South Africa on Forefront of Medical Scene

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Groundbreaking Breast Screening Machine for Grootte Schuur Hospital

Brand new South African born Aceso two-in-one Mammogram/Ultrasound machine was launched at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town on 5 November for it’s testing phase. Dense breast tissue poses a challenge in detecting early breast cancers in woman and combining mammography with ultrasound is imperative in these patients. The unit of R30-million is the very first in it’s kind to combine both modalities. This is especially developed by the Cape Ray Company for breast screening, where a significant number of ladies can be screened in a shorter period of time with increased accuracy in dense tissues. Images are produced simultaneously by low-dose X-rays and ultrasound. Ministers Naledi Pandor and Ebrahim Patel attended the launch and are both excited about the impact this could have on better healthcare opportunities, economic development and employment opportunities in our country.

Tribute to the Pioneers

Too many South Africans from all walks of life, backgrounds and races feel our government and public health systems are failing them. One heartbreaking example would be that of the two young work colleagues whose newborn babies both died a day after birth due to alleged negligence. The incidents happened within a two year period at two different state hospitals in Gauteng. Then on the other hand, there are the caring and hardworking unsung heroes of the medical profession, worth their weight in gold. We also have to acknowledge those innovative pioneers striving to make a difference. Naledi Pandor (Minister of Science and technology), Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu (Deputy Health Minister) and Ebrahim Patel (Economic Development Minister) and Heather Harington (human resources director for the Cosmetic house Estée Lauder) are amongst the active pioneers. Ms Bogopane-Zulu hosted the “Pinkdrive UCT and Groote Schuur research and outreach” from 30 August tot 4 September 2015.

Misguided New US Breast Screening Guidelines

Breast cancer statistics worldwide are shocking, to say the least. One in ten women develops breast cancer, while only 10% have a family history. Even though breast cancer is diagnosed in more and younger patients before the age of 40, the highest incidence is still between ages 50 and 70. A study in London proved though that mammography cuts breast cancer deaths in middle aged woman by 40%. Despite all these hard facts, the American Cancer Society changed their screening guidelines. Previously the ACS guidelines urged women to getting a baseline mammogram at the age of 35 with annual screening mammograms between ages 40 and 70. They now suggest ladies to only start with annual screening mammograms at 45 and from 55 only every two years. This seems to be a “penny wise, pound foolish” approach. Sadly, it mostly all boils down to money.

One Size Does NOT Fit All

Breast screening for ladies with a positive family history for breast cancer cannot be handled in the same way as the rest of the population or even as someone carrying the breast cancer gene as such. Ladies with dense breast tissues should also be handled different than the others. Then there is a significant difference between the breast screening programs of other first world countries such as the USA, UK, Canada and Europe and what happens in South Africa. We simply don’t have the funding, numbers of skilled technicians, radiologists or the resources to deliver a full screening program to all our women. Sadly, annual or bi-annual mammograms are mostly only granted for members of a medical aid or those who can afford the expensive private service at this stage. Even though it might still be a long road, hopefully the new Aceso unit will change it all in time for government institutions.

SA to Manufacture Pneumonia Vaccine

South Africa recently made news with yet another medical accomplishment too. Global pharmaceutical company Pfizer, in partnership with SA Department of Science and Technology and Biovad, a local biotechnology organization, chose South Africa to manufacture the new Prevenar 13, containing no less than 13 different types of pneumococcal bacteria. This impressive pneumonia vaccine will be manufactured in Cape Town during the following five year period, aiming to prevent pneumococcal infections in children age 6 weeks to 5 years, as well as adults from the age of 50. The partnership between public- and private sectors was officially launched by Ms Pandor on 3 November.

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South African Drought 2015

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The devastating country-wide drought will affect each one of us

Severe drought is and has always been a problem in South Africa. This particular drought cycle is one of the worst the country had to endure for decades and the potential consequences for each and every one of us are serious. Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Freestate provinces have already been declared as disaster areas, but the situation in the North West Province, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Northern Cape is fast deteriorating. In most of these areas severe water shortages has seen water restrictions being introduced.

Government says that providing aid for farmers is not a priority

The Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, said that there is no aid for struggling farmers on the table at this time. She said that farmers will simply have to learn to farm differently. She pointed out that a staggering 60% of all water used in South Africa are used by irrigation farmers. “Organised agriculture will have to learn to adapt to changing circumstances” she continued.

Millions without even a drop

The minister said that the government’s main priority is those 6 500 communities in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the North West province, consisting of more than 2.7 million families that has no water at all. If it does not rain soon more than 11 000 communities will be left stranded without water. Those of us living in the suburbs probably cannot even contemplate the idea of having to walk kilometres to get a single bucket of untreated water.

Let us all act responsibly

It is our responsibility to accept the fact that we live in a country where water will always remain a precious resource. We can all help to improve the situation and it would be wrong to think that one individual or household cannot make a difference. You can!

