Democracy Now! Headlines for January 20, 2010

Democracy Now!

Powerful Aftershock Hits Haiti

Haiti has been hit with a powerful new earthquake just over a week after the initial quake that killed tens of thousands of people. The latest earthquake hit just after 6:00 a.m. this morning, registering 6.1 on the Richter scale. Thousands of people were seen flooding the streets of Port-au-Prince, but it remains unclear what damage the new quake may have caused. The quake struck as the official death toll hit 70,000, but it’s widely estimated the actual toll could top 200,000 and even higher.

Group: 20,000 Dying Daily from Lack of Surgery

Aid efforts have yet to approach meeting the dire humanitarian needs. In a statement, the medical relief group Partners in Health said some 20,000 people are dying each day who could be saved by surgery. The World Food Program says it’s handed out more than 250,000 ready-to-eat food rations amidst estimates some three million people are in need. The agency says it needs to hand out 100 million food rations in the next month, but is on pace to only have 16 million available. Earthquake survivors continue to receive medical care in makeshift clinics around Haiti. In a video, Doctors Without Borders anesthetist Deane Marchbein described the magnitude of the amputations being performed.

Deane Marchbein: “I imagine that not since the Crimean War have surgeons seen and amputated so many limbs. Perhaps the Civil War in the United States. But we’re talking about a situation that I’ve certainly never seen in my experience.”

Aid Begins Reaching Quake Epicenter

The foreign military presence continues to rise in Haiti. On Tuesday, hundreds of new US troops arrived in Port-au-Prince, bringing the total US contingent to upwards of 11,000. On Tuesday, desperately needed aid began reaching residents of Léogâne, the epicenter of last week’s earthquake. Earthquake survivors flocked around marines handing out supplies from a helicopter.

Staff Sgt. Causeley Barthold: “We’re trying to help these people out, as far as food and water and all supply that they—medical supply that they need. They’re all complaining that, you know, all their houses—they’re right now living out on the street. They’ve got no water, no food.”

Supreme Court Tosses Re-Sentencing for Mumia Abu-Jamal

The Supreme Court has thrown out a lower-court ruling ordering a new sentencing for the journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. The decision orders the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to revisit its ruling that Jamal deserves a new sentencing because of flawed jury instructions. The Supreme Court cited its own recent decision in an Ohio death row case it says raised similar issues. Abu-Jamal was convicted for the 1981 killing of a white police officer following a controversial trial before a predominantly white jury. Abu-Jamal contends the case was marred with racial bias, including the deliberate exclusion of blacks from the jury. If re-sentenced, Abu-Jamal will face either death or life in prison without parole.

Pakistani Suspect Alleges Torture on First Day of Trial

An American-educated Pakistani woman has gone on trial on charges of trying to kill US personnel in Afghanistan. Aafia Siddiqui is accused of trying to open fire on several FBI agents who had come to question her in Afghanistan. The FBI also says she had documents on making chemical bombs and a list of potential targets in the United States—but she’s only being charged for the shooting incident. Afghan witnesses say US personnel shot Siddiqui following a misunderstanding that saw her initially asking them for help. Siddiqui herself was the only person shot during the incident with the agents. On Tuesday, Siddiqui was removed from the courtroom after yelling out that she had been tortured at a secret prison during her captivity. Outside the courtroom, a group of supporters picketed the trial.

Protester: “And that’s the appeal to the judge: go by the book. We don’t need any favors, being a Muslim, being a woman. No. Go by the book, the values of this country. Not be afraid of that some guy’s a terrorist, some guy’s al-Qaeda, some guy’s a Taliban. This time is over. Bush is over.”

Siddiqui disappeared in March 2003, just weeks after the FBI announced it sought her for questioning. There has been speculation she was captured by Pakistani troops and handed over to the US and held at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

8 Killed in Virginia Shooting

Eight people are dead following a shooting spree Tuesday in Virginia. Police say they believe they’ve cornered the suspect in an area near the crime scene.

Israel Deports US Journalist

The Israeli government has deported an American journalist after detaining him last week. The journalist, Jared Malsin, is the English-language editor for the Palestinian Maan News Agency. He was detained after trying to enter Israel and deemed a security threat. In a statement, the International Federation of Journalists criticized what it called an “intolerable violation of press freedom.” It added, “The ban of entry in this case appears to be as a reprisal measure for the journalist’s independent reporting and that is unacceptable.”

Israel Ends Work Permits for Foreign NGOs

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, meanwhile, is reporting the Israeli government has stopped granting work visas for most foreign non-governmental organizations in the Occupied Territories. Israel is now only authorizing tourist visas, which bar the NGO employees from working. The groups affected include Oxfam, Save the Children, and Doctors Without Borders.

Survey: Afghans Paid $2.5B in Bribes in 12-Month Period

In Afghanistan, a new survey estimates Afghans have paid around $2.5 billion in bribes over the past year. The figure amounts to nearly one-quarter of Afghanistan’s gross national product. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, more than half the Afghan population reported paying a bribe to an Afghan official last year.

US Firm Probed for Stamping Bible Verses on Rifle Sights

The Pentagon says it will investigate a Michigan-based military contractor found to have stamped Bible-verse references on combat rifle sights used by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The firm, Trijicon, has been criticized for possibly violating laws barring proselytizing by US troops. The references are stamped on equipment allowing troops to see enemies in the dark of night.

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