A top United Nations official has said the international response to an appeal to help combat Haiti’s growing cholera epidemic has been “completely inadequate.” Since the appeal was made over a week ago, the United Nations has received only $5 million, far less than the $164 million requested. Nigel Fisher, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator in the country, said critical supplies and skills are urgently needed to deal with the epidemic, which has killed more than 1,200 people and infected at least 20,000. Fisher said the lackluster response is especially troubling, given that cholera is a curable disease if quickly treated. Sophie Schnidal of Oxfam International said many more people might already be sick.
Sophie Schnidal: “It is quite difficult to track cholera, a very fast-spreading disease. At the same time, Haiti’s rural areas are terribly undeserved by healthcare—clinics, hospitals, etc. And we can assume that many, many people are suffering from cholera and not getting to hospital. The figures today are around 20,000 cases, I believe, but most of us agree that it’s going to be far higher, and I think the government also knows that it’s higher than that.”
Mireille Tribie, a Haitian doctor with UNICEF, said more aid is urgently needed in Haiti.
Mireille Tribie: “It’s a decision between life and death. The microbe works rapidly. The dehydration is very rapid. Within hours, the person can loose all of its water. And that’s why — and they collapse. The persons dies. So it is very rapid, so that’s why now the message is do not waste time.”
NATO’s top civilian representative in Afghanistan is coming under criticism after saying the Afghan capital, Kabul, is probably a safer city for children than London or New York. Mark Sedwill made the comment in an interview with the BBC.
Mark Sedwill: “Here in Kabul, and in the other big cities [in Afghanistan], actually there are very few of those bombs. The children are probably safer here than they would be in London or New York or Glasgow or many other cities. Most children can go about their lives in safety. It’s a very family-orientated society. So it’s a little bit like a city of villages.”
Justin Forsyth, the head of Save the Children, said Sedwill’s comments were “wrong or misleading.” Forsyth said, “Afghanistan is the worst place on earth to be born a child—one in four children living there will die before they reach the age of five… Last year was the deadliest for children since late 2001, with more than 1,000 killed because of the conflict.”
Over the weekend, NATO nations signed an agreement to start turning over Afghanistan’s security to its military next year and to give local forces full control by 2014. Despite the 2014 deadline, President Obama acknowledged U.S. troops will likely remain in Afghanistan for many more years.
President Obama: “My goal is to make sure that by 2014 we have transitioned, Afghans are in the lead, and it is a goal to make sure that we are not still engaged in combat operations of the sort that we’re involved in now. Certainly our footprint will have been significantly reduced. But beyond that, it’s hard to anticipate exactly what is going to be necessary to keep the American people safe as of 2014. I’ll make that determination when I get there.”
In other news from Afghanistan, a new public opinion poll of young Afghan men in Kandahar and Helmand provinces has been released by the International Council on Security and Development. The poll founded that 92 percent of young men in those regions knew nothing about the September 11 attacks in the United States; 40 percent think NATO forces are there “to destroy Islam” or Afghanistan itself; 61 percent believe that Afghan national security forces will not be able to cope without international support; and 56 percent suspect that Afghan policemen are helping the Taliban.
In news from Pakistan, the Washington Post reports the Obama administration is pressuring the Pakistani government to approve a request to expand the areas where CIA drones can operate inside the country. The request comes at a time when the United States is rapidly expanding its use of drones in Pakistan. More drone strikes have been carried out since September than in the first five years of the drone program.
Residents in Ireland are bracing for another round of sweeping budget cuts after the Irish government announced it was seeking a massive bailout for the country’s banks from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Bloomberg reports Ireland will request about $130 billion, about 60 percent of the size of its economy. The Irish bailout dwarfs the size of the Greek bailout in May. Earlier today, the Green Party threatened to withdraw from the Irish coalition government unless Prime Minister Brian Cowen agrees to hold an early national election in January. On Saturday, one of Ireland’s biggest trade unions warned that the nation was on the brink of civil unrest if government officials imposed further cuts to the public sector. Residents of Dublin have already taken to the streets to oppose the bank bailout.
