening in the (Mapuche) territory.”
In Tucson, Arizona, immigrant rights advocates disrupted proceedings at a federal courthouse Friday when they blocked the entrance and locked themselves to the wheels of two buses carrying undocumented people bound for the court under a controversial program known as Operation Streamline. The Bush-era program sees immigrants accused of crossing the border without authorization sentenced by the dozens to prison terms of up to six months before they are deported. Protesters say the process funnels immigrants into the for-profit prison system. Today immigrant advocates are expected to march on the headquarters of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Phoenix as part of a call to halt the unprecedented number of deportations under President Obama.
Environmentalists in hundreds of cities around the world took to the streets Saturday for the second global “March Against Monsanto.” Organizers say people in more than 400 cities across 57 countries took part in the action against Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds and other products they say devastate the environment, endanger health and hurt small farmers.
The ACLU of Ohio has filed a lawsuit challenging a series of anti-choice restrictions it says were unconstitutionally tacked onto the Ohio state budget that was passed in June. One measure bans public hospitals from making transfer agreements to receive patients from abortion clinics. Since Ohio also requires clinics to have hospital transfer agreements, the measure could force some clinics to close. The American Civil Liberties Union is also challenging a provision forcing providers to recite a government script and offer to show patients a fetal heartbeat, as well as another that funnels state funds to organizations which are banned from mentioning abortion care.
Hundreds gathered Saturday in New Orleans to remember Angola 3 member Herman Wallace as he was laid to rest. Wallace spent nearly 42 years in solitary confinement before he was released on October 1 and died three days later, a free man, after a judge overturned his conviction on constitutional grounds. This is fellow Angola 3 member Robert King, released in 2001, speaking at Wallace’s funeral.
Robert King: “It is often said that I was the only freed member of the Angola 3, and that is true. But if someone would also say that Herman was the second freed member of the Angola 3, I would also agree with that. And even though it was short-lived, Herman died with a clean slate.”
Wallace would have turned 72 on Sunday. He and fellow Angola 3 member Albert Woodfox were convicted of the 1972 murder of a prison guard without any physical evidence. A fingerprint found at the scene was not theirs. A group of lawmakers led by Rep. John Conyers introduced a tribute to Wallace in the Congressional Record, saying: “Because of Mr. Wallace’s work, those of us in Congress who have called for his freedom will dedicate our future efforts to ensuring that no one anywhere in the United States is subjected to the unjust and inhumane treatment that he has endured.” Amnesty International has now launched a campaign calling for Woodfox’s release. The final imprisoned member of the Angola 3 has had his conviction overturned three times, but he remains in solitary confinement at the David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, Louisiana, where he is subjected to strip searches and anal cavity searches as many as six times a day.