At least 22 people along the East Coast have died as a result of Hurricane Irene. The storm left damage from the Bahamas to Vermont. President Obama declared a state of emergency for 11 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The governor of Vermont said the state may be suffering its worst flooding since 1927. Suburban New Jersey and the Catskills region of New York also suffered devastating floods. In parts of the Bahamas, 90 percent of homes have been destroyed. Overall, more than 4.5 million people lost power. Initial estimates put U.S. property damage at some $7 billion, which would make it one of the top 10 most expensive catastrophes in the nation’s history. On Sunday, President Obama said the worst of the flooding may not be over.
President Barack Obama: “One of our chief concerns before Irene made landfall was the possibility of significant flooding and widespread power outages, and we’ve been getting reports of just that from our state and local partners. Many Americans are still at serious risk of power outages and flooding, which could get worse in the coming days as rivers swell past their banks. So I want people to understand that this is not over.”
NATO warplanes are continuing to bomb Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte as Libyan rebel forces prepare to launch an attack on the city, one of the last major towns held by supporters of Gaddafi.
Human Rights Watch has accused the Khamis Brigade, led by Muammar Gaddafi’s son, of summarily executing approximately 45 prisoners last week at a warehouse in Tripoli. Days later, the same warehouse was set on fire.
On the diplomatic front, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the international community to help provide urgently needed humanitarian aid for Libya.
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General: “Most immediately, we have asked for urgent humanitarian assistance, particularly as it relates to medical aid and basic public services, including water and sanitation and education. Somewhat longer term, they have placed special emphasis on early support for elections, transitional justice and policing, as well as assistance in socioeconomic recovery, rule of law and institution building.”
On Sunday, the International Committee of the Red Cross shipped in 10 tons of drugs from Malta to help the war-wounded in Tripoli.
Mina Zolke, Red Cross: “We brought some hygiene parcels, some drugs for war-wounded people, about 10 tons, and we brought some diapers for babies, and we have transported also water for UNICEF.”
In other news from Libya, rebels say more than 10,000 prisoners held by the government have been released, but nearly 50,000 are still missing. One of those prisoners released was Matthew VanDyke, a freelance journalist from Baltimore, Maryland, who has been missing since March 12.
Matthew VanDyke, U.S. journalist: “I was in Brega. That day, I was taking photographs of the town. I was with three rebels in a truck, and we were ambushed. But I don’t have any—I have one image, brief memory, that came to me later, but I was knocked unconscious. So I was—yeah, I was taking photographs, I remember, of smiling people in the town, and then I wake up in a cell with a man being tortured in the room above me and not knowing what happened.”
U.S. officials are claiming a CIA drone in Pakistan recently killed al-Qaeda’s chief operating officer, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman. The drone reportedly struck al-Rahman in the mountains of Waziristan bordering Afghanistan. One Pakistani official criticized the United States for carrying out the strike without consulting the Pakistani government.
An independent investigation in Afghanistan has found that U.S. special forces may have shot dead a 25-year-old BBC journalist in late July in south Afghanistan. Ahmed Omed Khpulwak was one of 20 people killed in a Taliban suicide bombing at a TV station. An investigation by the Afghanistan Analysts Network has concluded that Omed may have survived the suicide bombs only to be shot dead by U.S. special forces. The report said, “This case raises questions as to whether, in an admittedly dangerous and difficult situation, 'looking Afghan' can be enough for international forces to believe there is hostile intent and an imminent threat.”
At least 28 people were killed in a suicide bombing at one of the largest Sunni mosques in Baghdad on Sunday. No group has claimed immediate responsibility. The attack comes just two weeks after Iraq’s bloodiest day of the year, in which a series of coordinated nationwide attacks left more than 90 people dead.
Israel has ordered the deployments of reinforcements around the southern Gaza Strip and Egyptian border. Meanwhile, Israeli police have arrested a Palestinian man from the West Bank accused of wounding eight people in South Tel Aviv. Police say the man ran over a police officer with a stolen taxi and then stabbed people outside a night club.
