- Showkat Shafi
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.
Three years ago South Africa and Brazil co-sponsored a historic resolution encouraging the UN to discuss discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Despite South Africa’s leadership on this critical global issue there is, as of yet, no clear indication of how SA will vote on a new SOGI resolution tabled at the 27th Session UN Human Rights Council last week. By MARIANNE THAMM.
My father, until very recently, lived in a stone house on the wild outer reaches of Scotland, on South Uist, the southernmost island in the remote, Atlantic-lashed chain called the Outer Hebrides. He appealed to me to visit, but my cynical response was that I'd have to be on a cod-fishing trawler headed from the Danish Faroe archipelago to Iceland and get blown off course by a storm to wind up in South Uist, it is that far off the charts. By MICHAEL SCHMIDT.
In an historic referendum, the Scots have decided by a substantial majority that they will stay inside the United Kingdom rather than peering suspiciously over Hadrian’s Wall in the direction of Westminster.J BROOKS SPECTOR contemplates the result after more than four million Scots made their mark on their ballots.
A democratically-minded person should support the view that the people of Scotland should get the government they feel they deserve. And in this sense, the independence referendum is a red herring. The (only) question to be put on the 18th is “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, but “Is the United Kingdom in need of constitutional reform?” would be more appropriate - not least because the disillusionment with Westminster, mainstream Establishment politics is by no means limited to Scotland. By JUAN KOTZE.
The Asian manufacturing success story is well documented, including how states have moved out of low-tech to higher value-addition, rising wages and raising living standards. So why, when we know what Asia has done and how they have done it, does Africa not follow the same path? Meanwhile Malaysia, for all its political idiosyncrasies, has certainly followed a pragmatic path – sometimes at the expense of leaders’ popularity. But it’s paid off. There are lessons to learn here. By GREG MILLS.
In thinking about this upcoming Scottish independence vote, it is pretty ironic that the archetypical British secret agent was portrayed on film by an ardent Scottish nationalist – Sean Connery, while Scotland’s great hero of the 13th century, William Wallace, was played by a misanthropic Aussie actor, Mel Gibson. These are just some of the curious ironies of the impending independence referendum-taking place in Scotland on Thursday. By J. BROOKS SPECTOR.
Even before President Barack Obama even got a chance to deliver his speech about how the US is going to deal with Islamic State (IS), former Vice President Dick Cheney got out a belligerent, ‘fight everyone in the neighbourhood’ rebuttal speech to an adoring claque at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. Politics can be a vicious business. J. BROOKS SPECTOR is not surprised.