Tenuous terrorism charges

Now I know that terrorism versus civil liberties is a contentious issue and all, but I firmly believe that prevention is better than cure. And so, where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion that a terrorist act is going to take place, I would much prefer to see it nipped in the bud. Certainly that rather than some sort of rucksack- related Tube massacre and the security services telling us “Oh yeah – we kind of thought that was going to happen”.

That doesn’t mean that I am in favour of all the new laws which have recently been brought in in the UK by a struggling ZaNu-labour Government, though. The whole 42-days detention is a little OTT as far as I’m concerned. But of course, with the changing face of the terrorist threat over the past few years, some tightening up and realigning of the laws was certainly necessary.

But have these laws got a little bit daft now? Nothing so simple as “murder” or “rape” – two men in Blackburn have been charged (and here I quote):

…with possession of an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

…over a plot (which didn’t exist) to assassinate Gordon Brown. Bit of a mouthful, hey? I wonder if the officer who read the suspects their rights had to have a little crib sheet to make sure he got it right.

OK. Enough of that. I am going to go and switch the kettle on in circumstances where the heating of water together with the possession of dark brown powder may give rise to a reasonable chance of preparation and inbibing of a pleasant morning beverage.

Heavy metal “knot” to blame

Last week’s “incident” at a Krugersdorp school in which an 18-year old student killed one person and injured several others was fantastic news for the South African press. Yes, because not only was this an incident at a “white” school, the student in question dressed up in a mask and used a samurai sword to do his dirty work.
But if only there was another angle to this, something outlandish and sensational to make it the perfect story (especially after the sharks failed to eat those tourists).

Wait! There is! Slipknot!

Yes, standing head and shoulders above the allegations of bullying, satanism, drug-taking, poor parenting and failing teachers comes the blindingly obvious cause of this attack:

Community leader, Pierre Eksteen, who is in charge of a school support network for children, told reporters outside the deserted school grounds that Satanic music was probably the cause of the attack.”He came here camouflaged as the guys from ’Slipknot’. We know the wrong kind of music, and drugs have bad effects. Young people need to be informed of the effects of bad Satanic music,”  

I’m right with you there, Pierre – bad Satanic music is rubbish. Some of the good Satanic music out there is pretty listenable though.
And, as Andrew Donaldson remarked in his great Eish! column in The Sunday Times, it’s always a good idea to get your facts straight before talking to the press:

“Satanism,” Eksteen believes, “is in all the schools in the country; it just hasn’t manifested itself yet. Young people need to be informed of the effects of bad satanic music.”
True — just as young people need to be informed of the effects of bad preachers.

Donaldson also notes:

In August last year, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Adolf Hitler’s musical tastes. Apparently, a crate of his favourite records was looted from his Berlin bunker in 1945 by a Red Army officer and these only came to light after the Russian’s death. The discs included works by Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Rachmaninov.
I mention this only because, as far as I’m aware, there has in the 63 years since Hitler’s death been no suggestion whatsoever that any one of these composers and their music had any bearing upon or in any way influenced his behaviour.

Of course, he’s right. The Slipknot angle in this case has been leapt upon by an eager press looking for sensationalist issues where there really are none and has naturally been happily accepted as a rather handy scapegoat by those who failed Morne Harmse and his victims.

That said, I wouldn’t advise you to play Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto if you ever find yourself feeling a little mentally vulnerable and near anything sharp or pointy. Or Jewish.

Plans for the Koeberg Interchange

One of my more popular posts is the one where I describe the roadworks taking place on two of the major routes around Cape Town. I don’t know what this says about how interesting this blog is, or indeed how interesting its readers are. All in all, it’s pretty disappointing.

Anyway, at the time that I wrote that piece, details weren’t readily available of the planned improvements to the frankly horrifying junction of the N1 and the M5. But, as any traveller who has recently experienced the joys of Koeberg Interchange – or as the locals call it “F*****g Koeberg Interchange” – will have noted, some grass has been dug up and some mud has been created: construction has begun and we must all be patient.


