Monday, April 30, 2012

Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama

Elena made a profound comment over the weekend as follows: "Barack Obama is the Nelson Mandela of the United States." I thought it over a long time. I soon realized that she had a point. Nelson Mandela was the first African president of South Africa. Barack Obama is the first African-American president of the United States. He has strong roots going back to Africa.

Both Mandela and Obama came to power appearing to be leftist. They both moved to the center and governed as centrists and moderates. Both men came to office in a time of great economic trouble and uncertainty. Each faced very high unemployment and the real possibility of an economic depression. They did not perform miracles and solve all of the economic problems. Not every unemployed person got a job. But their calm and steady influence stabalized bad situations and laid the ground work for a recovery. They also gave people some sense of confidence and hope for the future.

The electorate in either country would say the same things about either man:

"I might not always agree with his policies but I like and respect him. He's always been an honest man free of corruption."

Cubans court controversy in malaria battle -

Cubans court controversy in malaria battle -

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Oil Conflicts in Sudan | Stratfor

Oil Conflicts in Sudan | Stratfor:

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Al Shabaab's Threat to Kenya | Stratfor

Al Shabaab's Threat to Kenya | Stratfor:

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Absolution-A novel Of Post Apartheid South Africa


‘Absolution,’ a Novel by Patrick Flanery

Not shy of stepping straight into demanding terrain, Patrick Flanery sets his first novel, “Absolution,” in post-apartheid South Africa, where the horrific injustices of the past leak unavoidably forward. The end of apartheid may have put an end to state-sanctioned violence, but it signaled the beginning of an epidemic of a more personal kind of violence — a reactive, frustrated, untargeted revenge.
Andrew van der Vlies
Patrick Flanery


By Patrick Flanery
388 pp. Riverhead Books. $26.95.
Hundreds of thousands of blacks were imprisoned during the apartheid years for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Afterward, as Flanery lays out, whites began living under a kind of voluntary house arrest for much the same reason. Here he astutely observes the obsessive security measures taken by one white man in contemporary South Africa: “There aren’t any outer doors in this section of the house and motion-­sensing beams operate all along the perimeter fence, at the doors, and at each exterior corner of the building. . . . And the stairwell off the kitchen, which ends at the back door, is also alarmed. The dogs stay upstairs.”
In this way “Absolution” is unavoidably reminiscent of J. M. Coetzee’s “Disgrace,” which is also set in post-apartheid South Africa and contains as its central action a vicious break-in to the home of the protagonist’s daughter. “Disgrace,” however, was an emotionally austere work of almost abrasive simplicity. Flanery’s novel is not.
At its most basic, the plot of “Absolution” is this: Sam Leroux is a writer and academic, returning from New York to his native South Africa to interview the irascible, aging author Clare Wald. “I would’ve chosen my own biographer, but I don’t know anyone who would agree to undertake the task. I’m a terror,” she warns Sam at the outset. But Sam should come with a warning of his own: it’s almost immediately clear he has a secret he’s keeping from Clare, which nonetheless somehow involves her. “She is who she is. I’m here for something else,” he tells us, creepily.
Flanery unfolds the story of their connection piecemeal, from several points of view: Clare’s, Sam’s, Sam’s as a child, and via a fictional autobiography written by Clare. Flanery is strongest when exploring the ways in which apartheid affected, and still affects, his characters. Both Clare and Sam, we gradually learn, have blood on their hands, or believe they do. “Accidents were always happening,” Sam thinks of his past. “He had come from a country of accidents. He tried to understand what this meant. It seemed to mean that no one was ever responsible for anything if only you could tell the truth and most of all if you could say you were sorry. But he had not told the truth and he was not sorry.”
In places the book suffers from descriptive hyperactivity, particularly in Sam’s observations of Clare. This was perhaps a deliberate effort on Flanery’s part to give Sam a distinct voice, but a little goes a long way: “There’s a flicker of gray tongue,” Sam says of Clare on the first page. A page later we read, “There’s a lick of a smirk on one side of the mouth.” A few lines on, “There’s a hint of the girlishness I saw in Amsterdam.” Forty pages later, “Her eyes flicker briefly up to mine,” and then: “a little cough again, clearing the throat, and a surprising, girlish toss of the hair.” But this is a quibble. Flanery has talent to spare, and he’s a talent to keep an eye on. My bet is he’ll be back. And he’ll be even better next time.
Alexandra Fuller is the author, most recently, of “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness.”

