Disaster's Damage to Economies May Be Minor by Amy Waldman and James Brooke is among the most reads from today's New York Times:
The coast is a tableau of battered boats, smashed hotels and residents scooping mud from what is left of their homes. The immediate interior of the country and its residents show not a scratch.
That surreal contrast, economists say, helps explain the perverse likelihood that one of the world's largest human disasters may have a relatively marginal economic impact.
In the economies of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand and the other affected countries, the tsunami is likely to register more as a small wave, because the two industries most heavily hit - tourism and fishing - make up small percentages of the overall economy.
It is in individual lives, as well as the countries' infrastructures, that the true cost will be felt.
Robert D. McFadden is tracking the Relief Effort Gains as Aid Is Reaching More Survivors:
Jan Egeland, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, recounted progress in relief efforts in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and other nations. He told of new clinics in remote areas, listed more pledges of new aid and, in contrast to the terrible news of recent days, spoke of reasons for optimism.
"The good news is coming in by the hour," Mr. Egeland said in New York, citing a donation of much-needed heavy forklifts as an example. "I am more optimistic than yesterday, and much more than the day before, that we, the global community, will be able to face up to this enormous challenge."
It was only the beginning of a relief campaign that has drawn pledges of $2 billion from 40 countries and will go on for months, if not years, and the suffering was still widespread. But after a week of horrific reports - with estimates of as many as 150,000 dead, 500,000 seriously injured, millions of homeless and hungry and tens of thousands missing - there was a sense of progress and even rays of hope.
Warren Hoge writes, in Secret Meeting, Clear Mission: 'Rescue' U.N., of a meeting that participatants and witnesses tell him occurred on December 5, 2004:
At the gathering, Secretary General Kofi Annan listened quietly to three and a half hours of bluntly worded counsel from a group united in its personal regard for him and support for the United Nations. The group's concern was that lapses in his leadership during the past two years had eclipsed the accomplishments of his first four-year term in office and were threatening to undermine the two years remaining in his final term.
. . .
The meeting was held in the apartment of Richard C. Holbrooke, a United States ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton.
Others in attendance were John G. Ruggie, assistant secretary general for strategic planning from 1997 to 2001 and now a professor of international relations at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; Leslie H. Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations; Timothy E. Wirth, the president of the United Nations Foundation, based in Washington; Kathy Bushkin, the foundation's executive vice president; Nader Mousavizadeh, a former special assistant to Mr. Annan who left in 2003 to work at Goldman Sachs; and Robert C. Orr, the assistant secretary general for strategic planning. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations from 1998 to 2003, was invited but could not attend.
Hoge notes that Senator Norm Coleman (Republican) has called for Annan's resignation. He also finds the last political virgin:
One of the members of the group had prepared for the session by finding out if the Bush administration was siding with those in Congress who were calling for Mr. Annan's resignation or whether it would support his resolve to stay in office until the end of his term in December 2006.
The official, a onetime senior government figure in Washington with close ties to the Bush administration, said he concluded that "they were not going to draw the sword against Kofi."
Lord knows the administration's never lied to those trying to guage them, right? "Onetime senior government figure," remember "no" means "no." I have a feeling you may soon be wailing, "To my face! They lied!"
For a look at things that Hoge (and the unnamed official above) gloss over or ignore, see Ian Williams' "The Right's Assault on Kofi Annan" (http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050110&s=williams) in the lastest edition of The Nation:
The reality is that the current calls for Annan's head are provoked by his opposition to America's pre-emptive war in Iraq. On December 4 the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the hometown newspaper of Senator Norm Coleman, who has called for Annan's resignation, provided perhaps the most succinct explanation of what lies behind the attacks. Describing Coleman's call as a "sordid move," the editorial explained: "For months before the election, the right-wing constellation of blogs and talk radio was alive with incendiary rhetoric about Annan and the oil-for-food scandal.... This is really all about Annan's refusal to toe the Bush line on Iraq and the administration's generally unilateral approach to foreign affairs. The right-wingers hate Annan and saw in the food-for-oil program a possible chink in his armor. They went after it with a venomous fury."
Lastly, note Erik Eckholm's 19 Iraqis Killed in Car Bombing:
Insurgents pressed their unrelenting campaign to demolish the fledgling Iraqi security forces on Sunday, killing 18 members of the Iraqi National Guard and a civilian with a suicide car bomb north of Baghdad, the United States Army said, and killing several police officers and local officials in other attacks around the country.
[Both the online version of this story and NPR have noted that there's been another attack since this story went to press.]
For the chuckle of the day, try to get through Quietly but Firmly, Hastert Asserts His Power
by Sherly Gay Stolberg with a straight face. Don't miss the photo inside the paper of the puppet with his puppet master (Tom DeLay).
On the somber side, to read of the passings of Shirley Chisholm and Robert T. Matsui in James Barron's Chisholm, 80, Is Dead; 'Unbossed' Pioneer in Congress and Gardiner Harris's Representative Robert T. Matsui, 63, Dies.
(Denise, no, there's no correction printed today to Dave Itzkoff's "The All Too Ready for Prime Time Players" in yesterday's paper. Yes, you are correct, Itzkoff gets it wrong. Molly Shannon did not portray a cheerleader with Will Ferrell, it was Cheri Oteri.)