NATURAL DISASTERS: BURMA death toll confusing?

6 05 2008

Let me give you some advice, if you want to know how many people have actually died-then check as many various outlets to see which number makes the most sense and is the least sensationalist-as all media outlets are reporting various numbers. Nothing like a bloody atrocity to get the media into an orgasmic frenzy!?

So I’m laying off reporting on this until the hoopla dies down-then I can give it the respect it bloody deserves. For whatever it’s worth, SLATE, has a good rundown on the international stories-though they’ve chose mainly American media outlets.

“All the papers lead with the rapidly rising death toll of the devastating cyclone that hit Burma on Saturday. The New York Times and Washington Post cite government figures released today that say as many as 15,000 people were killed (early morning wire stories report that an additional 30,000 people are still missing). Burma’s foreign minister went on state-run television to report that 10,000 people died in just one town. The Los Angeles Times notes that before the number of dead started climbing yesterday the previous official tally was 351 and points out that the cyclone potentially left “hundreds of thousands of people homeless.” The Wall Street Journal reports that it was the country’s worst recorded natural disaster and points out that the previous record was held by a 1926 storm that killed 2,700. Everybody says that, if the numbers are accurate, it would amount to the worst natural disaster in Asia since the 2004 tsunami. USA Today focuses on the relief efforts and says it could be several days before the victims begin to receive much-needed food, water, and medical assistance.

“The call for international aid quickly became politicized,” notes the WP. First lady Laura Bush, who has long taken a special interest in Burmese issues, held a rare news conference where she accused the country’s military leaders of failing to issue warnings about the impending cyclone and blocking international aid efforts. (The LAT points out things got even more politicized when the first lady announced that President Bush would sign legislation today awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to political activist Aung San Suu Kyi.) A United Nations spokesman said the Burmese military junta is “receptive to international assistance” and the notoriously closed-off country said it would accept foreign aid workers, says the LAT. But the NYT reports that, so far, “most foreigners and all foreign journalists have been barred from entering the country.””





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