Malawi’s frugal independence day

While most countries use independence day as an excuse for over-the-top indulgence, Malawi's new President Joyce Banda has a more modest interpretation. As her country prepared to celebrate its 48th year of independence from Great Britain, Banda made it clear that this year's celebrations would be more, well...responsible. While celebrations under former President Bingu Wa Mutharika were lavish and fun (for some), they were also expensive. And so, in keeping with her track record of fiscal responsibility --in contrast to her jet-setting, free-spending predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika -- Banda decided to save some party money (roughly $400,000) and host a national worship service instead.

Standing before a packed hall of worshipers in Blantyre she called for collaboration and diligence moving forward:

I thank God for the dedicated team of personnel he has given me. Together, we make very brilliant plans for the nation. But no matter how hard we might try, if those below us frustrate such plans, we won't achieve anything."

Hopefully she at least had desert.



Castro takes a slow plane to China

The Miami Herald reports on the Cuban leader's suspiciously long trip to the Middle Kingdom:

The newspaper Granma, official voice of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba, reported Monday that Castro took off from Havana on Sunday for a state visit to China and Vietnam but did not give the exact time of his departure.

China's news media reported that he landed in Beijing on Wednesday, indicating that he spent at least two days en route. U.S. commercial flights from Miami to Beijing, with one stopover, take a little more than 24 hours.

"Where was he?" Havana dissident Martha Beatriz Roque asked in a column. If he did make a stopover somewhere en route, she added, it must have been, like so many other things in Cuba, "a state secret."

Read more here:

One possible, not-so-sinister explanation is that he was golfing in Italy. Castro reportedly makes a low-key visit each year to a resort in Tuscany near the home of his daughter's husband's family. 

Castro is in China to sign a series of deals including a new line of credit and aid for health-care and technology.