December 28, 2004


Thank Heavens She's Okay

Over 44,000 people have been reported dead in Asia, a third of which are children, and some chucklehead from the Associated Press thinks this is a story worth reporting?
Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova, who appeared on the cover of 2003 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, was injured and her photographer boyfriend is missing after the pair were caught up in the Asian tsunami disaster, a spokeswoman for the boyfriend said Tuesday.
Seriously, I'm sorry for her and her boyfriend, but, sheesh, doesn't this perfectly demonstrate that our obsession with celebrity has reached the point of insanity?

And on a similar note, am I the only one offended by this?
"The latest numbers we have are 11 Americans have lost their lives, a number have been wounded, and hundreds are yet unaccounted for," Powell told CNN's "American Morning" television program.

The United States had previously reported eight U.S. citizens dead.
I understand that people who have relatives in Asia are extremely concerned and worried but why do politicians and the media always have to make these stories appear to be about us (as in the U.S.)? Whenever there's a plane crash, no matter where in the world, we're always told if there was an American on board. Or, less serious, but more obvious: When you watch NBC's version of the Olympics, you'd think all the events come down to a U.S. athlete with an engrossing personal story vs. The Generic Rest of the World. And we wonder why so many people across the globe think we're a bunch of jerks -- not to mention stingy*):
The Bush administration yesterday pledged $15 million to Asian nations hit by a tsunami that has killed more than 22,500 people, although the United Nations' humanitarian-aid chief called the donation "stingy."

"The United States, at the president's direction, will be a leading partner in one of the most significant relief, rescue and recovery challenges that the world has ever known," said White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy.

But U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland suggested that the United States and other Western nations were being "stingy" with relief funds, saying there would be more available if taxes were raised.
Since we're not all stingy jerks, Bob Harris points us to a few places we can go to help out the victims in Asia (including how to donate to Mercy Corps, Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam).

*I admit the stingy-thing is a bit of a cheap shot, even for me. If Colin Powell can be believed (and, admittedly, it's a little difficult for me):
"We also have to see this not just as a one-time thing. Some 20-plus thousand lives have been lost in a few moments, but the lingering effects will be there for years.

"The damage that was caused, the rebuilding of schools and other facilities will take time," (Powell) added. "So you need a quick infusion to stabilize the situation, take care of those who have been injured, get immediate relief supplies in, and then you begin planning for the longer haul."
Still, even if we chip in some more, Rising Hegemon (by way of Atrios) helps us with a little perspective:
Over at Eschaton, Atrios has made some hay over the stingy amount of aid offered ($15m) for the recovery after the earthquake and tidal waves and is comparing that amount with the cost of the inaugural festivities. The gala, not including beefed up security, will cost $40m. That is a lot of party, people...

And we spend something like $5.8 billion per month in Iraq. Read it again, and compare. $15 million total for disaster aid and something on the order of $200 million per day in Iraq.

A smart politician would turn this to an advantage. Really, what the f*ck is he doing have (sic) big inaugural galas with 140,000 soldiers' asses on the line in Iraq alone? The prospects for meaningful peace look less likely with every passing day. There are tens of thousands dead in Asia and countless more devastated by homelessness, disease, and without the barest essentials for living. And he wants to have a party.

Really it fits this guy's pattern. He has earned political capital and is going to spend some of it on a little shindig in HIS honor. Is it any wonder he is so loathed by so many?
Update: Looks like the U.S. has already upped its relief package:
The U.S. Agency for International Development prepared Tuesday to add $20 million to an initial $15 million contribution for Asian earthquake relief as Secretary of State Colin Powell bristled at a United Nations official's suggestion that the United States has been "stingy."
Steve Gilliard responds with a wee bit of snark:
I guess the Holy Christian Emperor realized that $15m was about what Usher spent for his cars and Atlanta home. That millions of destitute people might need a bit more than his Napoleonic coronation.
Steve said it, not me...

What the U.S. offers, ultimately, in aid to Asia following the disaster may or may not be appropriately generous, but for U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland to call the U.S. "stingy" is the height of hypocrisy. Where has Egeland's UN been during the Congo and Sudan genocides? Why, the UN has been too busy swimming in money derived from its oil for food scandal while Iraqis starved.
I too was a bit appalled by Powell's ticking off the number of dead American's in the face of the overwhelming totals. It did get me to thinking about the incredibly low percentage of Americans. Have we become so insular that we are no longer represented in the "tourist population" of the world?

Indonesia's preliminary count does not even include a number of Americans killed while reporting "1,000 Germans, 600 Italians, 464 Norwegians, 219 Danes, 200 Finns and 200 Czechs have been reported as missing, along with 294 Singaporean tourists". Thailand lists 20 dead American among its "at least 495 foreigners". Where are we? I guess the sick question that I'm asking is, "Why weren't more Americans killed?" The answer must be there weren't many there. Why not?

As for US media coverage of a tragedy like this, National Lampoon hit it on the head a long time ago with the headline "Two local women feared dead in volcano explosion."

Subhead: "Japan destroyed."
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