Today's Papers

Aceh’s Anemic Aid

The tsunami aftereffects still merit banner headlines. With the official death toll continuing to spiral upward, the papers focus on the promises of aid and the slow distribution of it, especially in Indonesia’s Aceh province.

The latest overall count of 80,000 dead does not include casualties from Aceh’s west coast, which rescuers still can’t reach, and officials suspect tens of thousands died. “Eighty percent of the buildings are wrecked,” said an Indonesian minister who flew over the area. Some U.N. officials said 80,000 probably died in Aceh alone.

The Los Angeles Timessays “little food or medical assistance” appears to be reaching the de facto refugee camps in Aceh. The paper describes one “camp” with thousands of refugees, but no latrines and no doctor. The Wall Street Journal says “witnesses reported cases of diarrhea among refugees whose thirst compelled them to drink from roadside ditches.”

As the Washington Postemphasizes, local authorities didn’t seem to be in any hurry. One Australian commander in Aceh offered major help, including a mobile hospital and equipment to unload relief supplies. But an Indonesian officer declined, saying, “Come back tomorrow.” Citing the U.S.’s top AID official, USA Today adds, “The Indonesian government did not grant permissionfor relief agencies to enter Aceh.” (The other papers have suggested otherwise.) As LAT explains, Aceh has been under military rule and nothing happens there without things winding their way up the chain of command.

In Sri Lanka, which was the second-hardest hit, another 750 were reported dead, bringing the total there to about 23,000. The New York Times adds that the government reported “up to” two million homeless.

The NYT gives the biggest play (lead story display-type) to President Bush’s first public comments about the disaster, during which he said the $35 million pledged so far is “only the beginning of our help” and announced a relief coordination committee comprised so far of the U.S., Australia, Japan, and India.

The U.N. has asked for $130 million in emergency aid and suggested it will launch a $1 billion-plus appeal soon.

A NYT editorial points out that Europe has been outpacing the U.S. in development aid for years, both per capita and in total dollars: “ARE WE STINGY? YES.”

Here’s a blog that’s been posting satellite photos of the destruction.

Everybody has details on the 28 Iraqis killed when insurgents lured police into a booby-trapped house in Baghdad. Most of the dead were neighbors whose homes collapsed in the blast.

In Mosul, 15 GIs were wounded when guerrillas tried to overrun a U.S. outpost. The attack began with two car bombs followed by about 50 guerrillas with RPGs. U.S. planes eventually counterattacked, killing an estimated 25 insurgents.

Reuters says there were also clashes in Samarra, where about 100 Iraqi national guardsmen also resigned. A nearby town council did the same after their president was assassinated.

The LAT interviews residents of Fallujah who returned last week and have left again in disgust, after they found the city uninhabitable. “I couldn’t stand it,” lamented one man. “I was born in that town. I know every inch of it. But when I got there, I didn’t recognize it.” Another resident said, “We have no intention of going back. No one is staying.”

Everybody mentions inside that extremists in Saudi Arabia set off two car bombs in Riyadh and later fought with security forces. Just one civilian was reported killed, along with nine attackers. As usual, the stories are datelined elsewhere

Citing a GOP “House leadership aide,” the NYT says inside that Republicans are “preparing” to make it harder to initiate congressional ethics inquires. Chasing yesterday’s Post, the Times also mentions that GOP leaders are considering pink-slipping the current Republican head of the ethics committee, who for unknown reasons showed independence and resistance to quashing charges against Majority Leader Tom DeLay.