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News Wrap: WikiLeaks Releases 400,000 Iraq War Documents

October 22, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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In other news Friday, WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 secret U.S. files on the Iraq war, counting more than 15,000 unreported civilian deaths. Also, Haiti is dealing with a deadly cholera outbreak. Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Eric Lotz of Operation Blessing International about efforts to provide clean drinking water there.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The WikiLeaks Web site released nearly 400,000 secret U.S. files on the Iraq war late today. It was the largest leak of classified U.S. files in history. The documents count at least 15,000 civilian deaths that were never reported before.

They also indicate U.S. officials failed to pursue accounts of Iraqi authorities brutalizing prisoners. WikiLeaks earlier published more than 90,000 documents on the Iraq war.

Doctors and aid officials in Haiti fought today to contain an outbreak of cholera. At least 142 people have died, mainly in the central part of the country. Thousands of earthquake refugees now live there in squalid camps.

Cases of cholera have swamped hospitals in the region, with more than 1,000 people affected. The fast-moving bacterial infection causes severe diarrhea and can kill within hours.

At the U.N. in New York, officials said today they do not know how far the outbreak might spread or what the mortality rate will end up being.

CATHERINE BRAGG, United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator: It is still in early days, and it is very difficult for — And we certainly wouldn’t use the statistics, that, you know, 10 percent mortality rate, at this point. We’re just getting the report of both the deaths, as well as the number of people affected. And those numbers can change.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive says he’s worried the outbreak could reach all the way to the capital in Port-au-Prince.

For more on the situation on the ground, I spoke earlier this afternoon with Eric Lotz of Operation Blessing International. He’s working at the center of the cholera outbreak in Bambou Laporte.

Can you describe the last 24 hours?

ERIC LOTZ, Operation Blessing International: Yesterday morning, we got the call that there was an outbreak here that we needed to respond to.

And, I mean, within just a couple hours, we were mobilized to get here. Things went from not expecting what to find to horror when we were at the hospital. I mean, almost every square foot of the hospital grounds, even inside and outside, were just covered with people, laying on mattresses, laying on mats, laying on cardboard boxes sometimes, not even able to get up because of the amount of pain that they are in.

We left the hospital, came out to the village, and started setting up our first water filtration system here. And coming down the road towards the village, there were just hundreds of people lined on both sides of the street with their buckets, hoping that we had water to give them.

It wasn’t water that we had. We had filtration units, which allowed them to get water. We pulled water out of the same — same river that made them dirty, treated it, cleaned it up, put it back in their buckets. And now they are able to have healthy water, clean water to drink.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So what is the situation on the ground as you see it now?

ERIC LOTZ: Out here in the village where we are at now, the people are still, many places, without clean water. We are mobilizing right now, actually, to take a load of Lifesaver Jerrycans out to a village, a remote village at the end of a long road, a long road running alongside the river, the same river that has made them sick, should be those — that village.

HARI SREENIVASAN: I know your operation has been pretty good about trying to get filtration systems out there, but is there a chance that this is going to get worse?

ERIC LOTZ: Well, you know, we’re hoping that, by nipping it in the bud as quick as we are and getting the word out of the people to stop drinking the local water, we are really hoping that this is going to take care of this at least localized outbreak.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And is there a threat here that some of these people could be coming back into city centers like Port-au-Prince?

ERIC LOTZ: I mean, that is always a possibility. As they are cured of the sickness, they can still carry it back in the form of just, you know, bacteria on their skin, on their hands, carry it back to families in Port-au-Prince. And just the simple act of cooking a meal can make their whole family sick.

If this was to reach Port-au-Prince, it could have devastating circumstances.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Eric Lotz from Operation Blessing International, thanks for your time.

ERIC LOTZ: Thank you.

HARI SREENIVASAN: One-third of all adult Americans, up to 100 million people, may have diabetes by the year 2050. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued that new projection today. It’s up sharply from estimates that one in 10 Americans now have diabetes, or about 24 million people. The spread of the disease is closely tied to rising obesity rates.

French police forced protesters to step aside today and reopened a vital oil refinery. Striking workers had blockaded the site in a bid to kill pension reforms. Police and strikers jostled in front of the gates of the refinery 50 miles east of Paris. It’s the closest source of gasoline supplies to the French capital.

In Paris, the French Senate today passed legislation that includes raising the partial retirement age from 60 to 62 and the full retirement age from 65 to 67.

Wall Street turned in mixed results for the day, but gains for the week. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 14 points today to close at 11,132. The Nasdaq rose more than 19 points to close at 2479. For the week, both the Dow and the Nasdaq gained roughly half-a-percent.