journalism, politics

Syria and the international view

John Kerry’s speech (or, more specifically, the tweets about it) inspired me — to go check the international media to see what’s being said elsewhere.

A couple of reasons I immediately looked overseas:

1. We’re too insular. That’s one critique of the American media I’ll never deny.

2. I wonder if we’ll ever see a day in which the USA is not the world police. When will someone else enforce international will on atrocities?

Onward ..

The Economist sees Obama painted into a corner from which he may simply have to lash out, even if their analyst raises a few doubts on whether military action will really accomplish much.  Their “leader” (editorial, in U.S. terms) says in simple terms, “Hit him hard,” though it immediately clarifies a brief and limited (but “grievous”) action. “America’s cautiousness has cost lives,” the paper argues, but it doesn’t address Britain’s cautiousness, NATO’s cautiousness, Australia’s cautiousness or anyone else’s.

– The Christian Science Monitor is a U.S. publication, but it leads with Britain and David Cameron’s political defeat. Tucked away in that story is this tidbit: “Professor Grant points to memories of Iraq as the root cause of Cameron’s defeat. “Iraq overshadowed this vote. Iraq destroyed trust in politicians and intelligence gathering which was reflected in public opposition.” Surely the statement in bold applies to the USA, too, in case anyone has forgotten that such sentiment pre-dates 2009.

– The BBC has live coverage that links to its stories, including an analysis of the complicated politics of Iran, and a Panorama film crew has a video I have no intention of watching but should probably be shown at the United Nations.

(Incidentally, another popular story at the BBC today asks why people still fly Confederate flags.)

Australia’s ABC checks the impact of the Syrian situation on the coming election, noting that the winner will also inherit leadership of the UN’s Security Council. And … it says little else.

– I couldn’t get to the site for the Syrian news agency.

– And just for amusement, the headlines at Russia Today include “US intelligence report stops short of confirming Assad is responsible for chemical attack” and “Britain’s parliament finally turns against the neo-cons and serial warmongers.”

journalism, personal, videos

China beat: Handball, war, sanitation, etc.

In covering Iceland’s handball team today, I got this quote:

What we thought before this game is just to do what our forefathers did. They at most endured, like, two or three days at home in peace, and then they had to destroy something. They had to go and fight war somewhere. They went with their boats and stuff like that, and we were just on our boats, destroying something. That’s how we went to the game, just to enjoy those 60 minutes like our (unintelligible) in life. That’s what you do. That’s what you live for.

I didn’t use it because I had no idea what he was talking about. Maybe Monty Python’s Njorl’s Saga sketch?

Someone else suggested Bjork’s Earth Intruders video:

No, that didn’t help. And the goalkeeper isn’t a Bjork fan, anyway.

BBC readers are obsessed with the way the U.S. media order their medals table, insisting countries should be listed according to gold medals rather than totals.

Naturally, the assumption is not that this is simply a discrepancy in long-standing conventions, such as the differences between “cookie” and “biscuit” or the American stubbornness in resisting the metric system. The assumption is that we all used to list the medals sorted by golds, then changed when China surged to a commanding lead in that category.

Imagine my shock when someone dug up the USA TODAY medal count from Athens, from the stat feed whose specs I helped write, and we had it listed by gold medals. My guess is that we once gave readers the chance to sort it as they saw fit, and that functionality disappeared over one of the multitude of server migrations over the years.

Whatever the explanation, I’m sure it has no chance of being accepted by the folks who were hyping the 200 meters as a showdown between Usain Bolt and Christian Malcolm.

I love the BBC, but anyone from the UK who thinks Americans are the most provincial jerks in the world should take a look at the Beeb’s Olympics coverage. Yikes.

I also love Olympic News Service, which sends hordes of fresh-faced young folks to the venues to collect “flash quotes” from athletes.

You’re generally not going to get controversial material from these quotes, though. They have notepads and not tape recorders, and a 21-year-old generally isn’t going to trust his or her scribbled notes if anyone questions the quote’s accuracy. Also, the quote-taker might not be a native speaker of whatever language the athlete’s speaking.

So if you see someone in a mixed zone ranting as follows:

I was robbed. That ref was clearly watching beach volleyball instead of us. Yeah, my opponent played well, but he also took out a small knife and slashed my knee open right in front of the ref! I can’t believe this crap. I’m going back to the Olympic Village to count my blessings that he didn’t end my career, and you’d better believe I’m going to trash some rooms.

You’ll get this quote.

My opponent played well. I’m going back to the Olympic Village to count my blessings.

So I was surprised to see this from fourth-place high jumper Stefan Holm of Sweden:

I had a bit of luck four years ago in Athens, but shit happens.

ONS might be getting a little punchy near the end of the Games, as are many of us.

Speaking of sanitation, here’s a little sign to remind the media that plumbing in Beijing ain’t what they might be used to back home:

Off to catch the bus back to get a good night’s sleep, believe it or not.