I’m not Zille-bashing, but…

This article on news24 does rather seem to continue the “OMG, we’re all… doomed… doomed!”  scare tactics thread that characterised the DA’s final approach to the elections last month. And while I recognise that it is Zille’s and the DA’s job to question the Government, I’m not quite sure what value there is in criticising each and every cabinet appointment. I found her disingenuous use of Angie Motshekga’s quote particularly distasteful.
To whom did the DA expect that those jobs would be given? Were they really thinking that the ANC, having just wiped the floor (again) with the opposition parties would then appoint them into the cabinet?

And if so, why didn’t Helen Zille appoint an all-ANC front bench to the Western Cape Provincial Government?

I just can’t reconcile this:

“With few exceptions, President Jacob Zuma’s new Cabinet is bad news for South Africa,” Zille said.
Zille said Zuma’s decision to revamp the structure of Cabinet raised more questions than it provided answers.

with this:

Zille said the Cabinet needed to be given time before its performance could be properly judged.

Because it sounds to me like you’ve made your mind up already, Helen.

What’s the problem?

Oh, this one makes me proud to be English.

From here, via here.

A 29-STONE mum who feeds her eight-month old triplets with McDonald’s has insisted she is bringing the tots up in the “best way she can”.
Leanne Salt, 24, said she is “too busy” to properly feed daughters Deanna and Daisy and son Finlee.
So she lets them eat her takeaways and gives them Wotsits snacks and microwave meals.

(for my non UK visitors, 29 stone = 406 pounds or 184 kilos) 

I have to admit that once, in a fit of desperation, Alex was given 6 Chicken McNuggets from the Kenilworth drive-thru. It was as a result of poor paternal planning and I felt awful for ages afterwards, although with hindsight, that was probably because of the Quarterpounder with cheese that I had at the same time. And the cardboard fries.
Alex seemed to enjoy his reformed lumps of fried, mechanically-recovered chicken though, even if he didn’t really seem to know what to do with them. Well, he was only 6 weeks old at the time.

Of course, there’s no problem with the odd McDonald’s every now and again, even if they do their best to put parents off buying their inaccurately-named Happy Meals. But we certainly don’t go down the road of doing it every day. That would get in the way of his KFC addiction.

Leanne steers away from healthy foods in case it makes her tots anorexic. She said: “I don’t want them to think they have to watch what they eat. I’ll tell them big is beautiful.”

Yes readers, “big is beautiful” – I’ll let you decide on that one:


Picture from Closer magazine

When I see that sort of picture, aside from the immediately overwhelming thought that “big is beautiful” (obviously), I also find myself marvelling at the amazing strength of denim. Presumably, those are just over-the-counter jeans from the fat section of Matalan, and yet look what they’re holding within them.
Quite remarkable and a great advert for Vietnamese sweatshop workmanship.
Oh – and I wonder where the bikini-clad Carrie Fisher is, as well.

Swine flu can’t get to Coventry quickly enough.

Obligatory Swine Flu post

Already, people are starting to come up to me in the street and ask me what they should do about Swine Flu. I’m not sure if this is because I look like a pig or because I had my “Trust me, I’m a Microbiologist” t-shirt on. I’m guessing the latter, since no-one in their right mind is going to approach anyone that looks even vaguely porcine right now.

I’ve been getting the regular quizzing, you know the: “Is this serious?” and the “Am I going to die?” ones. Well, yes it is and yes you are. Sorry to be blunt, but I’ve got to save time for the more interesting questions, like: “Can we blame Jacob Zuma for this?” and “I had a tequila on Friday night – am I infectious?”.
I don’t have the answers for those, but they’re far more entertaining than the rather morose death stuff.

Who knows where this outbreak is going to go from here? Well actually, no-one does yet. Experts may hypothesise, but if one looks carefully, not one of them is going to make a definitive statement on what is going to happen next, for the simple reason that we have reached the edge of our current understanding.

Already, social networking sites – most especially twitter – have been blamed for causing unnecessary panic about swine flu. But who can say that this “panic” is “unnecessary” right now? Well actually, no-one can. Swine flu might go away quietly, but it would be wise to be aware that it’s more likely not to. The bad news is that early reports suggest that it is highly infectious. The good news is that the mortality rates seem relatively low.
The fears over bird flu which began about five years ago were, in my view, entirely justified and it was only a combination of global medical awareness and good luck that the H5N1 virus didn’t infect and kill more individuals.
That this H1N1 strain has the ability to be passed from human to human is extremely concerning to me, not least because I am a human. It’s widely accepted that the lack of human to human transmission was the only thing that stopped bird flu from going pandemic, which is why, even at this early stage of the outbreak, the global infection patterns for the two similar viruses are distinctly dissimilar.

In my mind there are three things for us to be worried about at this early stage:
1. The scale of infection. Even if the mortality rate is low, huge numbers of people being away from their jobs is not good news. Services, food, production etc may well be hit hard. Not good in the midst of a global economic downturn.
2. Tamiflu resistance developing. So far, so good – at least we can treat those with the virus – to a degree. But we only have one weapon and once this new virus overcomes that – well, we have no defence.
3. A nastier strain emerging. It doesn’t take much for a more virulent, more aggressive viral strain to develop – especially in a virus which is so very infectious. This would be my biggest fear and could be where we start to see numbers of deaths climbing very sharply. And annoyingly, there’s nothing we can do to prevent this occurring.