  • Your garden consumes vast quantities of water. Switch to indigenous plants that require only a fraction of the water needed by exotic species.

  • Pay attention to leaking taps. They waste hundreds of litres every day.

  • Think of ways in which to use your bath and dish-washing water in your garden.

  • Shower and if you have to bath, do not fill the tub!

If we do not all take the drought seriously and if we neglect to do whatever we can to save water we will soon be in a situation that we will all regret. Let us all become part of the solution!

http://www.kingprice.co.za/Quick_Quote.aspx?kpcid=809207​

South African Visa Regulations

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SOUTH AFRICAN VISA RULES

Although the intention of the new regulations instituted by the minister of home affairs was surely not to cause harm to the country or to the tourism industry, there were many negative unintended consequences for the South African economy.

THE OLD VISA REGULATIONS

  • Children travelling in and out of South Africa needed to produce an unabridged birth certificate as well as their passports which detail the particulars of both the mother and the father of the child.
  • Foreign travellers seeking to obtain visas to South Africa must apply in person and provide biometric data.
  • The changes extended to the provision of work permits for foreign workers. 

CONSEQUENCES

  • According to the South African Reserve Bank, preliminary estimations suggested that travel receipts dropped by 9% in the second quarter of 2015. There was a decline in tourists among visitors travelling with minors.
  • Local airlines have noted a marked decrease in passenger numbers on its regional routes.
  • A study showed an estimated total net loss of R4.1 billion to South Africa’s gross domestic product.
  • Some international corporations are reportedly considering basing some of its key personnel in other African countries because it is so difficult to obtain work permits for its management staff. 

THE NEW VISA REGULATIONS

  • The demand for unabridged birth certificates to be brought with children coming here is dropped but these will still be necessary when applying for visas.
  • Biometric information will be captured at international airports as they arrive.
  • The department of home affairs will accept visa applications by post in instances where there is no SA mission and biometrics of travellers, including fingerprints and photos will be taken on arrival at ports of entry.
  • South African children travelling out of the country will still have to submit the current child-travel requirements, including parental consent affidavits as a means to protect the minors. 
  • For inbound travellers, the proof of original birth certificates or certified copies would only be required during the application process, as this is in line with practice in many other countries.  

http://www.kingprice.co.za/Quick_Quote.aspx?kpcid=809207​

Manifest Destiny: Embrace the Good News

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Change our manifest Destiny

When you read about the South African diaspora, you get the feeling that there is a world of people out there, looking at this young nation with bated breath to see what will happen next. There are countless South Africans abroad who cannot wait for the tide to turn, the economy to improve and jobs to appear so they can come back. Unfortunately when you try to look for news on the country, you only see headlines with the words crime and murder in them. It is time to start seeking out the stories that tell of how great this country still is. When we start to speak of the good news, and we begin to celebrate those day-to-day little victories of kindness in our motherland, we will begin to change our manifest destiny.

Take for instance the stories of South African individuals who started from nowhere and who are now living lives of grace and service. One example of this kind of person is Mpumi Mabiwa. A young person of 22, she has become a motivational speaker who proves to the world that education truly opens doors. The organization Relate, that makes and sells bracelets to help the community is part of her story. She tells of how she has been able to incorporate her own experience of generational care, having been brought up by her grandmother, into now being able to give back time by working on these bracelets alongside other older women. Here is one more example of a woman who has been able to change her manifest destiny.

South Africans have a reputation for being easy going and popular in other countries. We are known for being entrepreneurial and good looking with a sense of fun and the willingness and ability to keep going no matter what. We look on the bright side of life and if it is not there we polish up the dark moments with our sense of humor and a razor-sharp intelligence that puts things into perspective. We are the people who can bring about a different manifest destiny by starting to look for, embrace and celebrate the good news!

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FIRE, Smoke and a Thirsty Fire Truck

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Do NOT Play With Fire

The destroying effects of the four elements of earth, water, air and fire can be equally devastating. Just by looking at the force of earth quakes and volcanic eruptions, floods, tornados and wild fires, there is little to choose between them. In the past, residencies on the banks of the Vaal River suffered great losses to floods, but this weekend near Sasolburg, two of the other elements showed no mercy when raging fires escalated with the help of the wind, sweeping down somewhat 25 private holiday homes, cars and jet skis. Some of the luxury homes were valued at about R4 million each with the estimated damages of R100 million.

According to emergency officials, a gas cylinder in one of the thatch roof houses might have exploded on Sunday, causing the house amongst others to go up in flames. Homeowners (and insurance companies) are anxiously awaiting the final investigation reports. Only one woman who suffered injuries of unknown severity was admitted to hospital. The Intelligence Bureau SA posted pictures of the incident on their Facebook page.

“Give That Man a Bells”

These were the words of a resident living across from the fire scene, Llewelyn Botha, after Rex Anderson, owner of the Stonehaven restaurant came to the rescue with his own water pump and hoses. These men were amongst a few others who helped residents to savor some of their belongings from their burning homes. They are all unsung heroes of the day. The fire truck on the other hand, which allegedly arrived much later with just a little water and no equipment to refill, apparently wasn’t of much help. Residents now blame the fire department of the Metsimaholo Municipality as they had to watch their homes burn down while the fire was only extinguished a few hours later. Gina Alberts from the municipality says: “We’re doing everything in our power to ensure that we respond as quickly as possible to any emergency that is happening in our area”.

Bridge over Troubled Veld Fire

Another catastrophe hit Vanderbijlpark (Emphuleni) in the same area early in June this year. A chain accident on the nearby bridge over the Vaal River of Route 59 on Friday, June 5, was allegedly caused by the invisibility of smoke from a veld fire which blew straight across the road at that point. Thirteen vehicles piled up, resulting in a prolonged traffic jam on the bridge. Two people died, two were admitted to the Emphuleni Mediclinic in critical condition and 18 others suffered injuries ranging from minor to mild.

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Homo Naledi adds Fuel to BIG Debate

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Homo Naledi adds new fuel to the debate on the origin of mankind

The exciting discovery of Homo Naledi has once again confirmed the universal belief that mankind originated in the Southern African region. The discovery itself and the thorough investigations carried out prior to the public announcement is a feather in the cap of all those that were involved. It is always heartening to see South African teams shine on the international stage.

Not surprisingly, the description of Homo Naledi as a new species in the long line of human ancestors classified to be of the genus Homo has sparked debate and even anger. The South African Council of Churches (SACC) warned that it would be dangerous to allege that humans descend from baboons. They also voiced concern that there is a determined effort to show that Africans evolved from apes and baboons. (The truth of the matter is that no reputable scientist has ever alleged that humankind evolved from the baboon or any other primate. Nor has there ever been a study to show that Africans, Europeans and Asian people evolved from different ancestors, but let us not digress.)

Evolutionists from other parts of the world have also condemned the announcement that Homo Naledi is most probably an early ancestor of humankind. Most of these evolutionists can at best be described as religious fundamentalists. Their view is that man has been created by God exactly the way he is now. To allege that man (or any other species, for that matter) has slowly and painstakingly evolved over long periods of time is sacrilegious and blasphemous, to say the least.

Yet most scientists and many religions see no conflict in accepting Homo Naledi and other members of the Homo genus as early ancestors of man. They accept the fact that there is overwhelming evidence that the earth as we know it as well as all the species that inhabit it evolve even to this day. This is not contradictory to the Genesis records of the Creation. Neither does the theory of evolution deny the existence of an Omnipotent God that created the earth, the heavens and everything in it. Homo Naledi is merely another piece of the puzzle that can help us to understand where we came from and how we got where we are today.

Homo Naledi is exciting news. Human ancestors have walked this planet for millions of years. Humankind is a survivor species and this should hearten us all. Welcome to the family, Homo Naledi!

14th Commemoration of the 9/11-attacks

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More than 3,000 died in the 9/11 attacks

This Friday marks the fourteenth commemoration of the attacks on America that became known as the 9/11 attacks. On 11 September 2001 a Boeing 767 from American Airlines slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. A few minutes later, a Boeing 767 from United Airlines rammed into the south tower. Another plane hit the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and a fourth plane crashed in a field in western Pennsylvania.

19 militants associated with al-Qaeda, an Islamic extremist group, hijacked these airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against carefully selected targets in the States. More than 3,000 people lost their lives that fateful day due to the attacks. 343 New York firefighters and dozens of police officers were killed.

Operation Enduring Freedom

That same evening, President George W. Bush, declared: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

On October 7, not even a month after the attacks, Operation Enduring Freedom, the American-led international operation to overthrow the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and also demolish Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, commenced. Although the Taliban’s operational rule was soon squashed, the war raged on. Bin Laden, founder and leader of al-Qaeda and mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, was killed at his compound in Pakistan by American soldiers on 2 May 2011.

9/11 Memorial and Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum are located at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan at 180 Greenwich St. The memorial depicts the USA’s biggest man-made waterfalls. It flows into two sunken pools and mark the footprints of the Twin Towers. The museum stocks artifacts and memorabilia from the horrific 9/11 attacks as well as personal items from survivors. It is well worth a visit.

References

http://www.history.com/topics/9-11-attacks

Petrol Price Down, down, down …

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Petrol price to go down

South Africans have reason to smile. Last week, the Department of Energy informed the public via a media statement that the prices of all petroleum products will decrease from Wednesday 2 September.

The petrol price for all grades of petrol (93 and 95) will be dropped to 69c/litre, diesel (0.05% Sulphur) will be lowered by 54c/litre, and diesel (0.005% Sulphur) will decrease by 51c/litre. The prices of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) will drop by 115c/kg, illuminating paraffin (wholesale) will be lowered by 74c/l, and illuminating paraffin (SMNRP) will decrease by 55c/l.

This is the second consecutive drop in the petrol price – consumers also saw a 51c/l decrease the month before. Taking into account both local and international factors, South Africa’s fuel prices are adjusted on a monthly basis.

Ms Tina Joematt-Pettersson, the Minister of Energy, also sanctioned a 4.6c/l increase in the retail margin of petrol. This is in line with the September 2013 Industry Bargaining Council (MIBCO) agreement of a 9% increase in salaries for cashiers and pump attendants.

More bang for your buck

If retailers can echo the lowered cost of transport on their shelves, consumers may pay less for groceries – great news for inflation and one’s pocket! However, Lesetja Kganyago, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa (SARB), recently cautioned that if inflation continues to escalate, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will have to consider hiking rates to fight rising prices. The previous repo rate hike of 25 basis points came into effect on 24 July. Let’s hold thumbs that the drop in the petrol price will prove beneficial to the economy and consumers in the long run.

Hang on to the extra cash in your pocket

Consumers are advised to be money-wise and rather pay off debt. A rate hike rise means higher debt repayments. The outlook for the South African is still inhibited by factors such as a volatile currency, possible repo rate hike in the US, load shedding as well as low business and consumer confidence.

References

http://www.energy.gov.za/files/media/pr/2015/MediaStatement-%20fuel-prices-for-September2015.pdf

The PRASA Callamity

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Shame on you, PRASA!

The Public Protector’s report on PRASA (Passenger Rail Association of South Africa) dumbfounded even the most cynical critics of this beleaguered and dysfunctional organization. That something was seriously wrong was clear to all and sundry but the breathtaking scale of mismanagement, corruption and blatant flaunting of the law revealed by Thuli Madonsela is truly staggering.

The fact that more than R2 billion has been misappropriated is bad enough, but PRASA did everything within their power to thwart the investigation by the Public Protector. They lied, they withheld tender documents, they doctored other documents and they had to be taken to court before they would supply required information. Is it any wonder that Thuli Madonsela titled her report “Derailed”?

What are the highlights of the report?

1. There are at least 19 instances of tenders being awarded without services rendered. More that R2 billion is involved. Read more details about these bogus contracts at http://m.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/?articleId=15399980. It truly boggles the mind!

2. Madonsela says that the entire management of PRASA has developed a “culture of systemic failure to comply with the law”.

3. A further R8.5 million was wasted due to the improper termination of employment contracts and illegal suspension of key personnel.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as the scope of the investigation by the Public Protector was limited to tender irregularities.

How did the PRASA management get away with these atrocities for so long? Surely oversight committees, the Minister of Transport and other players in the field must have known that there is something very seriously wrong at PRASA? It is high time that the South African public loudly and clearly say: “Enough is enough!” It is high time that government at levels start acting in the interest of the country and its citizens. It is high time that corrupt, selfish, arrogant and incompetent officials such as those at PRASA be charged with criminal negligence and fraud. It is high time that unqualified, inexperienced and plain crooked officials are summarily fired without the benefit of the customary golden handshake. We can start now, with PRASA.

How to Start Using Solar Power

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How to Start Using Solar Power right now

With loadshedding becoming a part of our (almost) everyday life — not to mention global warming — using alternative types of energy is becoming more and more important. Solar power is one of the easiest ways to switch from relying on power generated by coal to cleaner power. Solar power can be used for your whole house or business. However, you don’t have to switch your whole home to solar power at once if you do not have the means to do so.

How does it work?

Solar power is simply electricity generated from sunlight. The solar panels that are installed on your roof absorb the sunlight and convert the energy contained in it to electricity. This electricity can then be used to power your appliances and lights instead of using power from the grid, which is mostly generated from coal. It is such a clean source of electricity precisely because it doesn’t cause any greenhouse gas emissions, but simply uses the sunlight which is already available.

What are my solar power options?

An easy way to start using SP in your home is through a solar power geyser. Your warm water will therefore be warmed through solar power, while the rest of your house will rely on electricity from the grid. You can also install gas appliances to further cut down on your electricity requirements. When you are ready, you can then install a solar power system large enough to power your whole house.

You can also make use of solar power chargers specifically designed for phones, tablets, laptops, etc. Basic ones are usually available at camping and outdoor stores, but you can also buy top of the range chargers online.

Can I DIY my own solar power system?

The short answer is no. You need to get a professional to install the solar power system and do whatever rewiring needs to be done. The work will then also be done to the proper safety standards.

You can search the internet to find out more about solar power or to find products or businesses which specializes in installing solar power.