Friday, July 31, 2009

Zuma says local councillors "aren't doing their jobs", promises "audit"

SHOOT: I googled 'Zuma' since there's been very little umshini wham since he was elected. Umshini is a song, however, that I've heard some protesting construction workers singing, which is kinda ironic. Zuma is currently playing 'Dr. Phil', [see some of his statements below] telling it like it is. See, he doesn't have much choice but to deliver or face massive and widespread revolts. Time to start doing your jobs guys. Here's a reminder what it is: Government is there to serve the people, not the other way around.
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If the reasons for the discontent varied from place to place, they all pointed to problems in South African society, in government and in the way the ANC functions at local level.
"These protests also highlight weaknesses in government institutions. There is no doubt that residents in some of these areas have genuine grievances. There may indeed be corruption and incompetence in the structures that are supposed to manage their areas."
"It is also clear that residents in many areas are frustrated by the lack of information coming forth from their elected representatives, and have a strong sense that their representatives are not listening to them."
"These protests also highlight weaknesses within the ANC structures and the broader democratic movement. The ANC is a people’s organisation, and is supposed to be with and among the people.
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Tamiflu produces side-effects, nightmares in 50% of children

The researchers concluded that a "high proportion of school children may experience side-effects of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) medication".

Another study, also published by Eurosurveillance, found that more than half of 85 children in three London schools had side-effects when given the drug as a preventative measure after a classmate was diagnosed.

Of the 45 children who suffered side-effects, 40% reported gastrointestinal problems including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain and cramps, while 18% reported a "neuropsychiatric side-effect" such as poor concentration, inability to think clearly, problems sleeping, feeling dazed or confused, bad dreams or nightmares and "behaving strangely".

SHOOT: Feeling dazed and confused... Wonder where this drug actually works? In the neurotransmitters? In the brain?
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More than half the children in England taking the swine flu drug Tamiflu suffer side-effects such as nausea, insomnia and nightmares, researchers have found.

Two studies from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show a high proportion of schoolchildren reporting problems after taking the antiviral drug.

Data was gathered from children at three schools in London and one in the south-west of England who were given Tamiflu to try and stop them developing swine flu after classmates became infected.

Of the 248 pupils involved in the study, 51% reported side-effects, including nearly a third (31.2%) who felt sick, nearly a quarter (24.3%) who suffered headaches and more than a fifth (21.1%) who had stomach ache.

The researchers said "likely side-effects were common" and the "burden of side-effects needs to be considered" when deciding whether to give Tamiflu to children as a preventative measure.

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Trucker crashes into pool while texting [PICTURE]

SHOOT: And I thought they didn't send text message in the US. Well, here's a cautionary tale for everyone who does this [note to self]. Don't!
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Sgt. Kevin Locicero, left, and Capt. Bruce Elliot, of the Niagra County

LOCKPORT, N.Y. – Police say a western New York tow truck driver was texting on one cell phone while talking on another when he slammed into a car and crashed into a swimming pool.

Niagara County sheriff's deputies say 25-year-old Nicholas Sparks of Burt admitted he was texting and talking when his flatbed truck hit the car Wednesday morning in Lockport, which is outside Buffalo.

The truck then crashed through a fence and sideswiped a house before rolling into an in-ground pool.

Police say the 68-year-old woman driving the car suffered head injuries and was in good condition. Her 8-year-old niece suffered minor injuries.

Sparks was charged with reckless driving, talking on a cell phone and following too closely. It couldn't be determined Thursday whether he has a lawyer.

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While Goldman Sachs rewards its bankers, the ire of the masses mounts

At Goldman Sachs, for example, bonuses of more than $1 million went to 953 traders and bankers.
“There’s this assumption that everyone [on Wall Street] was like drunken sailors passing out money without regard to the consequences or without giving it any thought,” Mr. Profusek said. “That wasn’t the case.”

SHOOT: Actually, it was. It was a swindle, and the crazy thing is, Wall Street thinks everyone else is stupid, and that they're immune to the ire of the masses. Big mistake on both counts.
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Nine of the financial firms that were among the largest recipients of federal bailout money paid about 5,000 of their traders and bankers bonuses of more than $1 million apiece for 2008, according to a report released Thursday by Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York attorney general.

At Goldman Sachs, for example, bonuses of more than $1 million went to 953 traders and bankers, and Morgan Stanley awarded seven-figure bonuses to 428 employees. Even at weaker banks like Citigroup and Bank of America, million-dollar awards were distributed to hundreds of workers.