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 27, 1981

       Today is a beautiful Spring day with the sun out. I am sitting here wishing for a time Machine to take me back to April 27, 1981. On that day I had been 10 days in South Africa. I was renting a room on Mark Avenue in the Johannesburg suburb of Norhtcliff. It was a holiday. My landlord Barbara left early to do errands. I spent the day walking around the beautiful hills that were the suburb or Northcliff. It's still beautiful today. The famous American financial commentator Suzie Orman bought a $1 million dollar apartment here.

     I came back to the house sunburned and exhausted but very happy. I got a call from Barbara. She asked me to join her at at a party in another suburb. I got the directions and drove over in my rental car.

    Over thirty-one years ago South Africa was the bastion of Apartheid and the scourge of many nations around the world. The European and Asian population living there were sure that one day the Soviet Navy would show up and land marines to conquer South Africa. The US and Europe would not risk World War III to save South Africa, as the conventional wisdom went then. (Ironically when all of the old Soviet archives were open, no plan was ever found for an invasion of South Africa.)

     There was an attitude among the affluent and better educated population as follows:

      "Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we might die!"

      Every night was a party and people lived each day as if it were their last.

      I arrived at the party and started to mingle with the various people. I struck up a conversation with a very attractive young lady. Eventually we landed on the floor. She unzipped my pants and proceeded to perform oral sex on me. All of the other people at the party formed a circle around us and watched. I could not believe what was happening. I offered no resistance. I t all just seemed natural.

      If only I could find a time machine and go back to that magical day!

      Do not worry Elena I would have found you later

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Zimbabwe is a developing market for SA products

Zimbabwe is a developing market for SA products:

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Fraud Most Common In South Africa And Nigeria

Fraud most common in SA, Nigeria

South Africa and Nigeria had the highest number of reported cases of fraud in Africa in 2011, according to a survey by KPMG released yesterday.
According to the inaugural African Fraud Barometer, a new tool from the global network of professional services firms providing audit, tax and advisory services, the number of reported cases of fraud on the continent rose from 355 in the first half of 2011 to 520 cases in the second half. This was an increase of 46.4 percent.
However, the value of fraud cases decreased from $7.17 billion (R56bn) to $3.7bn.
In South Africa and Nigeria fewer cases were reported in the second half of the year than in the first, while Zimbabwe had the biggest increase in the value of fraud committed in the second half of 2011, amounting to $1.2bn.
The African country with the most reported fraud cases was South Africa at 35 percent of all cases in the second half of 2011, though this was down from 37 percent in the first half.
Nigeria had the second most cases, at 22 percent in the second half of 2011, against 25 percent during the first half.
The biggest targets of fraud are governments. They were the victims of 43 percent of the reported cases in the first six months of 2011, although this decreased to 37 percent in the last six months of the year.
Employees were the most frequent perpetrators of fraud at 29 percent of cases in the second half of the year, up from 27 percent in the first half.
However, in terms of value, management was the biggest culprit in the second half, committing fraud worth $1.2bn.
In the first six months of 2011, the highest value of fraud was committed by professional advisers, at $3.3bn.
The African Fraud Barometer is a first effort to measure fraud across the African continent and expose the risk of fraud for companies in their day-to-day operations.
The data is compiled from all available news articles on Africa and reports on fraud from designated databases. The survey is complied and published every six months.
Petrus Marais, KPMG’s global leader for forensics, said: “We felt there was a need to create a tool like the Africa Fraud Barometer since the world has begun to look at Africa as a new investment destination.
“At the same time, we are still dealing with an often negative perception of Africa. We therefore see ourselves as risk analysts and would like to provide information that allows potential investors to assess and conceptualise risk on the African continent.
“To outsiders, I say that Africa is a great place to invest if you have the ability to assess the risk involved.”
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ethiopia's Sunken Churches


