News in Asia

The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan continues to be a clusterfuck. The Philippines have 7000 islands, and getting aid to hard hit areas has been a logistical nightmare. The U.S. carrier group USS George Washington just arrived in the Philippines, bringing food and helping to provide logistical support. The survivors of the storm are understandably becoming more frustrated and desperate and blaming President Benigno Aquino for sluggish relief efforts. The confirmed death toll is 2357, though government estimates puts it around 4460.

China has pledged to increase its aid to the Philippines from $100,000 to $1.4 million after receiving criticism from aid groups and other governments. A international relations expert did point out that critics should remember that when China suffered devastating floods in 1998, the United States sent only $20,000. It should also be remembered that there has been tension between the two countries over maritime rights.

As a counterpoint, Filipino billionaires are pulling together to help their countrymen in an example of how you take care of your own.

Speaking of China, the superpower announced new economic and social policies this week and the biggest change is the relaxation of the country’s one-child policy and abolishing labor camps.

Caroline Kennedy has taken up her post as the new U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

A South Korean newspaper has reported that the North Korean government ordered the public executions of 80 people for offenses such as watching South Korean movies and possessing a Bible. The veracity of the story is under question, but if true, it’s another black mark on the country’s shoddy human rights record.

Now that NATO and U.S. troops are preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan, farmers are taking steps to insure their incomes by planting more poppy and leading to the biggest increase in opium production in years.

While I am not a fan of her husband, former First Lady Laura Bush does bring up a good point when she voices concern that any gains made by Afghan women in the last few years are in danger of being lost.

The ruins of the Majapahit capital in Trowulan, Indonesia, an empire that once covered much of Southeast Asia, has been saved from a proposed steel mill.

The Samsung Lions, the baseball team of the city of Daegu, South Korea (where I taught English for two years) edged Uni-President Lions of Taiwan 5-4 in the tenth inning Sunday to finish first in Group A in the baseball’s five-nation Asia Series. Baseball games in Korea are a blast. They’re as loud as football games, you can bring beer and chicken from the outside to eat and it’s just generally a good time. I lived only a few miles from the Lions’ stadium and heard the games on many a night.

While British Prime Minister David Cameron demanded an independent inquiry into human rights abuses dating back to Sri Lanka’s civil war four years ago, President Mahinda Rajapaksa says his government needs time to investigate. I’m sure that investigation will be honest and forthright.

Finally, the work of young Afghan artists is gaining more attention from Western art watchers and collectors and rightly so.

 

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Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

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