ATLANTA (Reuters) – The liberal grass-roots group ACORN is reeling after scandals that have hurt its fund-raising ability and prompted its big New York and California chapters to quit and set up fresh organizations.
Conservatives have used controversies surrounding the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which endorsed President Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign, to paint Democrats as a party linked to corruption.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 27 (Reuters) – The earthquake that shattered Haiti has unleashed fears that child-eating spirits, mythological figures entrenched in Haitian culture, are prowling homeless camps in search of young prey.
The ‘loup-garou,’ which means ‘wolf man,’ is similar to werewolf legends in other parts of the world, but in Haitian folklore it is a person who is possessed by a spirit and can turn into a beast or even a dog, cat, chicken, snake or another animal to suck the blood of babies and young children.
Haitians fear loups-garous in the best of times and even more since a powerful earthquake wrecked the capital of Port-au-Prince two weeks ago, killing as many as 200,000 people and forcing hundreds of thousands more to sleep outside in vast camps or on the streets.
Some people accused of being loups-garous have apparently been lynched since the earthquake, including a man killed at the La Grotte camp for displaced people on a barely accessible hillside that looks down on Port-au-Prince.
"After the earthquake, the loup-garou fled from prison. He was bragging that he was in jail because he was caught eating children … During the night he went into the tents and tried to take someone’s child," said Michaelle Casseus, a camp resident.
In another camp, residents described beating a man almost to death after he tried to take a baby during the night.
Night-time patrols have been set up to deter the spirits, who are also called ‘lougarou’ in the Creole language.
"The loup-garou is profiting from the earthquake to eat the children," said Milot Bazelais, a civil servant who was left homeless by the quake and also works for a charity group to help neighborhood children.
He said he had heard that one patrol killed a spirit before she had time to change form.
Most of Haiti’s 9 million people are Roman Catholics but many also practice voodoo, a religion with African roots.
The belief in loups-garous cuts across religious identity and is most strongly adhered to among Haiti’s poor, which are the majority in the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere.
Sylvain Lafalaisse, Haiti’s secretary of state for finance, says the fears are stronger in times of social dislocation.
"People talk about loups-garous to give a name to their fears, but it is child snatchers who snatch children, not evil spirits," said Lafalaisse.
Thousands of Haitian children have been orphaned or separated from their parents by the earthquake, and the government and aid groups warn of of a growing threat of child traffickers seizing young children for illegal adoptions.
Haiti’s government says it has already buried 120,000 victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake, and tens of thousands more are believed to have been buried by their families or are still in the rubble of wrecked buildings.
At a mass grave in Titayen just north of Port-au-Prince, mechanical diggers have churned personal possessions of the dead to the surface — a student ID card, a child’s pink sandal, a school satchel complete with school books and pencils and a Bible lay strewn across the enormous grave site on Monday.
Voodoo priests are objecting to mass burials, saying they do not respect the dignity of the dead. (Editing by Kieran Murray and Philip Barbara)
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haitian children made orphans by this month’s catastrophic earthquake or separated from their parents face a growing threat from child traffickers or illicit adoptions, the government and aid groups say.
They fear unscrupulous traffickers may try to exploit the chaos and social turmoil following the January 12 quake to spirit defenseless infants out of the impoverished country through the airport or across the land border with the Dominican Republic.
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – U.S. soldiers and Brazilian U.N. troops handed out food and water in one of Haiti’s largest slums on Sunday amid criticism that aid was not getting to earthquake victims fast enough.
The Pan American Health Organization said there had so far been no sign of a feared outbreak of contagious disease among survivors camped out in filthy conditions in about 300 makeshift shelters across Haiti’s shattered capital, Port-au-Prince.
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haiti on Saturday mourned its earthquake dead and rescuers freed another survivor from the rubble, while victims struggled to find food and cash amid a slow-moving aid distribution operation.
Although the United Nations initially announced Haiti’s government had halted search and rescue operations, some rescue teams still combed rubble in the shattered capital, Port-au-Prince, 11 days after the catastrophic quake.
JACMEL, Haiti, Jan 20 (Reuters) – There are growing signs of coordination in aid efforts to help towns outside Haiti’s capital devastated by last week’s earthquake and frightened anew by a big aftershock on Wednesday.
A steady stream of U.S. and Canadian helicopters and cargo planes delivered supplies to the sleepy historic seaport of Jacmel, southwest of the capital and on the Caribbean Sea.
Some 600 people were killed in Jacmel in the earthquake that struck a crescent of towns including the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Jan. 12. One in six of Jacmel’s population of 60,000 people are now dependent on food aid, according to the U.N. World Food Program.
"The situation is bad. All the infrastructure was destroyed by previous hurricanes and the earthquake has made things worse," said Hazem El Zein, head of program for WFP in Jacmel.
Fragile confidence in the solidity of anything made of concrete was rocked anew on Wednesday by a fresh tremor. Many people were returning to their houses during the day to salvage what they could but were sleeping outside or in camps at night.
Around 300 sick and injured people were camped out under blankets and in tents at the town’s hospitals. One, Desir Vladimir, said he had fled the capital by motorbike after being hit by a block of falling concrete after the quake, only to arrive in Jacmel to find he had an internal injury.
Many of the town’s merchant houses, with filigree balconies and colorful walls, have cascaded into the street, while signs of a society turned upside down are visible in the rows of listless men and women lining the streets.
"When the earthquake happened I was in the house with my two kids, said Andral Maxito, 29, who worked as a mechanic in Jacmel but now stays at a camp.
"I really panicked … I ran with my kids out into the middle of the road, but lots of houses near me were being destroyed," he said. (Editing by Jackie Frank)
ATLANTA (Reuters) – Acclaimed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, arguably the world’s most prominent jazz musician, is set to premiere a major new project — composing a Blues Symphony for orchestra.
In keeping with a career that spans jazz, classical music, band leadership and high-profile advocacy for the arts, Marsalis’ symphony is epic in scope — to celebrate American history from Revolution to the present through the blues.
ATLANTA (Reuters) – A race for mayor of Atlanta headed for a recount on Wednesday after a knife-edge election that exposed a racial fault line running through one of the biggest cities in the U.S. Southeast.
Former state Senator Kasim Reed declared victory overnight when results from the runoff vote showed him beating city Councilwoman Mary Norwood by around 750 votes out of 83,000 cast.
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) – If Republicans are to turn anger at President Barack Obama’s policies into big gains in the 2010 elections, there is no better place to start than by defeating Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.
Alone among moderate Democrats who voted on Saturday to open a Senate debate on healthcare reform, Lincoln faces re-election next year and sagging poll numbers have Republicans scenting a possible upset.
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – The Senate vote on a Democratic healthcare reform bill is likely to be a knife-edge decision. For Senator Mary Landrieu it also represents a political tightrope.
Landrieu is one of a handful of centrist Democrats reluctant to support the plan to revamp the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare industry, the top priority in President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda.