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Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens In Iraq, UNICEF Describes Desperation In Pakistan

Pakistan flooding

Pakistani flood victims fight with each others for relief food distributed by volunteers in Shekarpur, Pakistan on Monday. Shakil Adil/AP hide caption

toggle caption Shakil Adil/AP

A suicide attack in Baghdad that killed at least 48 people and wounded more than 100 others serves as another bloody reminder that Iraq remains a very dangerous place even as U.S. forces prepare to leave.

The attack occurred at a division headquarters and armed forces recruitment center. NPR's Jonathan Blakley, reporting from Baghdad, says the bomber reportedly worked his way among dozens of army recruits lined up before setting off his explosive.

He said civilians, as well as soldiers and recruits are among those killed.

Al-Jazeera says the attack occurred at the site of the former defense ministry until the U.S. invasion in 2003. The agency's correspondent Omar Al Saleh said the suicide bomber:

... was talking to those recruits, pretending that he was trying to get their names, so people gathered around him and he detonated his charge.

The U.S. will reduce its forces in Iraq to 50,000 at the end of the month and complete a pullout by the end of 2011.

The Associated Press says that as the U.S. troop withdrawal looms, the massive strike is "an embarrassment to Iraqi security forces and casts doubts on their ability to protect themselves and the nation."

HEALTH CRISIS LOOMS IN PAKISTAN

Only a small fraction of the estimated 20 million people affected by what is being described as Pakistan's worst-ever natural disaster have gotten anything in the way of aid, UNICEF says.

At a news conference in the capital, Islamabad, Daniel Toole — the agency's regional director for South Asia — said the country faced "endemic watery diarrhea, endemic cholera [and] endemic upper respiratory infections."

He said the promise of future aid was not enough and that Pakistan urgently needs relief now.

"... we cannot support Pakistan with pledges. I urge the international community to urgently change pledges into checks," he said.

Reporting from the southern Punjab, the country's devastated agricultural belt, NPR's Julie McCarthy describes a deteriorating scenario on the ground:

"The homeless and hungry continue to wait for help to arrive in the Punjab. ... Further south in Sindh province, flash floods are forcing thousands to scurry to safer ground, while authorities nervously watch vital water barriers for any sign of breaches. In some cases, flood relief measures are aggravating the situation. The diversion of water from one province to next has led to angry accusations and rising political tensions."

Speaking to NPR's <em>Morning Edition</em> today, Khurram Masood, a spokesman for Save the Children in Pakistan said that some people face starvation.

"In the worst case, what people are doing is they are climbing up the trees and trying to survive by eating the leaves," he told host Linda Wertheimer.

The World Bank said today it will redirect $900 million in loans to Pakistan in an effort to help in flood recovery.

CALIFORNIA SAME-SEX MARRIAGES ON HOLD

Gay couples in California have had to put marriage plans on hold as a three-judge federal appeals court imposed an emergency stay on a trial judge's decision to overturn Proposition 8. A hearing is set for early December.

Groups defending the ban applauded the judges' ruling.

The Washington Post quoted Andy Pugno, a lawyer for ProtectMarriage.com:

Invalidating the people's vote based on just one judge's opinion would not have been appropriate, and would have shaken the people's confidence in our elections and the right to vote itself.

QUESTIONS RAISED OVER JEAN'S CHARITY

Wyclef Jean
Ramon Espinosa/AP

Wyclef Jean, the rapper turned Haitian presidential candidate, is facing more scrutiny over the actions of his charity, Yéle Haiti.

The New York Times reports that Yéle Haiti has claimed to be sending aid to several camps set up for victims of January's earthquake that are apparently receiving nothing. The Times story said that leaders at one camp that Jean's charity claims to provide regular water shipments was actually being supplied by other groups.

According to the Times:

At least four more camps that Yéle claims to support also maintain that they have received nothing from Yéle — “Not even a cookie!” Ricardo Dorvelus, a camp leader, said — and still others characterize Yéle’s assistance as short-lived or token, like the television donated to one camp that broke halfway through the World Cup.

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