'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, January 14th, 2010
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Guests: Brian Williams, Kerry Sanders, John Irvine, Tracy Kidder, Michelle Wucker, Tom Vilsack, Tony Aiello
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you.
We do begin tonight with some signs of growing unrest and anger inside of Haiti, to go with the abject desperation there. Within the last few hours, the “Reuters” news organization did receive a disturbing report from a “Time” magazine photographer on the ground in Haiti. According to the photographer, in some places in Port-au-Prince, in at least two places, survivors of the earthquake have set up roadblocks using corpses to protest the lack of aid actually getting to the people.
It‘s now been about 52 hours since that country was devastated by a massive earthquake, and tonight, search and rescue missions continue. And the Red Cross estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 people may have lost their lives. Haiti‘s president, Rene Preval, announced today that 7,000 earthquake victims have already been buried.
And tonight, the first American victim of the earthquake has been identified by name. She is 57-year-old Victoria DeLong of California. She‘s a 27-year veteran of the U.S. State Department.
Ms. Delong was stationed at the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince. She was apparently killed during the quake when her home collapsed.
The grim reality of the situation on the ground in Haiti is evident in some of the incredible reporting that‘s coming out of there right now.
Today, NBC‘s Tom Llamas made his way into Haiti from the neighboring Dominican Republic. Here‘s what he found when he got there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM LLAMAS, NBC NEWS: Once we got into Haiti, it is truly an unbelievable sight. There are bodies on the streets, children, people are actually using their cars as ambulances to transport people to and from the border or to any hospitals, but the problem is there are no hospitals at this moment. People are living outside churches. It‘s just a really unbelievable and unimaginable sight.
The one thing that stuck out is that people are still being civil in Haiti. People are walking around. There‘s at least 2 million people just walking the streets. They‘re trying to walk out of the country but they‘re acting civil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: According to one report tonight, that civility may be beginning to break down at least in some places.
The main problem at this point is a problem of logistics, getting the tide of rescue and relief aid that has been directed toward Haiti actually to the people who so desperately need it. The chief obstacle right now is most of those supplies are being flown into Haiti from every corner of the globe, flown into an airport that has one runway, has one road in, and one road out.
United States Southern Command has taken control of the airport, but the sheer volume of supplies coming into Haiti has nearly paralyzed that air space.
The other main entryway into Haiti‘s capital is through its port. That option is also presenting problems tonight. This is what the port looked like before the earthquake. Here‘s what it looks like today.
As you can tell from this image the port is non-operational essentially at this point. Three working cranes that have all been destroyed; a main dock that is now partially submerged under water.
But the Haitian government essentially is unable to respond to the needs of its people. It has largely been left to the international community to at least try to help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After suffering so much for so long, to face this new horror must cause some to look up and ask, “Have we somehow been forsaken?” To the people of Haiti, we say, clearly, and with conviction: you will not be forsaken, you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you. The world stands with you.
We know that you are a strong and resilient people. You have endured a history of slavery and struggle of natural disaster and recovery, and through it all, your spirit has been unbroken and your faith unwavering. So, today, you must know that help is arriving. Much, much more help is on the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Today some of that help began to arrive. In addition to aid supplies that managed to get in to Port-au-Prince airport, more than 100 U.S. soldiers from Fort Bragg‘s 82nd Airborne Division landed in Haiti. Their mission is to help distribute aid and provide security in what is now an essentially ungoverned capital.
Joining us now from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News,” Brian Williams, and NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders.
Kerry and Brian, thank you both so much for joining us again tonight.
Bring us up to speed.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, first of all, Rachel, a bit of activity here on the airstrip. We have a U.S. C-17. They‘re waiting for at least 100 onboard guests tonight, people who were attached to the U.S. embassy here in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
This is very common, so many aircraft all day and all night. It‘s already impossible to track them. They come in with pallets of material and if it works correctly, they leave with people onboard.
Before handing it off to Kerry, I‘ll tell you, our on-air team today, all of us fanned out to different locations in Port-au-Prince, and it is—it is almost impossible to describe what we saw. On our part, the most banal and insulting sight of what appeared to be a child‘s body on a plywood gurney wrapped in a blanket on a hot day, dead and abandoned. And if you try to count up and care for all of the bodies that are outside tonight in this city, it is an impossible task.
And it‘s beyond sad and wrenching and tragic and shocking. And you run out of ways to describe it.
Kerry Sanders was out in it and saw an entirely different view.
