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Empire actor Jussie Smollett.
Empire actor expected to plead not guilty
22 February 2019, 6:34 AM

American Actor Jussie Smollett is expected to plead not guilty to charges that he lied to police about a homophobic and racist attack he’s alleged to have been the victim of in Chicago in late January.

The star of the America drama series Empire was charged with one count of felony, disorderly conduct for filing a false police report after claiming that he was attacked by two men who placed a noose around his neck while pouring a “chemical substance” over him.

Police had for weeks been investigating the alleged incident as a hate crime.

Police say the 36-year-old actor staged a fake assault on himself a week after writing himself a racist and homophobic letter, delivered to the set of his workplace, in an attempt to get publicity and due to unhappiness with his salary.

Superintendent of the Chicago police, Eddie T. Johnson says,“Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I’m left hanging my head and asking, ‘Why?’ Why would anyone, especially an African-American man use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations. How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile. How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?”

According to law enforcement, Smollett paid two brothers – both American citizens of Nigerian decent – to help him stage the attack.

Smollett also claimed the brothers – Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo  – shouted slogans associated with support of President Donald Trump, poured bleach on him and put a noose around his neck. One of the brothers was an extra on the Empire show and the other was Smollet’s personal trainer.

Smollett paid $3 500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process.

The actor was released on bond of $100 000 and had to surrender his passport during a hearing where the judge, warned that the allegations, if true, we utterly outrageous.

Superintendent Johnson provided more information about the relationship between Smollett and the bothers, who had travelled abroad since the alleged incident in late January.

“We know that they talked at least an hour or so before the attack, an hour or so after the attack, and then while they were out of the country. We know that they were talking.”

Smollett could also be charged federally for sending himself the racist and homophobic letter and faces the prospect of several years of jail time if convicted.  His attorney has called the charges outrageous.

The actor is due back in court on March 14.

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Advanced camera technology.
Advanced camera technology, main strategy to prevent terrorism
22 February 2019, 5:54 AM

International policing experts say the placement of advanced camera technology is one of the main strategies being used to prevent terrorist activities worldwide, especially in countries like the US.

They were speaking at the eThekwini Municipality’s Advanced Safety for All seminars.

Experts in the policing and technology fields were invited to share their views on successful policing strategies.

When asked if these strategies could be implemented in Durban, Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer said not all of the city’s CCTV cameras are in working order.

“The fact that community helps police to make arrests, I think is fundamental in our society. Cameras helped them to really get the criminal element. Some of our cameras are not in working order and we need to get those cameras to work in order for it to do its job. In the camera room, we haven’t really done a policy whereby one can assimilate the information that comes to see exactly where the hotspots are. Once that is mapped out, one could then do the intelligence in the area.”

Microsoft Government Industry leader for the Middle East and Africa, Salwa Smaoui, shared digital transformation strategies that the company has been using to assist governments around the world to bring about a change in policing.

She says through algorithms, modern day technology now has the capability to pick out patterns in criminal activity and intercept suspects before crimes are even committed.

“The fact is not about having all that data, the fact is, how do I structure that data so I can drive the right insight? It can allow me to predict what can happen but better yet governments are looking for ways that this data insight and this prediction tells me what I should do. How do I predict given my pattern and what I’ve learnt in the past with some of the algorithms to say what can happen?”

SA's first male model David Miller.
SA model David Miller mourns the death of Lagerfeld
21 February 2019, 1:58 PM

South Africa’s first male super model, David Miller from Cape Town, has joined the international fashion world in mourning the death of the legendary designer and accomplished photographer, Karl Lagerfeld.

Lagerfeld was 85 years-old.

Lagerfeld approached Miller for a shoot nearly 20 years ago, shortly after agents had discovered him at the V&A Waterfront.

Miller had then just completed high school.

Miller, who is based in New York, says he’s shocked by the news of the German-born icon’s death.

He says as time goes by, he increasingly realises how privileged he is to have worked with the iconic Chanel fashion designer.

Lagerfeld was admitted to a Paris hospital on Monday following health complications last month. Memorial and funeral arrangements are underway.