The Indian activist Anna Hazare has ended his 13-day hunger strike but has vowed to continue his fight against corruption. Hazare made the decision to end the fast on Sunday after the Indian Parliament approved a resolution backing tougher anti-corruption legislation.
President Obama is set to nominate Princeton University Professor Alan Krueger to be chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Krueger, a labor economist, served as the top adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for the first two years of the Obama administration. Krueger succeeds Austan Goolsbee, who left earlier this month. At Princeton, Krueger did groundbreaking research that showed increasing the minimum wage does not lead to greater unemployment.
U.S. diplomatic cables recently released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks reveal how the United States has pushed foreign governments to buy genetically engineered (GE) crops and promote the interests of agribusiness giants such as DuPont and Monsanto. Dozens of newly released cables detail how the United States has instituted so-called “bio-technology outreach programs” throughout Africa, Asia and South America in order to establish a foothold for the biotech agriculture industry. U.S. efforts have been particularly robust in Europe, where there is a strong anti-GE food movement. A 2007 cable describes a meeting at the U.S. embassy in Paris between U.S. diplomats and representatives from Monsanto, DuPont and Dow AgroSciences. The companies’ spokesmen reportedly described their concerns regarding a movement of French farmers, who were vandalizing GE crop farms at the time. The cables also confirm reports that the U.S. government, as well as philanthropic foundations and agribusiness companies, have set up front groups in countries such as Tunisia, Mozambique and South Africa to promote biotech agriculture.
A man suspected of killing four people in Virginia and Pennsylvania was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot in suburban Philadelphia on Sunday. Thirty-seven-year-old Leonard John Egland served as a logistics officer with nearly 20 years in the Army, that included several recent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Authorities were seeking Egland in connection with the deaths of his former wife, her boyfriend, and the boyfriend’s young son, as well as his former mother-in-law.
The widow of a U.S. Army Ranger who committed suicide was removed from a book-signing event for Donald Rumsfeld over the weekend after she confronted the former Secretary of Defense about her husband’s death. Ashley Joppa-Hagemann introduced herself to Rumsfeld by handing him a copy of her husband’s funeral program at a base south of Tacoma, Washington, on Saturday. She then said her husband joined the military based on lies Rumsfeld told during his tenure in the Bush administration. Joppa-Hagemann also complained about Rumsfeld’s response to her account of her husband’s repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Roughly a half-dozen security and military police officers then removed Joppa-Hagemann from the signing, along with the executive director of Coffee Strong, an antiwar group that links soldiers with benefits and counseling. During a recent event, Ashley Joppa-Hagemann accused the military of abandoning her husband.
Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, widow of deceased Army Ranger: “All I’m asking is that, as a community, that everybody gets together and stands up for these men, because the military’s not going to do it. They took what they could from these men, and they won’t let them go.”
In education news, the state of New York has dropped a controversial no-bid contract that would give the company Wireless Generation, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, access to the personal data of schoolchildren. Under the contract, Murdoch’s firm was to receive $27 million to develop software to track New York student test scores.
In Canada, a state funeral was held on Saturday for opposition leader Jack Layton, who died last week from cancer. Layton headed the left-leaning New Democratic Party and oversaw its rise from the smallest bloc in the House of Commons to the second largest. Stephen Lewis, the former Canadian diplomat and former leader of the NDP, gave the eulogy. Lewis cited an open letter that Layon had written to the Canadian people just before his death.
Stephen Lewis, former Canadian diplomat: “And if there was one word that might sum up Jack Layton’s unabashed social democratic message, it would be generosity. He wanted, in the simplest and most visceral terms, a more generous Canada. His letter embodies that generosity. In his very last hours of life, he wanted to give encouragement to others suffering from cancer. He wanted to share a larger, bolder, more decent vision of what Canada should be for all its inhabitants. He talks of social justice, healthcare, pensions, no one left behind, seniors, children, climate change, equality, and again, that defining phrase—and again, that defining phrase, 'a more inclusive and generous Canada.'”