The report is certain to intensify the growing debate over how, and how much, Wall Street bankers should be paid.

Mr. Cuomo, who for months has criticized the companies over pay, said the bonuses were particularly galling because the banks survived the crisis with the government’s support.

“If the bank lost money, where do you get the money to pay the bonus?” he said.

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Kudos to Patricia de Lille for getting ICASA to re-examine South Africa's 'highest cellphone rates in the world'

"Everybody agrees that the cost of telecommunications in South Africa is too high, but up until now no one has done anything about it," she said.

SHOOT: In the USA and UK they have such low rates that virtually no one sends text messages. It is an absolute skande that a country where 40% live below the poverty line, you actually have state sanctioned costs like these. But it's no wonder South Africa is one of the most profitable markets. Margins must be huge.
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The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa on Thursday agreed that there was a need to look into high cellphone rates, said Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille.

She said the communications sector regulator had also offered to co-operate with the Competition Commission in its investigation into possible collusion and anti-competitive behaviour by cellphone operators.

De Lille recently complained to the Competition Commission that South Africa had some of the highest cellphone call costs in the world and marginalised its low income citizens in telecommunications as a result.

She said Icasa agreed that the Competition Commission Act needed to be amended to allow the body to regulate cellphone rates.

She would assist by taking the proposed amendments to Parliament, De Lille said.

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Hogan smells the Nuclear coffee

He said the technology was best suited for decentralised areas without a connection to the grid, and being modular in nature, several units can be added to supply the amount of electricity and heat needed by individual customers.

SHOOT: South Africa needed to invest in this technology, heavily, about 10 years ago. The idea that we might start now and come online ten years from now, in 2018, in these financial and energy predicament conditions, is fanciful. I am a supporter of nuclear, but with one condition - you need to guarantee that the facility can be maintained and serviced, and that it is secure. I'm not sure if South Africa can say this. Our record in almost every area is poor, or deteriorating, with the possible exception of the finance sector.
Hogan is right to see Nuclear as a solution, but we've missed the boat. France got it right, China has also invested fairly heavily in it.
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JOHANNESBURG, July 30 (Reuters) - South Africa sees nuclear
playing a key role in meeting growing demand in the continent's
biggest economy, which is battling a power crunch, the Minister
of Public Enterprises, Barbara Hogan, said on Thursday.
"There is a lot of controversy about nuclear in the world...
(but) there can be little doubt now that nuclear is going to
play one of the most important components in our energy
provisions going forward," she told a conference.
South Africa is one of the pioneers in developing a power
and heat processing plant based on the pebble-fuel technology.
Jaco Kriek, chief executive of the technology firm
spearheading the effort, said the first pilot plant to generate
80 megawatts of electricity could come on stream by 2018, with
initial costs estimated at 27 billion rand ($3.45 billion).
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New police commissioner Bheki Cele - fashion cop or street cop?

SHOOT: No, that wasn't a once off photo op. Click on the link below to see some real style.
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

BEWARE: Facebook boyfriend stabs model girlfriend - Judge says: You are an evil man with nothing to commend you

“For the past seven months Ric’s been hitting me, locking me in rooms with him so I can’t get out. Putting knives to my throat telling me he’s going to kill me, putting pillows over my face, covering my nose and mouth with his hands and just staring at me while I’m struggling to breathe. Says if I leave him he’ll kill me and himself. He proposes to me and tries to get me to have a baby with him. He tells me if I go out with friends I’ll get raped.”

The tape begins with piercing screams and cries from Amy, before she says "I've been stabbed".

Operator: "Emergency, which service do you require?"

Loud screaming is followed by Amy saying: "I can't breathe! I've been stabbed! Please help me! Please help me!"

Operator: "She says she's been stabbed."

Amy: "I've been stabbed. I'm dying. Please help me!"

Operator: "Where are you?"

Amy Leigh Barnes

The 19-year-old was a model

Amy: "26, Moss Street, Farnworth."

Operator: "What?"

Amy: "Moss Street, Farnworth."

Operator: "What's happened?"

Amy: "I'm dying! He's stabbed me to death. I'm dying! Please help me!"

Operator: "Who?"

Amy: "My boyfriend...I'm going...I can't see."

Operator: "Where are you stabbed love?"

Amy: "All over my body. I need help. Please help me."

As the life drains out of her, the victim's speech became more and more slurred and she appears to lose consciousness.

