Once again, Latitude News reprises three stories from the week’s international headlines, stories that give Americans insight into the United States via the views of outsiders.
First, we start with a glimpse into the inner workings of the United States Supreme Court. Stories about the court often seem peculiar to Americans – there’s a sort of unwritten rule in Washington where the press corps is not supposed to delve too deeply into the judicial branch (beyond its rulings) or the august men and women who wear the black robes.
In this regard, the exceptions prove the rule. Remember the 2009 story about Justice Antonin Scalia’s duck hunting with then-Vice President Dick Cheney? It just seemed weird and disillusioning, like when, as a young child, I saw a priest (in his Roman collar!) smoking a cigarette. We just don’t think about these people’s private lives.
American justice in Malta
On Friday, June 29 — a day after he cast the deciding vote in the United States Supreme Court’s landmark decision on Obamacare — Chief Justice John Roberts joked to an audience of judges in Pennsylvania that, in anticipation of the scrutiny generated by the case, he had planned a journey to an isolated Mediterranean island.
“Malta, as you know, is an impregnable island fortress,” he said, reported The Daily Mail of London. “It seemed like a good idea.”
On July 3, the Mail — which I consider the most hard-charging newspaper in Britain — published a story on Roberts’ trip, which the newspaper says involved the chief justice teaching a two-week course at the island’s university.
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. You’d be smiling too if you were in sunny Malta. (Reuters)
The newspaper recounts some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the court’s decision on Obamacare, like how Roberts really wrote the conservative minority’s dissenting opinion but then changed his mind, gave the liberal wing a majority for some nefarious reason and then wrote the majority opinion, too. You can dream up your own fantasies involving Roberts and the various ancient religious orders and secret societies that use Malta in their name.
But what’s interesting about the Mail story is this: After a very controversial and undoubtedly physically and emotionally taxing period in Washington, our chief justice is smart enough to head for one of the most beautiful spots on Earth.
The fog lights of war
In 1988, a U.S. Navy ship accidentally shot down an Iranian commercial air jet over the Strait of Hormuz, believing it was a warplane. All 290 passengers on board the plane died. The incident ratcheted up already tense U.S.-Iranian relations and was, obviously, an egg in America’s face.
According to The National, an English-language newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates, analysts are wondering whether such an accident might happen again.
Tehran recently has been making unusually bellicose statements about U.S. activity in the Persian Gulf, boasting that American ships are “sitting ducks” for Iranian missiles. Because of such statements, the U.S. has been bolstering the Fifth Fleet in the area.
Speaking to The National, Theodore Karasik, research director at the Institute for Near Eastern and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, says he believed safeguards were in place to stop a mishap where a warship might shoot down a commercial plane. But he warned about the pitfalls of the “fog of war.”
“With improved detection systems, it’s unlikely to happen again,” Karasik tells the newspaper. “But in a hyper-charged environment, you never know. Mistakes can be made.”
The U.S. never apologized for the 1988 incident, giving rise to speculation that the plane’s downing was deliberate, The National reports. Let’s hope nothing in the Gulf sparks similar questions anytime soon.
Sext in line
In every dictionary I could find online, the first definition of “sext” refers to a service chanted in church on the sixth hour of the day (i.e. noon). I’d wager that’s news to most Americans. If asked, many, I bet, would know “sext” to be an amalgam of sex and text. It’s used to describe sending racy text messages to others.
Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston recently released a report saying that nearly a third of teenagers sext, regularly sending nude pictures of themselves to willing and unwilling recipients — a practice that in either case is illegal in some states.
“It appears that sexting is a modern version of ‘show me yours and I’ll show you mine,’ but the commonness of the behavior does not condone its occurrence,” says Jeff Temple, a UT in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The problem, Temple adds, is that sexting often is indicative of other, more serious risky sexual behavior. Temple spoke to KXAN, an Austin television station.
A woman in New Delhi, India holds her mobile phone to show a picture she took in June. Sexting is no longer an American phenomenon. We can’t tell if the phone’s picture is decent or not. (Reuters)
Now the Times of India notes that Indian teenagers might be sexting, too.
In a story entitled “Indian teens may fall prey to sexting like Americans,” Dr. Sameer Malhotra warns that teenagers who “blindly ape the west” with “control problems” are most likely to sext:
“Not all teenagers would sext. Those who are impulsive, vulnerable, lonely and in need for peer attention are more likely to take up sexting. Some of the main reasons are the kind of movies teenagers watch now and increased access to internet. We are seeing more late night parties and growing use of cannabis. Changing family systems — the disintegration of the joint family system is also diminishing values.”
The U.S. needs to increase its exports. But not like this.