The US-led offensive against Shia fighters in Iraq has reached what could be its deadliest point to date. On Tuesday, residents of the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City said a US assault left at least fifty people dead and 130 injured, many of them women and children. A US airstrike was said to have destroyed at least three homes and buried families beneath the rubble.
Resident: '’A catastrophe, a catastrophe. If you have not heard of catastrophe, this is one. An earthquake, an earthquake carried out by a vengeful being.'’
The US military disputed local accounts, saying it killed dozens of armed fighters. More than 500 people have been killed since the crackdown on forces loyal to Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr began last month.
The United Nations has announced plans to form a top-level task force to address the global food crisis. Aid experts say soaring global prices for food and fuel threaten to push 100 million people worldwide into hunger. The rise has been attributed to several factors, including bad weather, the higher price of oil and the diversion of crops to produce biofuels for cars.
On Tuesday, the civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson visited Haiti, where he called for emergency aid.
Rev. Jesse Jackson: “We want to immediately meet with leaders of our Congress and the Food Market Institute to address the issue of adequate food for Haiti in this coming emergency period. Secondly, in the meantime, Haiti’s farm rice producers need to rebuild their infrastructure, tractors and transportation and seeds. It’s going to take about a year to do that, so in the emergency time, we need rice and wheat and cooking oil now.”
Earlier this month, five Haitians were killed during protests over the rising cost of food.
Meanwhile, at the White House, President Bush said he is concerned about food prices but dismissed biofuels as a major factor.
President Bush: “In terms of the international situation, we are deeply concerned about food prices here at home, and we’re deeply concerned about people who don’t have food abroad. In other words, scarcity is of concern to us. Last year, we were very generous in our food donations, and this year we’ll be generous, as well.”
Earlier this year, the Bush administration announced it would scale back emergency food aid to some of the world’s poorest countries because of soaring prices.
Latin American and European Leaders are currently meeting in Peru for talks on poverty and social inequality. On Tuesday, Peruvian Congressmember Luis Gonzales Posada called on rich nations to shift spending priorities.
Luis Gonzales Posada: “Thousands of children in Latin American die from hunger, malnutrition and the lack of primary medical care. Because of that, we feel that the millions spent on arms, the rise in gas prices that is destabilizing the economies of poor countries, climate change and terrorism are the new ills of the Apocalypse that is shaking Latin American and threatening our institutions.”
In Zimbabwe, opposition leaders are accusing supporters of President Robert Mugabe of a new round of violence. Members of the Movement for Democratic Change say gangs linked to Mugabe’s political party have targeted neighborhoods that voted against Mugabe in elections last month. At the United Nations, Tendai Biti of the Movement for Democratic Change called for international intervention.
Tendai Biti: “There is a systematic violence that is being unleashed by the state against the people of Zimbabwe. There is complete militarization of the society, and the country itself is being run by military, a quasi-civilian junta chaired by Mugabe himself.”
Tensions have risen in Zimbabwe in the month since the election, with final results still to be announced.
In Burma, the oil giant Chevron is being accused of supporting human rights abuses in protection of a gas pipeline. EarthRights International says the Burmese military has committed rape and murder while guarding the pipeline that moves gas from the Yadana gas field. Chevron has a 28 percent stake in the Yadana project.
On the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama has sharply denounced his former pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Wright broke his media silence this week since the controversy over his alleged views on issues including US foreign policy and the 9/11 attacks. On Tuesday, Senator Obama condemned what he called Reverend Wright’s “divisive and destructive” comments.
Sen. Barack Obama: “The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met twenty years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs.”
Obama has previously distanced himself from Rev. Wright’s political beliefs but refused to repudiate his former pastor, whom he likened to a family member.
On the Republican side, Senator John McCain has unveiled the healthcare plan he’ll campaign on this November. At a speech in Tampa, Florida, McCain called for a similar approach to President Bush’s failed healthcare effort. Tax rebates would go to individuals seeking private insurance outside of company health plans. McCain says he’d promote the use of health savings accounts and grants for hospitals that cut costs. And McCain vowed to create a program to help care for vulnerable Americans but offered no details.
A new study released Tuesday from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows nearly one-third of Americans have faced major difficulties paying for medical care or health insurance in the past year. One-quarter of workers say they made job decisions based primarily on healthcare considerations.
And new figures show home foreclosures continue to rise. According to RealtyTrac, more than 155,000 families have lost their homes to foreclosure this year. That’s more than double the number over the same three-month period last year.