Robert Connelly: “This is bad for all Europeans, I would say all ordinary European people, because if they can do this here in Europe and Ireland, they can move to other countries. And the IMF will systematically move to other countries in Europe, impose stringent cuts, impose privatization, impose things that ordinary people do not want across these countries, and people will have no democratic mandate to change that.”
In other economic news, billionaire investor Warren Buffett has told ABC News that the rich should be paying a lot more in taxes and that the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy should be left to expire at the end of December. During the interview, Buffett also dismissed Republican arguments that letting tax cuts expire for the wealthy would hurt economic growth.
Warren Buffett: “I think that people at the high end, people like myself, should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we’ve ever had it.”
Christiane Amanpour: “They say you have to keep those tax cuts, even on the very wealthy, because that is what energizes business and capitalism.”
Warren Buffett: “The rich are always going to say that, you know, 'Just give us more money, and we'll go out and spend more, and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you.’ But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”
The Senate has unanimously approved two multi-billion-dollar settlements to resolve longstanding lawsuits over the mismanagement of Native American land trusts dating back to the 19th century and discrimination complaints filed by African American farmers against the U.S Department of Agriculture. Some $3.4 billion will be paid out to more than 300,000 Native Americans to settle claims over unpaid royalties on seized lands. Black farmers will receive just more than $1.1 billion.
The chief of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, responded Sunday to the mounting criticism of the agency’s use of full-body scanners and physical pat-downs for passengers who object to the scans. In an interview on CNN, Pistole defended the agencies policies.
Candy Crowley: “What’s over the line? What’s over the line? All those things are fine. You saw a woman whose breasts were being felt. You saw a man whose — you know, had another man’s hand in his crotch. What’s over the line?”
John Pistole: “I think that’s for the — the public to help inform that discussion. Clearly, if we are to detect terrorists, who have again proven innovative and creative in their design and implementation of bombs that are going to blow up airplanes and kill people, then we have to do something that prevents that.”
The top U.S. envoy to North Korea said today revelations that Pyongyang had made rapid advances in enriching uranium was a provocation, but he insisted that it was not a crisis. On Saturday,. a U.S. scientist specializing in nuclear energy revealed that North Korean officials had given him a tour of a previously undisclosed uranium enrichment plant. The highly sophisticated plant had more than a thousand centrifuges. The scientist, Siegfried Hecker of Stanford University, said the facilities appear to be designed primarily for civilian nuclear power, but he added that the plant could be converted to produce highly enriched uranium bomb fuel. U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth spoke in Seoul after meeting South Korean officials.
Stephen Bosworth: “This is obviously a disappointing announcement. It is also another in a series of provocative moves by the DPRK. That being said, this is not a crisis. We are not surprised by this.”
The World Wildlife Fund is warning wild tigers could become extinct in 12 years if the animals are not protected. Only about 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, down from 100,000 a century ago. A global summit on saving the tiger opened Sunday in St. Petersburg, Russia.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick: “The tiger is what is referred to as an umbrella species. And what that means is if you save the tiger, you’re also going to have to save its prey populations and you’re going to have to preserve the biological diversity of its habitat. So by saving the tiger, you save a lot more than the tiger.”
In Georgia, thousands of people protested Saturday outside the gates of Fort Benning to call for the closure of the military training center formerly known as the School of the Americas. Twenty-six people were arrested, including a news team from the international TV network Russia Today. The school, now known as WHISC, or the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is used to train Latin American soldiers in combat, counterinsurgency and counter-narcotics.
And the mayor of London has sent a message to former President George W. Bush to stay away from Britain and other European countries during his book tour because he could face arrest as a war criminal for authorizing the use of torture. Mayor Boris Johnson wrote about the possible arrest of Bush in the Daily Telegraph. He wrote, “Of course, we are told this scenario is unlikely. Dubya is the former leader of a friendly power, with whom this country is determined to have good relations. But that is what torture-authorising Augusto Pinochet thought. And unlike Pinochet, Mr. Bush is making no bones about what he has done.” The former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998.