Hurricane slams Southeast Asia
The Associated Press reported that up to 10,000 people are dead in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan’s landfall on Friday, Nov. 8. The massive storm sustained winds of 170 mph and a storm surge of 15-19 feet, slamming into six central islands with a force equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane (ABC, “Typhoon Haiyan aid efforts complicated by storm’s destruction,” 11.10.13).
Tacloban, a city of 220,000 in the eastern region of Leyte, was one of those hit hardest by the typhoon. Haiyan leveled much of the city, which is now carpeted with destroyed buildings, debris-ridden roads, and potentially hundreds of unrecovered bodies (National Post, “Philippines typhoon scale, delivery challenges mean few in corpse-strewn Tacloban have gotten aid,” 11.12.13).
The extent of destruction severely hindered relief efforts. Supplies, including food, clean water, and medical supplies from the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived late or did not arrive at all, leading to widespread looting (ABC).
The storm affected more than 9 million people, with at least 800,000 displaced and 2 million requiring food aid (CNN, “General asks for US warships in typhoon relief,” 11.12.13). Haiyan also made landfall in Vietnam and southern China. Though significantly weakened, the storm caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to farming and fishing industries. 13 people were reported dead in northern Vietnam (National Post).
Following Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s declaration of a state of national calamity, countries pledged millions of dollars in aid. The United Nations, following up the $25 million already released for the immediate needs of the survivors, launched an appeal for $301 million for relief efforts on Nov. 12. Despite the relief efforts, thousands still await aid. In many areas, there is no food, water, or electricity. Authorities are urging for quick mobilization to provide basic supplies for those affected (CNN).
—Kryzel Bonifacio, Guest Reporter
First Lady Speaks on Education
On Nov. 12, Michelle Obama launched a new initiative designed to increase the number of low-income students who pursue higher education. The program’s goals are inspired by her own life, and will allow her to be more directly involved in President Obama’s policies. She and her husband aim to change the United States’ position from 12th to first in the world in the percentage of college graduates, and plan to do so by the year 2020.
The First Lady made an appearance at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to speak about the importance of education. “I’m here today because I want you to know that my story can be your story…The details might be a little different, but so many of the challenges and triumphs will be just the same,” she said. (The New York Times, “Michelle Obama edges into a policy role on higher education,” 11.11.13). Mrs. Obama told the crowd that she faced adversity before attending Princeton University. She was told by teachers that her dream of going to Princeton was unrealistic, but she applied anyway. She said, “I used that negativity to fuel me, to keep me going, and in the end, I got into Princeton, and that was one of the proudest days of my life.” Of course, the struggles didn’t end once she got to the Ivy League university; obtaining the degree was challenging, too, but she considered it important (MSNBC, “First lady gets personal in education push,” 11.12.13).
Mrs. Obama hoped that her story would inspire others to pursue higher education. “The person with the biggest impact on your education is you,” she said. She told attendees that by 2020, nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the United States would require some form of education or training beyond high school. (MSNBC)
Others feel that she has avoided controversial areas. Author of a book on first ladies, Catherine Allgor, said, “She could not have done this four years ago…If she came out of the gate with something much more tied to policy, she would have been shot down. Just look at the reaction to her suggestions that people eat salad.” (The New York Times)
Obama said, “It is not your circumstance that defines your future…It’s your attitude. You decide how you’re going to respond when something doesn’t go your way.” (The New York Times, “First lady gets personal in education push,” 11.12.13)
—Maggie Jeffers, Guest Reporter