Washington Extra – Storm clouds over Haiti

September 30, 2010

There was a tremendous outpouring of goodwill and money for Haiti after the quake, which prevented a further humanitarian catastrophe. But so far, nine months after the capital was devastated, progress in “building back better” seems painfully slow. haitiRubble still chokes the narrow streets of Port-au-Prince, and 1.3 million people occupy every available scrap of land in tents awaiting resettlement, or even just a government plan on what to do with them.

Given the mind-boggling scale of the disaster, the weakness of the government and economy even before the earthquake, the lack of land as well as clearly defined land ownership records, it is unfair to expect too much.

But today everyone seems to be asking: What has all this goodwill achieved in terms of lasting benefits to Haiti? One thing that is clear from our interviews this week is the government, local elites and the international community seem to be playing something of a blame game.

Last week six people in the camps died when a freak storm struck Port-au-Prince, and today more bad weather could be on its way. There has been a spike in births in the camps as the first “earthquake babies” arrive, but the future they face looks as uncertain as ever.

Here are our top stories from today…

Obama aide Emanuel to run for Chicago mayor

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, one of President Barack Obama’s most powerful aides, plans to step down on Friday to pursue a run for Chicago mayor, sources familiar with the matter said. Obama was to make an announcement at a White House East Room event on Friday. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs would not confirm Emanuel is the subject of the announcement but the sources said Emanuel’s announcement would come on Friday.

For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here.

Obama staff changes may signal fresh start

The exit of top aide Rahm Emanuel and other staff changes give President Barack Obama a chance to signal a fresh start as he tries to boost his weak poll numbers and prepare for his 2012 re-election campaign. White House officials said Emanuel’s departure and that of other senior aides, such as top economic adviser Larry Summers, would mean a loss of valued players.

For more of this story by Caren Bohan, read here.

Special Report: The ties that bind at the Federal Reserve

To the outside world, the Federal Reserve is an impenetrable fortress. But former employees and big investors are privy to some of its secrets — and that access can be lucrative. On August 19, just nine days after the U.S. central bank surprised financial markets by deciding to buy more bonds to support a flagging economy, former Fed governor Larry Meyer sent a note to clients of his consulting firm with a breakdown of the policy-setting meeting.

For more of this story by Kristina Cooke, Pedro da Costa and Emily Flitter, read here.

Lawmakers urge regulators to avoid infighting

Lawmakers warned regulators not to let infighting or intimidation get in the way of their new responsibility to spot and defuse the next financial crisis before it becomes an economic disaster. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and five other top officials testified as a group on Thursday for the first time on how they intend to turn more than 800 pages of financial reform legislation into a workable regulatory regime.

For more of this story by Dave Clarke and Rachelle Younglai, read here.

Data support modest third-quarter growth hopes

New claims for jobless aid fell last week, while manufacturing in the nation’s Midwest region grew faster than expected in September, supporting the view that economic activity picked up a bit in the third quarter. Another report showed consumer spending was slightly stronger than expected in the April-June period, causing the government to revise its second-quarter growth estimate up to a 1.7 percent annualized pace from 1.6 percent.

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

Top Republican Boehner decries “fiscal recklessness”

The top Republican in the House of Representatives said lawmakers should be forced to make cuts in federal spending if they want to add new programs. Taking a swipe at his own Republicans, who hope to regain control of the chamber in the November elections, as well as the majority Democrats, John Boehner said the House has earned a reputation for “fiscal recklessness.”

For more of this story by Thomas Ferraro, read here.

As TARP ends, small banks struggle to repay

The U.S. government’s $700 billion bailout of the financial system has become a form of long-standing aid for many of the nation’s small and regional banks, even as the program officially expires on Sunday. The banks are eager to repay the taxpayer money, but the meek economic recovery has gotten in the way.

For more of this story by Joe Rauch and Dave Clarke, click here.

Big energy firms cut Iran ties under U.S. pressure

Four major European oil companies will abandon their Iranian activities voluntarily to avoid American sanctions designed to pressure Iran over its nuclear program, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

For more of this story by Andrew Quinn, read here.

White House keeps pressure on China over yuan

The White House kept pressure on China over the valuation of its currency but gave no clear sign whether President Barack Obama supports a House bill that threatens to penalize Chinese goods.

For more of this story, click here.

U.S. issues new drilling rules, offshore ban stays

The Obama administration unveiled new regulations aimed at permanently reshaping the nation’s offshore drilling industry in the wake of the BP oil spill, but kept its deepwater drilling ban in place for now.

For more of this story by Ayesha Rascoe, read here.

What we are blogging…

Gibbs skillfully dances around Rahm question

The performance was worthy of “Dancing with the Stars.” Watching White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs waltz around the question  of whether White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had decided to leave and run for mayor of Chicago was quite breathtaking.

For Toby Zakaria’s full blog, click here.

Castle rules out write-in race

Congressman Mike Castle will not launch a write-in campaign for the Senate seat he once was heavily favored to win. Castle had been considering the option of running as a write-in candidate since he lost to Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell in Delaware’s Republican primary election.

For Joanne Allen’s full blog, click here.

For more Front Row Washington, click here.

From Haiti…

Interview – Haiti must use election to lever out of aid trap – U.N.

Haitians should seize U.N.-backed elections in November as an opportunity to build a better nation from the ruins of this year’s earthquake by taking charge of future development and shedding years of aid dependency, the top U.N. official in Haiti said. Edmond Mulet said the Nov. 28 presidential and legislative polls to be held 10 months after the massive Jan. 12 earthquake would be a chance for Haiti to shake off its identity as a weak, unstable, poverty-ridden “Republic of NGOs” dominated by foreign aid organizations.

For the full story by Pascal Fletcher and Simon Denyer, read here.

Haiti quake homeless at risk, shelter crisis drags

Haitian mother Louise Estela Nacius and her five children have lost their home twice in less than a year. The first time was in January when a devastating earthquake toppled their house along with those of at least 1.5 million others in the overcrowded capital Port-au-Prince. Their second “home,” a tarpaulin stretched on sticks over a patch of muddy earth in a quake survivors’ tent camp, was blown down on Friday when a freak storm hit the ravaged city and its camps for the quake homeless, causing fear and panic.

For the full story by Pascal Fletcher, read here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credits: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (Residents walk past buildings destroyed during an earthquake in downtown Port-au-Prince)

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