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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 15, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: U.S. Boosts Philippine Aid Effort

Helicopters from a U.S. aircraft carrier and other naval ships began flying food, water, and medical teams to the central Philippines, where the death count from a typhoon last weekend doubled overnight to four thousand people (Reuters). China's pledge of less than $2 million has cast doubts over the impact of Beijing's soft power in the region (AP). As the Philippine government struggles with its humanitarian crisis, some officials and environmental advocates are starting to look at the causes of the storm, including rising global temperatures, and have called on wealthy countries to pay for the impact of climate change, which is largely caused by industrialized nations (al-Jazeera).


"It is a truism in the aid community that the key after any natural disaster is to 'build back better.' A country such as the Philippines—which suffers 20 typhoons a year, not to mention earthquakes, floods and landslides—cannot reduce its physical exposure to such risks, only its vulnerability. In the aftermath of such a tragedy, it only makes sense to prepare better for the next one—to build stronger homes, on higher land, with better early warning systems and evacuation routes," writes Bloomberg in an editorial.

"It's surprising that Beijing has not stepped up to help the Philippines. On the contrary, its response has been miserly and slow-moving. With an initial donation of only $100,000, followed days later by a begrudging $1.6 million worth of tents and blankets, China has allowed its South China Sea dispute with the Philippines to cloud its compassion and distort its diplomacy," Rory Medcalf writes in the Wall Street Journal.

"The United States and the Philippines, a relationship always fraught with the challenges of former colony/colonizer history and ties between Filipinos in the United States and the Philippines, has clearly been on the upswing over the past five years. The White House would like to credit its rebalancing of U.S. forces and diplomacy to Asia as the driver behind this warming, although I would argue that the Philippines simply was driven to re-embracing Washington by China's behavior in the South China Sea, and by the rapid realization in Manila of how horribly antiquated the Philippines' navy was," writes CFR Senior Fellow Joshua Kurlantzick.


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China Eases Its One-Child Policy

China's Communist Party said it would loosen it one-child rule for urban couples and abolish its labor camps, used to punish early critics of the party (AP). Both decisions followed a four-day meeting of party leaders in Beijing earlier this week.

CFR's Elizabeth Economy unpacks the most important takeaways from China's Third Plenum in this interview.



Cameron to Deliver Tough Message to Sri Lankan Leader

British prime minister David Cameron is expected to press Sri Lanka's president at the Commonwealth summit in Colombo to reach a political settlement with the National Tamil Alliance. Cameron will also raise concerns about torture allegations by the Sri Lankan government (Guardian).

MALDIVES: The president of Maldives stepped down on Friday as the country geared up for the second round of its presidential elections on Saturday (Hindu).



Iran Freezes Expansion of Nuclear Activities, Says IAEA

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's atomic watchdog, said that Iran has stopped expanding its nuclear facilities over the past three months, a move that was seen as a possible confidence-building measure before talks about the disputed program resume next week (AFP).

CFR's Ray Takeyh explains in this op-ed that Washington's greatest diplomatic successes are a result of reconciling concerns of both its allies and adversaries.

LEBANON: The head of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant group backed by Iran, said his "mujahedeen are present on Syrian soil" and will stay there to support the Assad regime (NYT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins of Hezbollah and its role in the region.



Gambia Severs Ties With Taiwan

Gambia, one of a few African countries to recognize Taiwan (which China regards as part of its territory), has cut its diplomatic ties with Taiwan for reasons of "national strategic interest" (BBC). China has been investing heavily in Africa and relies on the continent's natural resources.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the expanding oil relationship between China and Africa.

SENEGAL: Five lesbian women in Senegal were charged with violating the country's ban on homosexuality (al-Jazeera). Homosexuality is illegal in thirty-eight African countries.



EU Criticizes Spending Plans of Its Largest Economies

The European Union highlighted concerns for its largest economies, saying that Germany has made "no progress" in stimulating domestic spending, that Spain risked missing deficit targets, that Italy might breach debt-reduction rules, and that France had no margin in its budget (Bloomberg).

IRELAND: Ireland will emerge from a three-year bailout without the safety, and conditions, of a credit line from the EU, and will be the first eurozone country to complete its rescue program (FT).



CIA Collects Financial Data on Americans

The Central Intelligence Agency is building a database of international money transfers that includes the personal and financial details of millions of Americans (WSJ). The program is authorized under the Patriot Act and overseen by a secret national-security court.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the history and scope of U.S. domestic surveillance.

UNITED STATES: President Barack Obama said his administration "fumbled the rollout" on the health-care overhaul, and offered a proposal that would make it easier for Americans to keep their existing health insurance policy (Politico).



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