The United Nations has carried out its first emergency airlift of aid to Somalia since a famine was declared there last week. The aid consists of a nutritional paste expected to treat 3,500 malnourished children for one month. World Food Programme spokesperson David Orr said the shipments will continue over the coming days.
David Orr: "We’ve got 14 tons on that aircraft, and we’ll be bringing in a total of a hundred tons within the next few days, and I believe 80 tons of that will be going to Mogadishu, where it will be distributed to supplementary feeding centers to malnourished children there.’’
Some 2.2 million Somalis residing in areas controlled by the militant group al-Shabab remain cut off from international aid.
House Republicans are holding a vote today on their debt ceiling measure despite Senate opposition and White House threats of a veto. Democrats and Republicans remain at an impasse just five days before the August 2 deadline. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also said the Treasury Department may soon have to decide who will get government checks and who will not, if the Treasury loses borrowing authority. Carney also rejected calls for a temporary extension for the two sides to reach an agreement.
Jay Carney: "An extension only adds to the great uncertainty that is already having an impact on markets and the economy. It only casts further doubt around the globe as well as around the country on whether or not Washington can get its act together. The greatest country in the world, the strongest economy in the world, the rock solid, gold standard haven for investors around the world for a hundred year, can we function?"
In addition to warnings for the United States, fears have been raised about the effect on the global economy should Congress fail to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. Speaking in New York, the new head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, warned of negative repercussions worldwide.
Christine Lagarde: "Frankly, to have a default or to have a significant downgrading of the United States signature would be a very, very, very serious event, not for the United States alone, but for the global economy at large, because the consequences would be far-reaching. It would not stop at the frontiers of the United States. It would go beyond."
High volumes of internet traffic have slowed and shut down the websites of a number of U.S. congressional members this week as constituents voice concern over the debt ceiling impasse. The increased activity follows a call from President Obama Monday night on Americans to "make your voice heard" on the debt-lock in Washington.
The mayor of the Afghan city of Kandahar was killed by a suicide bomber Wednesday while leaving a city hall meeting. Ghulam Haidar Hamidi — who possessed duel Afghan and American citizenship — had expressed concerns about his safety in the preceding months. Hamidi is the latest Afghan official with close U.S. ties to lose his life in a string of attacks. President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother was killed earlier this month. Despite the setbacks, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the killings in fact signify a weakened al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Ryan Crocker: "I would judge that the Taliban is now damaged to the point where they can no longer conduct large-scale operations. They have had to kind of regroup and figure out what they can do, and in some cases, that has been assassination. Again, we saw a very similar pattern in Iraq. Clearly these are horrific attacks, but they can also be interpreted as a sign of significant organizational weakness on the part of the adversary."
A U.S. soldier has been found guilty of premeditated murder in the killing of an Afghan civilian last year. On Wednesday, Connecticut National Guard Sergeant Derrick Miller was convicted of fatally shooting Atta Mohammad in the head after taking Mohammad from his home and beating him. Miller was court-martialed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. His sentence is expected to be announced today.
Britain has expelled Libyan diplomats loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi and pledged to recognize Libyan rebels in their place. The move follows a decision by Britain, the United States, and 30 others to treat the rebels as Libya’s legitimate government. In Tripoli, Libyan Deputy Minister Khalid Kaim said the Gaddafi regime would take the matter before the World Court.
Khalid Kaim: "I know that the British government will do whatever is possible to prevent us from take legal actions there in Britain, but we will try. We will exhaust all means to do that. I’m sure that they cannot prevent us from going to the International Court of Justice to stop this illegal and irresponsible move by the British government."
At least 12 people have been killed in a double bombing targeting the Iraqi city of Tikrit. Twenty-eight others were wounded. The Iraqi government, meanwhile, has signaled new support for a prolonged U.S. occupation. Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, says U.S. forces need to stay beyond the scheduled 2011 withdrawal date in order to train the Iraqi military. Fewer than 200 active-duty troops are supposed to remain in Iraq after December 31 if the two countries do not reach an agreement. However, the United States has offered to keep as many as 10,000 troops if the Iraqi government makes a request.
Egyptian state media reports ousted president Hosni Mubarak is in an exceedingly weakened state and is refusing to accept food in his hospital detention. The 83-year-old is set to face charges of ordering the killing of protesters and corruption next week. Mubarak’s health has become the subject of much speculation in Egypt, with many arguing he is using health claims to delay his legal proceedings.
Prison solidarity activists have confirmed a number of California prisoners have ended their more than three-week hunger strike protesting alleged cruel and unusual conditions. The prisoners had demanded a number of changes in the prison system already standard practice in other parts of the country, including an end to group punishment, denial of food as punishment, and ending long-term solitary confinement. The strike began in the Pelican Bay maximum security facility near the Oregon border and drew the support of thousands of prisoners throughout California. A group of hunger-strike leaders say they have agreed to end the strike after California prison officials promised immediate steps with more to follow in the coming weeks.
A Georgia mother who faced a longer prison sentence than the drunk driver who killed her son has avoided time behind bars, following a public outcry. An all-white jury had convicted Raquel Nelson, an African American, of homicide by vehicle and of jaywalking. Nelson’s son, A.J., was killed as the family attempted to cross a busy street between a bus stop and their apartment complex. There were no crosswalks nearby. After facing three years in prison, Nelson has been ordered to serve one year’s probation and carry out 40 hours of community service. The driver who struck and killed A.J. — a partially blind man who admitted to drinking and using painkillers the day of the accident — served six months and is currently on probation. An online petition demanding leniency for Nelson prior to her sentencing gathered more than 125,000 supporters.
The New York City hotel maid who accused former International Monetary Fund chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of attempting to rape her met with prosecutors on Wednesday, just days after she began publicly speaking out about the case. Nafissatou Diallo, an immigrant from the African nation of Guinea, has sought to convince prosecutors to press ahead with the case after doubts emerged about her credibility. Diallo’s attorney, Kenneth Thompson, said a widely publicized audiotape of Diallo had been erroneously reported.
Kenneth Thompson: "For almost a month, we have been told that the victim was captured on a recording saying, about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, quote, 'He has a lot of money, and I know what to do.' For the last several hours, we have been upstairs listening to that tape, and that tape shows that the victim never said the words 'He has a lot of money, and I know what to do.' Her sole—her primary focus was on what happened to her, how she was coping with the fact that she had almost been raped."
Democratic Rep. David Wu of Oregon has announced his resignation over allegations of a sexual encounter with the teenage daughter of a longtime friend and campaign donor. Wu maintains that the encounter was consensual. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has called for a formal ethics probe. Wu says he will officially step down after the debt impasse is resolved.