The phone line stayed open with the handset at the side of her body.

Over the chatter of the phone operators sending police and ambulance services to the address Amy can be heard groaning and whimpering.

Her audible breathing becomes laboured and the silence grows between each sob.

The operator tells Amy to take gentle breaths and tries to keep her conscious by asking her to speak her name and reassuring her emergency services are on the way - but there is no response.

In the background during the 999 call her mother, Mrs Killiner, can be heard leaving two phone messages on the house phone.

Both starting with the words "Hiya love!" and ask her daughter to ring her urgently.

Andrew Barnes, her father, who had been summoned to the house by her worried family, then arrives to find his daughter on the floor in a pool of blood.

With the phone line still open he is heard to say: "Amy! Amy! Amy! What's happened Amy? Are you all right? Amy what have you done?"

Mr Barnes then speaks to the police call handler: "I need an ambulance. She's bleeding There's blood everywhere. Amy, are you OK?

Melda Wilks

Wilks accused of destroying evidence

"She's 19. She's bleeding very badly. Amy! She's not acknowledging anything. She's breathing, yes."

Miss Barnes was rushed to hospital for emergency treatment but was pronounced dead two-and-a-half hours later.

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The judge told him: “You are an evil man with nothing to commend you and have a history of abusing and assaulting women. You controlled Amy for months and subjected her to a campaign of prolonged physical emotional and psychological abuse.

“No one who ever listened to that 999 call will ever be able to forget it or forget the wickedness of your attack. You slashed open her pretty face – what went through her mind was unimaginable. When I first read the impact statement of Amy’s mother I found tears welling up in me. You are dangerous beyond words.”

The court heard how Amy, of Bolton, Greater Manchester, also a magazine model, began a seven-month relationship with Morrison after meeting him through Facebook.

Her relationship with Morrison suffered from his violent jealousy and his bullying prompted her to leave heartrending texts to friends.

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Omer Bhatti is Michael's flesh and blood son

SHOOT: Certainly looks it. He is known as one of Norway's best dancers.
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In 200 000 years of human evolution - one trait remains critical

SHOOT: Not how smart you are, but how connected you are. Intwisting.

Dr Mark Thomas, UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment, says: "When we think of how we came to be the sophisticated creatures we are, we often imagine some sudden critical change, a bit like when the black monolith appears in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In reality, there is no evidence of a big change in our biological makeup when we started behaving in an intelligent way. Our model can explain this even if our mental capacities are the same today as they were when we first originated as a species some 200,000 years ago.

Professor Stephen Shennan, UCL Institute of Archaeology, says: "Modern humans have been around for at least 160,000 to 200,000 years but there is no archaeological evidence of any technology beyond basic stone tools until around 90,000 years ago. In Europe and western Asia this advanced technology and behaviour explodes around 45,000 years ago when humans arrive there, but doesn't appear in eastern and southern Asia and Australia until much later, despite a human presence. In sub-Saharan Africa the situation is more complex. Many of the features of modern human behaviour – including the first abstract art – are found some 90,000 years ago but then seem to disappear around 65,000 years ago, before re-emerging some 40,000 years ago.

"Ironically, our finding that successful innovation depends less on how smart you are than how connected you are seems as relevant today as it was 90,000 years ago."

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Closing schools at Pandemic's peak could half swine flu deaths - but now may not be the time

“If we all became hermits or lived under house arrest, then that would be an effective way of reducing flu infections this winter, but it’s hardly practical,” he said. “By closing schools or nurseries we might upset every parent in the land and arguably cause more trouble than it’s worth.”

A 12-week closure of schools could wipe 6 per cent off Britain’s gross domestic product, as working parents would have to make alternative childcare arrangements, adding to absenteeism.

SHOOT: It may come down to cost. And sacrifice. Are we prepared to save lives and lose money? In a pandemic scenario, the sooner schools close the better the spread can be curbed, but they may need to remain closed for up to year, possibly two. There is an argument to be made that symptoms are currently mild. I think what's more important is slowing this virus down, whatever way is possible, to buy time. Homeschooling is an option for wealthy parents. Swine flu is probably going to wipe out the poor.
Computerised models predict that school closures would significantly slow the spread of the virus, reducing the numbers falling ill at the pandemic’s peak by between 39 to 45 per cent.
Retrospective studies of the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million worldwide, suggest that closing schools in American and Australian cities might have reduced mortality by between 10 and 30 per cent, with larger reductions in deaths at the peak — up to 50 per cent in some cities.
John Oxford, Professor of Virology at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said that closing schools would be an extreme measure not justified by the mild symptoms experienced by most people infected with the virus.
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And the biggest economy in Africa is...

SHOOT: The graph would look somewhat different if Egypt was included.
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Want to set a world record? Here's how...

The athlete that can build on more muscle mass over a aerodynamic frame will have the advantage.

In swimming, legendary Hawaiian champion Duke Kahanamoku set the world record in 1912 with a time of 61.6 seconds with a calculated slenderness of 7.88. Some 96 years later, Eamon Sullivan lowered the world mark to 47.05 seconds at a slenderness factor of 8.29.

As the athletes' slenderness factor has risen over the years, the winning times have dropped.

In 1929, Eddie Tolan's world-record 100 meter sprint of 10.4 seconds was achieved with a slenderness factor of 7.61. When Usain Bolt ran 9.69 seconds in the 2008 Olympics, his slenderness was also 8.29 while also being the tallest champion in history at 6-feet 5-inches.

Bolt puts his prediction to the test next month at the track and field world championships in Berlin. His main competition is Asafa Powell, the previous world record holder, who is shorter and has a slenderness factor of 7.85. My money is on the Lightning Bolt.

SHOOT: Intwisting.
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During the same time, about 7/10 of a second have been shaved off of the 100-meter sprint while over 14 seconds have come off the 100-meter swim record.

World record sprinters have gained an average of 6.4 inches in height since 1900, while champion swimmers have shot up 4.5 inches, compared to the mere mortal average height gain of 1.9 inches.

At first glance, it may not make sense that bigger athletes would be faster. However, Jordan Charles, a recent engineering grad at Duke, plotted all of the world record holders in the 100 meter sprint and the 100 meter swim since 1900 against their height, weight and a measurement he called "slenderness."

For locomotion, a human needs to overcome two forces, gravity and friction. First, an athlete would need to lift his foot off the ground or keep his body at the water line without sinking. Second, air resistance for the sprinter and water resistance for the swimmer will limit speed.

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Under-14s are swine flu's “super-spreaders”; the Church of England issues an unprecedented order

A total of 840 people in England are being treated in hospital after contracting the virus; 63 are in a critical condition. The official number of deaths across Britain linked to swine flu remains at 30.

SHOOT: Britain is about to release their latest stats for infections.

The National Pandemic Flu Service, which offers callers or internet users a prescription code for antiviral drugs if they have symptoms, was experiencing “unprecedented demand”, with 9.3 million hits every hour.

• swine flu is at epidemic levels in many areas, with the under-14s — described as “super-spreaders” by the Chief Medical Officer — the worst hit. About 100,000 people in England were infected with the H1N1 virus in the week to Sunday compared with 55,000 cases the previous week;

• Vodafone could make millions of pounds by charging 20p a minute for calls to the 0800 hotline number;

• the Church of England issued an unprecedented order to suspend “sharing of the chalice” at Communion.

Doctors have said that Tamiflu, the main antiviral drug being used to treat symptoms, could be overprescribed by staff at the telephone service, who are not medically trained.
“We know that for people to be treated in the first 24 to 48 hours makes a real difference,” he said.

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Cosatu's Vavi says: "We are the policymakers, not the government."

Insisting on the need to impose a “working-class hegemony”, Zwelinzima Vavi, Cosatu’s secretary-general, has suggested that policy should be determined by the alliance, not the government. “We are the policymakers,” he said, “and the government implements. The government doesn’t lead any more.” He clearly did not mean to restrict this to trade-union matters, either. To the chagrin of foreign investors, Cosatu tried in May to block the multi-billion rand sale of Vodacom, South Africa’s state-owned mobile-phone operator, to Britain’s Vodafone; the courts blocked its bid. More recently Cosatu has been demanding the nationalisation of mines, the abandonment of inflation targeting by the central bank, and the removal of its respected governor, Tito Mboweni.

SHOOT: Worrying.
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Officially, nearly one in four South Africans is now jobless; the real number is probably nearer one in three. Inflation is running at 8%. The cost of food and fuel has risen particularly fast. It is harder than ever for the poor majority to get by.
It is now winter in South Africa. In the shanty towns around the big cities, people are cold as well as hungry. Their president promised that the drive to eradicate poverty would be the cornerstone of his new government’s policies. The millions who live in leaky shacks without electricity or running water, surrounded by unlit streets rife with crime, know that these conditions cannot change overnight. But many are impatient. This week police in Johannesburg’s Thokoza township had to fire rubber bullets and squirt tear gas to disperse stone-throwing protesters railing against unemployment and the government’s failure to deliver services.

