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Spend some time on the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Media Reaction Web page and even the New York Times and Washington Post will start to look provincial. Every day, State Department Web scribes post a new "Issue Focus" — a brief that summarizes world opinion on the day’s big story and translates meaty excerpts ...

Spend some time on the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Media Reaction Web page and even the New York Times and Washington Post will start to look provincial. Every day, State Department Web scribes post a new "Issue Focus" — a brief that summarizes world opinion on the day’s big story and translates meaty excerpts from dozens of news magazines and op-ed pages around the world.

Although the site’s design is spartan, it works. For breaking news, click on "latest reports" and peruse the last week’s Issue Focus briefs. The archives are keyword searchable. The site also provides a brief description of the publications it excerpts, including political and ideological orientation.

Browsers can expect a diverse mix of global opinion on the news. But it’s a big world. Although the State Department counts 190 independent states, only about 25 country perspectives actually fit in each Issue Focus, and no country brief excerpts more than a couple of sources. In other words, don’t expect to understand China’s take on the World Trade Organization or NATO enlargement fully unless you read Chinese. Nevertheless, for those who can’t find the time to learn a few dozen foreign languages, the site is a great way to gauge world opinion.

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