- J Brooks Spector
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.
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.