International Update: 4.16-4.22

It’s always interesting, and enlightening, to learn about a country that’s not your own.

As I said in last week’s post, I’m starting a new biweekly segment called, “International Update.” Every two weeks, I will collect five news articles, one for each section of the world: Africa, The Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. I will read each article thoroughly, sum up each article in 150 words or less, and then give my two cents on why we should care– or at least why I thought the article was good enough to obsess over for a week.

I hope this new part of the blog inspires you to check out the international section of your favorite news sources. It’s always interesting, and enlightening, to learn about a country that’s not your own.

Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the articles used in this post and have provided links to them below. All images were found through WordPress’s free image library. A bit of additional research has gone into this post, but a majority of this is my own personal interpretation, opinions, and rants.


pexels-photo-259447.jpegAfrica Article

Title: Introduction of minimum wage in South Africa delayed, ministry says

Source: Reuters

What Happened? 

Back in November 2017, a national minimum wage of 20 rand per hour (or $1.66 per hour) was proposed and approved by the South African cabinet.

The minimum wage was supposed to be introduced May 1, but South Africa’s parliament has yet to approve the legislation necessary to proceed. Since parliament did not approve the presented bill, it needs to be redrafted. This is expected to delay the prospect of a minimum wage in South Africa by another month or two.

According to the article, South Africa’s labor ministry spokesperson Teboho Thejane, assures that the minimum wage will go into affect, even with this delay.

This will be the first national minimum wage established in the country.

Why Should We Care?

I often hear people complaining about minimum wage in the States. I even know first hand how it feels to try and live life on a minimum wage salary. We often think that our wealth gap is large and unjust here in the US, but this article truly put our definition of “struggle” into perspective for me.

South Africa has NEVER had a minimum wage. Until I read this article, I didn’t know that. And, to think, the minimum wage they are proposing is under $2.00 an hour. I get frustrated knowing I only make $9.50.

When I think of South Africa, I often think of Johannesburg or Cape Town, the larger cities that host the predominately wealthy. I often forget that this was a country separated by apartheid a little over 20 years ago and that South Africa still has a lot of hurtles to face to help close the wealth inequality that still plagues the country and its people.

There are critics of the bill worried that some employers will not be able to afford the higher wages, causing more unemployment than South Africa is already facing. Others see it as a way to start bridging the wealth gap in the country.

I’m personally in favor of South Africa’s move to establish a national minimum wage. There are a lot of nations that still don’t provide this form of security to their citizens. I’d much rather live in a world that takes a step like this towards wealth equality, even if it is postponed for a few months.

Winning, Alexander. “Introduction of minimum wage in South Africa delayed, ministry says,” Reuters, April 20, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-safrica-economy-wages/introduction-of-minimum-wage-in-south-africa-delayed-ministry-says-idUSKBN1HR215


pexels-photo-414916.jpegAmericas Article

Title: Chile’s Solidarity Visa Leaves Venezuelans Confused and Worried

Source: Bloomberg

What Happened?

Venezuela is currently suffering an economic collapse and many of its citizens are fleeing to other nations as a result. Chile recently establishing a “democratic responsibility” visa as an act of solidarity towards Venezuela.

The new Chilean visa allows Venezuelans to live and work in the country for one year. The visa is renewable and can also become permanent.

Here’s the catch: this particular visa is only attainable to Venezuelans with a passport (which are extremely expensive for the average Venezuelan), and people can only apply for this visa at the Chilean consulate in Caracas, Venezuela.

On Monday, April 16, hundreds of Venezuelans –many of which ready to leave for Chile with tourist visas and plane tickets–lined up outside the Chilean consulate in Caracas, afraid they would be barred from Chile unless they obtained this visa.

Only about 20 people with scheduled appointments were allowed entrance into the consulate on the 16th.

Why Should We Care?

Venezuelans are currently in a terrifying situation without many places to turn. This visa established by Chile feels like an attack on Venezuela’s vulnerability. It feels less like an act of charity to the people of Venezuela and more like a preventative strategy used to help control the amount of refugees coming into the country.

Don’t get me wrong, Chile has done a lot for the people of Venezuela. According to a related piece linked in this article, Chile had more than 100,000 Venezuelans come into the country on travel visas in 2017.

I personally find the establishment of this new visa a morally grey issue. It feels as if Chile is establishing a standard on how much help they are willing to give the Venezuelan people. Is this an inhumane play by Chile or is it simply a survival tactic used to avoid overpopulation and Chile’s own potential economic downfall?

Zerpa, Fabiola. “Chile’s Solidarity Visa Leaves Venezuelans Confused and Worried,” Bloomberg, April 16, 2018,  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-16/chile-s-solidarity-visa-leaves-venezuelans-confused-and-worried


pexels-photo-373290.jpegAsia Article

Title: North Korea drops withdrawal of US forces as condition of denuclearization, Moon says

Source: CNN Asia News

What Happened?

North Korea has expressed a possible willingness to shut down its nuclear program while also allowing the United States to keep its troops in South Korea.

This proposal comes right before North and South Korea plan to meet for the historic inter-Korean Summit set to take place on April 27 in the Demilitarized Zone (the border that separates North and South Korea). It will be followed by the US-North Korea Summit (South Korea is invited to this one too) which is supposed to take place in late May or early June.

The relationship between North and South Korea has improved since President Moon took office in May of last year. Kim and Moon seem to both be interested in improving the relationship between the two Koreas. Their interest in finding a common ground has resulted in the creation of the two summits mentioned above and new diplomacy from Kim Jong Un.

Why Should We Care?

This might just be because I’m coming at this article as an American, but this article worries me. Most articles with “North Korea” and “US” in the title worry me nowadays, to be honest.