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Brian, there‘s not enough space in the graveyards here for all of the dead. I went to a graveyard today where some folks gathered with their loved ones to say good-bye. They got between two graves that were existing graves, space about that wide, they dug the grave and they placed the bodies of four family members, including a small child in there and began putting the earth back over.
As Brian noted, there are roads that are roads of the dead, body after body after body. It‘s very hot here. We—we‘re sun-burned because it‘s 80-plus degrees here. This is the tropical Caribbean island, and that heat is beginning to take an affect on the bodies that are just left there and people have masks on because there are areas where the stench is beginning to become overwhelming.
And, of course, medical authorities are concerned that people who are exhausted, people who have not been fed properly, people who have not had water, who have their immunities down, are now possibly going to be exposed to diseases that can develop with a body or in this case hundreds and thousands of bodies rotting on the streets.
Because there‘s no government, there is nobody really in charge to say, “Let‘s pick those bodies up,” Brian. Some family members are doing it out of respect for the dead. But others are just too stunned and dazed.
And my greatest fear is we began to see some of the anxiety today turn to anger as people were fighting over water. There are some fresh water supplies available. Prices have doubled. People are getting testy and pushing and screaming. And my fear is that if what is arriving here doesn‘t get to folks in the coming days, and I mean quickly, that anger is going to begin to boil over.
WILLIAMS: Yes, you‘ve taken people with very little and taken it down to nothing—Rachel, as we discussed last night, this won‘t take long to convert itself and that‘s our fear here.
MADDOW: We are amid reports of many people trying to maintain civil behavior, maintain order as best they can, and as you describe it, an essentially ungoverned, destroyed space right now. We are seeing some scenes and hearing those reports as you say of anger boiling over, the frustration boiling over, and some growing disorder.
In terms of the ability to alleviate, that we know that U.S. troops are arriving, we know also that the main task is to get that relief out of the airport and into the streets—what can you tell us about either of those plans?
WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, let‘s start with the airport, the hub. It‘s under U.S. control. Not surrounded by troops but the airstrip, when you call in here to make a landing or a takeoff, you talk to an American air traffic controller. There is no tower.
But second, the streets. Only now here is there starting to be a U.S. military presence. Their stance and their posture is going to be critical. Remember in Katrina, it was General Russell Honore who told them to put their muzzles down. They were here to help. And that is crucial part of this when they get here and start to fan out—I‘m sorry we‘re fighting the jet engines as this cargo plane starts up.
SANDERS: I‘ll throw in there—look, the U.N. has been in here for a long time. And they have armored personnel carriers on the road, but, you know, the military speak would be rules of engagement. Their rules of engagement are to stand back. They are not to mix it up.
If there is violence on the street, they are not to get involved in it. And so, if there is violence on the street, they will come by, but they will not get out of their armored personnel carriers. Yes, they have weapons. Yes, they are armed. But they‘re not going to do that.
And I don‘t even know whether the rules of engagement have been set for the U.S. military when they come here. When the military came here, when this country was falling apart, and Bill Clinton sent in the Marines, the rules of engagement were: do not get involved. It‘s a good decision probably because you don‘t want people turning on the military, but by the same token, they don‘t bring the law and order. They bring the supplies which hopefully calm people down.
MADDOW: Brian and Kerry, people have survived a long time inside collapsed buildings in other disasters. But at 52 hours and counting now, there‘s worry that the window of opportunity to save people who are buried is closing.
Are these elite search and rescue teams from all over the globe—are they actually getting out into the streets to do their work?
SANDERS: I know that the folks from Miami Metro-Dade are here. I know the folks from Fairfax County, Virginia, are here. I know that the Chinese sent in a team with a fair amount of experience from their own earthquakes there.
I have not personally seen them out removing any rubble. I did go to some collapse locations today and just the residents who had been removing the rubble and the rocks, looking for those who might still be alive, they‘ve given up. And they don‘t have the expertise, but they‘ve given up.
I‘ve seen—I‘ve seen the dogs that are here to sniff, but I personally have not seen anybody out there doing the digging.
WILLIAMS: There is a French team here, Rachel, and they‘ve been here at the airport all day. They don‘t have their marching orders yet.
But I have to say, we saw L.A. County outside in one of the neighborhoods today. When they arrived today, it was just an unbelievable experience. About a half dozen of the firefighters I had last seen in the fight for Mount Wilson, the station fire in California, wearing the boots that I burned that day, and here they are in another corner of the world, but they‘re also among the best in the world, and I think they are now deployed tonight.