Bedrock of Art and Faith

Damon Winter/The New York Times
The St. George church in Lalibela, dedicated to Ethiopia’s patron saint, is one of 11 Ethiopian Orthodox churches that were carved out of the rock in the 13th century and are literally anchored in the earth.
LALIBELA, Ethiopia
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ON the roads through Ethiopia’s highlands traffic raises a brick-red haze that coats your clothes, powders your skin and starts a creaking in your lungs. Despite the dust people wear white. Farmers wrap themselves in bleached cotton. Village funerals look like fields of snow. At churches and shrines white is the pilgrim’s color.
I wear it too, protectively: long-sleeved white shirt, tennis cap, Neutrogena sun block. A pilgrim? Why not?
I’m here for something I’ve longed to see, Ethiopia’s holy cities: Aksum, the spiritual home of this east African country’s Orthodox Christian faith and, especially, the mountain town of Lalibela, with its cluster of 13th-century churches some 200 miles to the south.
Lalibela was conceived as a paradise on earth. And its 11 churches, cut from living volcanic rock, are literally anchored in the earth. In scale, number, and variety of form there’s no architecture or sculpture quite like them anywhere. They’re on the global tourist route now, though barely. To Ethiopian devotees they’ve been spiritual lodestars for eight centuries, and continue to be.
Heaven seekers and art seekers are, in some ways, kindred souls, impelled to spend precious time and travel mad distances in search of places and things that will, somehow, fill them up, complete them. For the religious, pilgrimage is a dress rehearsal for salvation. For the art seeker, it can transform a wish list of experiences into a catalog of permanent, extended, relivable memories. But why do art seekers go to the particular places and things they do? This is a personal matter; complicated, with roots in the past.
As an American teenager in the early 1960s I sensed Africa all around me, secondhand. African independence was on the evening news; names like Lumumba, Nkrumah and Senghor chanted by jubilant crowds. “Civil rights” was turning into “black power,” with preachers in suits replaced by Huey Newton holding a spear in one hand, a shotgun in the other.
In college I took an anthropology course called “Primitive Art.” It met in an ethnological museum that had a collection of masks from West and Central Africa. I loved them instantly, these things made for dancing, healing, telling stories, changing identities. They looked old but felt new. I wanted to go to where they came from.
But not ready yet, I went that first college summer to Europe, where I dashed through countless museums in 15 countries before ending up in Istanbul. Again, love, immediate. One look at Byzantine art — the lifting-off dome of Hagia Sophia, the Buddha-calm saints of the Chora mosaics — confirmed what I had begun to suspect: my compass was not set westward.
At that point I didn’t yet know that Byzantium and sub-Saharan Africa had once fruitfully intersected. I later learned, and that intersection is what I’ve come to Ethiopia to see.
The history of Ethiopian culture is deep, going back — if the national epic, the “Kebra Negast” or “Glory of Kings,” can be believed — to at least the 10th century B.C., when an Ethiopian ruler, the biblical Queen of Sheba, traveled to Jerusalem in search of the wisdom of Solomon. The two monarchs met, bonded and had a son, Menelik, who would become Ethiopia’s first emperor.
Solomon, the story goes, wanted to name Menelik as his heir. But the young prince, with Africa on his mind, left Jerusalem behind. He did not, however, leave empty-handed. Secretly he took with him the Ark of the Covenant, which held the tablets given by God to Moses, and brought it to Ethiopia, in effect, establishing a new Israel there.
History, if that’s what this is, then fades out for stretch, until around 300 B.C., when a new empire coalesces in northern Ethiopia, with the city of Aksum as its capital and a still-existing group of immense stone stelae, carved with architectural features, as its grand monument. Another fade-out. By the fourth century A.D. Ethiopia has become officially Christian, and the Ark is in Aksum, enshrined in a cathedral named St. Mary of Zion, where it remains.
Its presence makes Aksum the country’s holiest city, and St. Mary of Zion its holiest shrine, though materially both have seen better days. The town is a sketchy, low-rise place perched on a still barely tapped archaeological site. The original cathedral was leveled by a Muslim army in the 16th century. Its modern replacement is a circular domed structure built by Ethiopia’s last emperor, Haile Selassie, in the early 1960s.
It’s a curious thing. Its wide, unbroken interior has the blank, functional ambience of a skating rink. And it doesn’t feel quite finished, as final touches of some kind were still needed. On a day I visited the church was closed to the public.
Benches were roughly lined up. Free-standing paintings of the Virgin and saints, in a melty neo-Romantic style, leaned against walls.
Two men on a scaffold were working on, or perhaps touching up, a mural.
A priest, in white, stood at a lectern and read aloud from an illuminated book as a European video crew fussed with sound checks, then asked him, please, to start again. To an outsider the general impression was confusing, disconcerting. Can this newish, nondescript, somewhat disheveled, in-progress space really be the physical and psychic center of one the world’s oldest versions of Christianity?
The priest at the lectern burst into song, a long, gorgeous melismatic chant that bloomed in the dome. Everyone stopped to listen, enraptured. There was the answer. Yes, it can.
