Hurricane Isaac has made landfall in southern Louisiana as it heads toward New Orleans on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The Category 1 storm is producing winds of at least 80 miles per hour and is expected to bring heavy flooding. It will mark the most serious test of New Orleans’ rebuilt levees. At least 200,000 people have lost power throughout the Gulf Coast area, and some 50,000 were slated to evacuate New Orleans. On Tuesday, President Obama warned of the potential of major damage from flooding.
President Obama: “As we prepare for Isaac to hit, I want to encourage all residents of the Gulf Coast to listen to your local officials and follow their directions, including if they tell you to evacuate. We’re dealing with a big storm, and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area. Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously.”
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu warned the city is on the “front lines.”
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu: “Do not let this storm lull you into complacency. That would be a terrible mistake. We have dodged a bullet in the sense that this is not a Category 3 storm, but a Category 1 at this strength, from 85- to 100-mile-an-hour winds with a 125 miles an hour of gust, is plenty big enough to put a big hurt on you if you fall into complacency. So let’s not do that.”
The United Nations is warning of a dramatic increase in the number of refugees fleeing the violence in Syria. On Tuesday, a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson said the number of refugees in Turkey could soon top 200,000.
Melissa Fleming: “The numbers are significantly increasing as the fighting escalates in the town of Daraa and in surrounding villages. So we’re seeing, growing, a spike in numbers. And disturbingly, we’re also seeing, among those, many more unaccompanied children, so children who say that their parents have died and they’ve gone off on their own and crossed the border, others who are saying that they’ve been just sent off on their own. So the numbers are increasing, and the profile of the people fleeing is changing.”
The United Nations is warning the Palestinian enclave of Gaza will no longer be livable by 2020 unless urgent steps are taken to improve basics including water supply, power, health and education. U.N. humanitarian coordinator Maxwell Gaylard says Gaza’s basic infrastructure has been crippled by the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation and blockade.
Maxwell Gaylard: “Action needs to be taken right now on fundamental aspects of life in Gaza — water and sanitation, electricity, education, health and so on. Action needs to happen now, if Gaza is to be a livable place in 2020, and it’s already difficult now. Despite their best efforts, the Palestinians in Gaza still need help. They do. They’re under blockade. They’re under occupation. So, they need our help, both politically and practically on the ground in the ways I described.”
Eighty percent of Gaza residents rely on aid to survive, and many derive their only income from underground trade. Gaza’s water needs are dire and only stand to increase, with its water aquifer becoming potentially unusable by 2016.
The family of the slain U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie says it will appeal an Israeli court’s exoneration of Israel’s military for her murder. A 23-year-old college student, Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza nine years ago. She was standing in front of a Palestinian home to help prevent its demolition. On Tuesday, an Israeli judge rejected the Corrie family’s wrongful death lawsuit, ruling that Corrie’s death resulted from “an accident she brought upon herself.” Corrie’s mother, Cindy Corrie, condemned the verdict on Democracy Now! yesterday.
Cindy Corrie: “We are, of course, deeply saddened and deeply troubled by what we heard today from Judge Oded Gershon in the Haifa district court. I believe that this was a bad day not only for our family, but a bad day for human rights, for humanity, for the rule of law, and also for the country of Israel. The diplomatic process between the United States and Israel failed us, and today the Israeli court system demonstrated its failure to us.”
The Corrie family says it will appeal the case to Israel’s supreme court.
A French court has opened a probe of the death of Yasser Arafat after traces of radioactive material were found on his belongings earlier this year. An investigation by the news network Al Jazeera found Arafat may have died of poisoning after high levels of polonium were discovered on personal items, including his clothes and toothbrush. Arafat died in November 2004 after being flown to France for medical treatment. The court-ordered probe was granted following a request from Arafat’s widow, Suha Arafat.
The Mexican government has apologized for a shooting by federal police officers that wounded two CIA operatives last week. The operatives were driving a U.S. embassy vehicle with diplomatic license plates near Mexico City when they came under fire. Twelve Mexican officers have been detained so far. It is unclear if the operatives were deliberately targeted or whether it was a case of mistaken identity. On Tuesday, Mexican President Felipe Calderón apologized to the U.S. government.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón: “I am deeply sorry for the events that took place a couple of days ago in Morelos state. As you know, these events are being deeply investigated with full rigor and severity on behalf of the attorney general’s office in order to separate responsibility in this matter and act in consequence, because we can’t allow these things to happen. Whether it is because of negligence, lack of training, lack of trust or complicity, they can’t happen, and they are being completely investigated with full rigor.”