International Mother Language Day.
Thursday marks International Mother Language Day
21 February 2019, 1:33 PM

Thursday marks International Mother Language Day. The day was proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1999.

International Mother Language Day aims to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used around the world.

The day is also observed to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police.

Celebrations in KwaZulu-Natal

More than 20 schools from the Ugu District on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast have gathered at Umzinto to celebrate World Mother Tongue Day. There are currently 11 official languages in South Africa:  English, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.

The aim of the gathering is to encourage the proper use of indigenous languages.

Sizwe Mbhele from the KZN Provincial Education Department says various race groups will get a platform to share ideas on their respective languages and cultures.

Mbhele says they will also reflect on history and contribute to the renaming of certain areas that are deemed to have been improperly named.

“The history of our country – SA history – with the coming of the colonies, history was so destructed. The names that were given to the areas were not actually the names – as part of African Renaissance. They have to be renamed, so part of the performance will be for learners to tell the history about the names and how they were named.”

Meanwhile, renowned playwright and author Gcina Mhlophe has expressed concern about the misuse of  indigenous languages.

“My concern about the use of indigenous languages is that we do a lot of mixing at the same time. We are expecting the youngsters to speak the language. Even in the classrooms, they are using language to debate, delivering a talk, and presentation. You know sometimes the children cannot be clear about words. And to speak in a sense of respect when speaking to somebody who is an adult. All has to do with the use of language and knowing the importance of language and communication.”

Progress in the recognition of San people 

The Pan South African Language Board says although it is making progress in helping San people of South Africa to have their languages officially recognised; their efforts are still falling short.

A large majority of the San people live in the Northern Cape and speak indigenous languages such as !Xun, Khwe, Nama and others.

Language Board Provincial Manager Boichoko Moremi says they are engaging universities and language experts in the country.

“We must admit that in 25-years of democracy there have been challenges that delayed us to do exactly what we should have done. But currently, for the past five years, we are on the right track. We are working on developing spelling and orthography rules in the Nama language.”

A leader in the Khwe tribe living at Platfontein near Kimberley in the Northern Cape, Vincent Katjarra has accused government of dragging its feet in recognising their languages.

“We feel very, very disappointed, the way they treat us and manage our things. It’s really a sad life for us. All the programs – it’s not only language – it is tough. The government really sidelines us but we will see what will happen in the future.”

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International Mother Language Day quotes: 


SpaceX, Boeing design risks threaten new delays for U.S. space program
21 February 2019, 1:05 PM

NASA has warned SpaceX and Boeing Co of design and safety concerns for their competing astronaut launch systems, according to industry sources and a new government report, threatening the U.S. bid to revive its human spaceflight program later this year.

NASA is paying SpaceX $2.6-billion and Boeing $4.2-billion to build rocket and capsule launch systems to return astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil for the first time since America’s Space Shuttle program went dark in 2011.

Just ahead of the first scheduled un-manned test flight slated for March, 2nd under NASA’s multi billion-dollar Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s safety advisory panel cited four “key risk items” in its 2018 annual report earlier this month.

For Boeing, they include the capsule’s structural vulnerability when the heat shield is deployed. For SpaceX, the report mentioned the redesign of a SpaceX rocket canister following a 2016 explosion and its “load and go” process of fueling the rocket with the crew already inside the capsule. “Parachute performance” remained an issue for both companies.

“There are serious challenges to the current launch schedules for both SpaceX and Boeing,” the report said.

Two people with direct knowledge of the program told Reuters that the space agency’s concerns go beyond the four items listed, and include a risk ledger that as of early February contained 30 to 35 lingering technical concerns each for SpaceX and Boeing. Reuters could not verify what all of the nearly three dozen items are. But the sources familiar with the matter said the companies must address “most” of those concerns before flying astronauts and, eventually, tourists to space.

The NASA risk database is updated routinely during the course of NASA’s stringent certification process, which includes data collection, tests and collaboration with SpaceX and Boeing, the people said. The Boeing and SpaceX systems have already been delayed several times in recent years, which is common in this sector given the complexity of building multi billion-dollar spacecraft capable of shedding earth’s gravity.

