Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya is heading into exile today after President-elect Porfirio Lobo is sworn into office. Zelaya plans to travel to the Dominican Republic under an agreement between Lobo and Dominican President Leonel Fernandez. As Zelaya leaves Honduras, the Honduran Supreme Court has dismissed all charges against six military commanders involved in the June 28th coup that removed him from office.
In Haiti, starving Haitians were tear-gassed Tuesday after crowding a relief center with scarce food aid. Desperate earthquake survivors had rushed to grab bags of dried grains after the center ran low on supplies for a second consecutive day. Brazilian forces with the UN mission to Haiti fired tear gas at the crowd. The UN says it will need enough food to feed some two million people for at least fifteen days. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said the aid effort is making incremental progress in meeting humanitarian needs.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes: “People have got some access to water, and we’re increasing the coverage that we are able to give. So that is less critical, although I don’t want to give the impression that it’s at all solved. Another related issue there we need to focus a lot on is sanitation, and of course sanitation and hygiene, because otherwise the risk of disease is there. And by the way, on the disease front, there’s no sign of any epidemics at the moment, although the surveillance of that is continuing very intensively.”
Meanwhile, a Haitian survivor was pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building Tuesday. Covered in dust, the thirty-five-year-old survivor had been trapped for two weeks. Medical workers continue to treat injured Haitians at makeshift clinics. This is US Coast Guard Captain Jim McPherson.
Capt. Jim McPherson: “I can tell you that, talking to some of the doctors, this earthquake has brought some really horrific injuries, these crushing injuries, where it’s a lot of severely cut, broken arms and legs, and many times it’s so severe they have to go out and there’s many, many amputations.”
The Washington Post is reporting the US is deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops that have killed scores of people, including civilians and suspected al-Qaeda leaders, in the past six weeks. The operations were approved by President Obama and involve several dozen troops from the Joint Special Operations Command. Although US advisers are said not to take part in the raids, they’ve reportedly planned missions, developed tactics, shared intelligence, and provided weapons.
US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki has been added to a list of targets for capture or killing. Awlaki is a US-born cleric accused of having ties to the failed Christmas Day airline bombing and the shooting at Fort Hood. In targeting Awlaki, the Obama administration has renewed a Bush-era policy granting US forces authority to kill US citizens abroad if they’re linked to terrorist actions against the US or “US interests.”
In Sri Lanka, state television is reporting incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa has been re-elected. The results were announced just as Sri Lankan forces surrounded the election headquarters of rival Sarath Fonseka’s campaign. A former general, Fonseka led the Sri Lankan military when it crushed Tamil rebels last year.
A former top legal adviser says he warned the British government that invading Iraq would violate international law. Testifying at an ongoing British inquiry into the war, former Foreign Office Senior Legal Adviser Michael Wood said his opinion was ignored.
Michael Wood: “[Then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw] took the view that I was being very dogmatic and that international law was pretty vague and that he wasn’t used to people taking such a firm position. When he had been at the Home Office, things had often — he’d often been advised things were unlawful, and he’d gone ahead anyway and won in the courts.”
President Obama is set to deliver the State of the Union address tonight in Washington. Aides have already disclosed Obama will call for a spending freeze on non-military spending. The address comes one day after Democrats further downplayed hopes of passing healthcare legislation in the coming weeks. After a meeting with Senate Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there is now “no rush” to pass a healthcare bill. Democrats lost nominal control of a filibuster-proof sixty-seat majority last week in Massachusetts’ special election. Meanwhile, two Democratic senators — Evan Bayh of Indiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas — added a new obstacle to quick passage by announcing they would oppose bypassing Republican opposition through use of budget reconciliation.
On the eve of Obama’s address, new figures were released showing nearly one in five US households were unable to purchase enough food at least once last year. The Food Research and Action Center says the figures underscore the need for Obama to exempt food assistance from his proposed freeze on government spending.
A right-wing activist behind last year’s undercover sting against the community group ACORN has been arrested for allegedly trying to wiretap the offices of Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. The FBI says James O’Keefe and three others entered Landrieu’s New Orleans office disguised in construction garb and tried to bug her telephones. Last year O’Keefe disguised himself as a pimp and secretly videotaped ACORN employees appearing to offer him advice. The scandal led to a congressional measure stripping ACORN of federal funding.
And in Washington, DC, thirteen people were arrested Tuesday at a protest outside the White House against US militarism abroad. The activists lay down on the sidewalk after reading the names of Americans, Iraqis and Afghans killed in US wars.