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Barack Obama unveils his list of best music from 2019

After revealing his favorite films, TV shows and books from 2019, the former American president completed his annual roundup with his musical highlights of the past 12 months.

Obama shared on social media his wide-ranging playlist for 2019, which blends smash hits like Lizzo’s “Juice” with more under-the-radar picks.

“From hip-hop to country to The Boss, here are my songs of the year. If you’re looking for something to keep you company on a long drive or help you turn up a workout, I hope there’s a track or two in here that does the trick,” he wrote along with the list of his 35 picks for the year.

Among them are hits at the center of all sorts of year-end selections like Ozuna’s star-studded “Baila Baila Baila (Remix),” Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” remix with Billy Ray Cyrus and Rosalía’s “Con Altura.”

Chart-toppers Burna Boy, Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, J. Cole, Young Thug and Travis Scott were also mentioned by the former commander in chief, who also included in the list rising R&B star Summer Walker as well as gothic blues chanteuse Adia Victoria.

In August, Obama shared a “summer playlist 2019” with 44 catchy songs, which range from Drake’s “Too Good” featuring Rihanna to Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and Ella Fitzgerald’s “How High the Moon.”

Unlike his previously shared books and film/TV series like, Obama’s best music picks are all included in a Spotify playlist.

Last June, Barack and Michelle Obama announced that they signed a deal with the Swedish streaming platform to create a series of exclusive podcasts through their production company Higher Ground Audio.

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to amplify voices that are too often ignored or silenced altogether, and through Spotify, we can share those stories with the world. Our hope is that through compelling, inspirational storytelling, Higher Ground Audio will not only produce engaging podcasts, but help people connect emotionally and open up their minds — and their hearts,” the former First Lady said in a statement, without providing details on specific projects. – AFP/RELAXNEWS

Police on high alert as Mzansi gears up for busy NY’s Eve celebrations


With New Year’s Eve festivities galore for those who want to usher in the next decade in style tonight, it’s easy to get lost in the mayhem and forget to take necessary precautions to not put ourselves in harm’s way. 

To ensure the safety of everyone, the South African Police Service will be on high alert for any kind of unlawlessness on our roads, particularly those driving under the influence of alcohol.

Authorities in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Cape Town and St. Johns in the Eastern Cape, known as the tourism jewel of the Wild Coast, have issued strong warnings and will be monitoring New Year’s Eve celebrations across the provinces to ensure the safety of the public.

A number of celebrations will be held across Gauteng alone – among them is the AfroPunk Joburg at Constitutional, Block Party at the Sun Arena in Pretoria, New Year’s Eve Annual Camp at Zwartkop Nature Resort in Pretoria and the City of Johannesburg New Year’s Eve Countdown at Mary FotzGerald Square in Newtown.

Police will also be patrolling all major roads and intersections – Hillbrow, Johannesburg and Pretoria Central, Soweto and Mamelodi – where revellers tend to display unruly behaviour. 

“The public is urged to remain vigilant and aware of their immediate surroundings during the celebrations, as criminals are opportunistic and sometimes use crowds as cover to commit crime,” says Mathapelo Peters, Gauteng police spokesperson.

In Cape Town police authorities have enforced strict safety standards for the organised fireworks displays at key public places – including the V&A Waterfront, Simon’s Town Harbour and Leeukoppie in Hout Bay.

eThekwini municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela cautioned residents to use fireworks with great caution and be considerate of their neighbours and animals — or face the possibility of a fine of up to R10,000. 

According to a tweet by the City of Johannesburg, fireworks may be ignited between 11pm and 1am, and on New Year’s Day from 7pm to 10pm. 

However, there are conditions that residents generally need to adhere to. For private home use, low-hazard fireworks such as fountains, lawn lights and sparkles are allowed. 

Dangerous explosives such as air bombs, supersonic bangs, sound shells, fountain whistles and screeches are prohibited as they cause a disturbance and are a nuisance to neighbours. – ZONK NEWS WIRES

DR Congo Ebola death toll 2,231 to date – monitoring agency

A total of 2,231 people have died out of 3,373 declared cases of Ebola in the current epidemic in the DR Congo, according to the agency overseeing the response, health officials said.

