Democracy Now! Headlines for January 21, 2010

Democracy Now!

10,000 Bodies Buried Daily in Quake Aftermath

The recovery effort continues in Haiti amidst a rising death toll and fears of infectious outbreaks among desperate survivors. The European Commission now estimates two million people have been left homeless, up from previous estimates of 1.5 million. More than 10,000 bodies are now being buried in mass graves in the span of a single day. Aid groups are warning of outbreaks of diseases and infections amongst the hundreds of thousands crammed into makeshift refugee camps.

Medical Group Faults US Militarization of Haitian Relief

The US, meanwhile, is being accused of prioritizing the delivery of troops and military equipment over direly needed aid. Doctors Without Borders legal director Francoise Saulnier says a plane carrying over twelve tons of aid was turned back from landing three times this week.

Francoise Saulnier: “Now everything has been mixed together, and the urgent and vital attention to the people have been delayed, while military logistic—which is useful, but not on day three, not on day four, but maybe on day eight—this military logistic has really jammed the airport and led to this mismanagement, real mismanagement of vital issues.”

The Doctors Without Borders plane was diverted to the Dominican Republic, delaying the aid delivery by three days. At a Haitian hospital Wednesday, Doctors Without Borders field coordinator Pip Millard said doctors are struggling to treat earthquake survivors.

Pip Millard: “We’ve got a surgical team here who are doing surgery. We’re having to do amputations. We’ve got some really severe wounds, lots of fractured limbs, both arms, legs, many different kind of crush injuries. And also, one of the other problems that we’re really encountering is lack of supplies. We’re running out of things very quickly.”

IMF Drops Conditions on $100M Haiti Loan

The International Monetary Fund has backed off an effort to impose new loans on Haiti. Last week, the IMF said it would provide Haiti with $100 million under an extension of a previous loan. The initial funds imposed conditions including wage freezes for public sector workers, inflation controls and price hikes for electricity. But after public outcry, the IMF released a statement claiming its $100 million loan would now come in the form of an interest-free grant.

US Expects 200,000 TPS Applicants

US immigration officials say they expect up to 200,000 undocumented Haitians to apply for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. The program would grant eighteen-month work permits to Haitians who were in the US when the earthquake struck. Haitian refugees arriving after the earthquake date will continue to face deportation.

UN, Relief Groups Call on Israel to End Gaza Blockade

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, United Nations agencies have joined with over eighty relief and aid groups to call for an end to the US-backed Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Max Gaylard says Israel’s stranglehold over Gaza is endangering Palestinian lives.

UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator Max Gaylard: “What is happening now as a result of the blockade, which has been going on for some years, is that all elements of the health system have deteriorated. There’s no doubt about it. The people of Gaza are getting health service care now of a standard far less than they were some years ago, and it’s not adequate.”

Netanyahu: Israeli Military Will Surround Future Palestinian State

As aid groups warn about the Israeli blockade of Gaza, Israel is renewing calls for long-term control over the West Bank. On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel must retain large swaths of the West Bank under any peace deal that would establish a Palestinian state. Netanyahu said Israel must maintain troops in the Jordan Valley dividing the West Bank from Jordan, surrounding Palestinians from both sides.

Texas Judge Cleared for Rejecting Last-Minute Death Row Appeal

In Texas, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has been cleared of wrongdoing in a closely watched case. Sharon Keller faced five charges of judicial misconduct for refusing to hear a last-minute appeal from a death row prisoner scheduled to be executed that night. Keller reportedly denied an appeal from the lawyers for Michael Wayne Richard at 5:20 pm on September 25th, 2007, saying, quote, “We close at five.” Richard had been on death row for two decades. He was killed later that night by lethal injection. On Wednesday, the special judge appointed to hear the complaint sided with Keller and said she deserves “no further reprimand beyond the public humiliation she has surely suffered.”

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