MADDOW: Brian, when I hear you say that the French team was at the airport waiting for marching orders, what I‘m wondering is who those marching orders would come from. The president‘s spokesman today had pains to say that the Haitian government is still in charge of the nation of Haiti. The U.N. is expressing their desire and their intention to be coordinating efforts.
When you‘re there, who does it seem like is in charge?
WILLIAMS: Well, you know what? You see the blue helmets. You see the armored personnel carriers Kerry was talking about, and you see U.N. blue vests and people with clip boards. You see the USAID officials when it‘s an American search and rescue team.
There are overarching organizational bodies, but there is really no secretary of the interior here. There is—there‘s no infrastructure, a white board, a command post, a communication structure. Making a cell phone call, taking down someone‘s number, sending an e-mail—a lot of it is for naught.
SANDERS: Project Medishare, it‘s based out of South Florida, doctors and nurses who have been coming to this country for quite sometime. When they landed here today, I just in chatting with them and said, “It seems to me, the most logical thing for you to do with the expertise that you have is take your supplies, go to one of these parks where people are, and begin treating them right there. There are people in triage right in those locations.”
They told me it doesn‘t work that way. “We will fly in. We will go to a location that we have set up that has security, that has protection. We will work on the people that we can work on there.”
And then they will come back to the airport. They‘ll fly back to Miami, and then they‘ll come back again tomorrow, and it will go like that.
It might seem that it makes sense to go straight there as I thought, but when you hear them explain from their experiences, that doesn‘t make sense. By the same token, you can‘t just take a truck here, load it up with water, and drive out the street and say, “Hey, I‘ve got water,” because the next thing you know, you‘re going to have 1,000 people surrounding the truck fighting, and the last thing they want to do is create a situation that leads to violence.
So, it‘s a very delicate situation. But they all recognize they‘re under pressure. It has to be done soon.
WILLIAMS: Sixty more seconds, Rachel, if you will. There is an air crew on this C-17 that were—the engine noise we‘re fighting. They came in tonight from Jersey. They are—there is sweat dripping off.
MADDOW: And as you can tell, we‘ve just lost the signal from Brian Williams and Kerry Sanders. They‘re joining us live from the airport, Port-au-Prince. We‘ll bring them back up for Brian‘s closing thoughts if we can, but I have a feeling that we cannot. Obviously, the technical challenges of bringing people on live from this disaster zone are incredible.
Brian doing a significant part of his newscast for “NBC Nightly News” tonight with a satellite phone to his ear because that was the way that they could get audio out of the country. Our NBC News team there, Brian Williams, the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News” and Kerry Sanders, NBC News correspondent, have been there along with Al Roker and Ann Curry from the “Today Show” and we‘ve been all the better for having their—access to their reporting here in MSNBC.
The need for medical care in Haiti is, of course, dire tonight. Partners in Health is an organization that‘s been providing medical care—advanced medical care in Haiti for 25 years.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder works with and wrote the definitive book about that organization. It was a bestseller. It‘s called “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” Tracy Kidder joins us next to talk about the current crisis and how medical care can be provided well in Haiti.
Later, the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joins us with an update from the Obama administration about America‘s response.
Stay with us. We will be right back.
MADDOW: An update on the status of medical care in Haiti. Some of the heroic things being done and some of the amazing technology being use today do it—coming up next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Even as aid agencies and foreign governments are working to rush badly needed medical supplies and personnel to Haiti, much of the help has not gotten to the people who need it. Medical care in Port-au-Prince is in crisis right now.
ITN reporter John Irvine filed this report from the capital today. Warning: this includes some disturbing images, but also some on-the-ground reporting. We are otherwise not seeing about the on-the-ground consequences of the bottleneck in getting aid into the streets of Port-au-Prince.
JOHN IRVINE, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): This is a hospital
overflowing with patients desperate for treatment it can‘t provide. The
casualty unit stretches from the corridors inside to the car park out front
where patients have to endure the daytime heat as well as their crush injuries. So basic are the facilities here that many won‘t get to walk away.
The few doctors and nurses we saw are overwhelmed and under-resourced. No help has arrived and such is the mortality rate, there are bodies all over the place.
The drip sustaining this man has run dry. His family tried to comfort him as his life ebbs away.
(on camera): To me, it‘s ironic that Haiti is within a relative stone‘s throw of other Caribbean islands that are among the great playgrounds of the western world, and yet, the situation here is about as bad as you can get. If you want to know what the expression they desperately need help looks like, look no further than here.
