The drum roll and media attention usually given to visiting heads of state, particularly after the long lull of summer, have been usurped by Hurricane Katrina and the gargantuan task of coordinating the influx of global goodwill, the drama of displacement and questions of accountability.
Presidents, prime ministers and other leaders heading to New York for a summit on the U.N. Millennium Development Goals are adjusting their agendas in defiance of domestic concerns and other priorities.
Canada and Mexico are hoping their offers of assistance will benefit relations with the United States after strain over the Iraq war, trade and immigration issues.
Canada, in addition to offering helicopters, rescue teams and evacuation flights, has dispatched three navy ships and one of its coast guard vessels to the area hit by Katrina.
The Canadian Embassy also organized a fundraiser yesterday that included a benefit breakfast in the embassy courtyard, lunch and afternoon events to benefit the American Red Cross.
The Mexican government sent a relief convoy of 45 vehicles across the border yesterday morning. A spokesman at the Mexican Embassy said the convoy included doctors, nurses, engineers, water treatment plants and mobile kitchens that can feed 7,000 evacuees three times a day.
Among the industrialized nations, Australia was one of the first to deliver its donation, $7.7 million. President Bush said $1 billion had been received in recent days. Oil-rich countries proved magnanimous as well.
Israel airlifted more than 70 tons of relief, including baby food, water, clothing, tents, bedding and medical supplies. The shipment was scheduled to arrive in Little Rock last night, according to its embassy's spokesman.
India not only handed over a check for $5 million to the American Red Cross yesterday, but its ambassador, Ronen Sen, also urged the Indian community here, with its vast accumulation of wealth from high-tech businesses and enterprises in the United States, to donate generously to organizations helping hurricane victims.
Countries big and small, rich and poor have offered assistance. Bangladesh, a cyclone-prone and impoverished country, disbursed $1 million from its meager resources to help alleviate the kind of suffering its population has endured for decades.
Germany and Japan have offered forensic experts, large-capacity pumps to help clear floodwaters, and badly needed power generators. Russian planes laden with tents, blankets and thousands of food packages were en route.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which the United States has asked to pitch in with transporting aid, has activated its Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center to oversee the avalanche of relief offers and to deploy transport ships to carry aid across the Atlantic in the first such humanitarian mission.
Meanwhile, a Web site set up a week ago by the International Committee of the Red Cross has logged more than 100,000 names in its effort to help reunite relatives misplaced by Katrina.
The operation, maintained by a staff of 15 people, has helped track several hundred people a day. The Internet address: www.familylinks.icrc.org/katrina. People in need of assistance may also call 1-877-568-3317.
Central America Fallout
The Central American Bank for Economic Integration projected yesterday that the disaster would have severe economic consequences in Central America.
Anticipated spikes in oil prices and disrupted shipping operations for Central American exports and imports could prove costly, according to the bank's executive president, Harry Brautigam. "This disaster only increases the chances that Central America will suffer more in this regard," he said, according to the Reuters news service.
Iraqi President Here
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani speaks today about the staggering security problems his country faces and reconstruction hurdles at a breakfast briefing hosted by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Talabani is to meet with President Bush on Tuesday.