Deadly unrest in the fragile state has hampered the fight against the disease during the latest epidemic, which broke out on August 1, 2018, with the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri particularly badly hit.

Both areas, beset by violence for two decades, have seen repeated attacks on Ebola health workers by dozens of armed groups as well as on health sites set up to treat victims.

More than 200 civilians have been killed in the troubled east since November in clashes blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia group of Ugandan origin which officials blame for a string of massacres in recent weeks.

Health authorities meanwhile said Sunday that 341 suspected Ebola cases were being investigated, a day after the Multisectoral Committee for Epidemic Response (CMRE) monitoring the disease unveiled its latest batch of data Saturday.

The current epidemic is the tenth overall and the second deadliest on record since a 2014-16 outbreak struck west Africa, killing more than 11,300.


Barack Obama shares his list of favorite books from 2019

As 2019 comes to an end, the former American president continued his annual tradition of sharing his literary highlights of the year.

The eclectic book list features nineteen fiction and nonfiction titles that “made the last year a little brighter,” with two books specifically tagged for sports fans.

“Outlets like literature and art can enhance our day-to-day experiences. They’re the fabric that helps make up a life – the album that lifts us up after a long day, the dog-eared paperback we grab off the shelf to give to a friend, the movie that makes us think and feel in a new way, works that simply help us escape for a bit,” Obama wrote about his annual book list on Instagram.

Among the titles that made this year’s list are Sarah M. Broom’s National Book Award-winning memoir, “The Yellow House,” which chronicles her upbringing in a shotgun house in New Orleans East and Albert Woodfox’s “Solitary,” in which the activist reflects on his four decades in solitary confinement.

Additional highlights include Sally Rooney’s award-winning “Normal People,” Jia Tolentino’s “Trick Mirror,” Valeria Luiselli’s “Lost Children Archive” and Casey Cep’s “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee,” which takes a look at the Alabama murder case that novelist Harper Lee attempted — and failed — to chronicle.

Earlier this year, the former US president singled out nineteen other books, including Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall,” Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys” and Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko.”

At the time, Obama also mentioned the collected works of late Nobel-winning novelist Toni Morrison, to whom he awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

See the full list of Obama’s favorite books from 2019 below:

  • “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power,” by Shoshana Zuboff
  • “The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company,” by William Dalrymple
  • “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee,” by Casey Cep
  • “Girl, Woman, Other,” by Bernardine Evaristo
  • “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America From 1890 to the Present,” by David Treuer
  • “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy,” by Jenny Odel
  • “Lost Children Archive,” by Valeria Luiselli
  • “Lot: Stories,” by Bryan Washington
  • “Normal People,” by Sally Rooney
  • “The Orphan Master’s Son,” by Adam Johnson
  • “The Yellow House,” by Sarah M. Broom
  • “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland,” by Patrick Radden Keefe
  • “Solitary,” by Albert Woodfox
  • “The Topeka School,” by Ben Lerner
  • “Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion,” by Jia Tolentino
  • “Trust Exercise,” by Susan Choi
  • “We Live in Water: Stories,” by Jess Walter – AFP/RELAXNEWS
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All roads lead to AfroPunk Joburg


The stage is set for one of the most anticipated concerts to end the year. 

For two days, starting today, Johannesburg premier historic site, the Constitutional Hill will transform into a musical paradise for multitutes of non-conforming crowds and just about anybody who boldly exist outside ‘the norm’. 

A true celebration of blackness in all its forms, the two day festival is expected to draw large crowds from all corners of Mzansi and beyond. 

Performances-wise, so far we know that Solange Knowles is coming for sure after assuring words of the organisers as they seek to allay growing fears of a repeat of the 2017 letdown which saw the US singer cancel her scheduled performance at the time due to poor health. 

“Rumors are false. Solange is coming. See you soon Joburg,” reads a tweet from AfroPunk official account.

The Grammy award winning musician will share the stage with Miguel, Masego, Rico Nasty, Nao, and Gold Link. South African acts billed to perform include Zoe Modiga, Distruction Boyz, DBN Gogo, Busiswa, Darkie Fiction, Umlilo, Gena Jeanz, Roco Nasty, Darkie Fiction, Sho Madjozi, TCIYF and more.


