World News Brief, Friday January 15

Many thousands feared dead in Haiti as aid begins to arrive (+ Haiti background); China defends internet policies; Malaysian churches attacked over use of "Allah"; Obama bank tax expected to raise over $100 billion; and more

Top of the Agenda: Thousands Feared Dead in Haiti

Thousands are feared dead (NYT) in the devastating earthquake that left Haiti in ruins, and emergency aid efforts have been hobbled by ravaged infrastructure in the already impoverished country. Electricity and phone services were out, and fresh water supplies dwindling, creating a "major humanitarian emergency," according to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The presidential palace, the tax office, and hospitals collapsed; the Ministry of Justice was destroyed; and the national prison was severely damaged. The International Red Cross estimates that three million affected people need relief.

Without giving a specific aid pledge, US President Barack Obama promised the United States' unwavering support and said aid agencies and search-and-rescue teams were moving swiftly to get help to Haiti. The World Food Program said it is flying nearly one hundred tons of ready-to-eat meals and high-energy biscuits from El Salvador. The UN pledged $10 million in emergency relief funds, the European Union pledged $4.4 million, and Doctors without Borders is setting up clinics to treat victims. Aid groups are also searching for their own workers. Sixteen UN peacekeepers were confirmed dead and more than one hundred were missing. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cut short a trip to the Asia-Pacific to return to Washington to help coordinate US relief efforts.

Haiti's prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, said (AFP) the death toll could top one hundred thousand.

Across the United States, Haitian immigrants have struggled to connect (WSJ) with loved ones in Haiti with calls, tweets, videos, emails, and texts after the quake knocked out roughly half the country's international communication links.


The Christian Science Monitor reports that the U.S. response to the Haiti quake will be important for the United States' and Obama's image in the region.

In the Washington Post, former U.S. president Bill Clinton says what Haiti needs most is money for water, food, shelter, and basic medical supplies. After emergency efforts are addressed, the international community must focus on building better schools, healthcare, more manufacturing, less deforestation, sustainable agriculture, and clean energy, he says.

In this CFR Podcast, Edward Luck, vice president and director of studies at the International Peace Institute, says Haiti's horrific earthquake is a setback for the country's slowly improving development. While international relief efforts are important, over the long-term, Haiti's development must be driven by Haitians.

In the New York Times, Tracy Kidder says Haiti's vulnerability to natural disasters stems from a long history of domestic misrule aided by the U.S. and French governments, and international aid efforts often have not benefitted Haitians.


PACIFIC RIM: China's Google Policies

China defended (WSJ) its Internet policies after Google said it had discovered a highly sophisticated attack on its computer system originating from China. A spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said China has laws against online crimes such as hacking and that "China, like other countries, manages its Internet according to the law."

Malaysia: Lawyers for Malaysia's Catholic Church say their offices were ransacked (al-Jazeera) in the country's ongoing dispute over the use of the word "Allah" to describe God.



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