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TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

I am not too sure of what to make of the world at times. One moment it looks more and more like a melting pot with all of the things that bring us closer as human beings and superficial differences ignored or not even noticed. I hope that as a race we are communicating more about these issues and are bringing these to the surface, which of course is healthy and a positive step.

But that’s on a good day!  On the bad ones problems such as stereotyping, racism, and discrimination are not completely vanishing and one thing is clear: more than ever we need to deal with these and learn about them and from them; because co-operation and co-existence is a must in this era.

This is the month when communities around the world celebrate LGBT pride with parades and other festivities. But gatherings are likely to take on a sombre tone after the death of 49 people and injury of 53 more in a mass terrorist shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, last week – the the largest mass killing of gay people in American history.

In cities across the United States, as well as in countries as far away as Israel, Chile, and France (itself the scene of recent deadly terror attacks), people set up memorials and gathered in vigils for the victims of the Orlando attack. World landmarks have been lit up from the Eiffel Tower in France to the Sydney Bridge in Australia – all in a show of solidarity.

In Manhattan last Sunday, mourners gathered outside of the Stonewall Inn, where 47 years ago in June, a group of gay patrons of the bar fought back against the routine police raids that had targeted them. The event was a catalyst in the modern gay rights movement. The gatherings around the world last Sunday are a reminder that, while violence and intolerance toward LGBT individuals and groups is nothing new, neither is the desire to push for equal treatment and cultural tolerance. And how things are changing…

To see how far we have come let’s compare the reaction of the Orlando killings with a New Orleans bar attack in 1973 which killed 32 people at a time of pernicious anti-gay stigma.  Coverage of the fire by news outlets minimized the fact that LGBT patrons had constituted the majority of the victims, while editorials and talk radio hosts made light of the event. A joke that made the rounds in workplaces and was repeated on the radio was: “Where will they bury the queers?  In fruit jars!”  (For younger readers, that was a play on 2 common derogatory terms for gay people back then.)  Churches refused to bury the victims’ remains.

Their deaths were mostly ignored and sometimes mocked by politicians and the media. No government officials made mention of the fire and as Robert Camina, director of a documentary about the fire said in 2013, “I was shocked at the disproportionate reaction by the city government. The city declared days of mourning for victims of other mass tragedies in the city. It shocked me that despite the magnitude of the fire, it was largely ignored.”

Outpourings of grief from politicians and everyday people have followed the Orlando shooting, but for those who remember the fire in the New Orleans bar, years ago, its lonely memory has loomed large over conversations about the carnage this week at the Pulse Nightclub. The fire was an open wound for the gay community in New Orleans for years. No one was charged with the attack, and a man viewed by many as the primary suspect was never arrested. He committed suicide a year after the blaze – enough said.
 
Mike Moreau, who lost several friends in the Orlando fire, said he was struck by all the differences between then and now, but also by the familiarity of tragedy’s dull ache. “What happened to us had to be kept so private,” said Mr. Moreau. “The public didn’t want to know about it, and if they heard about it they didn’t care — ‘Thank God, they’re gone, they deserved it’ was the attitude. To see the outpouring of love and support that these poor families have gotten is fantastic.” . “They are hurting the same way we hurt, but at least they know that the world supports them and understands their grief.”

The difference today is that LGBT people now have a place at the table that they did not have then. The outpouring of support for the victims in Orlando must be seen as an uplifting sign of progress as is allowing Botswana’s  LEGABIBO to be registered – small but important steps.

But of course this isn’t really just an issue about LGBT rights – LGBT is a metaphor for any group that might be seen as a minority, be they blacks, whites, Jews, Muslim or any category which others don’t agree with ideologically, politically or aesthetically. Whether it is a terrorist attack on the people of France or devotees at a Muslim mosque we must collectively stand up to this form of fundamentalist bullying and say we will neither tolerate intolerance nor wickedness and evil.

We will not sweep hate under the carpet or bury our head in the sand like we did during the Holocaust, Rwanda or the New Orleans bar. John Donne wrote ‘Every man’s death diminishes me’ and he made no proviso that they should be of this creed or that, this colour or that, this sexual orientation or that.  And for his poetic  ‘every man’ read ‘every person’ – as human beings we know what is right, we have a moral compass and we should be using it and call others when they don’t!

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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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