Evacuees from New Orleans are being urged to stay away from the city until at least Wednesday, as the city continues to inspect roads and bridges for damage caused by Hurricane Gustav. The hurricane came ashore Monday seventy miles southwest of New Orleans. By the time it made landfall, the storm had been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane with winds as high as 110 miles per hour. In Louisiana, the storm killed at least seven people, but it was less destructive than feared. More than a million people are without power in the region. No levees were reported broken in New Orleans, though parts of the city were flooded.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal: “We still don’t know the extent of the damage. We still don’t know the extent of property damage or the impact on Louisiana’s families. I do think the state, local, federal partnership has worked well together in terms of evacuations, in terms of being prepared, but it is way too early to determine the full extent of damage in terms of the storm.”
Nearly two million residents of New Orleans and Louisiana were evacuated ahead of the hurricane. Meanwhile, forecasters say another storm, Hurricane Hanna, could hit the southeast United States by midweek. On Monday, the hurricane lashed the Bahamas with fierce winds and rain.
As the Republican National Convention opened in St. Paul Monday, thousands of antiwar protesters took to the streets. Local police arrested nearly 300 demonstrators, as well as several journalists covering the protests. I was arrested along with two producers from Democracy Now! — Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Also arrested were Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke and two filmmakers from Pepperspray Productions — Lambert Rochfort and Joseph La Sac. Officers in riot gear fired rubber bullets, teargas, pepper spray and concussion grenades at the protesters. Gena Berglund of the National Lawyers Guild said the police action was “completely out of proportion.” While most protesters took part in a permitted antiwar rally, some activists staged breakaway marches and were seen breaking windows at the First National Bank, Macy’s and other buildings. One of the broken windows came in the building that houses Saint Paul Neighborhood Network, where Democracy Now! is broadcasting this week. Some activists also set up makeshift barricades in the streets and tried to block delegate buses from reaching the convention. By late afternoon, 150 Minnesota National Guard soldiers were deployed in St. Paul to help police control the city. At the antiwar march, demonstrators called for all US troops to withdraw from Iraq.
Inside the Xcel Energy Center, the Republicans held a scaled-back opening day of its national convention due to Hurricane Gustav. John McCain’s wife, Cindy, and First Lady Laura Bush both urged private donors to give money for hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf Coast. At the convention, the Republican delegates adopted a new party platform that largely avoided mention of the Iraq war. The new platform states, “the waging of war — and the achieving of peace — should never be micromanaged in a party platform…In dealing with present conflicts or future crises, our next president must preserve all options.”
Meanwhile, a series of new revelations about McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, has raised questions about how well the McCain campaign vetted the Alaskan governor. The Washington Post revealed that Palin once ran a 527 group for Republican Senator Ted Stevens designed to raise unlimited funds from corporate donors. Stevens was recently indicted on corruption charges. Palin served as a director of Stevens’ 527 from 2003 and 2005. It was also announced that a private lawyer had recently been hired to represent Palin in a state investigation into her firing of the state’s public safety commissioner. And Palin disclosed on Monday that her unmarried seventeen-year-old daughter was five months pregnant. McCain aides said the announcement about the pregnancy of Palin’s daughter, Bristol, was aimed at rebutting internet rumors that Palin’s own youngest son, born in April, was actually the daughter’s. Both McCain and Palin have opposed funding sexual education programs in schools. In 2006, McCain voted against a Senate Democratic proposal to send $100 million to communities for teen-pregnancy prevention programs that would have included sex education about contraceptives.
Thailand’s political crisis continues to unfold. Earlier today, at least one person was killed and dozens injured in the latest protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Samak has been accused of corruption and enjoying too close ties with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted nearly two years ago. It was the most serious confrontation since Thai demonstrators began occupying Samak’s office in an effort to force his departure. The Thai government has declared a state of emergency in the capital Bangkok. Under the order, all public gatherings have been banned and media reports severely restricted. The declaration came hours after the Thai election commission ruled Samak’s People’s Power Party committed election fraud last year and said it should be disbanded. Protesters vowed to keep up their demonstrations despite the state of emergency.
Panya Wiungsutorn, anti-government protester: “We are all ready to resist the dictatorship of Samak. We don’t care what the result will be, but we have to fight on.”
US-backed foreign and Afghan forces killed five children in Afghanistan Monday in two separate incidents. NATO said it had accidentally killed three children in an artillery strike in eastern Afghanistan. In a separate incident, foreign and Afghan forces killed a man and his two children during a raid near Kabul.
Human Rights Watch now says both Russia and Georgia dropped cluster bomb during the recent conflict. Bonnie Docherty of Human Rights Watch said, “These indiscriminate attacks violate international humanitarian law.” Meanwhile, Russia is accusing the US of secretly shipping weapons to Georgia aboard warships that were sent to deliver humanitarian aid.