It’s almost the end of 2013 and it’s time to declare the year’s person of the year. Of course, Time magazine has sneaked in ahead of us - we were a little busy with watching the comings and goings of about a hundred presidents and prime ministers here to bear witness to the passing of Nelson Mandela. In any case, we had already decided we would come out with our choice today so Time’s butting ahead in the queue really doesn’t matter. Moreover, we’re going to take issue with Time’s choice so readers will now get to choose who’s right (Hint: we are). BY J BROOKS SPECTOR.
The heavens opened up and rained down upon the crowd that had gathered at the FNB Stadium, South African President Jacob Zuma was booed by some in the crowd, American President Barack Obama delivered a memorable address (and SA President Jacob Zuma a pedestrian one) in memory of Nelson Mandela, and the day-long send-off marked the end of what we will now call the Mandela Era. But the most remarked upon event in the day may well have been a short handshake between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. J. BROOKS SPECTOR looks at the day from the diplomatic angle.
Nelson Mandela never visited the United States before he entered that long quarter century in prison. In fact, he only made his first trip to America in June 1990, four months after leaving prison in triumph - and mounting expectation. But that June visit became a great success – it tapped into an enormous reservoir of good will towards the man himself, and in support of the larger anti-apartheid struggle and cause of liberation. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.
Loren Braithwaite Kabosha was a Columbia University law school student on the verge of taking the New York bar exam when she was swept up in the excitement of Nelson Mandela’s first trip to the United States, back in 1990. It changed her life forever. J. BROOKS SPECTOR spoke with her in Johannesburg, just a few days after Nelson Mandela had passed away.
It didn’t take long for the tributes to start pouring in, from all corners of the globe and from every conceivable source. As South Africans, we sometimes think that Madiba belongs only to us, but this sells his legacy short: Nelson Mandela’s was a life that touched the whole world, as we can tell by its reaction. By SIMON ALLISON.
For years now, people have argued over both the reality and nature of climate change on our Earth. Scientists, mostly, have increasingly argued the preponderance of evidence points strongly towards a significant change in global climate in the offing. Meanwhile, politicians, mostly, have argued it isn’t happening, and, anyway, if even it is, it is not from the hand of mankind. Now a high-level American scientific body, the National Research Council, has thrown its full public weight behind the fact of climate change. In the process, it has urged carrying out the right kinds of research – and some key actions – to come to grips with this looming reality. By J. BROOKS SPECTOR.
After a month’s worth of public debacle as the newly launched American health care-reform programme’s website foundered in full view of the country, the Obama administration now argues the beleaguered website is ready – finally - for prime time. But has the cost on public support for the Obama administration been irreversible, or were these just the inevitable teething troubles of a new approach to allow people to compare and purchase new health care plans under the new law? J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a further look.
Two months after the disastrous launch of a website that is a key component of President Barack Obama's healthcare law, administration officials said on Sunday they had met their goal of getting the HealthCare.gov site running smoothly but warned that it needs more fixes. By David Morgan and Lewis Krauskopf.
In all those classic Hollywood flicks about warfare in Asia, the storyline almost always was about how the outnumbered American or British military, determined to hold back all those alien hordes, fought off those “inscrutable” Japanese (and then, later, those “nefarious” Chinese). But that was then, this is now, and the big story in East Asia now is the slow, inexorable expansion of Chinese power and influence - this time around into the East China Sea area - as China attempts to reassert primacy there. J. BROOKS SPECTOR looks at the newest moves by the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese - and, inevitably too, the Americans in dealing with this new paradigm.
Over the last week, Bangkok has been rocked by major anti-government protests, with tens of thousands of people occupying ministries and bringing parts of the city to a standstill. SIMON ALLISON was in Thailand to see what all the fuss is about (and he wasn’t expecting the music festival atmosphere).
Add them all up and they may just possibly equal the footprint of Central Park in New York City, and they are virtually invisible on most maps of the region. But the fight isn’t really over this rather forlorn collection of rocky pinpricks poking through the surface of the East China Sea – between Japan and China. Inevitably, perhaps, there seems to be some petroleum under the seabed near by, there’s lots of fishing in the waters thereabouts, and commercial shipping passes through the sea-lanes in the area. But perhaps most important of all, demonstrating military control on, below and above the surface of these islets and the expanses of water beyond them is key to leveraging a much larger strategic impact on the region – between the two Koreas, China and Japan. And now, as in much of the last century or more, China and Japan are facing off against each other. What will come out of that in the future, no one knows yet. By J. BROOKS SPECTOR.
Late on Saturday, the US, UK, Germany, France, Russia and China (along with the EU’s foreign policy directorate) reached agreement with Iran on that country’s nuclear ambitions. The deal isn’t a final agreement, but an interim measure giving the parties a chance to negotiate their way forward to a larger, more comprehensive agreement a half year from now. While this deal is already being heralded as a historic, precedent-setting agreement and a sea change in US-Iran relations, for the United States president at least, sorting out the repercussions of this deal with American allies Israel and Saudi Arabia – and with the US Congress – are on an urgent to-do list. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look.
An increasingly vicious, public split within the family of former Vice President Dick Cheney over same-sex marriage is spilling over into plans by one of his daughters, Liz, to run for the Senate from Wyoming. Simultaneously it has managed to point the spotlight on the Republican Party’s own fissures over same-sex marriage - as well as that of the nation as a whole. And, just incidentally, it almost certainly will make Christmas and New Years family gatherings at the Cheney ranch rather interesting affairs. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a quick peek.