U.N. Prepares to Airlift Food to Drought-Stricken Horn of Africa

The U.N. World Food Programme is set to start airlifting food today to drought-stricken Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, where more than 12 million people are at risk of starvation. The decision was made at an emergency U.N. meeting in Rome on Monday. Josette Sheeran is the executive director of the World Food Programme.

Josette Sheeran, U.N. World Food Programme: "We have a triple threat to about 2.2 million people, which is the combination of an epic drought that gets deeper and deeper for an already weakened population, combined with soaring food prices. There is not enough food in the area. That’s what a drought is about, is that you don’t have a normal harvests, and then combined with conflict and inaccessibility. And this is creating a vulnerability that is extremely urgent and requires global, regional and local action, and extraordinary efforts by all of us to find creative, innovative ways and commitment to reach those who have not been able to be reached so far."

During a trip to Kenya, European Union Humanitarian Aid Chief Kristalina Georgieva said it was time for the international community to realize the scale of the disaster.

Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response: "What we are facing is a world where disasters are more frequent and more intense, and with climate change and population growth, this is going to be even more painful in the future. We have to do everything we can to adjust to this changing world and to help communities, especially poor communities, to adjust. And that means that we have to change the mindset of development, so we think of development from a sustainability point of view, and that our investments help communities to be stronger in the face of the future drought that, of course, will come."

Over 100,000 Gather in Oslo to Mourn Norway Massacre

More than 100,000 mourners filled the streets of the Norwegian capital of Oslo Monday night to pay tribute to the 76 people killed in Friday’s twin attacks. Police say the right-wing extremist who carried out the attacks could be charged with crimes against humanity. Anders Behring Breivik appeared in a closed courtroom on Monday. Breivik has stated he belonged to an anti-Islam network that has two cells in Norway and more abroad. But Norwegian police and researchers have cast doubt on whether such an organization exists. Earlier today, Breivik’s lawyer suggested his client might plead insanity at his trial. On Monday, police revised the death count from the twin attacks to 76, down from 93.

President Obama, House Speaker Boehner Address Nation amid National Debt Deadlock

Washington remains in a stalemate over the national debt. On Monday night, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner both addressed the nation on prime-time television. Obama reiterated his call for what he described as a balanced approach to deficit reduction involving spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthy.

President Barack Obama: “The only reason this balanced approach isn’t on its way to becoming law right now is because a significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a different approach: a cuts-only approach, an approach that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all. And because nothing is asked of those at the top of the income scale, such an approach would close the deficit only with more severe cuts to programs we all care about — cuts that place a greater burden on working families.”

Shortly after President Obama addressed the nation, House Speaker John Boehner responded in a televised address.

House Speaker John Boehner: “The President is adamant that we cannot make fundamental changes to our entitlement programs. As the father of two daughters, I know these programs won’t be there for them and their kids unless significant action is taken now. And the sad truth is that the President wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today. This is just not going to happen.”

Census: U.S. Racial Wealth Gap Widest in Quarter Century

A new analysis of U.S. Census data shows the wealth gaps between whites and people of color have grown to their widest levels in a quarter-century. White Americans now have on average 20 times the net worth of African Americans and 18 times that of Latinos. The Pew Research Center has found the median wealth of white U.S. households in 2009 was about $113,000 compared with just over $6,300 for Hispanics and just under $5,700 for blacks. The white-black wealth gap is the widest since the census began tracking such data in 1984. Roderick Harrison, former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau, said, "I am afraid that this pushes us back to what the Kerner Commission characterized as 'two societies, separate and unequal.'" Latinos have been hit particularly hard by the recession. The median wealth of Latino households fell by 66 percent between 2005 and 2009. During that same period the median household wealth of whites dipped 16 percent.

U.S. Military Investigation Shows U.S. Tax Dollars Funneled to Afghan Taliban

An unreleased military investigation shows U.S. taxpayer dollars are being funneled to the Taliban in Afghanistan under a $2.6 billion transportation contract. The year-long investigation implicates four of the United States’ eight prime contractors in Afghanistan in criminal enterprises or support for the enemy. The military has not revealed which four companies were involved, nor has it disclosed the total amount of taxpayer dollars that have disappeared. The investigation confirms separate inquiries carried out by Congress, federal agencies and The Nation magazine.

U.S. Loses $34 Billion on Iraq, Afghanistan War Service Contracts

A new study being finalized by Congress has found the United States has wasted some $34 billion on service contracts with the private sector in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report also reveals that more than 200,000 contractors have been on the U.S. payroll at times in Iraq and Afghanistan, outstripping the number of U.S. troops currently on the ground in those countries.