MADDOW: The medical need in Haiti right now is obviously acute. We talked on this show last night with Sophie Delaunay of Doctors Without Borders—that organization‘s multiple existing facilities in Port-au-Prince were so badly damaged in the earthquake that the facilities themselves are no longer functional. Doctors Without Borders had hundreds of staff operating in Haiti even before the quake. Thus far, they‘ve been administering post-earthquake medical care primarily from tents.
As of today, Doctors Without Borders says it has treated more than 1,500 patients, but as Ms. Delaunay told us on the show last night, they believe that at least 500 people they‘ve been in contact with already are in need of immediate major surgery, something that cannot really be done safely from the tents they‘ve been operating out of.
The next step for Doctors Without Borders is to bring in something I did not even know existed before now. They‘re bringing in an inflatable hospital. Not kidding. They‘re expecting an inflatable hospital to arrive in Haiti by tomorrow.
We googled “inflatable hospital” today. This is part of what we found. It turns out that, first, the military and then Doctors Without Borders have been using inflatable hospital facilities for years.
We‘ve also got footage that Doctors Without Borders used in Pakistan after that—the earthquake in that country in 2005.
As the name suggests, it is inflatable but it‘s substantially more than a tent or a bouncy castle. Its modular rooms can be sterilized and even decontaminated. It includes portable operating theaters, beds, rolling trays, respirators, everything medical teams on the ground need to perform surgery.
Here‘s a graphic that was published by “The Plain Dealer” in Cleveland that it shows how these things work.
Each inflatable hospital is about 1,000 square feet when it gets blown up. But it gets stored and transported—get this—in a bundle about the size of a desk. It‘s then spread out and inflated with a pump. Its support beams are made of very thick fabric. They apparently feel as solid as concrete when they are inflated.
Doctors Without Borders has one of those things—one of those inflatable hospitals headed to Haiti right now. We believe it‘s due to arrive by tomorrow.
Another remarkable medical agency with a long experience—long, successful experience working in Haiti is an agency called Partners in Health. Partners in Health works together with the Haitian Ministry of Health in the countryside. They have long been the largest medical care provider in rural Haiti.
And because its 10 facilities are away from the capital city of Port-au-Prince, they were not damaged by the earthquake. They are up and running.
Tracy Kidder‘s bestselling 2003 book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains” was about Partners in Health and about one of its founders, Dr. Paul Farmer.
Joining us now is Tracy Kidder, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who also serves on the development committee for Partners in Health.
Mr. Kidder, thanks very much for coming on the show. Appreciate your time.
TRACY KIDDER, AUTHOR, “MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS”: Thank you. It‘s a pleasure, I guess.
KIDDER: I mean, nice to—nice to be on your show but, yes.
MADDOW: In the circumstances, everything is difficult at this point. I do want to ask you about the status of Partners in Health right now. Am I right to say that their facilities in Haiti were not harmed in the earthquake, that they‘re up and running?
KIDDER: That‘s correct. Not only that, Partners in Health is, you know, almost entirely a Haitian operation, though it gets, it is supported by the United States—by people in America and mostly. And—but only a handful of the people working in Haiti are Americans. All the rest of the staff are Haitian.
There are about a hundred Haitian doctors working for Partners in Health. Many of them live in Port-au-Prince and commute out to the various sites of Partners in Health. So, many of those doctors are in Port-au-Prince now, working out of their homes, receiving patients in their homes.
Partners in Health is now establishing a field hospital sites in Port-au-Prince. They, of course, need more supplies, but they are well-supplied at the moment. And their central hospital, which is in Cange, a town that‘s not that far from Port-au-Prince, but a three-hour drive, has been receiving enormous numbers of patients, I was just told this this evening. And, of course, they‘re not turning anyone away. They‘ve taken the school that‘s within the complex and the church and turned them into hospitals essentially.
I was told—this is horrifying—that people, you know, there are some amputations being performed there, necessary ones, and people who have come all the way from Port-au-Prince for amputations, just imagine that.
So this is—Partners in Health, and I know I‘m biased, but Partners in Health is really one of the truly effective organizations working in Haiti and has been there for a long time. And, of course, they have tremendously strong partnerships with organizations like Doctors Without Borders.
But, of course, they are too small to do all of this, but they could desperately use contributions. And if people want to help them, go to PIH.org. I think it‘s a—for my money, Rachel, it‘s the best organization I know about, and it set a model for how—it seems to me, how Haiti might have a better future after this catastrophe is dealt with.
MADDOW: Tracy, people around the world, not just governments but individual people everywhere, are really eager to help out, millions of dollars of donations being raised for a lot of different charities already.
