Report: U.S. May Increase Stake in Citigroup
Citigroup and federal officials are in talks that could result in the U.S. government substantially expanding its ownership of one of the world’s largest financial institutions. The Wall Street Journal reports the government could wind up holding as much as 40 percent of Citigroup’s common stock. The potential move at Citigroup would give the government its biggest ownership of a financial-services company since the September bailout of insurer AIG, which left taxpayers with an 80% stake. Last week, Citigroup’s share price fell below $2 to an 18-year low.
Obama Pledges To Cut Budget Deficit in Half
In other economic news, President Barack Obama has pledged to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term, despite the fiscal stimulus package. During his weekly radio address Obama said the nation can”t generate sustained growth without getting the nation”s deficit under control.
President Obama: “No single piece of this broad economic recovery can, by itself, meet the demands that have been placed on us. We can’t help people find work or pay their bills unless we unlock credit for families and businesses. We can’t solve our housing crisis unless we help people find work so that they can make payments on their homes. We can’t produce shared prosperity without firm rules of the road, and we can’t generate sustained growth without getting our deficits under control. In short, we cannot successfully address any of our problems without addressing them all. And that is exactly what the strategy we are pursuing is designed to do.”
Obama Backs Bush Policy on Bagram Detainees
The Obama administration has embraced another key argument of former President Bush”s counterterrorism policy. In a court filing on Friday, the Justice Department told a federal judge that prisoners held at the U.S. Air Force base at Bagram in Afghanistan have no legal rights to challenge their imprisonment. Human rights groups say they are becoming increasingly concerned that the use of extra-judicial methods in Afghanistan could be extended under the new U.S. administration. Bagram air base is about to undergo a $60 million expansion to provide enough space to house five times as many prisoners as remain at Guantanamo.
Attorney General Eric Holder To Visit Guantanamo
Attorney General Eric Holder is heading to Guantanamo today for the first time since he took office. Holder told reporters he wants to talk to officials there about detention and interrogation techniques. This comes as the Pentagon is claiming in a new report that the prison complies with the Geneva Conventions, a position disputed by many human rights groups.
Binyam Mohamed Released From Guantanamo
Meanwhile Binyam Mohamed has been released from Guantanamo after seven years in U.S. custody. Mohamed is expected to arrive in Britain today. The Somali citizen says he was repeatedly tortured while being held at a secret CIA prison and at Guantanamo. His military lawyer, Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley said that what Mohamed endured at Guantanamo “makes waterboarding look like child’s play.”
U.S. Military Secretly Working With Pakistani Troops
The New York Times reports more than 70 U.S. military advisers and technical specialists are secretly working in Pakistan to help its armed forces battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The Americans are mostly Army Special Forces soldiers who are training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops, providing them with intelligence and advising on combat tactics. The CIA is also providing intelligence to a new Pakistani commando unit that has been used to kill and capture wanted militants. This comes as Pakistan has announced new plans to arms villager in the North West Frontier province to fight against Taliban and al-Qaida militants. Meanwhile the New York Times reports the Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the CIA inside Pakistan. Last week a CIA drone targeted Baitullah Mehsud for the first time. Mehsud was identified last year as the man who had orchestrated the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
EPA To Rule on Carbon-Dioxide Emissions
The Wall Street Journal reports the Environmental Protection Agency will soon determine that carbon-dioxide emissions represent a danger to the public and propose new rules to regulate emissions of the greenhouse gas from a range of industries. Carol Browner, special adviser to the president on climate change and energy, told the paper that the EPA is looking at a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that requires the agency to determine whether carbon dioxide endangers public health or welfare.
Amnesty Calls For Arms Embargo on Israel and Hamas
Amnesty International is urging the UN Security Council to impose an immediate arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups. Amnesty said its found evidence that Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes and used weapons supplied from overseas to carry out attacks on civilians during Israel’s three week attack on Gaza.
Meanwhile Kevin Cahill, a top humanitarian official at the UN, says he is shocked by the current conditions inside Gaza following the Israeli attack.
Kevin Cahill: “One of the more horrific sites that I have seen in a career that has allowed me to work in 65 countries, often war zones. This is about as dramatic as it can get”.
11 Burundi Troops Killed in Somali Suicide Blast
In Somalia, 11 peacekeeping troops from Burundi died on Sunday in a suicide bomb attack in Mogadishu. The al-Shabab group claimed responsibility for the attack on the African Union base. It was the deadliest attack against African Union troops since their deployment two years ago.
Grenade Attack in Cairo Kills One
Meanwhile in Egypt, a French woman died on Sunday when an attacker threw a grenade into a famed bazaar in medieval Cairo. 17 people were injured in the blast.
Tamil Tigers Ready For Ceasefire
In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tiger rebels have reportedly told the United Nations they are ready to comply with international calls for a ceasefire with government forces. But the Tamil Tigers said they would only down their weapons after negotiations are held with the government. A spokesperson for the Tigers said a ceasefire was needed to end the miseries of the Tamil people. The Tamil Tigers say the recent offensive by the Sri Lankan government has killed more than 2,000 civilians and injured more than 5,000. On Friday members of the organization Tamils Against Genocide held a rally outside the White House.
Rajeev Sreetharan: “The American government has to recognize that this is longer a Sri Lankan issue. This is a U.S issue. U.S citizen Gothabhaye Rajapakshe in the position of defense secretary of Sri Lanka is committing genocide unapologetically. The U.S needs to change its policy towards this issue-if it is against genocide, it cannot allow genocide to perpetrated by its own citizens.”
Clinton Criticized For Comment on Human Rights in China
Amnesty International and Students For A Free Tibet are criticizing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for stating that human rights concerns should not hinder cooperation with China. During her trip to Asia last week Clinton said: “But our pressing on those issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis.” Amnesty International said it was “shocked and extremely disappointed” by Clinton’s remarks.
Owner of Philadelphia Inquirer Declares Bankruptcy
In media news, two more newspaper chains, Philadelphia Newspapers and the Journal Register Company, have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Philadelphia Newspapers publishes the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. The Journal Register publishes 20 daily newspapers including The New Haven Register in Connecticut.
Spike Lee Calls For NY Post Boycott
In other media news, protests are continuing outside the New York Post over the publication of a cartoon that critics say depicts President Obama as a chimpanzee. On Friday filmmaker Spike Lee called for a boycott of the newspaper and urged athletes and entertainers to shun the paper”s writers. NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous has called for the ouster of cartoonist Sean Delonas and editor-in-chief Col Allan.
NYU Student Occupation Ends; 18 Students Arrested
A student occupation at New York University has ended and the school has suspended 18 students. The group Take Back NYU had submitted demands including the establishment of a socially responsible investment committee, a union for graduate student teachers, a tuition freeze, a full disclosure of the school’s annual budget, and support for Palestinian students in the Gaza Strip.
AIM Activist Robert Robideau, 61, Dies
Longtime American Indian Movement activist Robert Robideau has died at the age of 61. In 1976 he and Darrell Butler were acquitted in the deaths of two FBI agents at the Pine RIdge reservation on grounds of self defense. The third defendant, Leonard Peltier was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in a separate trial. Peltier has been in prison for the past 33 years.
Sean Penn at Academy Awards: “We’ve Got To Have Equal Rights For Everyone.”
And the film Slumdog Millionaire was the big winner at last night”s Academy Awards taking home eight Oscars including best picture. Kate Winslet won best actress for “The Reader” and Sean Penn won best actor for his role as gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk in the film titled “Milk”. This is part of Sean Penn’s acceptance speech.
Sean Penn: “For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”