At Latitude News, we scan the global press for what the rest of the world is saying about the U.S. Here are today’s best stories:
In for a nickel, in for a dime
A report from the New York-based watchdog journalism agency Sahara Reporters alleges that Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan paid Beyoncé $1 million dollars to visit his country in 2006. The problem? The money came from a poverty alleviation fund Jonathan controlled at the time as governor of Bayelsa State. Kim Kardashian was also in the country recently, pocketing a cool $500,000 fee for a 45-minute appearance and brief speech, though there were no suggestions of corruption. At the South African newspaper The Daily Maverick, Simon Allison writes:
And from this we can all be encouraged: if everyone else is trying to keep up with the Kardashians, and they are, then who knows what other stars might be heading our way, or where they might go? It won’t be long before we see Snooky trying her luck on the Jozi shore or Honey Boo Boo teaching child soldiers in the Congo how to apply pageant make-up. Africa is on the map: not as a war zone, not as a corrupt dictatorship, not as a refugee camp, but as a glitzy, overpriced nightclub full of girls in tiny dresses, overly-manicured men and vacuous celebrities. This is what passes for normal in the modern world, and now we’re a part of it. Lucky us.
Free trade? Maybe not…
In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama declared the time had finally come for a free trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union. Policy makers and business leaders rejoiced, but as Der Spiegel reports, the goal could wind up being a mere “flight of fancy.” The German magazine points out that U.S. and EU standards are worlds apart on issues like genetically modified foods, and the negotiations could get bogged down in intractable details:
Industry representatives are already waxing lyrical about the prospect of the free world, with its 800 million consumers, joining forces to form a gigantic trading bloc with common rules…. But the planned trading union isn’t going to be an overnight success. Europe and the United States face years of painful negotiations, and many critics see the whole thing as a flight of fancy. Consumer advocates, as well as environmental and Internet activists, are preparing to fight the treaty with all means at their disposal. They fear that bad compromises will be made at the expense of consumers in secret negotiations between the European Commission and the Obama administration.
For those of you just sitting on the edge of your seat awaiting a new free trade deal, don’t hold your breath.
U.S. policy towards Cuba is a source of widespread anger in Latin America, writes Carlo Dade, a political scientist at the University of Ottawa, in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. But rather than lose their tempers, our northern neighbors are simply embarrassed for us. Every year, Dade explains, Canada must prove to the U.S. that it is encouraging reform in Cuba even while its companies remain one of the largest international investors on the island. (A 1996 American law requires the U.S. to penalize foreign companies that do business in Cuba.) When a political controversy over Cuba flares up, Canada is often left holding the bag, according to Dade:
As has been seen time and again, all it takes is one member of the U.S. congress (such as a member of the easily-riled congressional Cuba lobby) to raise a fuss, and Canada is left with nothing but a wink and a nod to cover its privates while the bone-chilling breeze of U.S. unilateralism flaps around it. Yes, cooler heads would prevail – eventually. But a lot of damage would be done in the meantime.
The fine line that Canada walks on Cuba is an object lesson on the Faustian bargain that the country has struck to enable it to get rich and fat off of easy and privileged access to the U.S. market. Criticize the government if you will, but what choice does Canada really have? Before answering, think of the $1-billion in daily trade across the border.
And, finally, here’s a story that might just make your day:
Ang Lee likes his Oscar, loves his hamburger
Most Hollywood stars would be guzzling champagne and caviar after an Oscar win. Not Ang Lee, who took home the award for Best Director for his film “Life of Pi.” Now a photo of Lee eating a fast-food hamburger has gone viral in China. (Lee was born in Taiwan). A Chinese student at Stanford apparently snapped the picture of Lee eating an In-N-Out Burger with one hand while holding his golden trophy with the other. The student later put the photo on Facebook.
Soon people were posting it on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, where it currently has more than 16,000 shares. One Chinese netizen wrote: “Too cute! I think he is really a low-key person!” Another added: “Didn’t Oscar provide food to the guests?” Lee had previously won the Oscar for his 2005 film “Brokeback Mountain.” He is the only Asian to have won the award for Best Director.
And Lee wasn’t the only one eating fast-food on the red carpet: Best Actress-winner Jennifer Lawrence chowed down on a Happy Meal before the ceremony. The Chinese director is known as a down-to-earth presence in Hollywood’s rarefied air. Check out this moving essay Lee wrote about his family life and early struggles as an artist.