MADDOW: In your op-ed for “The New York Times” yesterday, you described a real problem with international aid in Haiti. You wrote that there are something like 10,000 private humanitarian groups that have been providing services and relief in Haiti even before the earthquake, and there‘s a real question as to whether donations to them and support for them end up being right for Haiti and end up getting anything done on the ground.
Why is that? What are the issues there?
KIDDER: Well, not all aid organizations are created equal. There are some very good ones and I didn‘t mean to slam all of them, you know, in one fell swoop. All I meant to say is that there are 10,000 aid organizations in Haiti, and Haiti is still one of the poorest countries in the world then something‘s wrong with the way things are—the aid is being administered.
It seems to me that the real problem is that—that many organizations are not willing to work together or they don‘t know how to, or, you know, the mechanisms for doing that haven‘t been established. But even more than that, that they have not really endeavored to make their projects, to make their work indigenous. And what I mean by that is they have not done what Partners in Health has really striven to do, which is—which is to work as closely as possible with the government and the particularly that agencies, in their case, with the Ministry of Health. There is no other way, finally, to improve the state of a place like Haiti.
And, you know, Rachel, I just have to say this: given your—I know your good friend Rush Limbaugh—good friends Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson have been weighing in on how Haiti has been cursed by God once again, but, you know, the truth of the matter is that this is—this is a manmade disaster in the sense that the extreme vulnerability to earthquakes is manmade. And that has a long history and that‘s a history of—you know, that begins way back with the slave colony that the French established in Haiti, the hideous slave colony, and the fact that the Haitians, the only people on earth who—only slaves on earth who freed themselves and created their own republic and then got punished for it ever since.
And, you know, we need to fix this. We need to fix this problem right now. We need to get as much materiel and doctors and everything in there as we possibly can and do this in a concerted way, but afterward, we need to continue to care about Haiti. It is one of the most beautiful and important cultures ever born under the face of this earth and it is in danger. It seems to me, long-term danger.
We need a concerted effort, one that—one that is not self-serving, but one that attempts to serve the poor of Haiti, the vast majority of Haiti. And to do that through strengthening Haitian institutions instead of doing what the United States has done all too often there, which is to weaken them.
MADDOW: Tracy Kidder.
MADDOW: No, don‘t apologize. That‘s why I asked you on the show, Mr.
Tracy Kidder is author of the book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” which is about in part Partners in Health and one of their founders, Paul Farmer. Mr. Kidder‘s most recent book is called “Strength and What Remains.”
Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Tracy. I really appreciate your time.
KIDDER: Thank you, Rachel. Let‘s hope for Haiti.
KIDDER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Our coverage of the catastrophe in Haiti continues right after this.
MADDOW: Today as aid began to flow into Haiti from around the world, help also came from right next door, from the Dominican Republic. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are two countries that share the island of Hispaniola. There is not much else they share, not language, not ethnicity and their mutual history has often been antagonistic.
But right now. The two countries appear to have put any differences in the face of Haiti‘s need. Today, the Dominican Republic‘s president became the first head of state to travel into Haiti leading a delegation of military and rescue personnel.
He confirmed for reporters for the first time that 7,000 quake victims had been buried. He also announced that his country is helping restore power and is providing hundreds of troops, food, aid, and water for the relief effort in Haiti.
The president also said that the Dominican Republic is not even tabulating the costs of its actions at this point. The Dominican government also confirmed for us tonight that some 2,000 Haitians have been allowed across the border into the Dominican Republic already for medical treatment although the country says it is not opening its border as of now to Haitians who do not have immediate medical needs.
Joining us now is Michelle Wucker. She is the director of the World Policy Institute. She has written extensively about Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Michelle, thanks very much for coming in.
MICHELLE WUCKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD POLICY INSTITUTE: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: First, let me give you the chance to correct anything I just said that was wrong. I probably got something wrong.
WUCKER: You even pronounced my name right. The name of the book is “Why The Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians and the Struggle for Hispaniola,” which really goes into this very, very long history going back to the Dominican Republic of ups and some pretty dramatic downs between the two countries.
MADDOW: Well, I mean, in terms of just the national history of the two countries, we think of the French as having set up the colony on the western side of the island and the Spanish having done so on the eastern side of the island and lots of fighting therein. But are they two countries that we should really think of as both, not only distinct, but antagonistic?
WUCKER: “Antagonistic” isn‘t quite the right word. They‘ve got a lot of things that they share. They‘ve both been occupied by the United States. They‘ve both got a long history with dictatorship. They‘ve both got a long history of being used as sort of proxies between France and Spain.
Dominicans will tell you that they celebrate their independence from Haiti in 1844 after a brutal and corrupt occupation. They won‘t always tell you that Haiti helped to get their independence from Spain.
Haitians will tell you that in 1937 there was a horrendous ethnic cleansing massacre on the border of Haitians by the Dominican dictator. And of course the Dominican dictator, Trujillo, also did terrible, terrible things to Dominicans as well. So there‘s a lot of shared tragedy between the two countries.
MADDOW: This is a crisis that is confined not only to Haiti right now, but to Haiti‘s capital city. What special role is the Dominican Republic going to have - going to have to have - in the effort to save the people of Port-au-Prince?
WUCKER: Well, I think, logistically, it is going to be incredibly important, getting some of the supplies through the Dominican Republic into Haiti, getting many, many people through the Dominican Republic into Haiti. And I should mention, most people don‘t realize this, but actually the quake was felt in the Dominican Republic.
It was more of a thing that caused a lot of motion sickness but earthquakes are very common in both places. The Dominican Republic is going to be actually very, very crucial in getting food into Haiti, in ongoing medical care, as you mentioned, with the Haitians who have come to the Dominican Republic for medical care.
There is going to be a lot of ongoing cooperation, engineers. Dominicans are going to have to be involved in some of the rebuilding as well. So they‘re absolutely crucial to support for Haiti.
MADDOW: What about the issue of refugees? Obviously, right now, when the president today was asked by NBC - the president of the Dominican Republic - was asked about whether he was worried about a large tide of Haitian refugees coming to the Dominican Republic, he essentially said, “Listen, the earthquake was in Port-au-Prince. And it is a really long walk. It‘s really far. There‘s a geographical problem there.”
That isn‘t always going to be true. People are going to want to leave Haiti. That is going to be the easiest place for them to get to or at least the first place they will think of. What‘s the background - how concerned will the Dominican Republic be about that issue? How will they handle it?
WUCKER: Well, I think it was really striking that he expressed that he wasn‘t quite so concerned about that because in the past, whenever there have been political problems in Haiti - coups, instability, whenever there have been other natural disasters - there‘s been a lot of concern about that in the Dominican Republic.
But I think it is something we should think about in the United States that we shouldn‘t count on the Dominican Republic to necessarily take up the slack. There are a lot of Haitians in the United States who need some sort of legal status, a temporary protected status, that‘s something that‘s often been offered to countries, particularly central American, who‘ve had natural disasters.
And I think it‘s something that would be very appropriate to offer to Haitians right now, not just to help them help Haitians back in Haiti, but also to ease some of the potential pressure on the Dominican Republic.
MADDOW: The United States government may be taking an initial step in that direction already by stopping deportations of people, of Haitians back to that country right now, even people for whom those proceedings had already started.
Michelle Wucker, director of the World Policy Institute, remind us again of the name of your book about the Dominican Republic and Haiti?
WUCKER: “Why The Cocks Fight: Dominicans and Haitians and the Struggle for Hispaniola.”
MADDOW: Thank you very much.
WUCKER: Thank you.
MADDOW: It‘s a pleasure to have you here. Thank you. Since Hurricane Katrina in our country, the American government‘s response to natural disasters has understandably come under some extra scrutiny.
Just ahead, a member of the president‘s cabinet, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, will be here to talk about the crisis in Haiti and the official American response. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now here in the studio is our nation‘s Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack. He is coordinating with the rest of the Obama administration on relief efforts in Haiti. He has also just returned from meeting with leaders and with farmers in Afghanistan on U.S. efforts to rebuild their agriculture sector. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here. It‘s good to have you here.
TOM VILSACK, UNITED STATES AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: It‘s great to be here.
MADDOW: Give me a sense of the urgency with which this issue, the issue of Haiti, is being handled within the administration. We keep hearing about a whole of government response. But what does that really mean?
VILSACK: Well, it means that the president has been very clear to all of us that he wants a coordinated, quick reaction. That means that we have to get emergency food to Haiti. It means we have to get emergency medical supplies to Haiti. We have to get equipment, security - all of that has to be done simultaneously and has to be done in a coordinated fashion.
Fortunately, we have got a good person at the point, Raj Shah, the USAID administrator. He knows what he‘s doing. He has put a good team together and we are responding quickly. You‘re going to see substantial amount of progress, I think, in the next 24 hours as supplies arrive, as personnel arrives, as security arrives, food arrives. Over 14,000 metric tons of food is on its way.
So you‘re going to see a significant step in the right direction. Then, you‘re going to have to take a look at the long term. And this is going to be a commitment that the administration is prepared to make as the president said today for the long term.
Not only do you have to search and rescue and recover, but you also have to reconstruct. And that‘s going to take weeks, months, and years.
MADDOW: We are in a situation right now where it sounds like - when
people describe what the response is, it sounds like a comprehensive,
almost overwhelming response. And then, we see the footage of what‘s
happening on Port-au-Prince and it‘s clear that there is a bottleneck, that
things are not getting to the people who need them and what it seems from -
We‘re able to talk to people in the airport and in the streets, people able to get some close-up view of what‘s happening, is that it‘s a coordination issue as much as it is a logistics issue.
Yes, the roads are difficult to pass, but who is in charge? There isn‘t much of a Haitian government in operation at this point. The U.N. says they‘re in charge. They‘ve got their own challenges. How does America navigate that?
VILSACK: Well, essentially America takes the position that we need to get equipment in place. Let me give you an example. We‘re going to see helicopters. We‘re going to see air transportation provided. That‘s going to make a big difference in terms of being able to move in and around the city and deliver resources.
We‘re going to see heavy equipment. That‘s going to make a difference in terms of moving concrete blocks that might be in the way. It does take a little time to get this organized and get the items in place and the personnel in place to make sure that there‘s adequate security.
But there is no question the president has made it very clear to all of us he wants us to focus on this and he wants to get it done. He wants to get it done right and he wants to get it done now.
MADDOW: We know about the 82nd airborne, the Marines, the USS Carl Vincent on the way. We know USAID, as you say, is in a coordinating role as part of the State Department. What is the role, say, of your agency? What are other aspects of the government doing that Americans should know in terms of our response?
VILSACK: Well, we‘re reaching out to food companies to determine what surplus food they might be able to provide over the course of the longer haul. We‘ve made discussions with Bunge, Cargill, ADM, Wal-Mart stores that might be able to provide assistance and help.
We‘re taking a look at our own surplus commodities to determine whether they match up or not with what is needed. We‘re making sure we have used our Forest Service personnel who are very much involved in incident command. We have five people at the D.C. Incident Command working on logistics.
We will, over the long haul, no doubt be engaged in helping farmers plant their crops later in the year. Our forest people will probably be there reconstructing roads and building dams and irrigation systems that may have been destroyed by the earthquake.
We may also be using satellite imagery to determine the extent of damage beyond the capital area. So there are a multitude of tasks that the USDA will be engaged in and will be engaged in. And that is true, frankly, of virtually every aspect of the federal government.
MADDOW: And hearing you describe those tasks and honestly reflecting on what Tracy Kidder was saying about trying to build capacity, trying to build indigenous capacity, I am struck by some of the strategic parallels here with our mission in Afghanistan.
I know you‘re just back from Afghanistan but it is that same issue of both trying to help directly but also trying to build up local government capacity, trying not to do harm by the way that we are intervening. Obviously, this is not a military operation the way that that is but are there some of the same challenges?
VILSACK There are, absolutely, and perhaps even more complicated in Haiti because there isn‘t a functioning central government as there is in Afghanistan. There isn‘t a minister of agriculture who has enough resources to actually make something happen as is the case in Afghanistan.
So that is going to be a problem. And it‘s going to be a problem to make sure that we work in concert with Haitians, to make sure that they understand that we are helping them. We‘re not trying to direct them. We‘re not trying to dictate to them.
But at the end of the day, the farmers have to put the crops in the ground. People have to be fed. Water has to be obtained. Systems have to be replaced and repaired. Roads have to be constructed. All of that has to be done.
And I honestly believe that this is a tragic circumstance. The loss of life is horrendous. The key challenge for all of us is whether or not we can make something out of this, whether we can put Haiti back in the right direction.
I think the president believes we can. I think he thinks we have the capacity and the heart and the compassion to do it. And I think it‘s up to every single one of us to contribute. And certainly, I think all of the cabinet members are anxious to do that. And we‘ve instructed our staffs to be fully engaged in this.
MADDOW: To hear you express the desire and the president‘s will and this government‘s will to make it a long-term commitment, could make all the difference. But obviously, right now, the immediate need is to get things moving and fast.
VILSACK: That‘s right.
MADDOW: Tom Vilsack, our nation‘s agriculture secretary, I‘ve had a number of chances to interview you over the years in a number of - well, you‘ve had a number of different jobs and I always really find it a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you.
