- J Brooks Spector
On Tuesday evening, when the United Nations voted to refer North Korea’s leadership to the International Criminal Court – for having the worst human rights record in the world – South Africa chose to abstain. Before the vote itself, we had argued vehemently against the motion. This puts us in the uncomfortable but, as of recently, the all-too-familiar company of the likes China, Russia and Iran. So much for a principled foreign policy. By SIMON ALLISON.
Next year in Paris, governments will have before them an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen the global response to climate change. To succeed, they must draw on the lessons learned over two decades of climate policy, and produce a practical agreement capable of bringing everyone on board. By VALLI MOOSA and HARALD DOVLAND.
American Cardinal Raymond Burke was removed last week from the head of the Apostolic Signatura (the Church’s judicial court in Rome), and appointed to the ceremonial post of chaplain to the Knights of Malta – a charity group. The Vatican gave no reason for this unusual demotion and redeployment – seldom are Vatican officials removed from their posts. But, last month, Burke himself said that he was expecting to be removed from his post. Earlier this year Pope Francis removed him from another influential position: a department that appoints bishops. He has given a series of interviews in recent months in which he has been critical of Pope Francis. In his latest interview, with a Spanish publication, he compared the Catholic Church under Pope Francis to “a ship without a rudder”. Is Burke’s removal a case of “tit-for-tat”? By RUSSELL POLLITT.
The European Union has ended a search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean that saved the lives of an estimated 70,000 people in a year. This, however, has been deemed a poor investment for an increasingly xenophobic continent, which will instead let refugees drown on their doorstep. By SIMON ALLISON for ISS TODAY.
Staying up late to watch the results come in from America’s mid-term election, J. BROOKS SPECTOR offers some initial observations as control over the Senate switches from Democratic hands to their opponents, the Republicans. The results, of course, offer potential insights over the 2016 presidential election, in addition to governance in the last two years of the Obama administration.
South Africans like to think of their country as being superlative, and the corruption and stupidity stakes are no exception. After all, where else could one hear all those stories of raw, untarnished idiocy which we love to trade as part of the perennial South African dinner time conversation? TIMON WAPENAAR has found the answer.
Just for a minute or two, let us put the specifics and growing flood of the epidemiological and medical information about Ebola to one side, and, instead, let us focus on the US domestic politics of this disease. And inevitably, too, there is the question of the impact on the Obama presidency, with the midterm election barely two weeks away. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.
In the ‘Rhino racketeering’ chapter of his book ‘The UN’s Lone Ranger: Combating International Wildlife Crime’, author JOHN SELLAR describes the incredible increases in rhino poaching in South Africa during the late 2000s, accompanied by other criminality around the world where hunting trophy horns and antique horn-based items were being stolen from museums, taxidermists and auction houses. These crimes were thought initially to be prompted by a belief that crushed rhino horn could treat cancers. What’s next, though?
Making headlines, to describe the unexpected interim document on the Family Synod that came out of the Vatican on Monday, were things like “A stunning change”, “A Catholic earthquake” and “A bombshell document from the Vatican”. Twitter was abuzz with comments and most major news networks commented on the story. These headlines were followed, hours later, by others that said things such as “Here’s why Church teaching on ‘gay marriage’ did not change today” and “One of the worst documents drafted in Church history!” Some are excited and hopeful; others are clearly disappointed, including South Africa’s Cardinal at the Synod, Wilfrid Napier. By RUSSELL POLLITT.
The month-long disappearance of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, from any public view has set the rumour mill turning, especially since high-level envoys from that usually hermit-like country have been popping up all over the place. Oh, and did we remember to mention that North Korea has been hard a work, developing nuclear weapons? Cause for concern? J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look.
If TS Eliot had been an American political pundit instead of a poet, he might well have written that November can be the cruellest month for a Democratic president and party looking for love as the country heads down the home stretch for 2014’s midterm election, especially given all those foreign policy woes. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look.
No, Occupy Hong Kong won’t get what it’s asking for. The tens of thousands of protestors, gathered under their umbrellas, aren’t going to get any real democratic reforms. But they will make Beijing think twice about rolling back any of Hong Kong’s unique freedoms in the future – and that is really the point. By demanding change, the protestors are protecting the fragile status quo. By SIMON ALLISON.
2014 is the 60th year since the defeat of French forces at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Veterans of that battle are in their dotage, their famous commander Grand General Von Nguyen Giap passing away in 2013 aged 102. Dien Bien Phu has transformed since 1954 when there were just 100 houses. But as the veterans fade away, Dien Bien Phu is a battle most Vietnamese have only read about in the history books. By GREG MILLS and ANTHONY ARNOTT.
A resolution passed at the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last week sent a clear global message of support to those who experience violence and discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity. The resolution, backed by South Africa, survived seven hostile amendments seeking to strip it of all references to sexual orientation and gender identity. By MARIANNE THAMM.
Nearly three centuries ago, British novelist Jonathan Swift issued his bitter essay, “A Modest Proposal”, that ostensibly suggested a government program to fatten up Irish orphans (and then send them to market), so as to simultaneously eliminate famine on the Emerald Isle – and also to provide a way to keep the country’s notorious population explosion in check. Is it time for a similar rethink about the barbaric reign of IS in northern Iraq and eastern Syria for something besides air strikes and the recruitment of tribal militias to fight the scourge of ISIS? By J BROOKS SPECTOR.