US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama are planning a three-nation tour to Africa, 26 June to 3 July. The visit is one that has long been anticipated by Africans, but has it come too late to generate the kind of enormous buzz that might have happened had this trip happened several years earlier? J BROOKS SPECTOR looks at the possibilities.
The glory days of the protest song are long behind us. The angry voices of Dylan, Marley and Lennon have been replaced with Bieber’s unbroken falsetto and a never-ending parade of bubblegum hits about getting drunk and getting laid. But if the musicians don’t want to protest, then the protestors are going to have to make some music. The times, they are a-changing. By SIMON ALLISON.
Few pundits had high hopes for Shinzo Abe’s re-entry onto the main stage of Japanese politics in December of last year. But here he is, and it looks like his economic “shock therapy” is jolting the country out of its two- decade long slumber. But is it a question of too little, too late? And what about China? RICHARD POPLAK.
It’s been some years since we hosted then-senator Barack Obama on South African shores. Since then it’s been a matter of speculation: when the Obamas would pay an official visit. A matter of time, surely? As it turns out, it’s a matter of very little time indeed. One month, to be exact. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.
The highly irregular arrival of a commercial jet carrying high-powered delegation of Kenyan business figures, including several relatives of the US president and a cousin of Uhuru Kenyatta, at Joint Base Andrews has drawn ridicule and howls of protest from every possible quarter. The Tea Party is spluttering with indignation. Calls for scandal-beleaguered President Obama’s resignation, if not his head, have been peppered with words such as “corrupt”, “ridiculous”, “embarrassing”, “cringe-worthy”, “crass” and “laughable”. Eventually they succeeded. J BROOKS SPECTOR.
After an astounding run of some really bad news, the White House seems to be pulling up its socks – picking up some presidential cudgels and beginning its “push-back” against its current political tormenters. In the process, after taking three shots to the solar political plexus right in a row, the Obama administration is now trying to project the image of an activist president rightly angry about what has happened while he was busy on other important things, but who is, nevertheless, moving resolutely to staunch the flow of blood and sort things out properly. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.
The Millenium Development Goals are the 21st century benchmark for almost all poverty and development policy. However, with only 32 months until the MDG targets are meant to be achieved, we’ve still got no idea how much money is being spent towards achieving them and where it’s all going. A new database on government plugs this gap, revealing a few disturbing truths along the way. By SIMON ALLISON.
Nobody, except the accountants, themselves a frequently reviled class, ever has much love for the Internal Revenue Service in the US. The IRS is America’s tax collection agency – the sworn enemy of all true-blue, pure-white, red-blooded Americans. As a result, Washington’s newest scandal involving the IRS comes as a veritable gift on that proverbial silver platter for the Republican Party. And this is on top of the GOP’s ongoing hunt for the scalp of a certain culpable secretary of state over Benghazi. In this latest imbroglio, the IRS has been outed for carrying out a very fine-toothed, politically-tinged effort to cull right-wing policy advocacy groups in the vetting of their claims for tax exempt status. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.
Japanese magazines are up in arms about the weird and wonderful perversions practised by Chinese men on innocent Japanese prostitutes. Yes, the Sushi King would be proud. But the news is less about China’s sexual preferences and more about stirring the xenophobic pot and keeping tensions between the two countries at a mutually-beneficial high. By SIMON ALLISON.
On Thursday the Indian High Commission hosted a press briefing on the upcoming India Africa Festival. Few journalists who made it to the event were, however, actually interested in the festival itself. It was the role of the Indian High Commission in securing landing rights for the aircraft chartered by the Gupta family that had drawn most to the briefing. By KHADIJA PATEL.
Day one of the World Economic Forum on Africa was a day for “C” words – from cross-border trade to call centres, competitiveness, commodities, commuters, common markets, consumer loans, capitalisation, Cape Town-to-Cairo, current demographics, conurbations, community commissions and communism – all of which combined appeared to cast conferees onto a wave of currently uncommon confidence in the continent. China and corruption were the conspicuous elephants in the room. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.
