Latitude News brings you three must reads about what the world is saying about the U.S. today.
Too little, too late for Syria
With the appointment of John Kerry as Secretary of State, many observers and activists had hoped for a more muscular U.S. approach to ending the brutal reign of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. And while the U.S. has agreed to give medical supplies and food directly to Syria’s rebels for the first time, Lebanon’s Daily Star reports that many analysts believe the new foreign policy initiative won’t have much of an impact.
“It took seven months to get to the biscuits and Band-Aid,” Salman Shaikh, the director of the Brookings Doha Center, tells the Daily Star.
“I don’t necessarily see things being speeded (sic) up, though you have a new secretary of state who has got a new tone. I don’t think it’s a pathway to arming the opposition at this point in time. I just don’t think President Obama’s convinced of that.”
So far 70,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations, and Assad has recently turned to more desperate measures like using SCUD missiles against the rebels.
Time cover story on Pistorius raises eyebrows in South Africa
South Africans have reacted defensively to a new cover story in Time magazine about the murder trial of the double amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius.
“The new South Africa has turned out to be no harmonious band of colors,” reporter Alex Perry writes in what was essentially the thesis of his piece. “Behind the latest in intruder deterrents for the elite, or flimsy barriers pulled together from tin sheets and driftwood for the poor, South Africans live apart and, ultimately, alone.”
While Perry has taken a good deal of heat in South Africa, the South African blogger Sarah Britten writes on Thought Leader that nothing in the Time story was particularly controversial; in fact, South Africans say similar things all the time. The problem was that the criticism came from an outsider.
We crave the attention of the world and resent it in equal measure. We want to be loved, and we mourn the loss of the adulation to which we once felt entitled. We are confused and conflicted: that one of our sporting heroes was a big enough star on the world stage to dominate headlines offers us reassurance that we matter, even as we wince from the pain of seeing one of our heroes become a symbol of our collective failings.
Ultimately, Perry concludes, South Africans must confront their problems head on, and not let the foreign press drive the narrative.
The sequester is coming…to Canada
As President Obama and congressional leaders get closer to not making a deal, the sequester looms large throughout the U.S. But Canadians are bracing for the cuts too, reports the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Canadian companies with U.S. government contracts or who take in revenue from the U.S., and Canadians seeking to cross the border could all be impacted.
If the spending cuts go through, the Department of Homeland Security could cut 5,000 border-patrol agents, while Customs and Border Protection may slash the equivalent of 2,750 inspectors.
“That will undoubtedly have an impact on the approximately $1.6 billion worth of goods and 300,000 or so people crossing the U.S.-Canada border each day,” reports CBC.
“In the longer term,” says Bill Anderson with the University of Windsor’s University Cross-Border Transportation Centre, “I think it’s going to be more of a general impact besides just the border delays, it’s going to have an impact on maybe slowing down the North American economy, which is bad for Canada in general.”
“Inspirational Grandpa” learns English in China
And last but not least, a story to make you smile.
An 89-year-old grandfather in China is gaining media attention for his attempts to learn English. Song Chonglian has been learning the language for 18 years by reading books in English, according to a story in his hometown newspaper, The Qianjiang Evening News. The paper dubbed Song the “Inspiring Grandpa.” He explains that knowing some English makes visiting the U.S., where his son and grandson live, much easier.
“If I can speak English on my own, it will be more convenient for me to hang out. My son and grandson will feel more comfortable with me too,” Song says. He added that elderly people who learn a new language also reduce their risk for Alzheimer’s.
The reaction on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, has been positive. “As a young man, I feel ashamed of myself. I have never passed an English exam!” one user wrote. Another added, “Live and learn, role model!”