The United States says the wounded CIA operatives were in Mexico to assist in the fight against drug traffickers. On Tuesday, several Mexican politicians called for an investigation of the CIA’s role in Mexico.
The first full day of the Republican National Convention kicked off in Tampa on Tuesday with the official nomination of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. House Speaker John Boehner announced the delegate count.
House Speaker John Boehner: “The chair is prepared to announce the results of the roll call. On this vote, the honorable Mitt Romney of the state of Massachusetts has received 2,061 votes, more than the majority of those votes entitled to be cast at this convention.”
Controversy erupted on the convention floor when a dispute broke out over whether to seat the delegates of Rep. Ron Paul. Part of Maine’s delegation stormed off the floor in protest of a decision to strip away half of Paul’s delegates. Supportive members of other delegations rose to their feet and hollered their objections, angered by new rules that they say they will make it harder for grassroots candidates to stand a chance in future elections.
RNC Chair Reince Priebus: “The question on the motion offered by the delegate from Kentucky, all those in favor will signify by saying 'Aye.' Those opposed, 'No.' In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it, and the motion is agreed to. Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.”
Following Tuesday’s official nomination of the Romney-Ryan ticket, Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, praised her husband during a prime-time television speech.
Ann Romney: “I can’t tell you what will happen over the next four years, but I can only stand here tonight, as a wife and a mother and a grandmother, an American, and make you this solemn commitment. This man will not fail. This man will not let us down. This man will lift up America.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night. Addressing President Obama, Christie said that “real leaders” don’t listen to public opinion, they shape it.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “I believe in America and her history, and there’s only one thing missing now: leadership. It takes leadership that you don’t get from reading a poll. You see, Mr. President, real leaders don’t follow polls; real leaders change polls.”
In other news from the Republican National Convention, a dozen activists with the group CODEPINK were barred from entering a private event Tuesday night featuring former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The activists were carrying handcuffs in what they called an attempt to arrest Rice for war crimes.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has fired two local election officials who voted to extend early voting to weekends in Montgomery County. The two officials were suspended earlier this month for extending the voting after Husted, a Republican, announced all counties would follow uniform hours for early voting on weekdays. But since his order only applied during the week, the now fired officials, Thomas Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman, moved to expand voting times on the weekend. Critics have said the state’s uneven hours benefit white Republicans, while disenfranchising people of color. President Obama won Montgomery County in 2008.
A federal court has ruled the Republican-controlled statehouse in Texas discriminated against people of color in its redrawing of political maps for congressional and legislative districts ahead of the 2012 election. Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed off on the redistricting maps last year. But on Tuesday, a three-judge panel ruled the move violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in disenfranchising people of color with a “discriminatory purpose.” Texas says it plans to appeal.
Another Republican politician is making headlines for an offensive comment about rape following the controversy around Missouri Senate hopeful Todd Akin earlier this month. In an exchange with reporters, Tom Smith, the Republican seeking to unseat Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey, said having a child out of wedlock is akin to rape.
Reporter: “How would you tell a daughter or a granddaughter who, God forbid, became a victim of a rape, to keep the child against her own will? Is that something that you would — do you have a way to explain that?”
Tom Smith: “I lived something similar to that with my own family. She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views. But, fortunately for me, I didn’t have to — she chose the way I thought. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t rape. But she did” —
Reporter: “Similar how?”
Smith: “Uh, having a baby out of wedlock.”
Reporter: “That’s similar to rape?”
Smith: “No, no, no. But, well, put yourself in a father’s situation. Yes, I mean, it is similar. But, back to the original, I’m pro-life, period.”
A Brazilian court has ordered the resumption of construction on a major hydroelectric dam in the Amazon rainforest. The $11 billion Belo Monte Dam project was initially approved over the objections of indigenous communities who have brought numerous challenges, citing environmental concerns and the fear of mass displacement. But late on Monday, Brazil’s Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that suspended construction pending government consultation with indigenous groups. Work on the project resumed on Tuesday, hours after the verdict.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has pulled out of a conference in Johannesburg over the involvement of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. On Tuesday, Tutu said it would be “morally indefensible” to appear alongside Blair due to Blair’s support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Blair helped peddle the George W. Bush administration’s false contention that Iraq had chemical weapons and was the United States’ biggest military partner during the invasion. Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said through his office that he reached the decision after “wrestling with his conscience and taking counsel.”