Over 100 Firearms Provided by Failed U.S. Operation Surface at Mexican Crime Scenes

A new congressional report has determined at least 122 firearms from a botched U.S. undercover operation have been found at crime scenes in Mexico or intercepted en route to drug cartels there. Mexican authorities found AK-47 assault rifles, powerful rifles and other weapons in late 2009 that were later linked to the U.S. sting operation to trace weapons going across the border to Mexico. Under the once-secret program, Operation Fast and Furious, U.S. agents encouraged U.S. gun shops to sell thousands of guns to middlemen for Mexican drug cartels in an attempt to gain access to senior-level figures within Mexico’s criminal organizations.

Saudi Arabia Blocks Amnesty Website Following Anti-Terror Law Criticism

Amnesty International has accused Saudi Arabia of blocking its website after the rights group criticized a new Saudi anti-terrorism law. On Friday, Amnesty called on Saudi King Abdullah to make changes to the law that grants the Saudi government the right to imprison people for up to 10 years who question the integrity of the king or crown prince.

Sentencing to Commence for Mother Facing More Time in Prison than Drunk Driver Who Killed Her Son

A Georgia mother is facing sentencing today in a controversial case that has gained national attention over the last week. Raquel Nelson was convicted of homicide by vehicle and jaywalking after her four-year-old son was run over and killed by a drunk driver. Her son died as the family attempted to cross a busy street separating a bus stop and their apartment complex. There were no crosswalks nearby. Nelson will be sentenced today and could serve up to three years in prison, a longer term than given to the drunk driver, who served a six-month jail term and is now on probation. An all-white jury convicted Nelson, who is African American. On Monday, Nelson appeared on the "Today" show and was questioned whether she had received a fair trial.

Raquel Nelson: “I don’t think they could relate to what I was going through, and I think that there was a lot of evidence that wasn’t, I can’t say, allowed to be presented, but it just all—it went very fast. And many of the jurors—actually, all of the jurors, they’ve all stated they’ve never ridden public transportation, and they’ve never really been in my shoes, so I think there was maybe not a jury of peers.”

African-American Student Files Suit Against High School Following Valedictorian Scandal

A recent high school graduate in Arkansas has filed a lawsuit against her former school after the school officials refused to allow her to be her class’s sole valedictorian, even though she had the highest grade-point average. The student, Kymberly Wimberly, who is African American, alleges in her suit that the school’s decision was part of a pattern of racial discrimination. Courthouse News reports that once school officials realized Wimberly had the highest GPA of the class of 2011, school administrators named a white student with a lower GPA as her fellow valedictorian. Wimberly’s mother, who works at the school, says she overheard an official calling her valedictorian status a "big mess."

Award-Winning Undocumented Immigrant Journalist Loses License

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who made national news last month by revealing he is an undocumented immigrant has lost his driver’s license. Washington state investigators with the Department of Licensing canceled Jose Antonio Vargas’s license after it was revealed he was not living at the address he provided to the state. In June, Vargas wrote a lengthy article for the New York Times Magazine, admitting he has been hiding his true immigration status for nearly 20 years, causing him great personal turmoil. Originally from the Philippines, Vargas’s mother put him on a plane to the United States when he was 12 years old in the hopes of giving him a better life. Vargas says he was inspired to come forward by DREAM Act activists who publicly declared their undocumented status in an effort to pass legislation allowing undocumented children a path to citizenship.

Environmentalist Tim DeChristopher to be Sentenced for Disrupting Auction; Faces 10 Years in Prison

The environmental activist Tim DeChristopher will be sentenced today by a judge in Salt Lake City. He was convicted earlier this year of two felony counts for disrupting the auction of more than 100,000 acres of federal land for oil and gas drilling. A student at the time, DeChristopher posed as a bidder and won drilling lease rights 22,000 acres of land in an attempt to save the property from oil and gas extraction. He could face up to 10 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

Justice Department Declines to Re-Investigate Malcolm X Assassination

The U.S. Department of Justice has declined a request to re-investigate the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X. In a statement, the department said, "The matter does not implicate federal interests sufficient to necessitate the use of scarce federal investigative resources into a matter for which there can be no federal criminal prosecution." Calls for a federal investigation have increased since a new biography on Malcolm X by the late scholar Manning Marable alleged that the actual killer is a man still living in Newark, New Jersey.

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