Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | Categories: Episodes
It's Tuesday May 13.
Relief agencies around the world are criticizing the paranoid and inneffectual response to cyclone Nargis by Burma's ruling junta.
Currently, to prove it's taking things seriously, the junta has hired FEMA to manage the crisis.
This is The Current.
China Earthquake - Update
A major earthquake registering 7.8 on the richter scale hit South Western China on May 12, 2008. At the time we went to air, reports estimated that as many as 10 thousand died, and hundreds more were trapped. And there were other reports of industrial buildings, schools, and hospitals collapsing. One student at Sichaun University, only about a hundred kilometres from the epicentre of the quake, used his cell phone to record the terrifying moments of the earthquake.
For the latest developments from China, we were joined by Anthony Kuhn, National Public Radio's Beijing correspondent.
China Earthquake - Expert
The earthquake was just one in a spate of natural disasters in a short period of time, from Cyclone Nargis, which satellite images showed bearing down on Burma's Irrawaddy Delta, to a number of particularly lethal tornadoes killing dozens of people in the American South and Midwest. Forecasters issued warnings for these natural disasters. Floods and even volcanic eruptions can be predicted days in advance. But that wasn't the case for the earthquake in Sichuan.
Many scientists consider earthquake prediction to be impossible, making it extremely difficult to prepare people and communities for such a disaster. Still, other researchers continue to pursue earthquake prediction as the Holy Grail of seismic science, something that could save countless lives.
Kelin Wang, a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada, has done earthquake research in China, which has led him to conclude earthquake prediction may in fact be possible. Kelin Wang joined us from his home in Sidney, British Columbia.
Listen to Part One:
Burma Aid Update
The international community and a legion of aid agencies have grown more frustrated in the wake of Cyclone Nargis. By some estimates, as many as one million survivors are at grave risk of hunger and disease in Burma, the country also known as Myanmar. And aid agencies warned that the death toll could spike exponentially if aid does not reach the afflicted areas in a short period of time.
But despite the immensity of the humanitarian disaster unfolding, the Burmese government continues to confound outside aid efforts.
We began our coverage in the devastated city of Yangon, also known as Rangoon. For an update on the humanitarian aid efforts there, we reached Tim Costello, Chief Executive of World Vision Australia.
Burma - Profile of Junta Leader
While hundreds of thousands of Burmese awaited desperately needed relief, the country's ruling military regime continued to impose strict limitations on international aid agencies. And at the head of that powerful military cabal is Senior General Than Shwe, known to many smply as "The Bulldog." We spoke to someone who knows a fair bit about the bulldog behind the Burmese junta - a man few have met and who remains, for many in the West, shrouded in mystery. Bridget Walsh is an Assistant Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins University in the School for Advanced International Studies. She joined us from Washington.
Burma - Dictatorship
The military junta in Burma certainly isn't the first dictatorship to make its population's pain and suffering worse in a time of crisis or disaster. Barry Rubin is the director of the Global Research and International Affairs Centre in Israel and has written a book called "Modern Dictators". He says that on one level, the military junta in Burma is very typical, but with a modern day twist.
So why does Burma's ruling regime seem bent on a course that seems to fly in the face of the country's needs? To answer that question, we were joined from New York by Vincent Boudreau, a Professor and Chair of City College of New York's Political Science Department, and the author of Resisting Dictatorship: Repression and Protest in Southeast Asia.
Listen to Part Two:
Food Costs and Prostitution - Researcher
By May 2008, rapidly rising food costs were a global phenomenon. For any developing country, the high price of food wes a major concern and a potential source of civil unrest. But for nations already burdened by HIV/AIDS, food insecurity can make a bad situation worse, in both obvious and unexpected ways.
Take South Africa, a country with one of the world's worst AIDS epidemics. The price of maize, a staple in the country, more than doubled between 2006 and 2008. Anxiety and anger over the price of food boiled over in street protests, with one example including a speech by was Patrick Craven, spokesperson for COSATU -- the Congress of of South African Trade Unions.
AIDS was a food security issue in southern African countries for years before the 2008 spike in prices. The disease strikes people in their prime, when they would normally be working the land and raising food.
Some people worried that the dramatic rise in food costs will make people more vulnerable to the virus. For one thing, it could push women, in particular, into high-risk "transactional sex" in order to feed their families.
That scenario has Erica Jacobs concerned. She is an HIV/AIDS support worker with Doctors Without Borders, working in a large township outside Cape Town, South Africa.
Stuart Gillespie has spent more than a decade researching the ways food security issues and AIDS intersect. He is coordinator of the International Food Policy Research Institute, and an advisor to UN-AIDS in Geneva, Switzerland.
Food Costs and Prostitution - Panel
Food, poverty, sex and HIV make for a very complicated and contentious equation in sub-Saharan Africa. To discuss that further, we were joined from London, England by Elizabeth Pisani, an epidemiologist and the author of a new book about AIDS called The Wisdom of Whores, and from Durban, South Africa by Alan Whiteside, director of an AIDS research group based at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Last Word - Disaster Response
In this episode of The Current, we looked at the response of Burma's military rulers to the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis and the consequences of their inaction. For many, the obvious point of comparison would be the inadequate emergency response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Two and a half years ago before the advent of Cyclone Nargis, we interviewed British author Simon Winchester, shortly after the release of his book, A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906. we asked him to compare how well the disaster response to Katrina was carried off compared to the San Francisco earthquake nearly a hundred years earlier. We closed the show with his answer.
Listen to Part Three: