The death toll from Saturday’s massive earthquake in South Asia has topped 42,000. 10,000 people are believed to have died in the capital of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. The United Nations estimates 2.5 million people have been left homeless. About 1,000 hospitals have beecompletely destroyed. The rescue effort has been hampered by the inability for the government to reach remote regions of the area and worsening weather. Earlier today Pakistani authorities had to suspend all helicopter flights to quake-hit areas because of torrential rainstorms. Hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris are braving the cold weather with no shelter and little food. On Monday, rescue workers tried desperately to remove survivors trapped in collapsed buildings. This is Graham Payne, director of the group Rapid-UK. Earlier today Doctors Without Borders warned that there was a growing risk of an epidemic of water-borne disease in Pakistani Kashmir. The Pakistani government has made an urgent appeal for field hospitals, as well as antibiotics, anti-typhoid medicines, fracture treatment kits, and surgical equipment, among other supplies. This is Ed Tsui, director of the United Nations Office of Co-Ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Meanwhile rescue efforts continue half way around the globe in Guatemala where mudslides have buried towns in up to 20 feet of mud.. More than 650 are confirmed dead, but 1,400 are still listed as missing and believed to have been buried alive. The government is considering declaring certain areas to be mass graves One firefighter said “If it had been an earthquake, you could hope to find survivors, but here in the mud, I don’t think so. It could take a month for it to dry up.” Villagers in one of the worst hit towns, Panabaj, refused to allow in the army because of memories of a 1990 Army massacre. We’ll go to Guatemala for a report in a few minutes.
In Iraq, two car bombings today have killed dozens of Iraqis. Reuters reports that at least 25 people were killed by a suicide car bombing in Baghdad. In the northwest town of Tal Afar near the Syrian border, a car bomb exploded in a crowded market, killing at least 30 people. This comes after at least 13 Iraqis and one U.S. soldier were killed in Baghdad on Monday.
Also in Iraq, arrest warrants have been issued for several officials from the US-backed interim government of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. According to the Associated Press, five ministers — including Allawi’s defense minister Hazem Shalaan — are among 28 ex-officials accused of misappropriating one billion dollars in military funds. Most of the officials have already fled the country.
Meanwhile, a new CBS News poll shows that 59 percent of Americans want US troops to leave Iraq as soon as possible, even if the country is not completely stable, an increase from 52 percent last month. Iraqis are four days away from voting in a nation-wide referendum on a new constitution drafted by the transitional government.
The Bush administration has reportedly considered launching military strikes on Iraq’s neighbor Syria and finding someone to replace Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad. Newsweek reports that at a high-level meeting held on October 1st, U.S. officials debated striking training camps inside the Syrian border used by insurgents in Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declined yesterday to verify the magazine’s account that she had successfully opposed the strikes. Meanwhile, the Financial Times is reporting that Bush’s security adviser Stephen Hadley is coordinating an inter-agency search for someone to replace al-Hassad as president of Syria. The U.S. has accused Syria of harboring Iraqi insurgents and aiding Palestinian and Lebanese militias. One administration official told Newsweek last month that military planning around the country and Iran is “busier than ever.” Last week, Fox News television host Bill O’Reilly called for al-Assad’s assassination, saying “we should take his life if he doesn’t help us out.”
In Germany–a political stalemate has ended with a power sharing deal that will elevate the conservative Angela Merkel to become the country’s new chancellor. As part of the deal, the Social Democrats–former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s party–will get a majority of cabinet positions. Merkel is Germany’s first female chancellor and the first chancellor born in East Germany.
This news from the United Nations: U.S. ambassador John Bolton has blocked a U.N. envoy from addressing the Security Council on human rights violations in the Darfur region of Sudan. Bolton said that “We should talk about next steps, not about how to arrange the furniture in the Security Council.” The envoy, Juan Mendez, told reporters that the human rights situation is “much more dangerous and worrisome” than he had expected, with “massive attacks of an indiscriminate nature against civilians” in camps in Darfur. Mendez added that the Sudanese government is refusing to cooperate with an International Criminal Court investigation into war crimes in the country. Bolton is one of the Bush administration’s fiercest opponents of the Hague-based court. Meanwhile, two African Union troops and two civilian contractors were killed in the region Saturday, the first members of the AU mission to lose their lives.
In China, One of the country’s leading democracy activists is recovering from a brutal assault. Lu Banglie was on his way to Taishi, a key village in the growing regional unrest that the Guardian newspaper calls “the greatest threat to the rule of the Communist party since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.” Lu’s car was stopped by a group of five police, five soldiers and as many as 50 people in plain clothes. The mob dragged Lu out of the car and kicked him unconscious. Lu was taken to his hometown of Zhijiang, where he is recovering from his injuries.
In New Orleans, three city police officers have pleaded not guilty to charges of battery after they were videotaped beating an African-American man in the French Quarter on Saturday. Police hit the 64-year-old retired elementary school teacher at least four times in the head and then dragged him to the ground An officer also kneed him in the back as blood streamed down his arm. Police also assaulted a producer from the Associated Press after he refused to stop filming the incident. On Monday the victim of the beating — Robert Davis — spoke out for the first time. Davis denied police reports that he was drunk. Davis said he had returned to New Orleans to check on property his family owns in the storm-ravaged city, and was out looking to buy cigarettes when he was beaten and arrested. Davis has several stitches in his face and a possible skull fracture.
Security on New York city subways is being scaled back after an intelligence threat of a major attack on the city’s underground transportation system has been discredited. Law enforcement officials told the New York Times that an investigation has yielded no evidence that a plot was in motion or being actively contemplated. From the outset, federal officials have cast doubt on the intelligence that allegedly revealed the threat. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have vigorously defended their decision to go public. Bloomberg has so far refused to release any specific details of the threat. He announced it just hours before he was scheduled to take part in a debate on Thursday with challengers running against him in the upcoming city elections.
And the results are in from a recent BBC poll to find the individual most people would like to lead a fantasy world government. Nelson Mandela came in first followed by Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Noam Chomsky and Alan Greenspan. President Bush came in 43rd–below both Cuban president Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was the highest-ranking woman at number 13.