VILSACK: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good to see you. We‘ll be right back with more of our continuing coverage on the catastrophe on Haiti.
MADDOW: Many of you have already donated money to help the millions of people affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Many more of you will donate in days and weeks ahead. If you donate by credit card, American Express and Visa and Mastercard have all announced that they will waive the few percentage points those companies would normally skim for themselves off of your payment. And good on them for that.
Some of you, however, will end run around the credit card companies altogether to donate money in a completely novel way. It‘s one of the ways that I personally gave today. I gave by text message. After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, Americans donated about $200,000 to charity through text messaging.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Americans donated about twice that, about $400,000 through text messaging. Last year, for all of 2009, for all causes, fundraising via cell phone hit the $2 million mark nationwide. That was all very good, very philanthropic.
But this time, for this disaster, the charitable donation numbers we are seeing dwarf those totals. A bunch of organizations are raising money this way for Haiti. But to just give you a ballpark idea of donate-by-texting‘s success, the American Red Cross alone has raised almost $6 million through text message donations in two days.
And the icing is that wireless carriers, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have agreed to waive their standard text messaging fees for those texted donations. Excellent.
Except for Sprint. Sprint not so much with the excellent. They told MSNBC today that standard text messaging charges will apply. They did say that their customers are free to buy text messaging plans from Sprint to cover the cost of that one text. Helpful. Thanks, Sprint.
Joining us now is Tony Aiello. He‘s the CEO and co-founder of M-Give one of the companies making it possible to donate by phone. M-Give is a for-profit company. They‘ve waived their start-up in transaction fees for the charities raising money for the crisis in Haiti in this sway. Mr. Aiello, thanks very much for joining us.
TONY AIELLO, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, M-GIVE: Thanks for having me this evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: I know that you‘re waiving all your fees for donations to this disaster. Thank you. Before this quake, tell me how this service worked, how it would be set up. I know the donation amount would show up on a customer‘s phone bill.
AIELLO: Yes. That‘s exactly correct, as using this example as perfect because it works for day-to-day fundraising just like it does for disaster relief. So, in effect, the mobile user would, in this case, text the word Haiti to the number 90999 and receive a text message back asking them to confirm by replying with “yes.”
At that point, their mobile phone bill is tagged with a $10 donation. So that donor then actually pays that to their wireless carrier the next time they pay their bill. And the funds are then funneled to a 501 C3 called M-Give Foundation and then distributed to the appropriate charities. In this case - this campaign - all the funds are going to the Red Cross.
MADDOW: I would also say that if you‘re worried about getting spam on your cell phone because you‘ve done this, I did this today, and after you get sent the “yes” and you get the confirmation, you then get a note that says, “Do you keep getting texts from the American Red Cross?” You can write back and say “no” if you don‘t want to. So it‘s sort of a “whew” if you‘re worried about that.
One of the things that I am worried about this, although I think
it‘s cool to donate at the spur of the moment -
MADDOW: I‘m worried it‘s a quick way to donate but it takes too long this way for the money to actually arrive at the charity that I just donated to. Can you explain that?
AIELLO: Well, sure. As I mentioned a moment ago, when the - if you and I both give today, we might be paying our mobile bill on a different cycle or a different monthly billing cycle.
So the carriers have to collect all of that money and then distribute it to the 501-C3 clearing house and then distribute it to the charity. So everyone in the chain wants to get the money to the Red Cross as fast as possible.
And all parties involved - they‘re working to try to streamline that effort. And right now, in traditional day-to-day fundraising, it‘s about a 90-day - 90 days between the time that the mobile user presses the buttons on the phone and the dollars arrive at the charity.
We hope to streamline that for this disaster based on the size and scope of this situation. The tragedy boggles the mind, so everybody wants to get the money to the charity as fast as possible.
That said, because this is such a major disaster, I think people are going to be needing dollars for quite some time. So you know, clearly your point is well taken. The goal is to get the money to the charity as quickly as possible.
MADDOW: Mr. Aiello, I think it‘s an incredibly successful way to raise money. If that window does get shorter than the time it is now and you talk about these details on your Web site, let us know and we‘ll tell people. We‘ll help get the word out.
Tony Aiello is the CEO and the co-founder of M-Give, a company that allows you to text donations to nonprofits. As Mr. Aiello Said, if you‘d like to text a donation for relief to Haiti, we have a list of charities that accept text donations posted on our Web site, which is Rachel.MSNBC.com. Mr. Aiello, thank you. And we will be right back.
MADDOW: We‘re back live at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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