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More officials face dismissal over Durban Westville Prison corruption
21 August 2019, 6:45 PM

Acting KwaZulu-Natal Commissioner for Correctional Services, James Smalberger says more officials and members of senior management at Durban’s Westville Prison may be dismissed following investigations into corruption.

Cellphone footage emerged showing prisoners and warders allegedly snorting what appears to be cocaine and smoking other drugs inside their jail cells. In a second video, warders are seen handing weapons to prisoners and allegedly encouraging them to fight.

Smalberger says they have assigned seasoned investigators to the matter.

“We assigned seasoned investigators and they have completed their investigations and the process of further actions will follow and when the delegated authorities have applied their minds in terms of those, I can assure the public that we will not accept that behaviour by our officials who allow that and those who’ve turned a blind eye. We will not accept that and we will fight corruption and maladministration.”

Smalberger was speaking after the announcement that Commissioner, Mnikelwa Nxele had been axed.

Nxele was implicated in the State Capture Commission as allegedly receiving monthly bribes of about R57 000.

Smalberger says the department will continue to function.

Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame
Leaders of Rwanda and Uganda sign pact in bid to end tension
21 August 2019, 5:41 PM

The presidents of Rwanda and Uganda signed a pact on Wednesday in Angola’s capital aimed at ending a long-running rivalry that has resulted in their busiest border crossing being closed for six months. The signing in Luanda was witnessed by the presidents of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Rwandan and Ugandan presidencies both tweeted.

Rwanda and Uganda fought each other in neighbouring Congo in the early 2000s and relations between the two countries and their strongman presidents, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, have remained tense.

Accusations of supporting respective rebel movements in the other’s country and mistreating each other’s citizens boiled over early in 2019 and Rwanda closed their main border crossing in February. It was briefly re-opened to cargo trucks in June, but then closed again.

Rwandans are still banned from travelling to Uganda, which has accused Rwanda of effectively imposing a trade embargo.

Kagame said, “I deeply thank the leaders of Angola and Congo for their attitude and brotherly commitment to helping us find solutions between Uganda and Rwanda,” according to his office’s Twitter account.

Space telescope offers rare glimpse of Earth-sized rocky exoplanet
21 August 2019, 4:57 PM

Direct observations from a NASA space telescope have for the first time revealed the atmospheric void of a rocky, Earth-sized world beyond our own solar system orbiting the most common type of star in the galaxy, according to a study. The research, published in the scientific journal Nature, also shows the distant planet’s surface is likely to resemble the barren exterior of the Earth’s moon or Mercury, possibly covered in dark volcanic rock.

The planet lies about 48.6 light years from Earth and is one of more than 4 000 so-called exoplanets identified over the past two decades circling distant stars in our home galaxy, the MilkyWay.

Known to astronomers as LHS 3844b, this exoplanet about 1.3 times the size of Earth is locked in a tight orbit, one revolution every 11 hours, around a small, relatively cool star called a red dwarf, the most prevalent and long-lived type of star in the galaxy. The planet’s lack of atmosphere is probably due to intense radiation from its parent red dwarf, which, though dim by stellar standards, also emits high levels of ultraviolet light, the study says.

The study will likely add to a debate among astronomers about whether the search for life-sustaining conditions beyond our solar system should focus on exoplanets around red dwarfs, accounting for 75% of all stars in the Milky Way, or less common, larger, hotter stars more like our own sun.

The principal finding is that it probably possesses little if any atmosphere, a conclusion reached by measuring the temperature difference between the side of the planet perpetually facing its star, and the cooler, dark side facing away from it. A negligible amount of heat carried between the two sides indicates a lack of winds that would otherwise be present to transfer warmth around the planet.

“The temperature contrast on this planet is about as big as it can possibly be,” said researcher Laura Kreidberg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is lead author of the study.

Similar analysis previously was used to determine that another exoplanet, 55 Cancri e, about twice as big as Earth and believed to be half-covered in molten lava, likely possesses an atmosphere thicker than Earth’s. This exoplanet, unlike LHS3844b, orbits a sun-like star.

The planet in the latest study was detected last year by NASA’s newly launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, an orbiting telescope that pinpoints distant worlds by spotting periodic, dips in the light observed from their parent stars when an object passes in front of them. But it was follow-up observations from another orbiting instrument, the Spitzer Space Telescope, which can detect infrared light directly from an exoplanet, that provided new insights about its features.

MP condemns killing of women for alleged witchcraft
21 August 2019, 3:50 PM

Member of Parliament Zoleka Capa has condemned the killing of women over allegations of witchcraft. Capa was at Ndzondeni village near Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape where two women were attacked for allegedly practicing witchcraft.

It’s alleged the two women were performing a ritual at a grave and were forced to eat raw meat which they brought to the grave to perform a ritual. One died, while another was rushed to hospital in a serious condition.

Capa held a meeting with Ndzondeni residents. She says witchcraft is only in the minds of people.

“This thing is in the mind of people and even those who do not believe in witchcraft, they use it in order actually to target their would-be enemies. Secondly, it always involves a family feud. It’s always a person known to you using this witchcraft issue in order to mobilise people against you and they kill you, they burn your house and the rest of the family lives with a stigma forever.”

However, villagers deny ever assaulting the women. A member of the family on whose graves the ritual was allegedly performed, Lulama Mkhize, says that they did not beat anyone and the deceased was killed by the traditional medicine and raw meat the women were forced to ingest.

“We did not beat anyone, but whenever someone blows the whistle here, the whole community comes out. What I think killed the deceased is that the community forced them to eat the traditional medicine and the dead rat they brought to the graves. Even my aunt was forced to eat the raw chicken. The good thing is that all of them say they came to perform a ritual in the graves. So in isiXhosa, we would say they came to practice witchcraft in the family graves.”

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US military drone shot down over Yemen: officials
21 August 2019, 2:31 PM

A United States military MQ-9 drone was shot down in Yemen’s Dhamar governate, southeast of the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, two US officials told Reuters on Wednesday. A Houthi military spokesperson had earlier said that air defenses had brought down a US drone.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the drone was shot down late on Tuesday.

This is not the first time a US drone has been shot down in Yemen. In June, the US military said that Houthi rebels had shot down a US government-operated drone with assistance from Iran.

US forces have occasionally launched drone and air strikes against Yemen’s al Qaeda branch, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

One of the officials said that it appeared that the drone had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile operated by the Iran-aligned Houthi group. The other official cautioned that it was too early to tell who was responsible for the incident.

The drone shoot down comes as tensions between Iran and the US have risen since President Donald Trump’s administration in 2018 quit an international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and began to ratchet up sanctions.

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