The only thing I can think of is that perhaps the image files have been corrupted. That would explain the hanging hourglass; publisher is looking for the data to transfer to the document, but if the data is damaged it will hang up.
Try this: open your image folder and try to open some of the images. Try one that you do see a thumbnail picture for and try one that you don't see a thumbnail picture for. If you can't open either, the problem may be with a software program. If you can't open the images that don't have pictures in the thumbnails but can open the others, the problem might be image file corruption.
If this is the case, try inserting a picture into publisher that does have a thumbnail picture. If it works, we'll know the problem isn't with publisher and that would be stronger evidence for image file corruption.