Police decked in riot gear moved into Zuccotti Park in the pre-dawn hours Nov. 15 after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg authorized the eviction of protesters-two months after they began camping out there round-the-clock, launching a national phenomenon protesting economic disparity and unemployment, among other things. Police arrested about 200 who were unwilling to leave the park, and another 175 or more the next day, when thousands took to occupying New York's streets and subways, shutting off entrances to the New York Stock Exchange. Though they promised to continue citywide action, public frustration with blocked streets-making it difficult for those working instead of protesting to get to work-made tough police enforcement more likely. As violence and frustration with the movement grew, Kalle Lasn, co-founder of Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that issued the initial call to "occupy," admitted, "Somehow we lost the high ground, we lost the narrative."
Not a jobs bill
In a move analysts say will cost about 20,000 jobs and billions in lost revenue, the Obama administration announced that it will delay construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700-mile project designed to bring oil from Canada to Gulf Coast ports in Texas.
The U.S. State Department on Nov. 10 delayed for at least a year granting a license to TransCanada Corp., the company funding the project, to allow the EPA and Nebraska environmental authorities time to study an "environmentally sensitive" area of the pipeline crossing. Environmental groups have long protested the project, citing the risk of an oil spill contaminating a large aquifer in Nebraska. But TransCanada already has improved safety standards in that region to alleviate the risk.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper quickly responded to the decision, saying the oil that was to be delivered to the United States via the pipeline would instead go to China and other parts of Asia. Ironically, points out Douglas Gregory of the Cornwall Institute, the diverted oil to China faces lower safety requirements there, "resulting in greater risk of spills in transport and greater CO2 and other emissions from the less efficient and less regulated uses in those countries."
Colombian soldiers killed Alfonso Cano, the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in a gunfight Nov. 4 that followed a bomb attack. FARC is the oldest and largest insurgency in Latin America, and has waged war on successive governments since 1964. Colombians hope Cano's death deals a fatal blow to the communist guerrilla group, which has kidnapped and killed citizens also, including three U.S. missionaries killed in 1999.
For South Sudanese citizens fleeing violence along the country's northern border with Sudan, finding safety is growing more difficult: As UN workers unloaded food at a camp for more than 20,000 refugees in South Sudan on Nov. 10, a military plane swooped overhead, dropping an estimated four bombs. Local officials reported at least 12 deaths.
Aid group Samaritan's Purse reported that its workers in the camp were safe after the attack. The relief agency manages distribution of food and other supplies in the sprawling refugee settlement, and reports severe shortages.
Three days earlier, Sudanese military planes bombed the South Sudanese town of Queffa, killing at least seven. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said he fears Sudan's government is planning an invasion of South Sudan less than five months after the country declared its independence from its northern counterpart and won international recognition. An estimated 230,000 residents have fled violence along the country's disputed north-south border since July.
Three hospitalized, brain-damaged men who were unresponsive and apparently unconscious of their surroundings caught observers by surprise when they repeatedly responded to commands by researchers. Although the men, diagnosed as vegetative, couldn't physically move or speak, a headset of electrodes measured their brain activity after neurologists asked them to imagine wiggling their toes or clenching a fist. One of the patients responded over 100 times, the researchers reported in The Lancet, a British medical journal. Roughly 20,000 Americans are living in a persistent vegetative state-a condition of being awake but presumably unaware. That condition led to a national outcry over the late Terri Schiavo, whose feeding tube was removed in 2005. The results of the new study suggest one-fifth of these patients might actually retain consciousness. A brain scanning system could enable them to communicate with their families.
The Supreme Court on Nov. 14 picked its biggest case of the coming year in agreeing to hear several challenges to the healthcare overhaul this spring, meaning the court will render some kind of decision before the 2012 presidential elections. The court, scheduling a modern record of 5½ hours for the case, will focus on the law's mandate that individuals buy health insurance, potentially deciding the extent of the federal government's power in such areas. The justices also agreed to hear a challenge from states that objected to the law's Medicaid requirements, another potentially watershed issue that could determine the requirements the federal government can impose on state spending.
The high court is anything but predictable on this case, and the circuit courts haven't been politically predictable, either: In both the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and the D.C. Circuit, Republican-appointed judges were the deciding votes upholding the law. The Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals from the one circuit court that deemed the individual mandate unconstitutional, the 11th Circuit (where a Democratic appointee joined the decision). The justices could strike or uphold the entire law, strike or uphold the individual mandate, or they could simply rule that no one can contest the law until taxpayers have paid penalties, which will be due in 2015.