I think, if we were in a different place as a nation, and under a different president, I would be excited by this article and its potential at creating peace–not only between the two Koreas but also between the US and North Korea. But President Trump is an ever-impending factor that makes me nervous. This article quotes President Trump saying he will cancel the US-North Korea Summit if the summit seems potentially unsuccessful. He also states, “If the meeting when I’m there isn’t fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.”

I’m trying to have faith in our president’s ability to be respectful and negotiate with North Korea in a similar way that South Korea seems to be handling negotiations. However, based off the content of this article and the surprising connection I didn’t realize Moon and Kim had established, the US-North Korea Summit seems to be two adults prepared for a wine night (Moon and Kim) and one hormonal teenager ready to ruin the party with a keg (Trump).

Whatever happens, I hope deneuclearization becomes a frequently used word in articles about North Korea and the US from here on out (cautious optimism at its finest).

McKirdy, Euan. “North Korea drops withdrawal of US Forces as condition of denuclearization, Moon says,” CNN, April 20, 2018,  https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/19/asia/north-korea-us-forces-korean-peninsula-intl/index.html


pexels-photo-753339.jpegEurope Article

Title: Gone too Tsar: the erotic period drama that has enraged Russia

Source: The Guardian

What Happened?

The controversial Russian historical drama, “Matilda” made its way to UK cinemas April 20.

“Matilda” is a film centered around tsar Nicholas II’s affair with prima ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya. There is quite a bit of nudity–which should be expected in a film about a premarital affair–mixed in with a ton of Russian culture, pride, and humor too.

The film opened in Russia October 2017. After its release, Russian Orthodox Christians held a series of protests because of the suggested affair. There were even arson attacks when the film trailers were shown in Yekaterinburg. Why you might ask? Because tsar Nicholas II was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000; which technically makes this movie about a saint’s sex life.

The movie had one of the biggest film budgets in recent Russian cinematic history at $25m; a third of which was provided by the Russian Ministry of Culture.

Why Should We Care?

To be completely honest here, the only reason I picked this article at first was for the fantastic pun in the title. After reading it I did find slight similarities between “Matilda” and another cinematic venture I remember happening in the United States a few years back.

The movie was called, “The Interview” and stared Seth Rogan and James Franco. The overall gist was that the two inexperienced men are hired to assassinate Kim Jong Un not too long after he took over power in North Korea. The film was met with terrorist threats from North Korea and lead to the movie having a limited release in cinemas. “Matilda” ran into similar issues in Russia, however, instead of offending another nation, “Matilda” offended its own homeland.

When I heard about “The Interview” in 2014, my first thought was, ‘How stupid are you people? How did you think this was a good idea?’ I’m sure there had to be a handful of Russians that felt the same way when they saw “Matilda.” What makes matters worse for this Russian film is the fact that the government provided a third of the project’s budget.

From this article, it seems like the movie is actually well-composed and highlights beautiful aspects of Russian culture (outside of all the sex, of course).  It had the hopes of becoming an international hit if it hadn’t offended so many people in Russia (and wasn’t nearly banned in the process). Old Russian beliefs and innovative advances in Russian culture came head-to-head because of this film. It truly is difficult for any country to move forward when so many aspects of its culture are rooted in the past.

When you’re messing with any kind of art, you always run the risk of offending  someone. But take note from “Matilda” and its major flop: if you want your work to be a hit, it might be best not to offend a large majority of your initial audience.

Groskop, Viv. “Gone to Tsar: the erotic period drama that has enraged Russia,” The Guardian, April 19, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/apr/19/matilda-controversy-tsar-nicholas-ii-alexei-uchitel


sydney-opera-house-australia-54610.jpegOceania Article

Title: ‘Who eats in an empty restaurant?’ the downside of the popular school

Source: The Age

What Happened?

In Australia, parents are given “school choice,” or the ability to choose what schools their children attend.

Because of this, many parents in Victoria have started avoiding their local schools and are sending their children to more popular schools. Some even move so that they are closer to schools with better funding and resources.

One Melbourne principal expressed his concern with this new development in this article. It’s causing the well-equipped schools to grow larger and receive more funding while the under-equipped schools fall to the wayside and become disadvantaged.

While the local schools once had fantastic teachers and programs, many of them have started to lose the funding necessary to keep their standards high, making it impossible to compete with the popular schools.

The principal in question feels that there should be enrollment caps to help prevent educational inequalities between local and popular schools.

Why Should We Care?

A very similar issue occurs in the States every day, especially in major cities like New York City. Public schools are often underfunded while private schools are overflowing with extracurricular and educational opportunities. These educational divides are a huge contributor to economic inequality in the States, and I fear Australia is going to run into the same issue if they continue down this road with school choice.

The first step to closing class gaps in any country is education. Providing every child with the same level and quality of education would do a world of good. I feel that the principal cited in this article has the interest of Australia’s next generation in mind when he suggests enrollment caps instead of simply expanding popular schools so that they fit student inflation. The saying goes, “Quality over quantity” after all.

With the popular schools, are the students really winning out? When you have hundreds upon hundreds of kids to teach at one school, are they really receiving a quality education or just a diploma that says they did?

And with the smaller residual schools, students get the one-on-one attention necessary for success but don’t have the resources and quality teachers necessary to make that one-on-one attention effective.

In the long run, this simply seems like a lose-lose scenario for Australia.

Cook, Henrietta. “‘Who eats in an empty restaurant?’ The downside of the popular school,” The Age, April 20, 2018, https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/who-eats-in-an-empty-restaurant-the-downside-of-the-popular-school-20180420-p4zati.html

 

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