The United Nations says it’s still less than halfway toward meeting its $459 million appeal for emergency aid in Pakistan. International donors have sent just 40 percent of the needed funds, and aid is reaching only a fraction of those affected. Nearly three weeks since massive flooding began, some 20 million people have been displaced, yet just 700,000 have received aid. UNICEF Regional Director Daniel Toole said the need for aid is dire.
Daniel Toole: “We need rapid, huge support. There are millions of people displaced. What I’ve seen in the last twenty-four hours is people who have lost everything. If you look in this camp, if you look inside a tent, there is almost nothing inside the tent, because people have lost everything they’ve owned.”
Haiti’s interim reconstruction commission has approved over $1.6 billion in new projects for the country’s rebuilding following the January 12th earthquake. The commission’s co-chair, former president and the current UN special envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton, said the projects’ approval should encourage international donors to fulfill their unmet pledges.
Bill Clinton: “Almost every one of you in the press has done at least one story about how a lot of money was committed at the donors’ conference, but not much money has been given. And you have reported that many of the donors say, 'Well, they weren't specific enough about what they were going to do with the money.’ We have cured that problem today. Nobody can use that as an excuse.”
In other Haiti news, the French government has rejected a petition from a group of leading activists and academics calling for the repayment of an “independence debt” imposed nearly 200 years ago after Haiti successfully won independence. Haiti was forced to pay France around 90 million gold francs up until World War II, which after interest and inflation is valued today at up to $40 billion. On Tuesday, French officials dismissed calls to repay Haiti, but refused to comment on whether the debt was legitimate.
Colombia’s Constitutional Court has suspended a deal giving the US military access to at least seven Colombian bases. On Tuesday, the court ruled the deal is unconstitutional and ordered the Colombian government to submit it to lawmakers for approval. In addition to opening the bases to the US military, Colombia also agreed to allowing up to 800 US troops and 600 military contractors and granting them diplomatic immunity. The deal has come under wide criticism in Latin American from countries including Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, as well as several human rights groups.
The owner of the private military firm Blackwater, Erik Prince, has reportedly left the United States and moved to the United Arab Emirates. The New York Times reports Prince has set up shop in Abu Dhabi, where he hopes to win “focus on security work from governments in Africa and the Middle East.” Independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill was the first to report Prince’s moving plans two months ago. Five of Prince’s deputies were indicted on weapons charges in April, and Prince put Blackwater up for sale in June. At the time, Scahill said Prince may have favored a move to the UAE in part because it has no extradition treaty with the United States. A colleague of Prince’s told the New York Times, “He needs a break from America.”
A group of scientists says they’ve found evidence oil from the blown-out BP well has contaminated an area of the Gulf of Mexico vital to spawning several commercial fish species. The University of South Florida researchers say the oil is residing in drop form in the sediments of a key underwater canyon. The findings come one day after another group of scientists at the University of Georgia reported 79 percent of the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s Deepwater Horizon well has not been recovered and remains a threat to the ecosystem.
In Iraq, the death toll from a pair of bombings in Baghdad Tuesday has reached at least sixty-eight, with dozens more wounded. At least sixty people were killed after a suicide bomber attacked an army recruitment center in central Baghdad. Amidst the attacks, the US military held a ceremony to hand over partial control of the Balad military base to the Iraqi armed forces. US Major General Craig Franklin called the transfer a milestone toward an eventual US withdrawal.
US Maj. Gen. Craig Franklin: “Today’s ceremony marks a truly historic moment. It recognizes the first presence of any Iraqi security force unit on Joint Base Balad. This is another level of partnership and the first step of many steps leading up to the turnover of this base to the government of Iraq as the United States forces withdraw by December 31st of 2011.”
The US says it’s on pace to withdraw over 14,000 soldiers by the end of the month. Last week, Iraq’s top military officer stirred controversy after saying he wants US troops to stay in Iraq for the next decade, despite a withdrawal timetable for the end of next year.
A federal jury has found former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich guilty on one count of lying to federal agents, but has deadlocked on the more serious remaining twenty-three counts in his corruption trial. On Tuesday, the judge in the case said he would declare a mistrial. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald vowed to refile the case.
Patrick Fitzgerald: “As you know, a jury convicted former Governor Rod Blagojevich of lying to the FBI. As you also know, the jury deadlocked on the bulk of the other charges. They could not agree that we had proven or not proven those counts, and as you know, we intend to retry those charges in the near future.”
Blagojevich was impeached last year following his indictment on bribery and wire fraud charges. The allegations against him include trying to sell President Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. Shortly after the verdict was read, Blagojevich called the trial’s outcome a vindication.
Rod Blagojevich: “Except for one nebulous charge from five years ago, a conversation that I had with the FBI where the FBI, and I agreed to that interview, refused to allow me to have a court reporter in the room. I want the people of Illinois to know I did not lie to the FBI. I’ve told the truth from the very beginning. This is a persecution.”
In Washington state, Democratic Senator Patty Murray has won a primary vote to seek re-election in November. Murray will square off against Dino Rossi, who won the Republican nomination.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned media giant News Corp. has made a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association in advance of the November elections. News Corp’s holdings include the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and Fox News.
And the veteran right-wing radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger has announced she’ll end her talk show at the end of the year. Schlessinger has come under criticism for saying the N-word eleven times during an exchange with a listener during a recent broadcast.