Friday - March 17, 2017

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

(Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi. © AP)For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus


(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)



Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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Entries in Cape Town (2)


South Africans Ask: Should Murder Suspect Shrein Dewani Apologize? (Perspective)

By Roxy Marosa

(HN, January 3, 2011) One of the pieces I wrote in 2010 was about my tour with friends of one of the first townships in Cape Town - the sprawling and impoverished Langa. I expressed my emotions on a video clip.

It’s a township where a large number of poor black South Africans reside. Although there are a few residents regarded as middle class, the majority of the people are poor and face daily security and health hazards. On the tour, our guide explained that people freely roam around the streets during daylight hours but, as early as 7:30pm, most retreat into their homes - due to the security risks at night.

Their fears are well-grounded: there have been a number of muggings and even murders in Langa. People have reported these to the authorities, and in some cases, the perpetrators were never caught or brought to justice.

Fed-up, the community has taken charge and formed a community policing forum - essentially a group of responsible residents who receive crime reports and take swift action. They also work together to quickly bring the crimes to the attention of law enforcement authorities, who are then forced to act fast on the crimes. When a member of the forum witnesses a crime, they punish the perpetrators immediately, in addition to making a formal police report. This innovative collaboration has seen the crime rate in Langa decline. The members of the forum are known and respected in this township.Langa women returning from church services. CREDIT: Michael Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS

These acts of crime are a clear indication that South Africa is a country still overcoming it’s apartheid history. The highly-publicized November 2010 murder in nearby Guguletu Township of Annie Dewani - allegedly by a hit-man hired by her wealthy British businessman husband Shrien Dewani - reinforced the doubt many people here have in the security of the country and in the government.

It is no secret to South Africans that many people who were previously disadvantaged before apartheid are still mired in grinding poverty. Indicative of this is is the reported $2,200 payment received by the perpetrator and killer of Annie - in what has now become known as the "Honeymoon Murder." Although many people, especially the disadvantaged, want situations to change fast or have their society changed already, it is logical that this will not take place overnight. And the past 16 years have demonstrated change as a process, that it takes time - sometimes a painfully long time.

South Africa’s political future is also capturing worldwide attention. The blood and sweat of many who have contributed to the country’s current prosperity are seeing a growth in tourism fuelled, in part, by the 2010 World Cup.

Although an attractive tourist destination for many, South Africa still attracts ample criticism from others, due to a high murder rate (nationwide an average of 46 murders occurred daily last year, among the world’s highest rates), low level of safety and security and other reasons.

Having said this, the murder of Annie left many South Africans apologetic and doubting their own country. Even many South Africans government officials, fearing a backlash to tourism, offered apologies or felt compelled to explain what happened. As friends reflect on the country’s aftermath of the killing, interesting views were expressed to me, particularly about South African’s lack of confidence in the country. It came to light that these friends had pride over the country’s legal system.

In the end, the murder was solved (the suspect is on $350,000 bail in the UK, facing extradition back to South Africa) with the puzzle put together in a relatively short space of time. My friends acknowledged the soundness of the legal system and saluted it for the action and fast resolution.

All this begs the question: ‘Do South Africans have overall trust in their country?’ Responded to by friends, the answer was a clear ‘NO’. More views about other countries were expressed. ‘If Shrien had taken Annie to what is regarded a dangerous area in America, and she got killed there, Americans would protect their country by saying ‘What were they doing in that area at that time? People should not be hanging around the streets during that time,' " said one friend.

Is this confidence and love for a country or what?

So, knowing that South Africans are still recovering from the apartheid history and that the healing process will take years, should the accused Shrien Dewani apologise to playing on the vulnerability of South Africans?

Cape Town-based Roxy Marosa is host of the Roxy Marosa Show and runs several projects assisting people affected by HIV and Aids in South Africa. 


South African Media Gets Low Marks on Reporting on the Economy and the Poor

The media panel held on Friday in Johannesburg CREDIT: M. Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS(HN, September 18, 2010) - The South African media do a generally poor job of covering crucial business stories, often ignoring news that affects the poor.

