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  William Vocke    Special to The China Post
The Lone Ranger has galloped down the Champs d' Elysees on his trusty horse Silver. The little blue Smurfs are at the palatial Opera Garnier. As has long been the case in recent memory, the French remain enchanted and enthralled with American movies ranging from Wolverine and Pacific Rim to World War Z.
As the clock ticks down to an American military pullout from Afghanistan in late 2014, civilian deaths in the troubled country have ticked up as Taliban insurgents focus on “soft targets” and set the scene for wider intimidation in the wake of a Western pullout.
Sudan's embattled Darfur region has been cursed by the trauma of ethnic conflict and the continuing tragedy of displacement, refugees and hunger. As the decade long inter-ethnic conflict continues, the region's violence continues but in a void of being largely forgotten and forsaken by the outside world.
Perceptions often govern attitudes. Indeed the image of the United States worldwide is increasingly challenged by China in a number of key areas as Beijing asserts itself as on the international stage as an economic and political player. This shifting balance of power towards the People's Republic of China, or at least the perception, is especially pronounced in Africa and Latin America and significantly even among Americans.
The situation in Syria has descended into a new level of Hell, as the civil war continues, refugees fleeing the country increase, and the fractured rebel groups have begun to turn on each other as much as fight the Assad family regime.
A dragonfly-like aircraft, large but seemingly fragile, slow but silent, and powered by sunlight, has flown safely across America.
Tumultuous events have swept Egypt as a passionate, but polarized, population took to the streets to press for political change or to support the elected but increasingly authoritarian rule of President Mohammed Morsi. The culmination of the protests came with a massive turnout of millions of anti-Morsi Egyptians in Cairo, which when given the final push by the powerful military, swept the Morsi regime from office.
Arriving in Prague's Vaclav Havel airport, one is immediately swept into the present; not just a refurbished terminal but a new look where people actually smile, immigration officials don't grimace and police speed about on segways. The post-communist transformation emerges wider in driving from the airport into Prague. This former Ladaland of exhaust-belching Russian cars and retro-Skodas is now congested traffic where streetcar-trams, Mercedes, new Skodas, and Audis vie for space and place.
Spiraling sectarian violence, expanding regional destabilization and the looming danger of proxy conflict between the United States and Russia are among the dangers in the widening Syrian civil conflict which has taken over 93,000 lives. Equally an escalating humanitarian disaster continues to engulf a country where now approximately a third of the entire population is a refugee or internally displaced in their own country.
Just a year after the Socialist Party regained the presidency, the winner and unassuming new occupant of the Elysee Palace (White House) Francois Hollande, may be wishing he was still in the political opposition. After all, it is easier to critique than to govern, especially in a country battered by the waves of domestic left-wing union demands, a global recession, and a lingering eurozone currency crisis.
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