The World Food Program says the crisis in Haiti after the earthquake may be the most complex operation the agency has ever faced. The United Nations estimates that two million Haitians need immediate food aid. So far distribution of food aid has been limited. As of Saturday, the World Food Program had reached about 200,000 in Port-au-Prince and 113,000 in other areas — less than a sixth of the people that need food aid. Haitians living in tent cities in Port-au-Prince say they have nothing to eat.
Haitian Resident: “I’ve been at Champ de Mars since January 12, and I don’t know what’s going on or what’s going to happen to us. I don’t know where to go. We are sleeping in the streets. And I’m telling all who want to help that we are waiting for your help. We have nothing to eat, nothing to drink.”
At a meeting in Montreal, international leaders agreed Monday on a ten-year plan to rebuild Haiti. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper chaired the talks.
Stephen Harper: “It is not an exaggeration to say that ten years of hard work, at least, awaits the world in Haiti. Two, we need to focus on effectiveness. The Haitian people deserve it, and our own taxpayers expect it. Three, we must hold ourselves and each other accountable for the commitments that we make. I’d like to see emerge from this meeting the beginnings of a plan that will guide reconstruction in Haiti in a way that is effective, coordinated and strategic for the decade to come.”
Speaking in Montreal, Haiti’s Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said Haiti’s government could lead efforts to rebuild the country.
Jean-Max Bellerive: “I can simply tell you that the people of Haiti are in need of more, more and more, in order to complete the sole task of reconstruction.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended the Montreal talks but declined to say how much the United States would provide in the long term. While foreign ministers met in Montreal, the situation on the ground in Haiti remains dire. Haiti’s Minister of Health Alex Larsen says the medical community is struggling to deal with the high number of amputations needed to be performed on survivors of the quake.
Alex Larsen: “And what is particularly sad is the children. There are many children whose members were totally crushed, putrefied, and that we had to amputate. There is this five-year-old who had to be amputated under the knee. When you look at this child, you tell yourself, he won’t have the same youth that I have had, that you have had.”
At his State of the Union address on Wednesday, President Obama is expected to call for a three-year freeze on non-security federal discretionary spending. The Pentagon will be exempted from the freeze, as will the Department of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. The freeze would cover many domestic areas, including education and the environment. Officials say the proposal will save $15 billion off next year’s budget.
On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers are crafting legislation to limit the role corporations can play in elections following last week’s Supreme Court ruling that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to elect and defeat candidates. Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said one piece of legislation being considered will prohibit foreign-owned corporations from funneling money into American political campaigns. The court’s ruling made no distinction between domestic and foreign corporations. Van Hollen said, “We have been very clear that we think it is totally inappropriate for foreign contributions to be influencing the outcome of American elections.”
ABC News reports White House lawyers are debating whether the US can legally assassinate a US citizen in Yemen. Anwar al-Awlaki is a US-born cleric who has been accused of having ties to the failed Christmas Day airline bombing and the shooting at Fort Hood. ABC reports US officials fear the possibility of criminal prosecution without approval in advance from the White House for a targeted strike against Awlaki. Awlaki has not been charged with any crimes under US law.
In Iraq nearly sixty people have died in Baghdad over the past twenty-four hours in a pair of bombings. Earlier today a suicide bomber killed at least eighteen in a strike against the Interior Ministry offices. The majority of those killed were Iraqi police officers. On Monday, forty-one people died in a series of blasts at three Baghdad hotels which are popular with Western journalists and foreign security contractors. The Hamra Hotel housed the Washington Post's bureau in Baghdad. Three of the paper's Iraqi employees were wounded in the blast. Major General Stephen Lanza, a spokesperson for US forces in Baghdad, blamed the bombings on al-Qaeda.
Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza: “We believe that these will continue to some degree in the future, but they certainly won’t stop the overall security that has been achieved in this country and then moving us towards the national elections on 7 March.”
In other news from Iraq, another top official from Saddam Hussein’s government has been executed. Ali Hassan al-Majid was hanged Monday after receiving four death sentences. The man nicknamed “Chemical Ali” was accused of overseeing the gassing of 5,000 people in the Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988.
In news from Europe, Greek farmers are staging a series of protests to express anger over high production costs and low prices. Farmers have been staging roadblocks around the country, obstructing border crossings and highways with their tractors.
Maroudas Rizos, a representative of the Larissa farmers collective: “We are waging a battle to survive. Farmers are dying out. Thousands of farmers from homes are out on the streets. This battle is to keep our land, our villages alive, and we want to be able to produce and be able to offer to the people affordable quality products.”
The Israeli news agency Ynet is reporting the Israeli government is preparing an all-out attack on Richard Goldstone’s United Nations report that accused Israel of committing war crimes during its assault on Gaza. Israeli Cabinet Minister Yuli Edelstein said, “The Goldstone Report…and similar reports, are simply a type of anti-Semitism.” Ynet reports Israel will launch the attack on the Goldstone Report tomorrow, the sixty-fifth anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz. Last year the United Nations called on Israel to conduct an independent credible investigation into the war crimes allegations, but Israel has refused to establish a commission of inquiry.
The military contractor Halliburton has petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling in an attempt to block a former Halliburton employee’s lawsuit alleging she was raped by her co-workers in Iraq. Jamie Leigh Jones sued Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR over claims she was drugged and gang-raped by co-workers in Baghdad. Jones also accused the company of keeping her in a shipping container without food or water for at least twenty-four hours after the alleged crime took place. Halliburton says the contract signed by Jones and other workers requires claims to be settled through arbitration, not trial.
And in Albany, New York, competing rallies were held on Monday over plans to allow for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale in upstate New York. Supporters of the drilling say it will create jobs, but critics say the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” could contaminate the water supplies of New York City and other areas of the state. State Senator Tom Duane spoke out against the gas drilling.
State Senator Tom Duane: “I have opposed all fracking in New York state. It is way too dangerous. I have also introduced with Assembly member Brennan legislation that would ban it near anyone’s drinking water.”
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