NASA spokesman Joshua Finch deferred all technical questions on Boeing and SpaceX systems to the companies, citing confidentiality, but said: “Flying safely always takes precedence over schedule.”

Boeing spokesman Josh Barrett said the company “closed out” the capsule’s structural vulnerability risk when it completed its structural test program in January. While Boeing is working through a number of other issues, they “are not driving any major architectural system changes.”

“Our numbers show we are exceeding NASA’s safety requirements,” said Barrett.

SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson said the company, working with NASA, has developed “one of the safest, most-advanced human spaceflight systems ever built.”

“There is nothing more important to SpaceX than safely flying crew,” said Gleeson, calling it “core to our company’s long-term goal of enabling access for people who dream of flying to space.”

Founded by Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk, SpaceX has cut the cost of rocket launches with its pioneering reusable rocket technology, while Boeing traces its space business back to the first U.S. human space missions of the 1960’s and is also the world’s largest plane maker.

The clock is ticking. The U.S. has been paying Russia about $80-million per ticket for a ride to the International Space Station, a $100-billion orbital research laboratory that flies about 250-miles (402 km) above Earth.

There are no seats available for U.S. crew on the Russia spacecraft after 2019 given production schedules and other factors. NASA said last week it was considering paying for two more seats to the space station for this fall and spring 2020 to ensure U.S. access.

The NASA plan for extra seats came a week after its safety panel said Congress should come up with a “mitigation plan” in case delays threaten U.S. access to the space station – echoing earlier concerns from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

NASA is set to conduct a flight readiness review on Friday for SpaceX’s mission without a crew on March, 2nd. NASA will decide whether to approve the test flight without a crew, while SpaceX addresses the issues raised for a human mission.

Parachute weaknesses 

Three people familiar with the project say the U.S. space agency has identified some design discrepancies between earlier SpaceX capsules designed to haul cargo to the International Space Station, and a newer version designed to carry humans.

Some of the risks – such as those identified in the designs of the enormous parachutes that deploy when the capsule plummets back to Earth at supersonic speeds – are uncommon given how close SpaceX is to test flights, two of the people said.

The timing of deployment of the SpaceX parachutes and the interaction of the parachutes themselves have raised concerns about parachute performance, and potentially whether they will be able to slow down the capsule enough to ensure the crew’s safety, two people said.

SpaceX has completed 17-parachute tests for the Commercial Crew Program so far, with an additional 10 tests planned prior to Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission, Gleeson said. He also said its parachute systems are designed with redundancy so the vehicle can still safely splashdown in the event that one parachute fails.

NASA’s safety panel said in its report that SpaceX may be required to re-design its parachute system. A re-design would likely trigger more testing and potentially weeks or months of extra delays, two of the people said.

NASA also found design problems with the system that helps orient SpaceX’s capsule in an upright position once it lands in the ocean, raising the risk of taking on excessive amounts of water, according to two industry sources and confirmed by a NASA official.

SpaceX’s Gleeson said Crew Dragon’s outer shell is water-resistant, and the spacecraft itself is buoyant and does not pose a risk to crew members after splashdown.

Risk of more delays 

NASA announced earlier this month that SpaceX was now targeting March, 2nd instead of Feb, 23rd for its un-crewed Crew Dragon test flight, with its astronaut flight planned for July. NASA explained the delay by citing vague concerns for both contractors, such as the need to complete hardware testing and other work.

NASA said Boeing’s un-crewed Starliner would fly “no earlier” than April, with the crewed mission currently slated for August. This is the schedule now at risk, according to the NASA report.

The challenges in front of Boeing include last year’s failure during a test of its launch-abort engines, which spilled caustic fuel on the test stand, Boeing’s Barrett said. The accident was caused by faulty valves which Boeing has re-designed and re-ordered from the supplier, though the new valves must be re-tested, Barrett said.

The test flights are also part of collecting the data needed to close out some risk items, NASA said.

“SpaceX and Boeing both have challenges, both comparable, from a safety perspective,” said one U.S. government source.




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