West revels in Russian TV host's jab
A review of the best commentary on and around the world...
Abby Martin, the presenter on an English-language television network owned by the Russian state and broadcast in the US, went off-script when talking about the crisis in Ukraine at the end of her news programme, Breaking the Set:
"I can't stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nation's affairs," she said. "What Russia did is wrong."
The network, RT (formerly Russia Today), then announced that it was sending Martin to Crimea to "give her an opportunity to make up her own mind from the epicentre of the story".
The Western media has been eating the story up.
"This is what it looks like when a cog in Vladimir Putin's propaganda machine comes loose," writes Foreign Policy's Hanna Kozlowska, adding that RT was going to "ship" Martin "off to a war zone". (Martin has since tweeted that she is not, in fact, going to Crimea.)
The National Journal's Lucia Graves conducted an email interview with RT's Moscow press office, in which it defended itself against allegations that it was a state-sponsored propaganda outlet:
The charges of propaganda tend to pop up every time a news outlet, particularly RT, dares to show the side of events that does not fit the mainstream narrative, regardless of the realities on the ground.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald (of Edward Snowden fame) took a few shots at what he saw as Western media hypocrisy:
American invasions and occupations of nations halfway around the world are perfectly noble, but Russian interference in a part of a country right on its border is the supreme act of lawless, imperial aggression.
The kerfuffle has brought some of Martin's previous controversial statements to light, including her allegations that the US covered up a 9/11 conspiracy. The New York Times's Robert Mackey delves into that angle on his blog.
"Since joining the Russian network's American channel, Ms. Martin has returned again and again to the argument that the American government could have fabricated the terrorist attacks as a pretext for war," he writes.
The New Republic's Laura Bennett writes that RT's "public perception as a Kremlin-managed monolith is off-base":
These days much of RT's programming is less a well-oiled Russian propaganda machine than a defensive, shapeshifting retort to the Western media - less focused on a coherent foreign policy agenda than on asserting itself as an alternative to American cable news, its ideological chorus so miscellaneous that it somehow includes both Abby Martin and Larry King.
Larry King, of course, is the 80-year-old former CNN and syndicated radio host who now has a talk show on RT. No word yet on what he thinks about 9/11 conspiracies or Russian troops in Crimea.
Toilet paper economics - In Venezuela, one is allowed to trade US currency at a market price, while the Venezuelan bolivar is set at 6.30 per dollar and sold on a corrupt basis. This discrepancy makes figuring out prices a "philosophical imponderable", writes Venezuelan journalist Francisco Toro in the New Republic. It's also causing massive shortages of basic commodities, such as toilet paper, which is leading to mobs at stores and more agitation among Venezuelan protesters.
Leave our pot alone - The International Narcotics Control Board of the UN has condemned the legalisation of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, claiming violations of international law. Reason's Jacob Sullum writes that Americans should be concerned about the argument that international treaties can override the federal structure outlined in the US constitution. He notes that this scolding from the UN is simply "yet another sign that pot prohibitionists are panicking".
Can money help the military? - China recently announced a new defence budget of $131.57b (£78.65b) as "a promise that China's military would respond to all provocations", writes Lily Kuo of Quartz. The military intends to boost weaponry and technology, although this may be a tactic to combat weak military experience.
Drones without a home - The use of drones is declining as host countries continue to shut down US bases, which may not be such a bad thing, writes Philip Giraldi of the Council for the National Interest. The counterterrorism machines are becoming more of a "political liability" because the closing of bases makes drones harder to employ. He argues that this could be an opportune moment for a new strategy to prevent terrorism.
Sexually harassing sex workers - A prostitute in New Zealand recently won a sexual-harassment lawsuit against her brothel owner. Prostitution is completely legal in New Zealand, writes Lizzie Crocker for the Daily Beast, and prostitutes deserve the same rights as any other employee. Even though the situation may seem paradoxical, she argues, "there's a thin line between dirty talk and unwanted lewdness" that needs to be respected.
Two decades, one change - The inconsistency in changing agendas with each new president has caused a stalemate in progression in Mexico, writes Luis Rubio for American Economia (translated by WorldCrunch). The only item that has made an impact is the North American Free Trade Agreement, which intended to provide investments for lasting reform. Nafta, he writes, played a "central role in bringing about practically all that is positive about the Mexican economy".
Caught up in the glamour - While the "celebrity drama" of the Oscar Pistorius trial can be gripping, writes Business Day's Gareth Van Onselen, there are many other serious criminal cases lacking equal amounts of coverage. There are constant brutal murders across South Africa, and yet the cases "get neither the attention nor the recognition they deserve".
BBC Monitoring's quote of the day
Afghan Presidetn Hamed Karzai criticises the US: "In his recent outbursts with the Washington Post, Afghan President Hamed Karzai said that, in his view, al-Qaida was more like a fiction rather than reality... From this you can see the depth of the tragedy that has affected our country… The Afghan media have frequently blamed the Afghan president for this issue [anti-US rhetoric], saying he has been making baseless remarks... It is not clear what President Karzai was thinking when he suddenly described the appalling [al-Qaida] network as fiction." - editorial in the Afghan daily Arman-e Melli
One more thing...
Be proud of on-the-job naps - Here's something to send to your bosses the next time they catch you sleeping at work.
Matt McFarland of the Washington Post says that while napping on the job is frowned upon in the US, it actually allows workers to be more productive, live longer and be more creative.
"If Churchill can beat Hitler while taking afternoon siestas, you can take a quick break from that TPS report. Keep calm and nap on, everyone," he writes.
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