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UN: Lack of International Support for Pakistan Is "Quite Extraordinary"

A senior United Nations official said Sunday the lack of international support for Pakistan has been "quite extraordinary." More than 20 million people have been affected by the massive flooding. UNICEF’s Louis-Georges Arsenault said, "Right now, our level of needs in terms of funding is huge compared to what we’ve been receiving, even though this is the largest, by far, humanitarian crisis we’ve seen in decades." The flooding began in July but continues to wreak havoc across Pakistan. Over the weekend, at least 200,000 residents of Sindh province had to be evacuated as the flooding spread in southern Pakistan.

John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General, Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations: "So we’re running to play catch-up the whole time with a crisis which is enormous in scale, in numbers affected, in geographical scope. People are talking about one-fifth of the country under water."

US Drone Strike Killed Six in Pakistan

In other news from Pakistan, at least six militants reportedly died Saturday in a US drone strike in North Waziristan near the Afghan border. It was second US drone attack since massive floods hit Pakistan in late July.

Israeli and Palestinian Authority Agree to Direct Talks

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed to begin direct talks for the first time since late 2008. The talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are set to begin on September 2. Abbas agreed to the talks despite Israel’s steadfast refusal to freeze West Bank settlement expansion and stop demolishing Palestinian homes. According to the New York Times, one of the few publicly known gestures that Israel made was "assurances...to develop a part of the Dead Sea coast as a resort area for Palestinians, provided Israeli investors were included in the project."

Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator: "The Quartet invited both parties to join the relaunch of direct talks. And we accept this. It should be noted here that we hope that the Israeli government, when presented the choice between settlements and peace, that they will choose peace. If, for instance, on the 26th of September the Israeli government will decide to introduce settlement tenders, I don’t think we can continue the negotiations."

Sweden Drops Rape Charges Against WikiLeaks Founder

The founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks has said accusations that he raped and molested two women are part of a dirty tricks campaign to discredit the website. On Friday, Swedish authorities issued an arrest warrant for Julian Assange on rape and molestation charges. Then on Saturday the charges were dropped, but authorities say they are still investigating the molestation claim. Assange spoke with Al Jazeera over the weekend.

Julian Assange: "Any such claims are completely untrue, and they should be aware that there are very significant forces that try to give rise to the various claims about this organization."

WikiLeaks volunteer Kristinn Hrafnsson said the group had been warned about being the target of dirty tricks.

Kristinn Hrafnsson: "Well, this can only be a speculative thing. I mean, we have been warned, ever since the leaking of the Afghan war diary, that there would be an attempt by Pentagon to discredit WikiLeaks and its founder in some manner. Even a slander campaign was mentioned. So it is tempting to see the events in Stockholm in light of those warnings."

Rallies Held For and Against NYC Islamic Cultural Center

Here in New York, competing rallies were held Sunday for and against the planned construction of an Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan, two blocks from Ground Zero. The New York Daily News reported one group of opponents brought a life-sized mock missile with a dummy terrorist draped over the top holding a sign that read, "Obama, your middle-name is Hussein, we understand. Bloomberg, what’s your excuse." New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been a vocal backer of the project. Daisy Khan, one of the leading organizers behind the Islamic community center, appeared on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

Daisy Khan: "We are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasized anti-Semitism. That’s what we feel right now. It’s not even Islamophobia. It’s beyond Islamophobia: it’s hate of Muslims."

At Sunday’s rally against the Islamic cultural center, protesters included John Cartier.

John Cartier: "I don’t believe that every Muslim is a terrorist, but I do know that every terrorist that was on the planes that killed my brother was a Muslim. And I just don’t feel that it’s morally right and ethically right to put a mosque here where my brother was killed."

Benjamin Silverman took part in the competing rally to show support for the cultural center.

Benjamin Silverman: "We want to stand for the right of individuals to practice their religion where they choose, and we want to stand against what is rapidly becoming a climate of fear, hatred and Islamophobia."

Soldiers Punished for Refusing to Attend Christian Concert

The Army has launched an investigation into claims that dozens of soldiers were punished and locked in their barracks in Newport News, Virginia, in May for not attending a Christian rock concert. Many of the soldiers, including several Muslims, refused to attend the concert based on their religious beliefs. The soldiers who didn’t attend were ordered to clean up the barracks and were told to not to use their cell phones or personal computers.

Gen. Odierno: US Troops May Stay in Iraq After 2011

The Army’s top commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, admitted Sunday US troops may stay in Iraq beyond the 2011 withdrawal date. Odierno made the comment on CNN’s State of the Union.