The evidence was even stronger outside. I was in Aksum just before an important holy day dedicated to Mary, the object of acute devotional focus in Ethiopian Orthodoxy. Pilgrims from far and near were already gathering, camping out in the park around the cathedral, prostrating themselves on its steps. A day later the city would be a sea of white, and St. Mary of Zion would be open, full and finished. People were the completing ingredient.
By the 10th century A.D. the long-lived Aksumite empire, once a rival to Persia and Rome, was out of steam, and the city itself a backwater. New rulers, known now as the Zagwe dynasty, appeared. They retained the distinctively Judaic form of Ethiopian Christianity, with its Saturday Sabbath and practice of circumcision, and further promoted the concept of an African Zion by giving it physical manifestation in a new capital city to the south of Aksum.
The force behind the new city was the 13th-century Zagwe emperor Lalibela, for whom the new capital eventually came to be named. He is credited — and here we are again in a tangle of fact, fantasy and informed surmise — with planning and creating the extraordinary group of 11 churches there, all chiseled directly from sandstone cliffs and gorges, that exist at Lalibela today.
According to legend the emperor himself, spelled by angels on night shifts, did the work, wrapping the whole job up in 20-some years. Whether or not the results can justifiably be called, as they often are, the eighth wonder of the world, they are certainly wondrous. And sharing, as they do, in a tradition of sculptured architecture that extends from Turkey to China, they are indeed world-spanning.
They are also, however, a phenomenon apart. Although no confirming scholarly study of Lalibela has yet appeared, there is reason to think that the complex, which is divided into two groups of churches, was envisioned as a mystical model of the holy city of Jerusalem in both its earthly and heavenly forms, with each church filling a very specific symbolic role within that topography.
One church, dedicated to St. George, Ethiopia’s patron saint, stands apart from the others. Probably the latest of them, it is meticulously executed and gives a clear sense of the labor-intense strangeness of the whole endeavor.
Basically a monolithic, walk-in Greek cross, it’s free-standing but set in a deep, square pit, so that your first view is, angelically, from above looking down on a relief of three nested crosses cut into the church’s flat roof. To reach the entrance, you descend into the canyonlike excavation, into the earth. The church interior, dimly lighted by high windows, has an organic, hand-molded texture. It’s as if it were shaped from loam and you were a seed being planted.
Here too the impression of the interiors coming to life is especially strong when they’re crowded with people.
On St. Gabriel’s day the Lalibela church dedicated to the archangel who announced the birth of Jesus to Mary is open before dawn. The sound of chanting, amplified by loudspeakers, pours out. Following a stream of pilgrims, I go in.
The interior is tight. Lay worshippers are permitted only in one section of it; a second area, closed off by a curtain, is reserved for clergy members. A third, inner compartment holds, as all churches do, a version of the Ark of the Covenant, and is off limits to almost everyone.
The service, continuous for hours, is diffuse but enfolding. Priests and deacons are in a huddle in an alcove, beating drums, rattling sistrums, doing a small-step, hopping dance, and breaking, now and then, into Arabic-sounding ululation.
They face one another rather than the church or worshippers. It’s as if, like certain rock bands, they’re jamming.
Nearby a single priest massages worshippers with a hand-held brass cross; one bent-over man gets a full-body rubdown, one palsied woman a prolonged pacifying touch. Another priest charges out from behind the sanctuary holding flaming tapers straight out in front of him like wands or prods. A third swings a silver censer in hazardous arcs in front of a painting: a modern icon in an old style, of St. Gabriel with European features, Ethiopian skin, and pooling Byzantine eyes.
The ceremonial choreography is all-over, ecstatic, sensually overpowering. It’s the opposite of the face-the-altar focus of most western Christian services, closer to the dynamic of masquerade dances in other parts of Africa, performances that effortlessly combine spiritual efficacy and spectacular entertainment.
To be in the middle of this is discomfiting — What’s my role? What do I do? — then a release. Just stand there.
Time dissolves. There’s no reason to leave. Isn’t this what you came here for? Then, some commotion, a fresh wave of pilgrims pushes in, nudging the priests further into their alcove.
But these pilgrims are wearing slacks, and sport shirts and sunhats. They’re middle-aged Europeans on tour. They were at the hotel last night having dinner at a long table and watching the news in the lobby. There must be close to 20 of them shouldering into what’s little more than a scooped-out monk’s cell. They blink, bunch up, hesitate, not sure what’s going on, where to look first. When in doubt, take a picture. Flash, flash.
They’re part of the Ethiopian present, which is part of the African present, which, along with pilgrims, priests and video teams, is now, at last, part of my present, just as it has always been, twice-removed; part of my past. It’s reality, and it doesn’t stay still, any more than the pilgrim’s desire stays still. I inch through the throng, out the narrow door and head back down the red-dust road. The sound of chanting, ancient, amplified, follows me to a waiting car.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Some Good News For Africa-Plenty Of Ground Water

