The European Union has issued a $2.3 billion fine against six major financial firms over the rigging of global interest rates. The banks and brokers were found to have colluded to alter the benchmark for rates on trillions of dollars in transactions across the globe, meaning millions of borrowers paid the wrong amount on their loans. The rigging covered the Euro Interbank Offered Rate, or Euribor, and London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor. All six banks are from Europe or the U.S., including JPMorgan and Citibank. The banks UBS and Barclays were hit with around $2 billion in fines last year.
A federal judge has approved Detroit’s bid to qualify for bankruptcy, putting the city on a path to financial recovery, but threatening the livelihoods of thousands of city workers. In a landmark decision that could harm retiree benefits nationwide, Federal Judge Steven Rhodes ruled that federal bankruptcy law can override state laws that protect public pensions. That clears the way for Detroit to make major cuts to the health and retirement benefits of city employees.
Illinois lawmakers have approved a measure that will impose major cuts to retiree benefits in the state’s troubled pension system. Illinois faces the worst-funded pension system in the country, with an estimated $100 billion shortfall. On Tuesday, the Democrat-controlled Illinois Legislature voted to push back the retirement age for younger workers and scrap an overall cost-of-living increase for retirees. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the measure into law. State unions have vowed a court challenge.
President Obama delivered a White House address Tuesday urging Americans to support his new healthcare law, despite its troubled rollout. Obama spoke days after the administration reported major improvements in the performance of the federal healthcare website after its plagued launch over the past two months.
President Obama: “Do not let the initial problems with the website discourage you, because it’s working better now, and it’s just going to keep on working better over time. Every day I check to make sure that it’s working better, and we’ve learned not to make wild promises about how perfectly smooth it’s going to be at all times. But if you really wanted health insurance through the marketplaces, you’re going to be able to get on and find the information that you need for your families.”
The United States has halted military shipments from Afghanistan through Pakistan due to protests against the U.S. drone war. In a statement, the Pentagon says it has suspended the removal of military equipment in Pakistan because of the dangers posed to truck drivers. Thousands of Pakistanis have taken part in protests and blockades along NATO supply routes in recent weeks to call for an end to U.S. drone strikes.
The United Nations’ top aid official is warning Syria’s humanitarian crisis is getting worse. Speaking to reporters, emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos said aid workers have been unable to reach around a quarter of a million people trapped in besieged areas.
Valerie Amos: “Our figures are that about 250,000 people are in besieged communities, so this is communities that we are not able to reach at all, and 2.5 million people in hard-to-reach areas. So, they may have been reached, for example, once with assistance, and no more.”
In Lebanon, a senior commander with the Shia group Hezbollah has been killed. Hassan al-Laqis was gunned down Tuesday outside of his Beirut home. Hezbollah has accused Israel of responsibility, but Israel has denied the claim. The shooting came hours after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia of carrying out last month’s bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut that killed 23 people.
The editor of the British newspaper The Guardian appeared before a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday to face questions on the publication of the surveillance leaks of Edward Snowden. Alan Rusbridger told British lawmakers his newspaper has published less than 1 percent of the leaked information it has received.
Alan Rusbridger: “We continue to publish stuff, but it’s about 1 percent of what we were given. I can’t think of any story in recent times that has ricocheted around the world like this has and which has been more broadly debated in Parliament, in the courts, amongst NGOs.”
During his comments, Rusbridger said he has met with British and U.S. intelligence officials more than 100 times since the Snowden leaks as part of an effort “designed to intimidate.” The Guardian agreed to destroy its trove of Snowden files in its London offices earlier this year after the British government threatened legal action. Rusbridger was later asked if he loves his country.
Keith Vaz, U.K. Parliamentarian: “Do you love this country?”
Alan Rusbridger: “We live in a democracy. Most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country. I’m slightly surprised to be asked the question, but, yes, we are patriots. And one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of the democracy and the nature of a free press, and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things.”
At the same hearing, a top British police official refused to rule out the prosecution of Guardian staffers for publishing Snowden’s leaks, saying “some people may have committed offenses.”
The European Court of Humans Rights has opened a landmark hearing into Poland’s complicity in torture for hosting a secret CIA prison. The court is examining the cases of two Guantánamo Bay prisoners who say they were subjected to mock executions, waterboarding and other abuses, including claims of harm to their families. It is the first time a European country has been taken to court for allowing U.S. torture on its soil.
A new study has rejected the theory that former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was fatally poisoned. A team of Swiss scientists who examined Arafat’s remains said last month their findings “moderately support” polonium poisoning as the cause of death. But now a group of French investigators who also studied Arafat’s tissue samples say they believe he died of a brain hemorrhage and an intestinal infection. The French report says the polonium found in Arafat’s body may have come from radon gas in his burial tomb.
The House has approved a measure to extend the ban on manufacturing plastic guns for another 10 years. The ban was first imposed in 1988 for all plastic guns undetectable to security screening machines. It had been set to expire this month. The House measure is the first piece of federal gun legislation to be approved since the Newtown school massacre a year ago. It will likely be the only gun control measure to pass Congress this year after the Senate failure to expand background checks and ban assault rifles in April.
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