For those of you already struggling to make sense of the Syrian situation, it just got a whole lot more complicated thanks to revelations that the rebels – the ones fighting for freedom and democracy and all that good stuff – may have broken out the poison gas in their struggle against the Syrian government. Chemical warfare is meant to be the ‘red line’ in Syria, but it wasn’t the rebels who were supposed to cross it. By SIMON ALLISON.
Unlike heterosexual Americans, gays in the USA have no right to bring a partner to live with them in the country. For gay Americans in relationships with foreigners, this can force an often agonising choice between one’s country and one’s partner. As a result, little colonies of ‘love exiles’ have set up all over the world in gay-friendly countries, and South Africa is no exception. REBECCA DAVIS spoke to some of the couples living in Cape Town and beyond who are affected by the USA’s marriage and immigration laws.
At its peak in 2003, the UK’s aid programme to South Africa was worth £40 million. By 2013, this amount had dwindled to a relatively modest £19 million. Nonetheless, the UK government’s decision to cut direct aid to South Africa has been greeted with thinly-veiled outrage by the South African government. Some have suggested that the aid amount is uncannily close to the bill for Nkandla. But, writes REBECCA DAVIS, the decision has been coming for some time.
There is no physical border between the world’s two most populous countries, just an invisible line somewhere on an icy Himalayan plateau. Two weeks ago, China crossed that line. Combined with the weight of their shared history, this threatens to undo all the good (and lucrative) progress made in Sino-Indian ties over the last decade. By SIMON ALLISON.
This week, it was revealed that Clive Palmer, an Australian mining multimillionaire and one of the country’s richest men, will be forming a far-right wing political party that he plans to lead. As a nation with an incoming billionaire deputy president (maybe), South Africans instinctively know that Palmer will bring some necessary bling to the Australian political scene. After all, who doesn’t want a prime minister responsible for building a Titanic replica? By RICHARD POPLAK.
The Abu Dhabi appeals court rejected the prosecution’s appeal against Professor Cyril Karabus’ acquittal of manslaughter on Wednesday. But according to the law of the country, the prosecution still has another 30 days to launch a second appeal, leading critics to wonder how “modern” the United Arab Emirates really is. By KHADIJA PATEL.
China knows a thing or two about dealing with epidemics, and its response to the latest bird flu outbreak has been exemplary. That shouldn’t reassure anyone, however: this virus is dangerous, and no amount of slaughtered poultry or face masks will prevent it spreading if it really can jump between humans. By SIMON ALLISON.
Every few years, all Chinese senior officers will have to do a two-week stint as a lowly private, as per a new presidential directive. This, apparently, is the prevention and the cure for “laziness, lax discipline, extravagance and other bureaucratic illnesses”. Sounds like something South Africa could learn from. By SIMON ALLISON.
While the US authorities hunt for links explaining the actions of the brothers who bombed Boston, GREG MARINOVICH remembers the days he spent in Chechnya during mad days of war with Russia, when the Tsarnaev's ancestral homeland decided it had enough of Russian domination. They may have been born in Kyrgyzstan, but the the blood spilled by Chechens through centuries must have shaped them immeasurably.
In just one week there have already been millions of words written around the world on the Tsarnaev brothers. Commentators have begun to explore the brothers’ ties back to their ancestral Chechnya (or the lack thereof), their relationship to militant Islam (or a lack thereof), and the unhappy history of Chechnya – all as clues to uncover the motives of the Tsarnaevs’ actions at the Boston Marathon and then afterwards. There are millions more words yet to come. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.
On Wednesday, the US Senate refused to pass any element of a bipartisan plan that would have expanded the writ of criminal background checks, banned assault weapons and outlawed high-capacity magazines. At least for the present, this has dealt a body blow to the Obama administration’s campaign to pass legislation that could help curb gun violence. After the votes, Barack Obama, in remarks that were in contrast to his usual “no drama Obama” demeanour, the president called the resulting legislative non-action “a pretty shameful day for Washington”. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.