Article by: Reuters
Huge reserves of underground water in some of the driest parts of Africa could provide a buffer against the effects of climate change for years to come, scientists said on Friday.
Researchers from the British Geological Survey and University College London have for the first time mapped the aquifers, or groundwater, across the continent and the amount they hold.
"The largest groundwater volumes are found in the large sedimentary aquifers in the North African countries Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan," the scientists said in their paper.
They estimate that reserves of groundwater across the continent are 100 times the amount found on the its surface, or 0.66 million cubic kilometres.
Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, they cautioned, though, that not all these reserves can be accessed.
Where they can, small-scale extraction using hand pumps would be better than large-scale drilling projects, which could quickly deplete the reservoirs and have other unforeseen consequences.
Groundwater is no panacea for Africa's water shortages but it could form an important part of a strategy to cope with an expected sharp increase in demand for water as the continent's population increases.
Even now, some estimates put the number of Africans without access to safe drinking water at more than 300-million and only 5% of arable land is irrigated.
"It is not as simple as drilling big bore holes and seeing rice fields spring up everywhere," said Dr Stephen Foster, a London-based senior adviser for aid group Global Water Partnership and an expert in groundwater issues.
"In some places it could be economically and technically feasible to use groundwater to reduce crop loss, but I would question whether that is true everywhere. It will need detailed evaluation.
Foster noted that projects have failed due to cost and logistics problems.
"In northern Nigeria there have been groundwater irrigation projects that have failed because of the rising cost of fuel – a major factor in drilling costs – and distribution difficulties."
The researchers say some of the largest deposits are in the driest areas of Africa in and around the Sahara, but they are deep – at 100 to 250 metres below ground level.
"Water levels deeper than 50 metres will not be able to be accessed easily by a hand pump," said the study, led by Dr Alan MacDonald of the British Geological Survey. "At depths greater than 100 metres the cost of borehole drilling increases significantly due to the requirement for more sophisticated drilling equipment."
The amount of water a borehole yields is another key issue. A small community hand pump needs a borehole with a flow rate of 0.1 to 0.3 litres per second. For large-scale irrigation, the rate needs to be much higher, say around 50 litres.
Phoebe White, a water, sanitation and hygiene specialist for the UK Department for International Development based in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, said hand pumps in the DRC cost up to $13,000 apiece but in some areas the aquifers are too deep and other pumps must be used.
In areas of DRC where drilling deep boreholes is required the cost can be around $130,000, although problems of accessibility and infrastructure can push that figure up, according to White.
The researchers say the maps, based on existing geological charts from governments and hundreds of aquifer studies, are aimed at promoting a "more realistic assessments of water security and water stress".
Roger Calow at UK think-tank the Overseas Development Institute, which was involved in the programme that spawned the research, said the paper shows water shortages in large parts of Africa do not stem from scarcity.
"What the science is telling us is that we have more storage in these shallow, relatively unproductive (aquifers) than we thought," he said, adding that about 60% of Africans still live in rural areas and 80 pct of those rely on groundwater systems.
Calow said a third of hand pumps across Africa have broken down due to a lack of maintenance.
Aid agencies gave the research a cautious welcome.
"The discovery of substantial water reserves under parts of Africa may well be good news for the continent but it may prove hard to access in the near term and, if not sustainably managed, could have unforseen impacts," Nick Nuttall, spokesperson for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi.
Nuttall said over-abstraction exploitation of groundwater in Mexico City, for example, is undermining the foundations of buildings.
He said the focus of efforts to improve water supply should be on better collection and storage.
"The fact is that there is already a tremendous amount of water available for Africa but it is rarely collected".
A study by UNEP and the World Agroforestry Centre found there is enough water falling as rain over Africa to supply the needs of some 9-billion people.
"Ethiopia, where just over a fifth of the population are covered by domestic water supply and an estimated 46 per cent of the population suffer hunger, has a potential rainwater harvest equivalent to the population needs of over 520 million people," Nuttall told Reuters.
Edited by: Reuters