World News Brief, Tuesday April 28

Swine flu special: WHO declares "international concern", history, Q&A, plus interactive graphic; Japanese economy worst since WWII; Obama wants to send aid to Hamas; and more

Top of the Agenda: Swine Flu Emergency


The United States declared a public health emergency on Sunday as twenty cases of swine flu, a new deadly flu strain, were confirmed (NYT). The infection seems to have begun in Mexico, where it has caused over one hundred deaths and more than 1,600 illnesses. Countries around the world are investigating cases of illness they suspect could be swine flu; many of the individuals under observation reported recent travel to Mexico (WashPost).

The World Health Organization stopped short of labeling the infection a pandemic, calling it a "public health emergency of international concern." It will meet on Tuesday to determine whether to raise the threat level , which is now at Phase 3, to Phase 4, which would constitute a pandemic and prompt travel bans.

Mexico has given health officials special power to enter homes and forcibly quarantine individuals diagnosed with swine flu (CSMonitor). But the Los Angeles Times reports that Mexico's response to the outbreak exposes weaknesses in the country's health care system that prevent a swift response to emergencies.

On NPR's All Things Considered, CFR's Laurie Garrett explains the history of swine flu and why it might be targeting young people.


The World Health Organization's website on swine flu.

NPR offers a Q & A on swine flu.

The New York Times' interactive graphic explaining swine flu.


PACIFIC RIM: Shrinking Japanese Economy

The Japanese economy is set to contract 3.3 percent this year, its worst performance since World War II (AP). The parliament is considering a supplementary budget that would finance a $155 billion stimulus package.

CHINA-TAIWAN: China and Taiwan signed deals to up cross-straight flights, joint crime-fighting, and financial cooperation in their third round of talks this year. The deals have majority support in Taiwan, but the Christian Science Monitor reports that a proposed trade pact with China that would reduce tariffs between the two countries is highly controversial.



The Obama administration seeks a U.S. law change that would allow aid to a Hamas-backed Palestinian government.

Kenya's prime minister calls for new elections.


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