Of course, the ease with which we can access information these day is a double-edged sword. While it can alert us to the threat of swine flu (or anything else), it does open up windows of opportunity for misinformation to be spread… well… virally. And separating that important, helpful information from all the background noise is where the skill comes in. But it’s not that difficult, is it? Simply take into account the source of information and then make an informed decision on whether or not you choose to believe what you read.
So yes, read what @scaredpig (or whoever) is telling you on twitter and then discount it. Read what the WHO say and take note. But hasn’t that always been the case?

But does this potential information overload actually make things any better or worse? If twitter had been around in 1918 when the Spanish Flu killed off 25 million worldwide, wouldn’t people have been tweeting about the latest news of cases and deaths in their areas, speculating and spreading rumours? Would it have done any good? Would it have done any harm?

Meanwhile, mashable.com’s How to track Swine Flu online article, which includes the admirable advice:

Stay Calm, Stay Informed:
While there’s likely to be much concern on social networking sites about public health incidents, it’s important to keep things in proportion, and go direct to the sources of news rather than spreading panic.

has also fallen victim to to those misinformants – this gem from the comments section:

Most important, don’t take any government vaccinations! Strengthen your immune system!

Yes, that’s by far the most important thing to do – if offered a vaccination that may save your life, don’t take it. Because…. because… well… never mind – just don’t!
One can only hope the author takes his own advice on that one. Goodbye.

Meanwhile, I’m off to lie in the sun in Kirstenbosch Gardens. May be a bit busy there with it being a three-day week, but I’m taking my trusty sombrero with me. I don’t expect to be bothered by anyone all afternoon.

Stop Zuma?

Impossible, my dear.

Yet that’s seemingly been the sole aim of Helen Zille and the Democratic Alliance over the past, final week of campaigning before the election. And it’s a tactic which has drawn criticism from many quarters for it’s negativity and single-minded determination to go after JZ, while there are plenty of other major issues and challenges which need addressing in this election.


Zille and her grand plan.

Sadly, it’s also a campaign which, as the international community sits up and takes notice in the run up to the election, has been reported around the world, with Zille’s scaremongering tactics dragging the country’s name further through the mud. See the New York Times’ report and the BBC’s South Africa ‘doomed under Zuma’. The latter is worth a look if only for the picture of Zille’s cabaret act – the article itself makes depressing reading.

This evening on the way home from a hard day’s science, I listened into John Maytham’s show on 567 Cape Talk. Maytham described himself as “revolted” by the Stop Zuma campaign and stated that he had been put off voting for the DA.
Then, in a shock move for me, I found myself agreeing with Maytham’s guest Jonathan Shapiro – the cartoonist otherwise known as Zapiro. But what surprised me more was that Shapiro, who was apparently previously an ANC voter but who will not be voting for them this time because of Zuma’s reputation, was also disgusted by the DA’s recent campaign, describing it as a “terrible mistake”. Strong words indeed from a man who has himself been accused of harbouring a vendetta against Msholozi. While he said he was still undecided about who he was going to vote for, the DA had joined the ANC on his list of ‘definitely nots’.

I don’t understand why the DA has suddenly taken this route. They are absolutely capable of winning the Western Cape in this next election, which was their stated aim. But whatever strategist persuaded them that moving away from campaigning on any other issue and concentrating on the futile task of “stopping” Jacob Zuma – whatever that means, anyway – has done them a great disservice. As far as I can see, having spoken to people, read newspapers and checked in on the local media, this negative campaigning has turned the voters away from the DA, Maytham and Shapiro being the latest examples of this phenomenon. If they had nothing to fight for, that wouldn’t be a big issue, but with the Western Cape as tight as it is, I can’t help but wonder – have Zille and the DA shot themselves in their collective feet by solely (no pun intended) going after Zuma?

Voting abroad – a good idea?

No.

With Election Day less than a week away, yesterday was the day on which South Africans living, working or visiting overseas were able to make their vote count.
It’s been a contentious issue, with the DA and VF+ camapigning vigourously for the right of overseas Saffas to vote, then having to suffer the indignity of a tiny number that actually bothered to register to do so (7,472 out the approximately 600,000 in the UK).

While I respect that it is the Constitutional right of those overseas to have their say, I don’t agree with it. The information that is disseminated out from SA is often overly negative, incorrect and highly subjective and unless you are willing to really dig deep to find out the facts, I can’t see how you can make an informed, valid choice on the issues at hand. However, when I tried to point this out, I was told in no uncertain terms by commentors that of course they knew exactly what was going on in SA and they couldn’t wait to have their say. I was wrong, apparently. Ha!

To cut a long story short, a great fanfare was made (especially in London) about the “massive numbers” of those knowledgable people who turned out to make their democratic mark. And here’s the front page photo from The Times this morning showing just a few of those people (who know all about South Africa), queuing to vote:

20090415175041expats_matt_dunham_ap
Knowledgable voters wait to vote

Erm… ladies, I know you know all there is to know about SA and everything, but isn’t that flag a bit… upside down?

NPA-like, I rest my case.