 “We wake up once people start burning tires,” said Mondli Makhanya, Editor-in-Chief of Avusa Media - South Africa’s largest newspaper group - told a media roundtable Friday in Johannesburg.

The panel of media proprietors, academics and civil society leaders said that, amid the global economic crisis - which has hit southern Africa hard - print publications have tended to focus on the “same old talking heads,” using outdated rhetoric and stale economic propositions.

“We are pretty bad at covering the economy,” said Nic Dawes, editor of the Mail and Guardian, one of the most respected weekly in the country. “And we are not fundamentally good at examining the lives of the poor.” He added that an impediment for newspaper proprietors is that they rarely have serious economists on the newsroom floor to tap when a good business story presents itself.

Said Dawes: “Those who are serious economists are quickly picked up by the wire services or the banks.”

Representatives of civil society said that, even though they have many good story ideas and access to content and data, they feel roundly shut-out from the country’s newsrooms. There was general agreement that in this day and age, journalists are resorting to “desk-top journalism” - rarely leaving the comfort of their buildings, instead using the telephone to tap the wisdom of a closed circle of sources.

To be sure, there is no lack of selection when it comes to the print landscape in South Africa. The country supports at least 655 consumer magazines, 700 business-to-business publications, 470 community papers, 21 daily papers and 24 major weeklies.

Some outlets, like the Mail Guardian, only have 65 staff members - including cleaners and receptionists, and yet manage to do a fairly decent job reporting. Dawes said that, even after deep cuts, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have 800 and 1200 staff members respectively.

In media, size doesn't matter said one editor. The state-run South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has more than 1000 staff members and “no one can remember the last time they broke a story.”

An example of a series on the marginalized run by the Cape TimesAt least two newspaper representatives said that aside from opening up their opinion pages to more sophisticated debate, town hall meetings have proven to be a satisfactory way to draw ordinary voices into the discourse on the economy. The editor of the Cape Times, Alide Dasnois, said her Cape Town-based newspaper has devoted hundreds of column inches to probing economic stories, many of which focus on the poor. Some papers are even partnering with NGOs in order to get marginalized voices heard.

As in other economic forums in the region, speakers agreed that there are many good stories of entrepreneurialism on the continent, but that few get covered. One that was concerned a shoe factory in Durban where employees re-engineered the manufacturing process to stay competitive with China.

Most panelists agreed that South African print media tend to be obsessed with reporting on political stories, and that when it comes to economic stories, the easiest ones are those dealing with companies.

One speaker said there is a tendency among media to “celebrate wealth” - by running rich lists and other special on the economic elite.

Some of the comments from women in the audience raised the issue of a contradiction around the issue of rich lists, saying they deflects attention away from the have nots.

Said one audience member after the panel: “The rich lists set up a false dream that everybody buys into, and diverts attention from communalism. The question is: how do we redistribute wealth. This wealth reporting diverts attention away from it and screws up the morale obligation of the state to take care of the have-nots.”

The entrenched media practitioners conceded they have much room for improvement. Said Makhanya: “There is a huge economic story in South Africa we could be covering better - and that story is corruption.” He added that while investigative political reporting is made easier by the plethora of whistle blowers in government, the same does not hold true on corporate stories.

Media chiefs said what also hurts good economic reporting is poor handling of data, especially desegregated numbers that show who the poor are and where. The data speaks and tells the stories.

What under-analyzed data hides is inequality gaps and inequality is what is breeding social instability and crime in the country, said one of the panelists.

Concern was also voiced about the quality of foreign media reporting on South Africa. One panelist said that while super growth economies like Brazil and Malaysia get positive stories, South Africa is often seen through a critical, narrow lens.

The media roundtable was organized by the non-profit news agency, The South African Civil Society Information Service (SACSIS) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Reporting by Nadira Omarjee and Michael Bociurkiw in Johannesburg