New Orleans is marking the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. A series of vigils are being held to remember the more than fifteen hundred victims who died when the storm breached levees and submerged eighty percent of the city. Wreathes are being layed at the site of each successive levee breach. A funeral procession of jazz musicians is to wind through New Orleans’ streets in one of city’s oldest traditions. President Bush is expected to attend a prayer service at the city’s convention center where thousands of people were left stranded without food and medical aid. On Monday, Bush gave a speech in Biloxi, Mississipi. The President emphasized his number of visits to the Gulf Coast.
The New York Times reports President Bush delivered his remarks “against a carefully orchestrated backdrop of neatly reconstructed homes. Just a few feet out of camera range stood gutted houses with wires dangling from interior ceilings. A tattered piece of crime scene tape hung from a tree in the field where Mr. Bush spoke. A toilet seat lay on its side in the grass.”
Meanwhile, the man who became the face of the Bush administration’s highly criticized response to the crisis took the occasion of Katrina’s one-year mark to lash out at his former superiors in the White House. Former FEMA Director Michael Brown spoke to reporters in Washington.
In international news, Mexico’s top electoral court has rejected allegations last month’s presidential election was marred with fraud. A panel of judges ruled a partial recount has not changed results that gave Felipe Calderon a razor-thin victory over Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Lopez Obrador claims the voting was rigged and has demanded a full recount of all polling stations. Speaking in front of thousands of supporters in Mexico City Monday, Lopez Obrador vowed to continue the fight.
The UN’s top humanitarian official says Darfur is on the brink of a new humanitarian disaster threatening massive loss of life.
Jan Egeland went on to call for increased humanitarian aid and a stronger peacekeeping force for Darfur. His comments come as Amnesty International warns the Sudanese military is engaged in a massive build-up of troops in preparation for a new offensive against Darfurian rebel groups.
UN Secretary General Koffi Annan is in Lebanon to tour devastated areas and shore up support for a larger peacekeeping force. Annan was in the town of Naquoura earlier today where he attended a ceremony honoring the five UN workers killed during Israel’s thirty-four day invasion. In Beirut Monday, Annan called on Israel to end its blockade of Lebanon and said Hezbollah should release two captured Israeli soldiers.
An Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip has wounded at least eight Palestinians, including innocent bystanders. The strike comes one day after thousands of Palestinians attended the funerals of four Palestinian civil servants killed in an Israeli bombing earlier that day. More than 180 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since June
Meanwhile, Israel has confirmed the arrest of another elected Palestinian member of Parliament. About twenty army vehicles surrounded the home of Hamas MP Mahmoud Mesleh Sunday near Ramallah. Dozens of Hamas officials and government members have been arrested over the past two months.
In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ordered an inquiry into the handling of the war on Lebanon. But he’s refused to allow the independent investigation demanded by growing critics within the government and military. The announcement came hours after government investigators accused Olmert of making a series of questionable political appointments when he served as Trade and Industry minister.
In Iraq, the death toll from the last two days of violence has now topped one hundred. In Diwaniya, at least twenty-eight people were killed in what the New York Times calls “the most brazen clashes in recent memory” between the Iraqi army and forces loyal to Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr. Earlier today the Iraqi government announced it had reached a truce with Sadr’s militia to end the fighting there. The Independent of London reports more than 10,000 Iraqis have been killed in the last four months.
In other Iraq news, United Press International is reporting at least two new Iraqi military units have refused to go into battle. Just last week, about 100 Iraqi soldiers refused to be deployed alongside US troops in Baghdad in a mission called Operation Together Forward. Another group of Iraqi troops has refused orders to fight alongside the US in Ramadi.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s continued support for the Bush administration is coming under criticism from former President Jimmy Carter. In an interview with the London Daily Telegraph, Carter said he’s disappointed Blair did not stand up to President Bush over the invasion of Iraq. Carter said QUOTE: “My own personal opinion is that the Iraqi people are not better off as a result of the invasion and people in America and Great Britain are not safer… It’s a shameful and pitiful state of affairs and I hold [Tony Blair] to be substantially responsible for being so compliant and subservient.”
In Afghanistan, at least seventeen people were killed and forty-seven injured when a suicide bombing struck a market in Helmand province. A Taliban spokesperson said the group intended to target a former police chief who served under the pro-Russian government two decades ago. Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the bombing a “heinous act.”
One of Africa’s deadliest wars could be at a major turning point as a truce goes into effect today. The Ugandan government and the rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army have agreed to a ceasefire that will see the LRA withdraw its forces over the next three weeks. Over 100,000 people have been killed and nearly two million displaced in Uganda’s twenty-year conflict.
And finally, the oldest prisoner at Guantanamo Bay has been released. Haji Nasrat Khan was sent back to Afghanistan over the weekend. Khan is at least seventy-one years old. He claims he was arrested after complaining to US troops about the arrest of his son. According to his lawyer, US authorities never charged him with a crime nor even told him why he had been imprisoned. Khan had to use a walker to make his way around Guantananamo. At one military hearing, he reportedly told prosecutors: “How could I be an enemy combatant if I was not able to stand up?”