Helen Zille in hot water over ‘land issue’ tweet


The Democratic Alliance’s federal chairperson Helen Zille is in hot water over her Twitter comments about racism and the land issue.

Zille shared a cartoon on Sunday by Jeremy Nell, who goes by the pen name Jerm, discussing the land issue, saying the cartoon managed to ‘aptly capture the fallacy and racism behind race generalisations’.

Zille’s tweet caused a major Twitter storm, with many accusing her of being an ‘unapologetic’ racist.

“The greatest threat to our country, apart from economic collapse, is race generalizations. We need to see each other as individuals accountable for our personal actions,” Zille defended herself.

“That cartoon exposes the lunacy of blaming everyone, on the basis of their race, for the crimes of others.”


It’s all systems go for KFC fairytale wedding


South Africa’s favourite couple, Hector Mkansi and Nonhlanhla Soldaat will finally walk down the aisle at dream wedding on Tuesday.

While KFC has decided to keep the wedding a secret, the couple confirmed on Twitter that the wedding – their second – will take place tomorrow and will be attended by family and close friends only. 

“Thank you South Africa for being supportive on this journey of ours. The wedding is going ahead as planned,” Mkansi said.

The couple made headlines after a video of  their proposal at a KFC outlet went viral on social media.

The video, which was taken by a passer-by prompted the fast food franchise to launch a manhunt for the man who got down on his knee in the middle of a KFC outlet in the Vaal, South of Johannesburg, and proposed to her.

Their story saw throngs of South Africans open their hearts and pockets, with brands such as Coca-Cola, Audi, Kulula, Sun City Resort, Siwela Wines, Castle Lite, Audi, Tsogo Sun, Puma, and Huawei having pledged to help fund their wedding.  

With Precious Thamaga of Precious Celebrations roped in to plan the wedding and celebrated designer Tshepo Mashego and Bride & Co making the bridal suit and dress respectively, it will no doubt be the couple’s perfect wedding as they couldn’t afford a fancy wedding the first time around – in 2012.

The wedding will be streamed live by Eyewitness News channel.

Artists set to perform include Dr Tumi, Amanda Black, Donald and DJ Bafana.

New exhibition to explore Jean-Michel Basquiat’s influence on hip-hop culture

“Writing the Future: Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation” will shed light on the transition of street art from New York’s city walls into the art world in the 1980s.

The exhibition will reflect on how Basquiat became the frontrunner of this transformational movement in contemporary American art, which defied long-standing racial divisions.

“Writing the Future” will also feature works by some of his peers and collaborators, including Keith Haring, Futura, Fab Five Freddy and ERO.

Other artists whose works will be shown include A-One, Kool Koor, LA2, Lady Pink, Lee, Rammellzee and Toxic, marking the first time that Basquiat’s oeuvre will be contextualized in relation to his contemporaries from hip-hop culture.

A highlight of the show is Basquiat’s “Hollywood Africans,” in which he mixes street art and abstract expressionist stylistic motifs to comment on stereotypes about African-Americans in the entertainment industry, and the lack of opportunities for African-American talent.

The painting pays tribute to graffiti artists Toxic and Rammellzee, while also referencing African-American actress Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar in 1940 for her supporting role as Mammy in “Gone With The Wind.”

“Writing the Future: Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation” will be on view from April 5 through August 2, 2020 at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Meanwhile in Australia, Basquiat is being celebrated in “Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines,” which is on view until April 13 at the National Gallery of Victoria.

This exhibition offers new insights into the two artists’ visual languages, focusing on the intersections between their lives and ideas. – AFP/RELAXNEWS

Guinea-Bissau votes in presidential runoff to end turmoil

Guinea-Bissau voters cast their ballots in a presidential runoff Sunday with the hope of ending months of political turmoil in the coup-prone West African state that is one of the world’s poorest nations.

Guinea-Bissau voters cast their ballots in a presidential runoff Sunday with the hope of ending months of political turmoil in the coup-prone West African state that is one of the world’s poorest nations.

