Each day, news of the extent of destruction in Myanmar (formerly Burma) from Saturday's Cyclone Nargis gets worse. The United Nations today characterized the situation as a "major, major disaster." At least 22,000 people are dead, and the final toll might be more than double that since at least 41,000 still are missing. The sight of bodies floating down flooded streets has become commonplace, and there is concern about the likelihood of outbreaks of waterborne diseases. The repressive military regime has been slow to admit foreign aid workers and supplies. According to minutes of a meeting of U.N. officials today, "Visas are still a problem. It is not clear when it will be sorted out." The U.S. government late Tuesday eased financial sanctions aimed at the regime in order to permit humanitarian aid and private donations to relief efforts.
Hillary Clinton, faced with mounting fundraising problems, has loaned $6.4 million to her presidential campaign in the past month, according to a campaign aide. The news of Clinton's continuing financial woes—she made a $5 million donation in January—follows a difficult evening for her campaign yesterday: a sizable loss in North Carolina, and a much-narrower-than-expected victory in Indiana. The net result: Barack Obama increased his lead in delegates. Clinton's advisers, however, say she has no intention of dropping out. "This candidacy and this campaign continues on," Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson told CNN this morning.
In a ceremony at the Kremlin today, Dmitry Medvedev was inaugurated as Russia's new president, replacing Vladimir Putin, who served in the role for the past eight years. Since March, when Medvedev was elected in a vote from which a number of opposition candidates were excluded, there has been speculation about the extent to which the new leader will act independently of his powerful predecessor, who is set to become prime minister. Medvedev's inaugural speech, which stressed conciliation, was very much at odds with the Kremlin's orchestrated crackdown on independent media and opposition politicians in recent years. "Human rights and freedoms...are deemed of the highest value for our society, and they determine the meaning and content of all state activity," he said.