Admin to Unveil New Finance Regulations
The Obama administration is expected to unveil proposals today to boost government authority over the financial system. In addition to previously announced powers to seize troubled non-banking firms, the administration’s plan would reportedly expand federal regulation for the first time to cover financial derivatives trading, large hedge funds and insurers such as AIG. Regulators would also impose uniform standards to limit the range of functions of major financial firms, including banks.
Lawmakers Trim Obama Budget
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers continue negotiations on the final version of President Obama’s budget plan. On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee voted to back the measure after trimming tens of billions dollars from the original proposal. The Senate Budget Committee is expected to vote on its version later today.
Clinton Admits U.S. Drug War Failure
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has admitted U.S. drug policy has not only been a failure but has in fact fueled Mexico’s drug war. Speaking to reporters at the outset of her trip to Mexico, Clinton said: “Clearly what we’ve been doing has not worked… I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility. Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police, of soldiers and civilians.” Clinton’s comments are being called the most far-reaching by a senior U.S. official in accepting responsibility for the rampant drug trade.
11 Die in U.S. Strikes in Pakistan
In Pakistan, at least eleven people have been killed in two separate U.S. drone attacks. Pakistani officials said the dead were foreign militants. Hundreds of people have died in U.S. missile strikes inside Pakistan. The Wall Street Journal reports U.S. and Pakistani officials are finalizing a new list of targets along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The cooperation comes despite U.S. accusations that Pakistan’s top intelligence agency is directly supporting Taliban fighters and other militants inside Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, U.S. officials are now accusing elements of Pakistani intelligence of directly funding and supplying Taliban commanders.
U.S., Israel Accused of Deadly Sudan Bombing
The U.S. and Israel are being accused of killing up to 39 people in a bombing attack in Sudan this past January. According to reports, U.S. or Israeli forces allegedly attacked a convoy of seventeen trucks suspected of carrying weapons intended for smuggling into the Gaza Strip. A Sudanese government minister confirmed the strike, saying a “major power” carried it out.
HRW Accuses Israel of War Crimes in Phosphorous Attacks
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of unlawfully attacking densely populated civilian areas with white phosphorous during its three-week attack on Gaza. In a new report, Human Rights Watch says the white phosphorous killed at least twelve Palestinian civilians and destroyed millions of dollars worth of property. Bill Vanesveld of Human Rights Watch says the phosphorous use likely amounts to a war crime.
Bill Vanesveld: “It looks like that evidence is consistent with war-crimes being committed. A war-crime is when there is either intent or recklessness with regard to targeting civilians, or civilian institutions. What we’ve got here is a lot of different civilian institutions being burned down. A lot of different civilians being injured and it continued to happen for no apparent justification-that’s why we’re concerned.”
Vowing to Seek “Peace”, Netanyahu Omits Mention of Palestinian State
In other news from Israel, the incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to become what he called a “partner for peace” with the Palestinians.
Benjamin Netanyahu: “I think that the Palestinians should understand that they have in our government a partner for peace, for security and for rapid economic development of the Palestinian economy. Peace: It’s not the last goal. It’s a common and enduring goal for all Israelis and all Israeli governments–mine included, this means that I will negotiate with the Palestinian Authority for peace.”
Despite vowing to work for peace, Netanyahu’s speech failed to even mention the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu has consistently rejected Palestinian statehood and backed the ongoing expansion of Jewish-only Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank.
Indigenous Groups Hold Global Warming Summit
In Peru, a summit of indigenous groups is gathering to discuss the environmental threats to their communities. Indigenous leader Norma Mayo says energy extraction is endangering areas across the southern hemisphere.
bq. Norma Mayo: “Those guilty of global warming are the developed nations who came to our countries to take oil and minerals and leave our forests contaminated. This has hurt our children, our families. They are poor and malnutrition is rising.”
Moon Calls for $1 Trillion Stimulus for Developing Nations
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is calling on G20 leaders to establish a $1 trillion dollar stimulus package for poorer countries threatened by the global financial meltdown. Ban told the Financial Times he’ll make a formal request at the G20 summit in London next week. Ban meanwhile helped mark an international day of observance for victims of the slave trade at the UN.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: “Africa has yet to recover from the ravages of the slave trade, or the subsequent era of colonization. Here in the new world and in Europe and elsewhere, people of African descendants still struggle daily against entrenched prejudice that keeps them disproportionately in poverty. Despite the official abolition of slavery, racism still pollutes our world.”
Paterson, Legislators Agree on Drug Law Repeal
Here in New York, Governor David Paterson and state lawmakers have reached a deal on further undoing the draconian Rockefeller drug laws. The agreement would repeal an unknown number of mandatory minimum prison sentences for low-level drug crimes and grant judges discretion to order treatment rather than prison time. The measure also calls for a $50 million dollar expansion to drug courts and treatment programs. It’s unclear however how many prisoners would be able apply to have their sentences commuted. Paterson was once arrested for protesting the Rockefeller drug laws. But according to reports, he’s seeking to limit the number of prisoners eligible to apply for commutation.
Vermont Governor Vows to Veto Same-Sex Marriage Bill
In Vermont, Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll veto a same-sex marriage bill if one crosses his desk. Vermont’s state senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage on Monday and a House vote is expected soon. It’s unclear if supporters will have the required majority to override a veto. If the bill becomes law, Vermont will become the first state to legalize same-sex marriage without being forced by the courts to do so.
Cardin Introduces Newspaper Rescue Bill
Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland has introduced a measure aimed at rescuing the struggling newspaper industry. The Newspaper Revitalization Act would let newspaper companies become educational non-profits and operate similar to public broadcasters. Audiences would be eligible to give tax-deductible donations, while advertising and subscription revenue would become tax exempt. Cardin said: “The business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy.”
IBM to Shed 5,000 Jobs
The computer giant IBM has announced plans to lay off 5,000 U.S. workers. The number amounts to around four percent of IBM’s workforce.
African-American Scholar John Hope Franklin Dies at 94
And the African-American scholar and author John Hope Franklin has died. Franklin pioneered the field of African-American studies. His book “From Slavery to Freedom” is considered a definitive work on the African-American experience. Franklin recently spoke about the significance of President Obama’s ascent to the White House.
John Hope Franklin: “It’s amazing. It’s remarkable. And it’s a vindication of the willingness as well as the ability of this country to turn a significant corner toward full political equality. I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime. My mother and I used to have a game we played out in public. She would say if anyone asks you what you want to be when you grow up tell them you want to be the first negro president of the United States. Just the words were so far fetched, so incredible, that we used to have fun just saying it. I’m hesitant to talk about the obstacles. They exist. Anyone who’s lived in the United States ten minutes knows they exist. The question is does he have the capacity and the resources to overcome them. And I believe he does.”