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Sci-fi fantasy 'Alita' and Rosa Salazar
Sci-fi fantasy ‘Alita’ tops N. American box office
20 February 2019, 8:28 AM

Fox’s new sci-fi fantasy “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated the North American box office charts over the holiday weekend, earning $33.5-million, industry tracker Exhibitor Relations said on Tuesday.

The futuristic film, which stars Rosa Salazar voicing “Alita,” a cyborg almost more human than machine, is a computer-animated adaptation of a Japanese cyberpunk manga story.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron, the project for the $170-million film was 20-years in the making.

The Fox film beat out last weekend’s leader, “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” which earned Warner Bros an estimated $27.8-million over the Presidents Day weekend.

This fourth “Lego” movie again features the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett – joined this time by Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph – in a story of love and chaos in a post-apocalyptic toyland.

In third was another Warner Bros. film, “Isn’t It Romantic?”, at $16.6-million. Rebel Wilson stars as a rom-com hating New Yorker who, after a blow to the head, finds herself in her own romantic comedy. Liam Hemsworth also stars.

Fourth place went to Paramount’s “What Men Want.” The gender-switching remake of 2000’s “What Women Want” stars Taraji P. Henson. It had four-day ticket sales of $12.2-million.

And in fifth was “Happy Death Day 2U” from Universal, at $11-million  – already recouping the mere $9-million it cost to make. Jessica Rothe again plays the role of a young woman living and reliving the day of her murder.

Rounding out the weekend’s top 10 were: “Cold Pursuit” ($6.9-million), “The Upside” ($6.5-million), “Glass” ($4.6-million),”The Prodigy” ($3.7-million) and “Green Book” ($3.5-million)

National Treasury Economist, Catherine MacLeod
State Capture Inquiry to resume on Wednesday
20 February 2019, 7:00 AM

A member of the legal team of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, senior counsel Advocate Vincent Maleka, is scheduled to put Eskom-related documents on record when the public hearings continue in Parktown, Johannesburg, on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday National Treasury Economist, Catherine MacLeod said that government’s debt increased by R26 billion following the axing of Former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in 2015.

MacLeod says investors were worried about the sustainable management of governance finance when former President Jacob Zuma abruptly fired Nene and replaced him with little-known Des van Rooyen.

MacLeod was corroborating evidence of present and former National Treasury officials who have appeared before the commission.

MacLeod said the move which saw former President Zuma changing three Finance minister within a four-day period in December 2015 weakened the Rand by 10% to the dollar and raised government’s debt serving costs by R3 billion.

MacLeod said South African citizens and taxpayers paid the ultimate price for the economic and political uncertainty caused by the Nene saga.

She said the reduction in investments and higher borrowing cost had an adverse impact on the economy and its ability to grow.

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The contaminated Vaal River
SANDF needs at least R1-billion to rehabilitate the Vaal
20 February 2019, 5:59 AM

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) says it needs at least R1 billion from Treasury to rehabilitate the Vaal River system.

The SANDF’s statement comes as Finance Minister Tito Mboweni prepares to deliver his budget speech on Wednesday afternoon.

More than 200 soldiers and engineers were deployed to fix the Vaal River contamination last year. Residents complained about waste water flowing into their homes.

SANDF spokesperson Andries Mahapa says: “Whatever money there is going to be issued is going to do what has been said to do. So once we have that surety from the Department of Water and Sanitation, in terms of governance and compliance with laws, once all those things are in place and Treasury will release the money then we will have some catching up to do.”

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The Chairperson of Parliament Portfolio Committee on Communications Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize
SABC needs urgent financial assistance: Mkhize
20 February 2019, 5:38 AM

The Chairperson of Parliament Portfolio Committee on Communications, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, says the SABC needs urgent financial assistance.

Mkhize says it is critical for the SABC to get a bailout to carry out its public mandate.

Her comments come ahead of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s maiden budget speech on Wednesday afternoon.

“The SABC for too long has had problems with good governance. If they could be strengthened financially, that would be the first step towards ensuring that it takes its rightful place. We have to be much stricter in terms of ensuring that they don’t slide back to the weaknesses they’ve had in the past, which led to the situation they are in now.”

Meanwhile, Mkhize has commended Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams for taking responsibility for an incident in which she blocked the media including an SABC television news crew from covering a service delivery protest.

The protesters attempted to disrupt the launch of the 2019 Eastern Cape African National Congress (ANC) election manifesto at a stadium in Mount Frere earlier this month.

Mkhize says she spoke to Ndabeni-Abrahams after the incident.

“I have really been impressed with the manner in which she has been transparent, nobody had to dig anything. She just said at that moment, that’s how I reacted and I think her apology is genuine, from talking to her. She fully understands the role of the SABC. That was also a political rally, it wasn’t a government function.”

 

US President Donald Trump
Trump to launch global campaign to end criminalisation of homosexuality
20 February 2019, 5:10 AM

US President Donald Trump‘s administration plans to launch a global campaign to end the criminalisation of homosexuality in dozens of countries where it’s still illegal.

US Ambassador to Germany and the highest profile gay official in the Trump administration, Richard Grenell, will lead the effort.

It’s unclear what the genesis of the strategy but reports suggest it was partly conceived as a response to the reported execution of a young gay man in Iran, a country that remains a top geopolitical foe of the Trump administration.

The campaign will therefore be narrowly focused on criminalization rather than broader Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Queer (LGBTQQ) concerns around marriage as one example.

Officials say the administration will likely work with global organisations like the United Nations, the European Union and other like-minded countries and organisations whose laws already allow for gay rights.

The campaign will likely also place close Trump allies in the spotlight, particularly in the Middle East.

Homosexuality is also punishable by death in Saudi Arabia – a key ally of a Trump administration that has sought to defend, Riyadh admits, credible claims that the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was involved in the murder of a top journalist in Turkey.

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