Senate Fails to Pass Tax Cuts, Keeping Federal Unemployment Benefits on Hold
An agreement between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to hold four tax cut votes fell through last night due to the objections of one GOP senator. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will revert to attempt to push through a vote on the House’s plan to extend Bush tax cuts for income under $250,000 and another to extend the cuts for those whose income is under $1,000,000. The agreement on any compromise to the job cuts is fragile, requiring unanimous consent and, therefore, leaving the floor open to the disapproval “of any restive Republican,” reported Talking Points Memo. However, the extension of federal unemployment funding, and in fact any legislation, is being blocked by Republicans until an agreement is reached on the Bush-era tax cuts, reported The New York Times.
As Two Million Expected to Lose Unemployment Assistance, Jobless Numbers Continue to Rise
As an extension of funding to unemployment assistance freezes in Congress, the newest jobless figures show a continuing rise in both new and continuing claims. Last week 436,000 people applied for unemployment claims, a sign many experts say shows that job creation is happening too slowly. In particular, notes The New York Times, the number of Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months is at its highest level ever recorded.
WikiLeaks Cables Show Scale of Corruption in Afghanistan; Struggle to Keep Leaked Documents Online
The newest round of tidbits from the WikiLeaks cables highlights corruption at every level of government and society in Afghanistan, reported CNN. Cables from the US ambassador in Kabul question Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s “inability to grasp the most rudimentary principles of state building,” noting that the agricultural minister is the only minister without corruption charges against him.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks fights to stay online as corporations and governments attempt to cut of it access to the Internet. The American company that directed traffic to the web site of the organization dedicated to releasing secret information via the web stopped late Thursday after the threat of cyber attacks. The site has now moved to a Swiss domain name, reported PressDemocrat.com.
The US government has also released a warning to its staff members and students working across America with regards to looking at or commenting on the sensitive government data. State Department staffers have been barred from reading the leaked cables because the documents are classified, reported Democracy Now!, while students have been told that posting or commenting on links to the documents on social media sites “could call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.”
Rangel Censured Over Violations of Ethics Rules
Rep. Charles B. Rangel has been censured by the House of Representatives over this violation of ethics rules – Speaker Nancy Pelosi read the resolution pegging him as a discredit to the House on Thursday, as Rangel stood silently in the well of the House with his hands clasped, reported The New York Times. The punishment was issued after the House voted 333 to 79 for the censure, the most severe punishment short of expulsion.
Trustee for Madoff Victims Sues JP Morgan for $6.4 Billion
A trustee charged with recovering the billions of dollars lost by victims of financier Bernard Madoff is suing JP Morgan for its role in Madoff’s fraud. The lawsuit, filed Thursday, alleges the bank failed to act on well-documented suspicions about Madoff, instead continuing to collect fees and profits. The expected $5.5 billion in fees and profits will go to victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, reported The Guardian UK.
NASA Researchers Find New Arsenic-Based Life Form, Giving Hope for Extraterrestrial Life
Scientists in California have coaxed a microbe to build itself with arsenic instead of phosphorus, substituting one of the six essential ingredients of life. The bacterium, which incorporated a form of arsenic into its cellular machinery and even its DNA, could have huge implication for the origin and evolution of life on Earth and outside of it, reported Wired.