It’s a virtue…

But what exactly are they constructing? Well, some helpful civil engineer found MS Paint on his PC and had a bit of a play with a picture of Cape Town taken in 1983. And here’s what he came up with:


Koeberg: Soaring bridges

It truly is a thing of beauty, isn’t it? Much like the construction at Hospital Bend, they seem to have taken everything into account and just flung heaps of money at it. Which is no bad thing. My one concern is that “Phase 1” bit in the top corner. Could it be that this junction will never be finished, destined for continual upgrades and improvements? It already seems like they’ve been going for ages and all they’ve done is sunk two holes for bridge supports and cut some bushes down – interestingly, I note – nowhere near anything on that picture above.

There’s more detail to be had on the CapeTalk site, including some rather natty artists impressions of the finished article. It looks like it actually might work. Problem is, we’ve still got another 2½ years before we get to find out…

How to prevent HIV/AIDS

Here in SA, we have big problems with HIV/AIDS.  These problems are not helped in any way by our esteemed Health Minister, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and her wacky dietary suggestions which she claims will prevent and/or cure the infection, nor by her involvement with the Rath Foundation, who claim that vitamins (which they will helpfully sell you) can stop progression of HIV into AIDS.  

And who could forget the comments allegedly made by our President-in-waiting, Jacob Zuma during his rape trial that he took a shower after sex with an HIV-positive individual in order to prevent his contracting the virus? Ah… Happy days!

With these figures in authority, it’s sadly perhaps understandable that there is some confusion amongst the masses over HIV and AIDS in general. And that was illustrated by Papi Molimoeng’s letter published in The Times today:

Government should focus on jobs

The government wants us to believe that there is nothing that can be done to minimise the spread of the HIV-Aids pandemic.
Like any virus, the best way of stopping the virus is to encourage prevention.
If more people had jobs they would not be exposed to poverty.
As a result, they get bored and become infected with the virus. The health department and the government needs to make sure research scientists do their jobs, and stop pointing fingers.

I read the letter. Then I read it again. And I too became confused.

Fortunately, working as a research scientist, I rarely find myself bored. Not only will this please Papi, it seems that it will also stop me getting AIDS. Whoopie.
In fact, after having digested what (I think) Papi is trying to say, I am definitely going to encourage the prevention of me getting bored. I will also undertake not to point fingers. Unless I’m trying to indicate directions to a lost motorist or similar. It’s for my own good, after all.

And if all that doesn’t work, I’ll try eating beetroot and garlic in the shower. Messy, but worth it.

One World, One Dream

Yesterday, I watched the Olympic Games opening ceremony along with 2,999,999,999 others. Not all in my lounge, obviously; that would have been a squash and a squeeze.
Anyway, it was fairly impressive stuff. Lots of flashy lights, a myriad of people running about in unison, a few people in weird costumes, some people attached to wires which made it look a bit like they were flying if you ignored the wires and so on. Oh, and some fireworks.


Attention!

So obviously very different from every other opening ceremony for a big sporting event. Right.

What was different about Beijing 2008’s opening night was the fact that it cost (according to the SABC’s coverage, anyway) about $75m (US) to stage. Which made me wonder how exactly it adhered to the One World, One Dream motto of this particular Olympiad. Kevin Mitchell sums it up nicely:

This opening of the 29th Olympic Games was an orchestrated marriage of superstition and military precision on a scale only a one-party state could deliver with such confidence. It was a show not so much riveting because of its artistic merit (which was considerable) but the self-conscious reaching for grandeur that has become the Olympic movement’s parodic symbol of excess.

And the official Beijing 2008 site states:

“One World One Dream” fully reflects the essence and the universal values of the Olympic spirit – Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream. It expresses the common wishes of people all over the world, inspired by the Olympic ideals, to strive for a bright future of Mankind.

While I’m all for the Olympics and their ideals – though I recognise that they are very rarely seen outside the couple of weeks of competition every four years – I would imagine that a large chunk of the world’s population would probably have different universal values. Like Food, Shelter, Housing and Safety, for example. Ironically, I would also guess that most of this group were the ones who weren’t able to watch yesterday.
This “Other World” doesn’t fit for the Beijing Olympics though; it’s ugly and awkward to deal with while they’re splashing out millions on fancy fireworks and Sarah Brightman. And so, like so much else, it is being swept under the carpet and conveniently ignored for the next two weeks.