Haiti is confronting what’s being called it’s biggest medical emergency since the January earthquake with a suspected outbreak of cholera. Nearly 140 people have died and over 1,500 have fallen ill in the central region of Lower Artibonite. Haitian presidential candidate Charles Henry Baker appealed for aid after visiting the area.
Charles Henry Baker: "The situation is terrible. Inside the hospital, they’re overcrowded. They’re not overcrowded, it’s beyond overcrowded. They need some field hospitals put up as quickly as possible to be able to take in the amount of people they have. They need doctors. They need nurses. OK? People are all over, on the floor, the way it was after the 12th of January. We need help. We need quick help."
New doubts are being raised over reports the Obama administration is backing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. US officials have claimed they’ve allowed senior Taliban leaders to enter Afghanistan for meetings with Afghan leaders, with some even flying aboard a NATO aircraft. But McClatchy Newspapers reports several US officials and experts see the claims as part of an "information strategy" to sow division within the Taliban and that no significant talks are underway. One US official said, "This is a psychological operation, plain and simple."
A humanitarian aid convoy has arrived in the Gaza Strip after departing from Britain over a month ago. On Thursday, over 300 activists with the group Viva Palestina crossed into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The group includes several dozen people who took part in the Gaza-bound aid flotilla attacked by Israeli forces on May 31st.
A wrongful death case brought by the family of the slain American peace activist Rachel Corrie, meanwhile, has resumed in Israel. Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza seven years ago as she stood in front of a Palestinian home to help prevent its demolition. An internal Israeli army investigation exonerated the soldiers involved. On Thursday, the driver of the bulldozer testified in court for the first time but spoke from behind a partition to protect his identity. Appearing on CNN International, Rachel Corrie’s mother, Cindy Corrie, criticized the secretive proceedings.
Cindy Corrie: "This is the second witness that we’ve seen testify behind a screen. And we felt that it was disassociating in a way. It distanced this person from us. I hoped to see a whole human being today and to hear from a whole human being. Instead, we got the words — sometimes pretty conflicted, pretty confused words — from this person behind the screen."
In his testimony, the driver said he couldn’t remember several basic details of Rachel Corrie’s killing, including the time of day when it occurred.
New details have emerged on the right-wing groups spending tens of millions of dollars to influence the upcoming midterm elections. The website ThinkProgress reports the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch held a secretive meeting with influential right-wing figures in June to plot their election strategy and lobbying activities for this year. The 210 attendees included executives from the oil industry, coal companies, health insurers, banks, right-wing pundits including Glenn Beck, and officials from the US Chamber of Commerce. The gathering was the latest in a series of bi-annual gatherings organized by the Koch brothers, who have quietly helped bankroll the Tea Party movement and dozens of other right-wing causes.
The New York Times meanwhile reports that nearly half of the $140 million raised by the US Chamber of Commerce in 2008 came from just forty-five donors. Many of the donations coincided with lobbying campaigns that potentially benefited the donors. The Chamber claims to have over 300,000 members.
The New York Times also reports today that the donor behind the Swift Boat Veterans attack ads against John Kerry in 2004 is pouring millions of dollars into this year’s election. The donor, Texas home developer Bob Perry, has given over $13 million to Republicans and right-wing groups for this election cycle. The Center for American Progress Action Fund meanwhile reports that thirteen right-wing groups have spent over $68.5 million on advertising this year to undermine clean energy legislation.
With the elections less than two weeks away, President Obama continued a multi-state campaign swing on Thursday to boost support for vulnerable Democratic candidates. Appearing in Seattle, Obama urged Washington State voters to back Democratic Senator Patty Murray.
President Obama: "The journey we began together was not about putting a president in the White House; it was about building a movement for change that endures. It’s about realizing that in America anything is possible, if we’re willing to work for it, if we’re willing to fight for it. That’s what Patty Murray believes. That’s what I believe. ANd if that’s what you believe, I need you to knock on doors and make phone calls and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors. And if you do that, I promise you, not only will we win this election, but we will restore the dream for the next generation."
Obama will hold a rally for California Senator Barbara Boxer in San Francisco today before heading to Nevada to support House Majority Leader Harry Reid.
A US soldier accused of being the ringleader of a secret "kill team" in Afghanistan has refused to testify in military court. Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs is said to have directed the rogue platoon that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies. On Thursday, Gibbs invoked his right to avoid self-incrimination after being called to testify against fellow soldier David Bram.
The Pentagon has disclosed it once hosted a Muslim cleric now targeted for assassination at a luncheon in the months following the 9/11 attacks. Military officials say Anwar al-Awlaki was invited as part of an outreach effort toward Muslim Americans. The Obama administration has authorized the CIA to capture or kill Awlaki over alleged ties to the failed Christmas Day airline bombing and the shooting at Fort Hood. He is believed to be in hiding in Yemen.
An Iranian American man has returned to the United States after two-and-a-half years in an Iranian prison. Reza Taghavi was jailed after giving $200 to an alleged member of a militant Iranian rebel group. After arriving in Los Angeles, Taghavi said he had passed the money on as a favor to an acquaintance and didn’t know the recipient.
Reza Taghavi: "I am glad I am back to the United States. This is really my home now. Somebody by the name 'Afar' gave me $200 to pass it on to someone in Iran, who was a part of a terrorist group called 'Tondar.' And that was it, and I’ve become arrested for that. But anyway, with support of my son, my daughter and my family, now I am back. I want to be at home. I am glad I am here. I hope everything is going to be all right from now on."
And Democratic Congress member Raúl Grijalva of Arizona has temporarily closed his Tucson office after receiving a package covered in swastikas and containing a suspicious white powder. It’s the third security threat to Grijalva’s office this year. The FBI says it’s investigating.