- Rebecca Davis
A very different European economic landscape beckons after the victory by Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza and the decision by the European Central Bank to begin a programme of quantitative easing in a desperate effort to goose the snoozing European economy. J. BROOKS SPECTOR tries to put these developments into perspective.
“Fire in the belly” may be an overused term in the world of politics, but Barack Obama seemed to have his set at high for Tuesday’s State of the Union message to the US Congress. Of course a Republican Congress may well douse some of those flames in the weeks and months to come. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a first look at the speech.
The US Supreme Court has decided to add a surprise to the American political system that could have interesting impacts on the presidential selection process – besides the possibility of a major societal change. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look at this unexpected decision to tackle the vexed question of national legal acceptance of same-sex marriage.
The horrific murders carried out this week against the staff of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and at a Kosher supermarket in Paris, follow a number of attacks carried out in the name of Islam. These include attacks by individuals, such as the attack on a cafe in Sydney Australia, and the Canadian parliament in Ottawa. Is this violence rooted in Islam, or do we need recourse to a larger narrative to understand what is taking place? By ERIC DAVIS.
The question of whether Prophet Muhammad can be depicted in Islam is something that perhaps most Muslims have failed to explain. With every cartoon or drawing, most people wonder why Muslims are in such an uproar – and admittedly, in some cases in a manner that is frankly unbefitting of the Prophet himself. By A’EYSHA KASSIEM for GROUNDUP.
Charlie Hebdo journalist Laurent Leger is no stranger to South African newspaper readers. Over the last ten years or so, as a freelancer, Laurent has written several reports for South African newspapers on the French connection in the arms deal, and also on failed attempts to find the killers of ANC Paris representative Dulcie September. By ALIDE DASNOIS for GROUNDUP.
According to foreign minister Wang Yi, when it comes to Africa, China’s intentions are entirely benevolent. It cares about Africa’s environment, it cares about Africa’s long term interests and it certainly doesn’t harbour any nasty neo-colonial intentions. He would say that, of course. But how wrong is he really? By SIMON ALLISON.
Wednesday’s deadly attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo forces publishers and media practitioners worldwide to consider how far they are willing to go to uphold freedom of expression. REBECCA DAVIS spoke to South African editors, and the country’s most famous cartoonist, to find out whether the Charlie Hebdo attack would make them less likely to take risks with provocative content in future.
The beginning of a new year encourages J. BROOKS SPECTOR to offer a whole eyrar of black swans; those unknowable events - that once they happen - will have enormous impact on the world we live in. So, read further and see what is on the list, or, perhaps, add yet others to the bunch. Then we can reconvene at this venue at the end of December 2015 so as to see which ones came to be true.
Social media was abuzz on Friday when news broke that the Vatican would not be granting the Dalai Lama a meeting with Pope Francis in Rome. The Dalai Lama is in the Italian capital for a gathering of Nobel Peace Laureates: the gathering was originally meant to take place in Cape Town in October 2014 to celebrate the first anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela. Is Pope Francis, like the South African government, also in the pocket of the Chinese authorities? By RUSSELL POLLITT.
Canadian tourist Elisa Lam’s decomposing body was found in a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles at the beginning of last year. It’s depressingly easy to take life, it seems. Even the highly visible killings, the ones dogged by the press and chased down by Hollywood, eventually acquire the flavour of fiction, blown into hyperbole by armchair sleuths. It’s a metaphorical process not unlike the Big Bang, where ultimately the human remains in these stories become little more than dust. And when one of those lives belongs to a person with a mental illness, it’s even easier to blow them away. By MARELISE VAN DER MERWE.
In one short decade, the country of Colombia moved from being a failed state to almost being the opposite today. This incredible success story, together with all the imminent dangers still lurking in the shadows, has been captured in this extraordinary analysis by DAVID KILCULLEN and GREG MILLS. It is a long, but essential read.
In Washington, the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA activities – a disclosure of over half a decade’s worth of actions that effectively amounted to bureaucratically condoned and managed torture – is now part of the official and public record. And it is a genuinely troubling and disturbing record. By J. BROOKS SPECTOR.
In thinking about this year’s international person of the year, there really wasn’t much of a contest – if impact on the global political and economic scene is the measuring rod. J. BROOKS SPECTOR makes the award for 2014 to a man who likes to hunt, fish, ride a horse, go bare-chested, pursue martial arts - and who follows Nicolo Machiavelli’s famous advice about whether a prince should strive to be loved or feared. Runners-up: Xi Jinping and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi.
The astonishing fall in the global price of petroleum – approximately 40% of its high water mark just a few months ago, prompts J. BROOKS SPECTOR to look more closely at the winners and losers as this price drop washes through the international oil market and affects individual nations and consumers around the world.
On Tuesday, Pope Francis visited the European Parliament, some 26 years after the only other Pope, John Paul II, visited the same chamber. John Paul II visited a year before the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, and this marked the beginning of a new Europe which was no longer divided into a democratic West and communist East. There was a great sense of anticipation and expectation of something new in 1999 when the Wall fell. In Francis’ analysis this has all but dried up. In his address he referred to Europe as “somewhat elderly and haggard”, which is regarded by the rest of the world with “aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion.” A few Parliamentarians were not happy with the Pope’s visit and felt that it violated the separation between Church and State. What did the Pope have to say and why would the European Parliament be interested in him anyway? By RUSSELL POLLITT.