More than 55 percent of Mississippi voters rejected a November ballot initiative that would have legally defined life as beginning at fertilization. Despite this defeat, Personhood USA, the pro-life group behind the ballot measure, vowed to continue pushing for similar personhood initiatives in other states. "We are prepared for a long journey," said the group's Keith Ashley. "Changing a culture-and changing a country-will not happen with one election." The group has mounted efforts to place similar initiatives on 2012 ballots in California, Florida, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Oregon. Colorado voters defeated similar proposals in 2008 and 2010. Ultimately, a successful personhood initiative would prompt a legal challenge that likely would reach the U.S. Supreme Court, forcing justices to reexamine the legality of abortion.
Energy and elections
Solyndra executives may have "pleaded the Fifth" before a House committee this fall, but Energy Secretary Steven Chu could not: Chu tried to answer a string of tough questions Nov. 17 about the $535 million loan to the bankrupt California solar company. The House Energy and Commerce Committee released more documents related to the loan, including emails in which Department of Energy officials asked Solyndra's chief executive to delay announcing layoffs until the day after the 2010 midterm elections. The executive had planned to announce layoffs on Oct. 28. DOE officials "did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3rd-oddly they didn't give a reason for that date," wrote a Solyndra investment adviser on Oct. 30, 2010. "I would not have been in favor of that decision," Chu told the committee. "I don't think it's a proper way to do business."
The fallout from the Solyndra loan is coming from various quarters: Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer's newly released book, Throw Them All Out, is one. The book-which gained attention in November for its accusation that members of Congress engaged in insider trading-also alleges that 80 percent of alternative energy loans through the DOE went to companies either run or owned by financial backers of President Obama or the Democratic Party.
A potential political scandal in Kansas grew wider on Nov. 9 as prosecutors revealed that former state Attorney General Steve Six in 2009 destroyed copies of records important to the prosecution of abortion provider Planned Parenthood. Six is now under investigation in Kansas to determine whether his actions violated state law and the retention policy of the attorney general's office.
The documents were copies of abortion reports that Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe had sought as evidence for 23 felony counts of falsifying client records against Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. The Kansas Department of Health and the Environment had shredded the original records in 2005 during what it called a "routine" destruction of documents. Both instances of shredding happened while Democrat Kathleen Sebelius, a Planned Parenthood ally, was governor of Kansas, and Six's destruction of his copies came during the April 2009 Senate hearings on Sebelius' nomination to be U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, a post she now holds.
With neither the originals nor the copies, the "legal hurdles are insurmountable" to move forward with the case, Howe told Johnson County District Court Judge Stephen Tatum on Nov. 9. Tatum dismissed the 23 felony counts and 26 related misdemeanor counts against Planned Parenthood. The abortion provider faces 58 additional misdemeanor counts of failure to determine the viability of unborn children and unlawful late-term abortions. A Feb. 22, 2012, hearing in Johnson County will involve those charges.
After the Nov. 9 hearing, current Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked Shawnee County Sheriff Dick Barta to investigate Six's actions, a request Barta granted. (A representative from the firm where Six now practices law said he was not available for comment.) Mary Kay Culp of Kansans for Life has called on the Kansas Legislature to review the case in its entirety: "Guilty people destroy evidence," she said. "Really guilty people destroy evidence twice."
The campaign of Herman Cain came out fighting on Nov. 8 against accusations of sexual harassment dating back to when he led the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. "The charges and the accusations I absolutely reject," Cain said at a news conference. "They simply didn't happen." Six days later, Cain's wife, Gloria, who has not had a high-profile role in the campaign, came to her husband's defense on FOX's On the Record: "I know the person that he is, and I know that the person that they were talking about, I don't know who that person is."
But whether it was fallout from the accusations, a series of gaffes during interviews, or a combination of both, Cain began to see his stock fall in the polls. He dropped to under 20 percent in the RealClearPolitics averages of national polls for Nov. 6 to Nov. 15, putting him third behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
The California company behind the first government-approved human trials using embryonic stem cells announced Nov. 14 that it is halting its tests. Geron Corp. cited costs as the reason behind the decision to shut down its embryonic stem-cell projects. The company will now devote all of its resources to cancer research. Many analysts, however, doubted that financial limits were to blame and suggested instead that embryonic stem-cell research was not getting the results in medical breakthroughs its advocates had expected. Dr. Daniel Salomon, associate professor in the department of molecular and experimental medicine at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, sounded a skeptical note to ABCNews.com: "This company would not walk away from this trial in the absence of an unexpected complication or safety concern, if there was any evidence that it was working."