Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Building a better Haiti

October 1, 2010

Returning home from a fascinating week in Haiti today, and meetings with the prime minister, UN mission chief, aid workers, business leaders and middle class and poor Haitians. HAITI/

In a sense, Haiti is another test case for the international aid and development effort. A disaster on the scale of the January earthquake — striking a poor country with a weak government and private sector — has highlighted all the well-known pros and cons of the international aid effort, which now seems to run much of the country and economy. 

Today, there is very little malnutrition, epidemics and major disturbances have been avoided and healthcare for most Haitians is better than before the quake struck, all major achievements.

But many Haitians have serious reservations about the “occupation” by thousands of foreign NGOs, only a few of which actually work with the government. Much of the aid money flows right back out of the country, and much of the energy and goodwill is dissipated in waste and overlap.

The massive influx of free foreign food, medicine and medical help has also undermined local Haitian agriculture and the private health sector. 

There is a real fear that not enough of lasting benefit will be left behind when all these foreigners eventually pack up and leave. A further disaster avoided, yes. A firm foundation for the future, not much sign yet. 

Here are our top stories… 

Obama names low-key insider Pete Rouse as chief of staff

President Barack Obama turned to low-key insider Pete Rouse to replace high-profile chief of staff Rahm Emanuel in a prelude to a wider staff shake-up expected at the White House. Obama named Rouse, a veteran Capitol Hill operator, to take over at least on an interim basis from Emanuel, 50, who announced his resignation as Obama’s top aide to launch a campaign for Chicago mayor. 

For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here

CFTC starts overhaul of U.S. swaps market
The U.S. futures regulator, in the roll-out of its first new rules under the sweeping financial reform law, proposed to limit the control of banks and other firms in the clearinghouses that will soon manage most trade in risky swaps. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s proposal is an early test of how hard the agency intends to crack down on the previously unregulated market for swaps, the speculative investments blamed for accelerating the 2008-09 financial crisis.

For more of this story by Roberta Rampton and Christopher Doering, read here.

Democrats see signs of hope for election

After enduring months of bad news and gloomy political forecasts, some Democrats are seeing signs of hope that Republican gains in the November 2 congressional elections will not be as big as predicted. A modest boost in the party’s national poll numbers and an upturn for Democratic candidates in a few key states, particularly California and Washington, have fueled Democratic hopes that a yearlong Republican wave of momentum may have crested.

For more of this story by John Whitesides, read here.

Risk council takes first steps on Dodd-Frank

A new council of regulators charged with identifying risks to the financial system acted on Friday to begin implementing the new financial regulatory overhaul law. The Financial Stability Oversight Council held its first meeting and voted to seek public comment for a period of 30 days on the Volcker rule, which restricts risky bank trading.

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

Single trade kickstarted flash crash: regulators

A computer-driven sale worth $4.1 billion by a single trader helped trigger the May 6 “flash crash,” setting off “liquidity crises” in U.S. futures and stock markets, regulators said in a report.

For more of this story by Jonathan Spicer and Rachelle Younglai, read here.

GMAC showed ‘bad faith’ in Maine foreclosure-judge
A Maine state court judge reprimanded GMAC mortgage over its foreclosure practices and concluded that it submitted a company official’s affidavit to support a foreclosure “in bad faith.” The ruling came in a case that revealed that GMAC, now part of Ally Financial Inc, filed thousands of affidavits in which officials falsely said they reviewed mortgage documents and concluded that they justified foreclosure.

For more of this story by Scot Paltrow and Jonathan Stempel, read here.

U.S. apologizes for syphilis experiment in Guatemala

The United States apologized for an experiment conducted in the 1940s in which government researchers deliberately infected Guatemalan prison inmates, women and mental patients with syphilis.

For more of this story by Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, read here.

Factory and inflation data suggest more Fed easing

Manufacturing growth slowed last month and inflation remained subdued in August, leaving the door open for the Federal Reserve to launch a fresh round of monetary policy easing. Data also showed both consumer and construction spending rose more than expected in August, but investment in private projects fell to its lowest level in more than 12 years.

For more of this story by Steven C. Johnson and Lucia Mutikani, read here.

What we are blogging…

Rahm’s White House going away present – dead fish wrapped in newspaper

What do you get a guy who’s leaving the White House to run for Mayor of Chicago?
White House colleagues presented Rahm Emanuel with a dead Asian carp wrapped in Chicago newspapers at the morning meeting on his last day.

For Toby Zakaria’s full blog, click here.

In House, bipartisanship is in eye of the beholder

A top Democrat is fed up with House Republican Leader John Boehner citing their work together years ago as an example of Boehner’s commitment to bipartisanship. Representative George Miller says Boehner — in line to become House speaker if Republicans win the chamber in the Nov. 2 election — is long-time partisan and everyone should know it.

For Thomas Ferraro’s full blog, click here

From elsewhere…

A Minute With Actor Eisenberg on playing Facebook CEO

Jesse Eisenberg has never been at a loss for work, having starred over the years in studio films like “Adventureland” and “Zombieland” and independent films like “Squid and the Whale.” Now, the 26 year-old actor is getting ready to take on his most high-profile role to date, playing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” in theaters on Friday.

For the rest of this story, click here 

Photo credit: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz (Haiti earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince Sept. 30)

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