When tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri, needed laptops for its 2,200 high school students and a rebuilt neonatal ICU, in stepped ... the United Arab Emirates? Yep. In a strange turn of events, the UAE has been stepping up foreign aid to the US. The campaign, which gave millions to Joplin, has also built soccer fields in low-income neighborhoods in cities like Chicago and LA; helped other hospitals as well as food banks and other nonprofits; and will give $5 million each to New York and New Jersey to help with Sandy relief. It's all part of an attempt by the UAE, a key American ally, to sway public opinion in the US, the Washington Post reports.
It came about after the embassy found that while 30% of Americans had a negative view of the country in 2006, 70% had no opinion. Yousef al Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the US, made it his mission to bring that 70% over to his side—and perhaps sway some of the 30%, too. "We had a responsibility to educate Americans about who we are," Otaiba explains. "We have been in Afghanistan with you. We went into Libya." And the UAE isn't alone: A Queens community devastated by Sandy is getting help from Ireland. Breezy Point has a proud Irish heritage, so Ireland took up the cause, the New York Times reports. Irish celebrities including the Irish Tenors have hosted fundraisers, and corporate donations, consular volunteers, and government aid have poured in. “It’s another county of Ireland," says an Irish radio producer. (Read more Joplin tornado stories.)