Giving money to poor Africans, that is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo".
President Bush met with Tony Blair (search) this afternoon to hash out a policy to relieve the tremendous suffering in Africa. The president promised to try to forgive the African debt and shake loose $674 million for emergency humanitarian aid. The USA already gives a quarter of all the assistance in the world to the African continent.
Now, there's no question that Africa remains largely out of control with tribal warfare, brutal dictators, rampant poverty and disease, all combining to create chaos. But that doesn't mean the wealthy nations should not try to help. We should. But we have to be smart about it.
Right now, the USA gives about $19 billion a year to help poor countries all over the world, far more than any other nation. America's also fighting a brutal war against terrorists, while most other countries sit it out. Our cost for that is enormous.
So anyone who tells you that we are not doing our part to make the world a better place is a deceiver. There is no question that America's image in much of the world is bad. That's caused by a dishonest press, combined with President Bush's passive public relations stance. For whatever reason, the president is not very engaged in winning hearts and minds.
Now not that it's easy. The USA donated almost $1 billion to tsunami relief (search), and many still hate us. That will not change no matter what we do. But again, we should try to do the right thing, no matter what.
The question is what is the right thing? Bob Geldof (search) has enlisted Paul McCartney, Madonna, and other entertainers to give concerts next month designed to encourage African relief. That's a replay of the 1985 Live Aid (search) project, which raised close to $150 million for famine relief in Africa.
But according to "Charity Navigator,"(search) much of the money was stolen by the corrupt Ethiopian government and used to prop up a brutal dictator named Mengistu (search). Once again, noble intentions turned bad in Africa.
Solution to the problem is for the USA, Britain, and other European nations to dispense the African aid themselves and work through private concerns like Doctors Without Borders (search) and the Touch Foundation (search), people who are on the ground in Africa. Long past time for the world to demand accountability for charitable efforts. American largess is already stretched. We must have assurances our money will reach those who need it. Let's send a message to the world. No aid without that assurance.
The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day
As we've been telling you, there's something very wrong at the St. Petersburg Times (search) newspaper.
Among other things it has consistently been sympathetic to accused terrorist financier Sami al-Arian, (search) who is now on trial facing possible life in prison.
In today's al-Arian coverage, the paper's second paragraph says, quote, "The prosecutor did not make clear connections between the defendants and charges that they conspired to provide material support to terrorists."
Well, contrast that skeptical point of view with the second paragraph in the Tampa Tribune, (search) which is also covering the same trial. The Trib says, quote, "Al-Arian's attorney, William Moffitt, also appeared to acknowledge during his opening statement that al-Arian was part of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, at least for a time."
Quite a difference, wouldn't you say? Ridiculous? I believe the St. Petersburg Times crossed that threshold quite some time ago. Don't believe anything you read in that paper.