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Monday, November 11, 2013

Survivors Desperate after Typhoon Kills over 10,000 in Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan sent walls over water more than half a mile inland along the Philippines’ crowded coastlines last Friday, erasing whole villages, towns and cities and likely killing well over 10,000. In the town where Haiyan first made landfall, “100%” of structures had their roofs torn off or had sustained major damages. Four days later, some areas have still not been reached by relief workers. Police are guarding stores to prevent looters, while survivors grow desperate for food, water and medicine, and corpses lie uncollected and uncounted in the streets. 

Hours before Haiyan hit, Philippine authorities had moved 800,000 to evacuation centers similar to those that had successfully sheltered thousands weeks earlier during Cyclone Phailin in India. Officials had not anticipated the jet-force winds blowing at up to 170-mph or the 20-foot surges that swept through Tacloban in Leyte province, which destroyed even sturdy brick-and-mortar structures. President Benigno Aquino has declared a state of national calamity to speed international relief efforts.

Far-Right Rioters Clash with Police in Warsaw

Several thousand right-wing nationalist protesters marched through Warsaw to commemorate Poland’s national independence day, and for the third year in a row, it evolved into running battles with the police. The main targets seemed to be any symbol of left-wing, liberal views, including a bohemian neighborhood in central Warsaw and the Russian embassy, where they set a guard’s booth on fire. Rioters threw firecrackers and set fire to cars, while police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them. A dozen or so people were detained and five police officers were hospitalized.

The violence underscores the faultlines in Polish society, as some people have grown wealthier, while others feel alienated and marginalized, a development that mirrors the rise of the far-right in other countries across Europe.

Maldives Election Runoffs Postponed

Political turmoil deepened in the Maldives after the third attempt to hold a presidential election was postponed by an order from the Supreme Court. Mohamed Nasheed had won with 47% of the vote, which was not enough to avoid a run-off with his closest rival, Yaamin Abdul Gayoom, the brother of 30-year autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The Supreme Court is widely seen to be prejudiced towards Gayoom and the delays are seen as a way to ensure his victory.

The sitting president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, announced on Sunday that he would not leave office at midnight – when his term official expired – since no one had been elected to succeed him. Hundreds protested, calling for him to step down and police in riot gear used pepper spray and batons to disperse them.

Syrian Opposition Reaches Consensus on Talks

After a vote today and under pressure from the international community, the National Coalition agreed to attend the planned peace talks in Geneva if certain conditions are met, namely, that President Bashar al-Assad would “have no role in the transitional period.” Unfortunately, while a political transition could possibly end with Assad leaving power, it is highly unlikely to begin that way. It also demanded that safe corridors be established for the delivery of humanitarian aid and the release of detainees, “especially women and children.”

In other news, the West turned down the Assad administration’s request for dozens of armored vehicles to ship out the country’s chemical weapons, saying they could be used to fight the rebellion.

Financier of Taliban-Linked Militants Shot Dead

The chief financier of the Haqqani network, one of the most feared militant groups fighting US-led forces in Afghanistan, was shot dead in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad today. It was not yet clear who killed Nasiruddin Haqqani or why, but his death is the biggest setback for the group since the beginning of the Afghan war. His presence in a public shopping area in Islamabad, however, will raise fresh questions about Pakistani intelligence, which the US has accused of supporting the Haqqani network for years and allowing its members free movement around the country.

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