1. Humanitarian Crisis in Ecuador Following Quake
In the same week a massive quake rocked Japan (below), Ecuador faces a humanitarian crisis following its own earthquake. The death toll in the South American country has reached 580 souls, with estimates on the missing running as high as 1,700. Relief assistance is in short supply, leaving thousands of people homeless and vulnerable to dirty drinking water and a growing threat of disease.
Some help is on the way; the World Food Program and Oxfam are sending in supplies, while the UN said it was preparing a major airlift. Sniffer dogs and mechanical diggers were being used to search for survivors, and the smell of rotting bodies was filling the air, witnesses said. Some people have been pulled out of the rubble alive but, despite the efforts of emergency teams, hope is fading that many others will be found.
2. Massive Earthquake Rocks Japan
The after effects of a large earthquake in southern Japan continue to reveal new tragedies. The death toll now stands at 48, with an unknown number of persons missing.
Many of those affected are elderly, given the semi-rural areas struck by the quake, leading to 11 of the deaths occurring after the fact due to stresses of living in temporary shelters. 680 aftershocks have been recorded, some strong enough to count as full-on quakes had they occurred outside the region. Japanese Self-Defense Forces, assisted by U.S. Marine aircraft, have flooded the area with manpower and relief supplies, even as landslides continue to create new threats.
3. Changes to U.S.-Saudi Relationship Mark Obama’s Trip to the Kingdom
What was once America’s strongest, and most controversial, relationship in the Middle East outside of Israel, continues to deteriorate under the changing balance of power in the region and shifting American goals. So it was little surprise that Barack Obama received a chilly reception at best from Saudi Arabia’s leaders as he landed in Riyadh on Wednesday.
The issues are many: the Saudis fear America’s slowly thawing relationship with Iran, as they fear Iran’s growing influence in the Gulf. The Saudis also blame America for much of the current chaos in the Middle East, spurred on by the endless War on Terror in all of its metastasizing forms. The Kingdom also worries that the United States may lift the lid on its role in funding the 9/11 hijackers, either through the release of the classified 28 pages of the 9/11 report that details Saudi involvement, or via legislation pending before Congress that would allow the 9/11 victim’s families to sue Saudi Arabia for damages.
4. U.S. Sends More Troops, Attack Helicopters and B-52s into Iraq-Syria War
Despite maintaining that it will not put “American boots on the ground,” the Obama administration announced it is deepening its military campaign against Islamic State by increasing the number of Special Operations forces in Syria from 50 to 200, and allowing the offensive use of Army attack helicopters in the fight against militants in Iraq (the Apache attack helicopters have been in Iraq for some time, but had been officially limited to the role of defending American troops.) American advisors will be sent closer to the actual fighting than previously acknowledged.
The United States this week also deployed its largest bombers to an air base in Qatar, and has already sent them into combat over Iraq and Syria. Some 5,000 U.S. military personnel are now in Iraq.
5. My Daddy’s Rich and My Lamborghini’s Good-Looking
If you’re in the market for an ultra-expensive sports car, don’t go shopping in Vancouver. Wealthy Chinese are snapping up Lamborghinis and other luxury goods as fast as dealers can stock them, so you might want to consider leasing. The reason behind all this is that Canada has become a top destination for China’s one percenters. According to government figures, from 2005 to 2012, at least 37,000 Chinese millionaires took advantage of a now-defunct immigrant investor program to become permanent residents of British Columbia, most of them settling in Vancouver.
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