In the Telegraph, Brendan O’Neill shows how the western media has managed to ignore horrific things in South Africa, but suddenly the murder of a pretty white woman has them all utterly rivetted to what’s happening in that country:
Last year, 34 black striking miners were gunned down by South African police at the Lonmin mine in Marikana. Some were shot in the back as they attempted to flee. Some were killed as they surrendered. Others were killed 300 metres from where the main massacre took place, suggesting they had been chased — that is, hunted down — by the armed servants of the ANC. Yet there was no outrage in the Western liberal press. There were no fuming leaders; very few angry columns. Amnesty International, guardian of the modern liberal conscience, issued a weak, almost uninterested statement about this act of mass murder, and then went back to throwing money and staff at the campaign to have Pussy Riot — prettier and way more fashionable than those dead miners — freed from jail in Russia.
This month, a pretty white woman, Reeva Steenkamp, was killed by her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, in a gated community in South Africa. And this time, right-thinking observers went crazy. The shock and outrage have been palpable. Feminists have popularised the Twitter hashtag #hernamewasReevaSteenkamp, to draw attention to the scourge of domestic violence in South Africa. Column after column tells us that the Steenkamp killing shows that the New South Africa is sick, that it’s a fear-ruled, crime-ridden, corrupt nation. This tragic shooting and the fractured court case and debate it has given rise to have cast a “lurid light” on South Africa, commentators tell us, calling into question its image as a “Rainbow Nation”. Where the massacre of 34 black workers elicited a collective shrug of the shoulder among observers over here, the killing of Steenkamp has got them tearing their hair out, demanding answers, wondering what the hell went wrong with the country they once admired (the New South Africa) and its ruling party that they once cheered (the ANC).
All of which raises a very awkward question: why is the shooting of a white woman in a domestic setting more shocking to liberal commentators than the massacre of 34 black miners at a public strike and demonstration? This isn’t a complaint about how the media elevates celebrity news over all other forms of news. I can understand why there is so much media and public interest in the Pistorius/Steenkamp case: it isn’t every day a global sports star shoots his famous, beautiful girlfriend in questionable circumstances. But what is striking is the fact that it took this incident — and not, say, the ANC’s massacre of 34 miners — to open Western liberals’ eyes to the profound problems, the moral and political decay, in modern-day South Africa.
Walter Russell Mead has a textbook example of finding the cloud to every silver lining in the pages of the New York Times:
A worthless desert in South Africa, largely inhabited by drought-stricken sheep and a handful of marginal farmers, turns out to contain rich natural gas reserves that could bring a new wave of economic growth to South Africa and provide huge numbers of well paying jobs for poorly educated workers.
The New York Times, of course, is wringing its elegantly manicured hands. And why not? The soil of the Karoo desert is “fragile,” and the extraction of the natural gas will involve fracking. What will happen to the sheep?
The Times finds a local farmer who is worried about exactly that.
“If our government lets these companies touch even a drop of our water,” [the farmer] said, “we’re ruined.”
Ruined! By wicked natural gas companies feeding the world’s hydrocarbon addiction. The farmer in question has a herd of 1400 sheep. (It was 2000 last year before a drought forced the slaughter of 600.) One somehow suspects that the farmer will find some other way to make money when the district becomes a major gas producing center. And, worst case, roughnecks eat a lot of meat.
That the Times chooses the lonesome shepherd to lead off one of the best good news stories around these days speaks volumes about the gloomy Gus mindset at the Paper of Record. Why can’t this be a good news story? Will a gas boom save South African democracy, for example? Will new economic opportunities transform the lives of tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of poor black South Africans? Will the huge increase in South Africa’s natural gas supply reduce the country’s carbon footprint? Is there anything in the geology to suggest that other poverty stricken parts of Africa might also be similarly blessed? How are local leaders planning the spend the windfall: better schools? better hospitals?
