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Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

“WANTED – MOTORING BBC TELEVISION PROGRAMME PRESENTER.  Must have nerves of steel, exceptional driving skills and be prepared to travel extensively. Sense of humour essential”.

Of course it hasn’t happened yet and it may not, but there’s no sense in not being prepared.  I refer, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, to the shock suspension and possible dismissal of Top Gear presenter and front man Jeremy Clarkson, he of the crumpled face, crumpled jeans, big head and bigger height.  He’s a media personality with a capital ‘P’, instantly recognisable all over the world, so popular is his signature Top Gear show. 

He’s even motored across our own Kalahari with his faithful companions Richard Hammond and James May, a journey which included a chance encounter with the nation’s President Ian Khama Seretse Khama whilst he was Vice-President and very much of an action man and adventure-seeker in his own right. 

In the course of the programme’s long history JC has driven some of the world’s most-expensive cars and most prestigious marques.  Him and his team have driven to the North Pole and found what they believe to be the true source of the Nile. 

They have raced and off-roaded wherever vehicular transport and sports exist and in places where they don’t.  They have pushed cars to their absolute limits and pitted themselves against all forms of transport to prove that the car is king.  They are the ultimate petrol heads and Jeremy is Petrol Head Supreme.

He is also an outspoken, inveterate foot-in-mouther, in petrol-head parlance he never engages brain before operating mouth.  He says what he thinks and what he thinks is often controversial as well as acidly amusing.  He is also the ultimate in non-glad suffering of fools and he is never far from controversy. 

Did he actually say the ‘N’ word when reciting Eeny Meeny Miny Mo?  Hard to tell, say those who have micro-examined the taped footage.  Did he really set out to cause an Argy-Bargy with that controversial number plate on the Top Gear trip to Argentina which appeared to reference the Falklands War?  Impossible, say other car experts.  Where would he find just the right vehicle with just the right registration plate?  Where indeed?

And yet the more he appears in court controversy and pushes the non-PC envelope, the more he is loved by his legion of fans all over the world.  An online petition to re-instate him has already gathered half a million signatures and is still growing exponentially.  

Even the British Prime Minister David Cameron has waded into the row with the BBC, saying “He’s a huge talent. Because he is such a huge talent and he amuses and entertains so many people, including my children, who’d be heartbroken if Top Gear was taken off air, I hope this can be sorted out.” 

A huge talent, indeed. So big, in fact, you’d have thought he was untouchable.  After all, previous transgressions have only shown how Teflon-like he is where trouble is concerned and how, Prince Philip like, he gets away with blue murder because he is who he is and he is so well-loved and admired.

So what was the storm in the BBC teacup which has precipitated the suspension of one of its undoubted stars?  Well, according to reports in today’s papers it was all over a piece of steak, or to be more precise the lack thereof, whereby after a hard day’s filming JC wanted a hearty piece of rare meat for his supper but the crew arrived too late, the hotel chef had knocked off and all he was offered was a cold meat platter. 

That apparently so infuriated him that a minor row erupted between him and an Assistant Producer Oisin Tymon, during which a scuffle ensued and the air turned blue with foul language.  Early reports referred to JC throwing a punch at the afore-mentioned Tymon, though an onlooker described it more as a ‘scuffle’. Clarkson himself referred to is as ‘handbags and pushing’ while fellow presenter May called it ‘a bit of a dust-up’. 

By all accounts Clarkson and Tymon have always enjoyed a cordial relationship and significantly the latter has not made any sort of official complaint. But the knives appear to be out at the Beeb, the sharpest one wielded by Director of Television Danny Cohen who seems hell-bent on ousting JC at all costs, though owing to his superstar status the Director General of the BBC, Lord Hall, has stated that he will personally oversee the investigation into the incident. 



And make no mistake, letting Jeremy Clarkson go would come not ‘at any cost’ but one almost invaluable in terms of programme revenues from its worldwide syndication.  Because without him it is hard to see how Top Gear could possibly continue.  Much of its success depends on the undoubted chemistry between the three presenters and their three very different but complimentary personalities. 

And all three of them, though handsomely rewarded, do go above and beyond the call of duty, spending long months away from home and family, often in hardship conditions which could not be tolerated if it were not for their undoubted camaraderie. 

And as any HR expert will tell you, success is always the result of two different factors – talent, yes, and JC has this in spades but also in sheer hard work, in putting in long hours under arduous working conditions and in doing it year after year seeking ever more dangerous and difficult challenges at an age when others might be thinking of starting to take more of a back seat, rather than, literally, staying very much in the driving seat.

So the world of petrol heads wait with baited breath to see if JC can non-stick his way out of the latest furore or whether he faces his own ‘Night of the Long Knives’ but make no mistake, if he goes, Top Gear goes with him and probably James May and Richard Hammond too. 

But not for long – I’m betting that in the boardrooms of the ITV channels executives are, as I write, calculating how big a package they can offer him and his mates and how quickly they can get the show, or as close to it as they can get away with, back on air if push should come to him being shoved. The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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