Sandy and the White House

How could the first affect the second? That's what the global media wants to know

Latitude News staff By Latitude News staff

Pedestrians walk past a submerged taxi in Brooklyn, New York as Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the northeastern U.S. (Reuters)

There are two topics today for America watchers in the world’s media: Hurricane Sandy’s assault on New York and the race to the White House. Oh – and an inevitable third: how the monster storm could affect the race to the White House.

On that third topic most stories keep their places firmly on the fence under headlines like “Will Sandy change the game for Obama and Romney” (the French news channel France24), “Sandy complicates final stretch of tense US presidential race” (The Times of India) and “Why Sandy could be the October surprise of the 2012 Presidential election” (the Australian website The Conversation).

One French blogger risks a more decided opinion by highlighting Mitt Romney’s criticism of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in one of the 2011 Republican campaign debates. Sandy, he says, could be a “bad surprise” for the Republican candidate. But there’s support for Romney from a Caribbean quarter. Former Trinidadian government minister Ralph Maraj’s op-ed in the Trinidad Express is a comprehensive demolition of Barack Obama as “ordinary” and worse.

“I hope Mitt Romney wins the election. He is also ordinary, but on the American economy and foreign policy, he could make the US stronger and the world more stable.”

A few words of warning, however, for the Republican from our neighbor to the North. Journalist Lawrence Martin argues in the The Globe and Mail that Mitt Romney should look to Canada for some tips on military spending. He writes that the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, one of George W. Bush’s most reliable allies, “ramped up” military spending for several years during its participation in the war in Afghanistan. But after the debt rose unsustainably, the Conservatives pulled out of Afghanistan and are now cutting military spending by 11 percent. Romney, in contrast, “wants to add $2-trillion to the Pentagon budget over the next decade,” says Martin. The GOP candidate has praised the Canadian conservatives for their handling of the economy, but while he worked hard to come across as a dove at the foreign policy debate, Martin writes, the one area where Romney refuses to budge is “on the need for more guns.”

In London it’s Barack Obama’s half-sister who is going to be in the limelight this week. A Kenyan film about Auma Obama makes its debut on the opening night of the annual Film Africa Festival in London on November 1. Auma studied in Germany and has lived in England, but the film, “The Education of Auma Obama,” focuses on her return to Kenya in 2008 to watch her brother’s election in the place where, she says, “it all started.” On the website AllAfrica.com, the journalist Marcus Taylor writes that while Barack’s affection for Kenya strikes him as romanticized, Auma represents a “generation of young Kenyans who went out in to the world, and were profoundly changed by their experiences.”

In Jamaica the focus is on Sandy and not just the damage it did to the island itself. Now the tourist industry is worried that the hurricane could hurt its bottom line, the Jamaica Gleaner reports. The Caribbean island’s resorts depend on visitors from the Northeast, where Sandy hit hardest. Many flights to and from Boston, New York, Washington and Philadelphia were canceled because of Frankenstorm. “It’s our most important source market, in comparison to the Midwest, South and West Coast,” said the president of the Jamaican Hotel and Tourist Association. “And the hurricane is cutting right through that area.” On the bright side, for the hotel industry at least, tourists who are already in Jamaica have been temporarily stranded there and forced to extend their stay.

And here’s an interesting perspective for those readers wondering about possible links between Hurricane Sandy and climate change. The U.S. and China are the world’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases, and are therefore the leading contributors to climate change. But you might not realize that by reading the American and Chinese press. As China Dialogue reports, a study of how the media covers climate change in six countries finds that the U.S. press includes far more voices denying the reality and causes of climate change. The U.S. and China also published far fewer stories, period, about climate change than France, Brazil, India and the UK. “It is directly tied to how politicised a topic climate change is in that country,” says the Chinese website. The study concludes that the American press also has a too-strong tendency to find “balance” by including contrary voices, seemingly a good thing. “It’s not a good thing, however, if the inclusion of contrary voices misleads readers into believing that a controversy exists when it actually does not.”