It didn’t rain – it poured. A torrent of water and misery fell over a broad arc across the Himalayan foothills, and washed away hundreds of lives and hundreds of thousands of homes. Millions of people are affected. India, Nepal, Pakistan were all caught in the deluge, as was Bangladesh, one third of which was said to have been under water.

The Indian city of Mumbai is prone to flooding, and there the water caused a residential building in the financial district to collapse adding to the death toll.

In the USA, the state of Texas was also hit by storms and flooding. Dozens of people died in the greater Houston area, more than 300,000 have registered for disaster assistance. President Trump sort of showed up to help, but without actually meeting many people. He later pledged one million dollars of his own money towards disaster relief. There was criticism of his wife, Melania, for leaving Washington D.C. enroute to Houston wearing high heels. Unfair?  Fair?  Did it matter?  By the time she got to Texas there was a change of footwear. A few days later Vice President Pence then arrived and managed to meet some real people.

In some sections of the Western media there was also a debate about why the disaster in Houston received greater coverage than that in South Asia given the disparity in loss of life. Some of the reasons are geographic and technical. Western media has greater access and correspondents in the USA, and the technical media infrastructure allows for easier live 24-hour coverage. Another reason though is the perception of audience interest. All reasons appear open to further debate.

Back in South Asia the ongoing tragedy of the Rohingya people made a rare appearance in the headlines. The Rohingya are a Muslim people in Burma who say they are systematically persecuted by the state. In recent weeks an insurgent groups attacked security forces. A huge military counter offensive ensued in which hundreds of people have been killed amid accusations of the slaughter of civilians. Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled attempting to cross into Bangladesh.

Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under pressure to speak out about the alleged atrocities taking place. Analysts are divided over whether she agrees with the government position that the 1 million strong Rohingya do not have citizenship and doesn’t care about them, or – if she fears her position with the military is not yet strong enough to take it on politically.

North Korea was again on the news radar because one of its missiles was on Japan’s military radar: Pyongyang launched a missile which travelled over Japanese airspace and landed in the ocean. This was a calculated game by Kim Jong Un…  too close to Japan and it risked the Japanese trying to shoot it down – too close to the American territory of Guam and it risked war. Yes it was risky, he got away with it – but it was another small step towards conflict.

At least one potential conflict calmed down – for now.  The standoff between Chinese and Indian border troops was partially resolved… both sides said the other compromised.  Indian Prime Minster Modi is now free to attend the BRICS conference in China.

And there was the Hajj the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The Hajj is the 5th and final pillar of Islam. There’s always politics surrounding the Hajj – this year there was a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over how many Qataris were allowed to attend, but politics was not on the minds of most of the 2 million plus pilgrims – they were taking the trip of a lifetime and fulfilling a joyous religious obligation.

That was the Week that Was.  Eid Mubarak. 

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5 Comments on "The Week That Was"

  1. Tim, there are over 3 million people of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage in the UK, 900,000 of whom were born in those countries. Many of these people will have relatives that are in some way affected by these floods. If there is a perception that there isn’t an interest, then that is surely a problem in the mindset of the people managing and prioritising content.

    • Sure, but it was two days behind the story.

    • Peter, as you are in digging up links mode, if you can post a link to me saying there was NO coverage at all of the events I will give you one trillion gazillion euros ;-).

      The point is that not only was the coverage (with the exception of the BBC News website Asian section) late in coming, especially to a TV audience, when it came it still played second fiddle to what was by then the aftermath of a much less severe disaster. We would be conning ourselves if we tried to tell ourselves this was a one off either.

  2. The east vs west story is far older than the press industry. Certainly, there are some tech arguments as you said, Tim, but also, there is a more fundamental thing going on here, and that is in the very terms “East” and “West”.

    The world is round, so geographically there is no East and West; something is either east of or west or and of course, is always both!

    But we have been dividing this world up politically for so long that the division is in every bone of every culture.

    My mother was born in the “east,” in Rangoon in 1923. The daughter of someone that owned a car garage, she was not influential in the British Empire, just someone of English/Irish heritage that was born over there. She had English friends, Irish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Burmese friends. She spoke a little Burmese and they ate curries every lunch time. Mohinga is her favourite meal to this day.

    But despite being born there, being 18 when the Japanese invaded, of evacuating to India (her father walked out) and joining the Army in India, she and all her English friends described England as “Home.” Even though they had never been there.

    I see this even now. I have an Indian friend who was born here. He said to me that his parents had popped back home for a month, meaning India. He has only been there once and his Hindi is dreadful.

    So, it is not really surprising that though the floods in the East were covered, they did not get as much coverage as the story in the West. That does not make it right, but just how it is. Equally, did the Eastern media cover Texas as much as Bangladesh? I don’t know the answer, but it is relevant.

    I think there are many people that would love to see a joined up world where everything is equal, but it will never happen. The human is a tribal animal, a pack animal. We have to be. We are a weak beast with pathetic claws, small teeth and we don’t even run as fast as a big, fat bear. The only reason that we were so successful as a creature was that we are really good at doing things as a team, as a tribe, with those closest to us geographically.

    That is the trick to how we got this far, and it is going to be damned difficult to shake it off.

    Don’t expect the media to be the first into that brave world.

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