Some 700,000 registered voters chose between two former prime ministers — Domingos Simoes Pereira, from the traditional ruling PAIGC party, and opposition figure Umaro Sissoco Embalo.

Both promised a better economic future in a country wracked by poverty, instability and corruption.

Incumbent Jose Mario Vaz crashed out of the race in the first round in November — becoming the first elected president in 25 years to reach the end of his mandate without being ousted or dying in office, in a country where the military has loomed large in politics.

“This is the most important day. We want everything to go well,” said Dominique Zale, a security guard and father of six who spoke to AFP at a polling station near the port in the capital Bissau, where voters started lining up before dawn.

At a nearby polling station, 31-year-old economics student Jair Fernandes Martins said the next president “will have the mission to make the country work”.

“We must vote to change things,” he said.

Electoral commission head Felisberta Vaz Moura told AFP that turnout was healthy. “Voting is going well across the country with no incidents reported,” Moura said.

Nearly 70 percent of Guinea-Bissau’s 1.8 million people live on less than $1.90 a day and the small tropical country ranks 178th out of 189 on the UN Human Development Index.

It gained independence from Portugal in 1974, but has suffered a string of military coups, attempted coups and political assassinations ever since.

After the latest coup in 2012, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS deployed a nearly 700-member force to try to stabilise the fragile nation.

But observers have expressed cautious optimism that the military would not disrupt the political process this time.

“Everywhere we have been there is a good atmosphere,” said the head of the ECOWAS observation mission, former Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, in a post on Twitter.

Polls closed at 1700 GMT, with the results not expected until next week.

– Years of crisis

Pereira, 56, a civil engineer by training, won 40.1 percent of the vote in the first round on November 24.

He belongs to the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which dominates parliament and is historically rooted in the fight to end Portugal’s colonial rule.

After casting his ballot at a polling station installed under a tree on the outskirts of Bissau, Pereira said he hoped that after the vote “we can build national harmony, so that our country can fire up and grow”.

Embalo, a former general who wears a red-and-white Arab keffiyeh headdress, is gambling that he can chip away at Pereira’s lead by getting backing from candidates knocked out in the first round in November.

The 47-year-old came second with 27.65 percent. He represents Madem, an opposition party formed by PAIGC rebels.

“I am making a vibrant appeal to the entire population to come and vote. It is the only way to save Guinea-Bissau from the 46 years of misfortune since independence,” Embalo told AFP after voting in Gabu in the east of the country.

The latest crisis erupted in 2015 when Vaz sacked Pereira as prime minister, a move that incensed the PAIGC.

Thereafter, Vaz was unable to get parliamentary backing for his proposed prime ministers — and parliament did not sit for nearly two years until April 2018 when Aristides Gomes was appointed “consensus” prime minister.

Vaz came fourth in the first round of voting, with just 12.4 percent.

– Poverty, graft and cocaine –

Latin American drug runners have exploited the instability and poverty in Guinea-Bissau to make the country a hub along the cocaine-smuggling route to Europe.

It has also been lacerated by graft, ranking 172nd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 index for perceived levels of corruption.

Fisherman Moutar Diallo called on the future president to build roads, lower the price of rice and solve “the problem of hospitals where pregnant women die” giving birth alone. – AFP

French tourist injured in Seychelles shark attack

A French tourist was seriously injured after being attacked by a shark while swimming in the Seychelles, a popular tourist destination, the French ambassador said Monday.

The attack on the 45-year-old woman took place Sunday night off the island of Praslin, the second-largest in the picturesque archipelago famed for its pristine beaches. 

The victim was injured in one arm and was transported to a hospital. 

“She underwent an operation last night and her life is not in danger,” Ambassador Dominique Mas told AFP. 

The attack comes during the high tourist season for the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands located off the coast of East Africa in the Indian Ocean.

Such incidents are rare in the Seychelles, though two tourists — one French and one British — were killed in shark attacks off Praslin in August 2011. 

Officials said Praslin’s relatively cool waters could attract sharks during breeding.  

The Seychelles Maritime Safety Administration (SMSA) cordoned off the area where Sunday’s attack occurred to search for the shark. 

The SMSA also imposed a temporary ban on swimming in the area. – AFP