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The People Vs Jacob Zuma

ECONOMIST.COM: President Jacob Zuma will have to use his fabled skills as a conciliator to balance the factions in his new government.

After expanding by 3.1% last year and by an average of 5% over the preceding four years, the economy is expected to shrink this year by around 2%, a far cry from the 1.2% growth on which the government based its budget in February.

Some of the ANC’s election pledges have already fallen by the wayside. No more has been heard of its promise to extend child-support grants to the age of 18 instead of just 14. Plans for national health insurance seem to have been shelved, at least temporarily. At the same time, many more South Africans are joining the 40% who already live below the poverty line, as struggling companies lay off workers.

SHOOT: Read the rest beneath the fold.
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FACTORIES across the country had to close this week as many thousands of workers in chemical and other industries downed tools to press for double-digit pay rises. Hundreds of thousands in the public sector are threatening to strike for a 15% rise too. State broadcasting people may black out the country’s television screens unless their demand for a 12% wage hike is met. And state doctors and teachers plan to strike again if the government fails to give them long-promised big bonuses. Meanwhile, increasing violent demonstrations are being staged in protest against the government’s failure to provide basic services such as water, electricity and housing.

President Jacob Zuma always knew he could not expect much of a honeymoon, despite the landslide victory of his ruling African National Congress (ANC) in April’s general election. His costly campaign pledges had raised expectations high, just as South Africa was sinking into its first recession in 17 years.
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Are house prices rising in the UK? Yes, barely. Will this continue? Probably not. Many economists are sceptical that the run of good news on house prices will continue. Although mortgage approvals for homes have risen sharply, they remain below the levels that many think are consistent with rising prices. Furthermore the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors has said that although demand for housing has risen sharply, house prices appear to be being supported by a lack of supply as wary sellers keep their properties out of a depressed market. Finally, with unemployment expected to continue to rise, demand for house purchases may well ebb later in the year.

SHOOT: It's a bit like expecting to hold a candle and keep the flame flickering under a waterfall. You just can't maintain growth or increased property markets with an economy shedding jobs.
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House prices in the UK rose by 1.3 per cent in July, according to the latest figures from Nationwide, taking the rate of growth over the last three months to its highest level in more than two years and adding to signs that the housing market is bottoming out.

Prices rose for the third month in a row, the Nationwide index showed, following increases of 1 per cent in June and 1.3 per cent in May. The three-month-on-three-month rate of change reached 2.6 per cent, the highest since February 2007.

For the first seven months of 2009 as a whole, prices rose by a cumulative 1.3 per cent, suggesting there is now a reasonable chance that prices could end the year slightly higher than where they started. Only a few months ago, such an outcome would have appeared unthinkable,” said Martin Gahbauer, Nationwide’s chief economist.

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Mortgage finance in South Africa slows to a crawl

SHOOT: The headline in fin24 is a mixed up one. 'Mortgage advances slow further'. It should be no surprise that mortgages [house buying] will first dry up, and then reverse. In this article Jacques du Toit, senior property analyst at Absa's home loan division says he doesn't expect those numbers to turn negative. Ja, that wouldn't be very good for ABSA. Unfortunately Jacques is incorrect on this one. The trends in the US are soon to haunt our shores. As the number of unemployed swell, we'll see more and more selling their homes and renting. That's not going to change for some time. Years. He said the poor employment figures seriously harm households' confidence levels and they don't see their way to spending much at this point.

Householders remain under financial pressure owing to high indebtedness, despite the interest-rate cuts amounting to 4.5% points since December 2008.

Although he does not expect the figure to turn negative on an annual basis, it will still trend towards lower levels in the second half of this year.
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Johannesburg - Annual growth in total mortgage advances (the net outstanding balance of residential and commercial mortgage loans) has slowed to a snail's pace.

New data from the Reserve Bank indicate that growth in the value of total mortgage loans in June slowed to an annualised 8.2%, from an annualised 9.4% in May.

"This was the slowest annual growth since the 8.4% in July 2000," said Jacques du Toit, senior property analyst at Absa's home loan division.

Month on month growth was an insipid 0.1%.

He attributes this to a weaker demand for mortgage finance.

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