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A MATTER OF PRESSING URGENCY

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

You may have come across the phrase  ‘the Fourth Estate’ in regards to The Press, though you may not know how the name came about.  Its origins lie in 18th century England and are attributed to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons .   In using the term, Burke made reference to the earlier division of the three Estates of the British Realm; The Lords Spiritual, The Lords Temporal and the Commons.  Said Burke “There are Three Estates in Parliament; but in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sits a Fourth Estate more important far than they all”

His meaning was clear – that the 3 Parliamentary representative bodies may have existed to govern the land with a mandate from the electorate or through the rights and privileges of inherited peerage but the newly-invited members of the press, there to report on Parliamentary debates and decisions, held in their hands an even greater duty – that of informing the public and acting as their watchdog, guarding against any potential abuse of privilege and power amongst the governing elite.

More than 2 centuries later this vital function of the press is largely regarded as the cornerstone of democracy and open government.  Whenever a dictatorship or oppressive form of rule raises its ugly head, its first rule of business is to muzzle the press, to silence any criticism and shroud its operations in secrecy.  Such totalitarian states may have a form of press or reportage but it is tightly controlled and censored and amounts to little more than state-approved propaganda.  In today’s world an obvious example is North Korea where a succession of totalitarian dictators from Kim Il Sung, to Kim Jong Il and now his son., Kim Jong Un,  the country’s self-appointed and self-styled Supreme Leaders,  rule like Japanese concentration camp commanders. 

State broadcasts from North Korea would be laughable if they were not so obviously state-controlled mouthpieces, singing the praises and prowess of the leader, condemning the evil western puppet masters and glorifying the bounties of a country whose masses are starving and brought to their knees in subservience.  It is a classic cautionary tale of what happens when the 4th Estate is controlled by the State itself.  There is no watchdog for the people.  They have no voice.  They have no say.  And they have no rights. 

So much for North Korea:  But consider what is happening right on our doorstep in neighbouring South Africa where the national broadcaster SABC is becoming increasingly state-controlled and censored, following the 2014 ANC-approved appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as SABC CEO.  Earlier this month the opposition Democratic Alliance  filed an affidavit urging the Supreme Court of Appeal to deny the SABC board, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, and Motsoeneng’s petitions for leave to appeal an earlier Western Cape High Court ruling which in effect set aside his permanent appointment as chief operating officer. 

The case was based on Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings against Motsoeneng in her 2014 report, When Governance and Ethics Fail. Madonsela found that Motsoeneng had fabricated his matric qualification and had irregularly increased his salary from R1.5m to R2.4m in one year.  Judge Dennis Davis, presiding over the case, said the information before Muthambi at the time of Motsoeneng’s promotion was "muddled and unclear", and put her "in no position to exercise a rational decision to elevate him". In May, Judge Davis dismissed the SABC and Motsoeneng’s application for leave to appeal that court’s ruling.

However, Motsoeneng’s lack of qualifications is not the only thorny issue at the SABC.  The SABC only this week announced its intentions to appeal the Labour Court order that it reinstate the four journalists, and would not allow them back into their offices.  Waiting outside, acting head of news Simon Tebele told the four that the SABC was appealing the judgment.

"It has been communicated to me that you cannot come back to work at this stage," Tebele told the journalists.  The journalists were dismissed because they had criticised the broadcaster's policy to not show footage of violent protests.‎  In response to his statement, they  then asked Tebele how the broadcaster could dismiss the labour court judgment.  Tebele responded by saying that SABC lawyers had written to the SABC 4's lawyers "informing them that you could not report for duty". Solidarity trade union’s Dirk Hermann, who is representing the four, told News24 on Wednesday that the SABC was in contempt of court.

“They have done so despite the appeal papers not being processed yet, so technically the SABC is in contempt of court," he said.‎

The Labour Court ruled on Tuesday that four of the eight SABC journalists axed by the broadcaster had to be reinstated.  It also ruled they were entitled to return to work and that the SABC was interdicted from proceeding with their disciplinary hearings before they were dismissed.  The four journalists are Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp.  Three other SABC journalists who were recently fired are also heading to Labour Court on Thursday to argue a similar case as the first four.  Busisiwe Ntuli, Thandeka Gqubule and Lukhanyo Calata will also argue for their dismissals to be overturned by the Labour Court, Bemawu representative Hannes du Buisson told News24 on Wednesday.  The three had not been fired at the time of the SABC 4's first application, hence the separate application.

In summary, 7 SABC journalists have been fired by the South African Broadcasting Corporation for objecting to its effective news blackout on the mass protests and destruction of property which have been taking place around the country over the past few months, effectively whitewashing the true state of affairs.  The 4th Estate watchdog is being muzzled in the continent’s largest economy.  Like the 3 brass monkeys, journos are being told to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil; a watchdog with no bark or bite is no use at all and from there it’s but a short hop, skip and a jump to Jacob Zuma proclaiming himself the Supreme Leader he clearly already believes himself to be.  Be afraid, be very afraid.

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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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