Gen. Odierno: "If the government of Iraq requests some technical assistance in fielding, systems that allow them to continue to protect themselves from external threats, we could be here. I mean, you know, we have agreements like that in Saudi Arabia, we have agreements like that in Egypt, that continues to help them to develop their infrastructure and security architecture. If that’s what we’re talking about, potentially we could be there [in Iraq] beyond 2011."

US Soldier Killed in Southern Iraq

In other news from Iraq, a US solider was killed in a rocket attack in the southern province of Basra on Sunday. This marks the first American fatality since Wednesday, when the Obama administration announced the last combat brigade had left Iraq.

Haitian Authorities Release List of Qualified Presidential Candidates

In Haiti, election authorities have released the names of nineteen candidates who have qualified to run in the upcoming presidential election. Candidates include former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, who was held as a political prisoner for two years following the 2004 coup that ousted Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Fifteen candidates were rejected, including the hip-hop singer Wyclef Jean, who said he plans to fight the ruling. Jean did not meet the requirement that presidential candidates have five consecutive years of residency in Haiti prior to the election.

UN Report Exonerates Shell for Oil Pollution in Niger Delta

The Guardian newspaper reports a three-year investigation by the United Nations is expected to exonerate almost entirely the oil company Shell for forty years of oil pollution in the Niger Delta. According to the newspaper, the report claims that only ten percent of oil pollution in Ogoniland has been caused by equipment failures and company negligence and that the rest has come from local people illegally stealing oil and sabotaging company pipelines. Last year, Amnesty calculated that the equivalent of at least nine million barrels of oil has been spilled in the Delta over the past half-century, nearly twice as much as the five million barrels unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico by the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

33 Chilean Miners Still Alive

In Chile, thirty-three miners are still alive after being trapped underground for two weeks, but authorities say it could take months to reach the men. Over the weekend, the miners attached a note to a drill saying they were still alive inside the gold and copper mine. Rescuers plan to send narrow plastic tubes down the narrow borehole with food, hydration gels and communications equipment.

GOP Candidate Proposes Housing Welfare Recipients in Jails

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino has proposed transforming some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they would work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training, and take lessons in "personal hygiene." In an interview with the Associated Press, Paladino said, "Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we’ll teach people how to earn their check. We’ll teach them personal hygiene...the personal things they don’t get when they come from dysfunctional homes." Paladino, who has become a tea party favorite, says the program would be voluntary.

California Jail to Test Ray Gun on Prisoners

Authorities in Castaic, California, have announced plans to use prisoners as test subjects for a high-tech ray gun that fires an invisible heat beam capable of causing unbearable pain. The 600-pound, seven-foot-tall "Assault Intervention System" was built by Raytheon for the military, but it is now being introduced for domestic purposes. Raytheon is currently working on creating a hand-held version of the ray gun.

Recall of Eggs Expanded by 170 Million Eggs

Federal authorities have expanded the recall of eggs tied to an outbreak of salmonella in the Midwest. On Friday 170 million eggs from Hillandale Farms of Iowa were recalled. That’s on top of the 380 million eggs recalled from Wright County Egg, also in Iowa. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the salmonella outbreak has likely sickened 1,300 people. No deaths have been reported. Both of the factory farms affected by the recall are linked to a businessman named Austin DeCoster, who has a record of health, safety and employment violations. In 1997 his company, DeCoster Egg Farms, agreed to pay a $2 million fine after then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich said conditions at his farm were "as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop." In 2002 DeCoster’s company paid $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Mexican women who reported they were subjected to sexual harassment, including rape, abuse and retaliation by supervisors at his plants. Earlier this summer, another company linked to DeCoster paid out $125,000 to the state of Maine over animal cruelty allegations.

Blackwater Agrees to Pay $42 Million in Fines

The private security company Blackwater has reportedly agreed to pay $42 million in fines to the State Department to settle hundreds of violations of export control regulations. The New York Times reports the violations included illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan, making unauthorized proposals to train troops in south Sudan, and providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers.

CodePink Founder Arrested at Home of Blackwater’s Erik Prince

CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin and other activists were detained on Sunday at the home of Blackwater founder Erik Prince in McLean, Virginia. Medea Benjamin attempted to drop a letter off to Prince at his house.

Medea Benjamin: "Dear Erik Prince, on behalf of US taxpayers, we say shame on you. Through your company Blackwater, or Xe, as you now like to call it, you made — I mean stole — hundreds of millions of dollars. Your employees also killed innocent civilians in Iraq, and you should be held responsible. Don’t run away to the Emirates to escape prosecution. Stay here in the USA and face the consequences of your actions, like a good Christian."

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