Barack Obama has launched the first large-scale aid programme in his career as President, pledging the “unwavering support” of America to earthquake-wrecked Haiti on Wednesday. “Within hours of Mr. Obama being informed of the quake in Haiti on Tuesday, United States officials were plotting a response that included ships, transport planes, helicopters and thousands of Marines. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton decided Wednesday night to cancel the rest of her Pacific trip and return to Washington. Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of the United States Southern Command, said that one of the Navy’s large amphibious ships would probably be sent to Haiti, with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard, and that other American military forces were on alert, including a brigade of 3,500 troops. He said the Pentagon was ‘seriously looking’ at sending thousands of Marines to help the disaster effort. The Navy aircraft carrier Carl Vinson was deployed from Norfolk, Va.; military commanders said it should arrive in two days. In addition, White House officials said the military was looking into sending the Southern Command’s hospital ship, the Comfort, in light of reports that most of Haiti’s medical facilities were severely damaged if not destroyed. The Coast Guard also sent four cutters.”
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