A cholera outbreak is worsening in Haiti just as an approaching storm threatens to displace hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors. New figures show that 105 people have died from cholera since Saturday, bringing the death toll so far to 442. The United Nations is warning the outbreak could spread drastically when Tropical Storm Tomas makes landfall on Friday. The United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, Nigel Fisher, said aid agencies are overstretched.
Nigel Fisher: "I think that the hurricane is so huge that all of the country is hit severely. I think if two, three, four, five departments are hit, we’ll be able to cope to some extent. More than that, we will really be stretched, and we’re going to have to make difficult choices about where to put scarce assets."
Some 1.5 million people are said to be at risk if rainfall from the storm causes massive flooding. The Haitian government has ordered the voluntary evacuation of camps for earthquake survivors in low-lying areas, but many have nowhere to go. A resident of a camp in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince said aid groups have offered little help.
Carlo D’Charles: "The organizations we have in this country, they don’t come here to help us, you know? They once helped us, you know, two months after the earthquake. But after that, you know, you can’t talk to anybody you want to, any park, you know? We never receive help after two months after the earthquake, you know? That’s really bad. We’re living in bad condition, you know? That’s what I know. And last time we had a big storm pass, you know, many people just died. In this park, we have two people die, you know? Why, now we hear about this storm will come, we not prepare ahead? "
Republican leaders are vowing to repeal President Obama’s signature healthcare law and extend Bush administration tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in the wake of their gains in the midterm elections. One day after winning control of the House and reducing the Democrats’ Senate majority, House Republican Leader John Boehner said the healthcare bill threatens to bankrupt the United States.
Rep. John Boehner: "I believe that the healthcare bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best healthcare system in the world, and bankrupt our country. That means that we have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill and replace it with commonsense reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance."
President Obama meanwhile addressed the election results with a news conference at the White House. Obama called the outcome "humbling" and said frustration with the economy had fueled the Democrats’ losses.
President Obama: "Over the last two years, we’ve made progress. But clearly, too many Americans haven’t felt that progress yet, and they told us that yesterday. And as president, I take responsibility for that. What yesterday also told us is that no one party will be able to dictate where we go from here, that we must find common ground in order to set — in order to make progress on some uncommonly difficult challenges."
In an apparent nod to Republicans’ electoral gains, President Obama made no mention of his call to end Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and suggested he may abandon a key energy bill stalled in the Senate.
Democrats received a boost Wednesday when incumbent Michael Bennet was declared winner over tea party Republican Ken Buck in Colorado’s Senate race. Tallying is still underway in Washington State and Alaska’s Senate races, and results could be weeks away. Democrats will have a fifty-two- or fifty-three-seat Senate majority depending on whether Washington State incumbent Patty Murray is reelected.
Opponents of LGBT rights are celebrating the unprecedented ouster of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who helped legalize same-sex marriage in the state last year. The three were part of the unanimous decision of Iowa’s seven-member court to overturn a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The judges were running for new terms unopposed, but a majority voted to remove them from the bench. Several right-wing groups, including the National Organization for Marriage and the American Family Association, poured money into a campaign for the judges’ removal. In a statement, the judges criticized what they called "an unprecedented attack by out-of-state special interest groups."
The Federal Reserve has unveiled a new stimulus measure to inject some $600 billion into the nation’s banking system. On Wednesday, the Fed said it would continue to purchase US Treasury debt to boost demand for government bonds and keep interest rates low.
In Pakistan, at least twelve people have been killed in a series of US drone attacks. Pakistani officials say the strikes targeted suspected militants in North Waziristan.
The US has unveiled plans for a $500 million expansion of its embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul. US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry says the project will be completed in June 2014.
Israel has suspended "strategic dialogue" with Britain over a British law allowing the arrest of visiting foreign officials accused of human rights violations. A number of Israeli military and civilian leaders have canceled trips to Britain in recent years over fears of arrest for war crimes. On a visit to Israel, British Foreign Affairs Secretary William Hague pledged that the law will be repealed.
William Hague: "It’s important that Israeli politicians are able to visit the United Kingdom. We are changing the law. It doesn’t just affect Israel; it can affect other countries, as well, so that any arrest in the United Kingdom as a universal jurisdiction would have to be one that had a reasonable prospect of a prosecution, so that it is not used for trivial or political reasons."
The Mine Safety and Health Administration says it’s filed its first legal action to compel the coal giant Massey Energy to address safety violations at a Kentucky mine. On Wednesday, MSHA said Massey "is engaged in a pattern of violation" of health and safety standards at its Mine No. 1 in Kentucky’s Pike County. The move comes as regulators continue to probe the April 5th deaths of twenty-nine miners at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.
A top CIA lawyer is asserting the kidnapping practice known as extraordinary rendition is legal under US law, even if it leads to torture. Writing in the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Daniel Pines, an assistant general counsel at the CIA, states, "There are virtually no legal restrictions on these types of operations… Indeed, U.S. law does not even preclude [the] rendering [of] individuals to a third country in instances where the third country may subject the rendered individual to torture." Pines adds that he is expressing his individual view, not an official US government stance.
And San Francisco is poised to become the first city to ban the high-calorie children’s "Happy Meal" served at the McDonald’s fast-food chain. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted to bar restaurants from giving toys with meals containing excessive fat and sugar. Under the rule, restaurants would also have to serve fruits and vegetables alongside any meals with toys. The measure awaits a full vote next week. It would go into effect as early as December 2011.
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