In international competitions, it’s always hard to watch when your first and second favourite teams play head-to-head. Had Canada made it to the World Cup, I’d be cheering for Canada first, England second, and USA third. Canada didn’t qualify (again), so I had to watch my other two preferred teams fight it out. A draw at least leaves both teams alive for advancing out of the group stage.
To see how the game unfolded according to the Twitterati, check this Guardian page, where it tracks the progress of the game against the hashtagged posts on Twitter.
The official World Cup soccer ball is not popular with some folks. Keepers, in particular:
[G]oalkeepers dislike the Adidas ball more than Diego Maradona dislikes reporters and photographers. Although to the keepers’ credit, they have not yet fired at the balls with air rifles or run over them in their cars.
Basically, the ball is being criticized for being too light and too curvy, as if it were a fashion model who eats too little food and has too much plastic surgery.
Altitude and technology will not only cause goalkeepers stress, but also make balls carry too far on crosses, causing some headers to be missed by two feet, said Marcus Hahnemann, a reserve keeper for the United States and a man not given to understatement.
“Technology is not everything,” Hahnemann said Thursday. “Scientists came up with the atom bomb; it doesn’t mean we should have invented it.”
Adidas has christened the World Cup ball Jabulani, which is apparently Zulu for “offends goalkeepers.”
Not really. The name actually means “to celebrate.” But it has been lost in translation for the guys between the posts.
I seem to recall plenty of disdain being heaped on the official ball every World Cup since I started paying attention. Watch for this article to be re-run in four years’ time, with new names appearing in the fill-in-the-blank spots.
This man didn’t pay attention, and took a more exciting ride than he expected:
It probably is best not to fiddle with switches or controls when riding in the back seat of an air force plane.
A man who failed to obey that principle found himself hurtling out of the cockpit, smashing through the Perspex canopy and into space after grabbing the black- and yellow-striped handle between his legs. He had inadvertently pulled the eject lever and found himself blasted 100 metres into the sky on his rocket-powered seat.
The South African air force has confirmed the incident that took place last Wednesday, when the passenger took off for a flight with an experienced pilot from South Africa’s Silver Falcons air display team. Investigators are assuming that the passenger tried to steady himself while the pilot was putting the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II through its paces by grabbing the eject lever.
The passenger survived, with only minor injuries. That’s more than a little surprising:
“We train for this and if you don’t get it right, and are not in the correct ejection posture, you can sustain severe spinal cord injuries or even worse.”
H/T to Jeff Scarbrough for the link.
South Africa has a serious corruption problem with their yet-to-be delivered A400M military transport planes:
Yet another corruption case in South Africa. This time, members of parliament are asking why the military is suddenly paying $809 million each for eight A400M four engine transports. The price other nations are paying for the aircraft are under $200 million each. The price South Africa agreed to pay, in 2005, was about $279 million, and included training, maintenance support and some spare parts. It is believed that the price went up so that government officials could siphon off large bribes. Meanwhile, the A400M aircraft is four years behind schedule, and has not flown yet. It was originally to start deliveries to European customers this year. South Africa is supposed to begin getting its A400Ms in seven years. South Africa has already paid $400 million for its A400Ms, and more progress payments will soon be due.
Such blatant corruption is not new in South Africa, but lately the crooks have been winning. Last year, the South African parliament passed a law disbanding an elite government investigation unit nicknamed the “Scorpions.” Investigations by this unit had led to dozens of corruption prosecutions of government officials. That’s why the unit is being dismantled. Corruption is a major problem throughout Africa, and many nations are now setting up units like the Scorpions, after having realized that corruption was the major cause of the poverty and civil wars that afflict most Africans.
I guess that this story means they’ll have to update the old RFC 1149: Standard for the transmission of IP datagrams on avia:
Broadband promised to unite the world with super-fast data delivery — but in South Africa it seems the web is still no faster than a humble pigeon.
A Durban IT company pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country’s biggest web firm, Telkom.
Winston the pigeon took two hours to carry the data 60 miles — in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data.
Telkom said it was not responsible for the firm’s slow internet speeds.