Today is the day South Africa holds its five-year elections. While results have not yet been released, here's some nice reporting from Al Jazeera on how voters were feeling at the polls.
The African National Congress (the late Nelson Mandela's party) is expected to win yet another crushing victory, so the big question for this election is just how big of a margin they'll maintain.
The first generation of voters born after the end of Apartheid in 1994 are now eligible to vote, and are expected to favor the opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, which has steadily gained ground on the ANC in every election. However, only one-third of these young voters have actually registered, so their influence likely won't be strong.
As I've said many times before in concert with many South African analysts, regardless of any actual policy positions, what South Africa desperately needs is a credible opposition party. A single-party state is a road to corruption and failure. If the ANC pulls down less than 60 percent of the vote (which has never happened before), it could inspire the party to do some of the house-cleaning it so obviously needs. Ryan Cooper
A devastating landslide is believed to have buried more than 140 people in southwest China on Saturday, local officials reported. The landslide occurred in a mountainous region of Sichuan province, with tons of rocks — estimated to be enough to fill 3,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — pouring down on top of 46 homes in Xinmo village around 6 a.m. local time.
— AFP news agency (@AFP) June 24, 2017
"Initial accounts from villagers nearby said there had been rain in the area, but some said it was not very heavy and there was no sign of an impending landslide," NPR's Rob Schmitz reported. A team of 500 rescue workers is scouring the area with sniffer dogs to locate bodies and possible survivors. Bonnie Kristian
Congressional Democrats have leveled criticism at former President Obama following The Washington Post's Friday publication of a comprehensive report detailing the Obama administration's reactions to mounting evidence of Russian election meddling in 2016.
Obama's response "was inadequate," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). "I think [the administration] could have done a better job informing the American people of the extent of the attack." Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), who serves on the House Intelligence Committee with Swalwell, said the penalties the Obama team imposed on Russia were "barely a slap on the wrist."
Of course, President Trump has also castigated his predecessor over the report. "Just out," he tweeted Friday night. "The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?"
A Pennsylvania high school valedictorian had his microphone cut off in the middle of his speech when he began criticizing the school's "authoritative nature." Peter Butera received a standing ovation from fellow students when the principal ordered him off the stage for saying that administrators suppressed student expression. "Cutting the microphone," Butera said, "proved my point to be true."
At a dinner during the SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference last month, former Vice President Joe Biden reportedly ripped into financier Bill Ackman in a way that only Biden can. The scuffle between Biden and the man known for his losing bets on Herbalife stock apparently started after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) asked Biden why he didn't run for president in 2016, Fox Business reported:
Biden explained that part of the decision stemmed from the death of his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015. The room grew quiet as Biden became emotional, and said: "I'm sorry ... I've said enough."
That's when Ackman blurted out, "Why? That's never stopped you before."
The formal, and understated, dinner conversation suddenly turned tense, according three people who were present and confirmed both the substance and the wording of Biden's responses.
Biden, these people say, turned to someone seated near him, and asked, "Who is this asshole?," a reference to Ackman.
Then he turned directly to Ackman and stated: "Look, I don't know who you are, wiseass, but never disrespect the memory of my dead son!" these people say.
Ackman attempted what was described as an apology, to which Biden said, "Just shut the hell up." [Fox Business]
Attendees — including talk show host Steve Harvey, 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan, and former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou — were apparently "stunned" by the exchange. "Biden was in rare form," a person with "direct knowledge" of the incident told Fox Business.
Biden's spokeswoman declined to comment, though she did not deny the incident. Ackman's spokesman denied there was an argument between Biden and Ackman, though he did not dispute the words that were reportedly exchanged. Becca Stanek
CNN has a new weapon in the ongoing war between the media and the White House: a court room sketch artist.
On Friday, the press was banned from bringing cameras into the daily briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, so CNN sent its sketch artist, Bill Hennessy, to illustrate the scene. "Some conservative media voices dismissed it as a stunt," CNN writes, "but CNN argued that the sketch session did serve a journalistic purpose, in the same way that courtroom sketches do. CNN equated the briefing to a Supreme Court argument — an on-the-record event at which cameras are banned."
The White House hasn't been clear about why it is increasingly banning cameras from the briefings — Spicer said it's because he doesn't want reporters using the briefings to become YouTube stars (?), while White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon alleged it's because Spicer "got fatter" (??).
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 23, 2017
A Pennsylvania radio host resigned after his bosses ordered him to stop criticizing President Trump. WTPA's Bruce Bond said his general manager told him "it is not permissible on WTPA airwaves to talk disrespectfully of the president," and that angry listeners had threatened "advertiser boycotts." Bond chose to quit, saying he couldn't "walk on eggshells" every time politics or Trump came up.
On Friday, a fifth Republican came out against the Senate's version of the GOP health-care bill. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said that "in this form," he would "not support" the Senate plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. "There isn't anything in this bill that would lower premiums," Heller said, calling claims otherwise a "lie."
Four other Republicans — Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Ron Johnson (Wis.) — announced they would not support the bill shortly after it was unveiled Thursday. The bill, dubbed the "Better Care Reconciliation Act," proposes slashing Medicaid, eliminates ObamaCare's individual mandate, and allows states to waive some previously required benefits.
The GOP can only withstand two defections and still pass the bill. A vote is expected next week. Becca Stanek