The jailed US hiker Sarah Shourd has been freed after fourteen months in an Iranian prison. The thirty-two-year-old Shourd left Iran on Tuesday after posting $500,000 bail. Shortly before boarding a plane to be reunited with her family in Oman, Shourd said she will campaign for the release of her fiancé Shane Bauer and the other jailed hiker, Joshua Fattal.
Sarah Shourd: "I know how much effort has gone into this, and I’m extremely grateful. I feel, myself, I have a huge debt to repay the world for what it’s done for me, and my first priority is to help my fiancé Shane Bauer and my friend Josh Fattal to gain their freedom, because they don’t deserve to be in prison anymore. And even when that’s finished, I feel like my work has only just begun, repaying the world for what it’s done for me. I’m extremely grateful, and I realize that there are many people in prison that don’t have the kind of support that I’ve had. And everyone deserves the same — every innocent person in prison deserves the same support that I’ve received."
Shourd was released on health grounds after being kept in solitary confinement for the past year. Her family has said she is suffering from medical problems, including precancerous cervical cells and a breast lump. In Washington, State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley called on Iran to free Bauer and Fattal.
P.J. Crowley: "The release of Sarah Shourd demonstrates that Iranian authorities have the ability to resolve these cases, if they choose. Iranian authorities made the decision to release Sarah Shourd. We hope that they will make the same decision regarding Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer as soon as possible."
The final primaries before the November elections were held Tuesday in seven states and the District of Columbia. In Delaware, tea party-backed candidate Christine O’Donnell scored an upset by winning the Republican Senate nomination.
Christine O’Donnell: "We worked hard to be here. I cannot thank you enough for that. Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Delaware have spoken. No more politics as usual. We’re in this to win, and we’re in this to win big. And win big, we did. Don’t ever underestimate the power of 'we the people.'"
O’Donnell’s victory could boost Democrats’ chances of maintaining a Senate majority. O’Donnell’s opponent, nine-term Congress member Mike Castle, was seen as a favorite over Democratic nominee Chris Coons. Castle is known as a moderate Republican for his support of abortion rights and gun control, while O’Donnell ran with the backing of the tea party and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Republican leaders had opposed O’Donnell and now say they won’t help fund her campaign. Another closely watched race was in New Hampshire, where the state’s former Attorney General, Kelly Ayotte, holds a slight lead over tea party candidate Ovide Lamontagne with ballots still being counted. In New York, longtime Democratic Congress member Charles Rangel won renomination over five challengers who had sought to unseat him amidst a wave of ethics charges. Rangel addressed supporters in Harlem.
Rep. Charles Rangel: "I don’t know how this cannot — how this will be misinterpreted, but I want you to know, no matter what they say, I go back to Washington stronger than I’ve ever been, and it has nothing to do with my personality. It has everything to do with you."
In New York’s gubernatorial primaries, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo secured the Democratic nomination after running unopposed. He’ll square off against tea party-backed Republican candidate Carl Paladino. And in Wisconsin, millionaire entrepreneur Ron Johnson won the Republican nomination to square off against Democratic Senator Russ Feingold.
At least twelve people have been killed in the latest US drone bombings in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. It was the third US strike to hit the area in under twenty-four hours. The attacks make September the most intense period for US strikes inside Pakistan since they began in 2004. According to the Associated Press, more than fifty people have been killed in at least ten strikes this month.
As the milestone was reached, a trial began in Nevada for fourteen antiwar activists who protested the drone attacks at the Creech Air Force Base last year. The base is one of several homes for the American military’s aerial drone program in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The activists were charged with criminal trespassing for entering the base with a letter describing their opposition to the drone program. In a blow to prosecutors, the judge in the case agreed Tuesday to delay a verdict for four months.
In Iraq, the US military says it’s taken part in its most extensive fighting since the nominal end of combat operations at the start of the month. The military says US forces battled militants from Saturday to Monday in areas north of Baghdad after being called in by the Iraqi army. Five Iraqi soldiers were killed and two US troops were wounded in the clashes.
The UN says the number of people suffering from chronic hunger has declined for the first time in fifteen years. But unveiling the figures in Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization director Jacques Diouf said hunger levels remain unacceptably high.
Jacques Diouf: "FAO’s latest estimates indicate that 925 million people will be hungry and malnourished in 2010. While this figure marks an improvement compared to last year’s spike in world hunger of one billion persons, there is no cause for complacency. Close to the one billion hungry is and remains unacceptable."
The FAO has called for an emergency meeting later this month to discuss global food security. Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the UN’s World Food Programme, said the global food crisis of 2008 is still affecting poor areas of the world.
Josette Sheeran: "Just because the numbers are being reversed does not mean that the effects of the shock of the food crisis, that there are many not still in play, and this was part of what the research discovered. In fact, the resiliency of people is weaker than before. Many have lost their livestock. Many had to sell off their assets. And the nutritional status, particularly of children, is still very precarious."
The United Nations General Assembly, meanwhile, has opened its sixty-fifth session at UN headquarters in New York. President Obama and other world leaders are expected to attend a summit on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, beginning next week. In an interview with Reuters, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rejected criticism that the MDG is short on specifics for reducing poverty.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "You need to be realistic, and I believe that this outcome document is the maximum and best which we could expect at this time. Of course, you can expect much more, but we need to always base our policies and priorities in considering the realities on the ground. Now, I’m very much encouraged by this strong element of this implementation plan of actions."
In other UN news, Ban Ki-moon has announced the appointment of former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet to head the new UN agency intended to promote women’s equality. The agency will be known simply as "UN Women."
And jury selection has begun in the case of two former Blackwater operatives accused of murdering two Afghan civilians last year. Justin Cannon and Christopher Drotleff were arrested in January following their indictment by a federal grand jury. Opening statements are expected to begin today.