By M.R. Josse
TAMPA, FL: This is being drafted as Hurricane Dorian is barreling down towards America’s southern Atlantic shore at a sustained speed of over 180 miles per hour – a terrorizing pace that, according to experts, makes this hurricane the most awesome anywhere in this planet in 2019.
Dorian is ferociously lashing the Bahamas with tidal surges of between 18-23 feet. For the past week or so most Americans, especially those along the Atlantic shore, have been closely monitoring special detailed news bulletins put out by multiple official agencies at periodic intervals on the approaching hurricane, an unwelcome feature in this part of the world, at this time of year.
There has been a steady outflow or exodus of people fleeing Florida and other coastal states on the Atlantic, such as Georgia, South and North Carolina. Likewise, there has predictably been hectic pre-hurricane preparations including stocking up with water, food and fuel. Most others have chosen to ‘ride out the storm’ – praying or hoping for the best.
During this nail-biting time there has been a country-wide guessing game as to where Dorian will make landfall and the scale of devastation it will bring in its grim wake. It is a relief to learn that it is more than 200 miles away from Florida’s eastern coast, and unlikely to directly hit Tampa, on the western coast, where its baleful impact is likely to be manifested mainly in terms of major flooding, as per present indications.
There will naturally be much more to report on Dorian in next week’s column – by which time Dorian would hopefully have done its horrendous business and moved away from the Atlantic shore before finally dissipating.
It’s hardly news that President Trump continues to dominate the global media. The past few weeks has been testimony to that, including for such inanities as saying he wants to ‘nuke’ tornadoes, to buy Greenland from Denmark, accusing American Jews belonging to the Democratic party of being disloyal to Israel, while blowing hot and cold on comments on China, including on the on-going trade war.
The recent G-7 summit in Biarritz, in France, to no one’s amazement, provided lots of grist for the media mill, including reports centering on Trump’s actions and utterances, including his conspicuous absence from the conclave’s session on climate. Trump’s explanation of the empty chair: he was engaged in bilaterals with the German and Indian heads of delegations who were seen at the climate session!
Trump’s isolation couldn’t have been plainer to see, as was the fact that he continued to revel in what appears to be his favorite sport: annoying allies.
For a while, the American president – at a press conference at the closure of the G-7 meet with host, French President Emmanuel Macron, at his side – drew positive international attention by softening his rhetoric on China and Iran by seemingly opening the door to new trade talks with Beijing and speaking of his readiness to talk directly with Tehran.
Exciting as the prospect of direct U.S. – Iran talks initially appeared, it not only caused alarm in Israel but led – subsequently – to backsliding by Iran. Indeed, as reported by Shael Ben-Ephraim, in Wall Street Journal (August 28, 2019), Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, rejected the possibility of meeting President Trump as long as U.S. sanctioned his country, a day after both leaders appeared to be opening up to possible talks following months of heightened tension.
Rouhani’s return to his default position illustrates the pressure he faces at home from the hard-line faction opposed to talking to the Trump administration. Rouhani was quoted in a TV interview as saying: “We seek to resolve the issues and solve the problems in a reasonable way. But we don’t seek photos…If you lifted all the sanctions, bowed respectfully to the Iranian nation, well then the conditions are different.”
Clearly, a resumption of Iranian diplomacy with the U.S. requires the approval in Tehran of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has refused any contact with the Trump administration. For now, it is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing general election soon, who must be greatly relieved that Macron’s diplomatic initiative did not produce the desired results.
It should be noted, however, that Macron is not – yet – giving up. Indeed, the other day, European diplomats were getting ready behind a French initiave to provide Iran economic relief from U.S. sanctions in return for full compliance with a multinational nuclear accord, officials familiar with the matter said, according to a Wall Street Journal story datelined Helsinki.
Against such a backdrop, one cannot but help thinking that direct Washington-Tehran talks are not likely soon. If they were to happen, one may wonder whether it would help or hinder Trump’s re-election prospects in 2020?
In any case, there is a growing feeling that not only are all of Trump’s utterances and action clearly geared to 2020 but that the stupendous amount of “news” that he so generates is increasingly leading to “Trump fatigue” in the media – which can’t be good for him.
On a popular TV show highlighting media issues, I was struck by a noted pundit seriously advancing the theory that because of the massive surge of public issues raised daily by Trump, it is simply impossible for the media to make considered judgments on them. One even went so far as to say that it was beyond the media’s competence to do so!
DOUBLE NEWS STANDARDS
Finally, I was struck by what appears to be a double news standard by the American media: most visible in the massive coverage of protests against Beijing in Hong Kong and their virtual silence with regard to New Delhi’s continuing atrocities and blatant human rights abuses in Kashmir.
One telling fact: while the international media are all over the place in Hong Kong, why are they seemingly absent in Kashmir?