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‘Avengers’ opens with $630 mln, smashing global record
30 April 2018, 6:11 AM

“Avengers: Infinity War” took in $630 million in its first weekend, the highest global opening of all time, industry estimates showed on Sunday.

“The latest Marvel juggernaut… opened with $630M worldwide, making it the largest global weekend tally in the history of film, and this was done without China,” which has a later opening, industry tracker Exhibitor Relations said.

That topped “The Fate of the Furious,” the eighth installment of the high-octane action series starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez that opened with more than $530 million globally in 2017.

“Infinity War,” which features more than two dozen superheroes fighting to save the universe, also broke the record for highest North American opening weekend, raking in $250 million at US and Canadian box offices.

That beat “The Force Awakens,” the seventh film in the long-running “Star Wars” space saga that made $248 million in its opening weekend in 2015.

“Infinity War” is the 19th film in the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), combining a whopping nine franchises and a cast list that reads like a who’s who of Hollywood’s A-list.

Robert Downey Jr dons the red and gold metal suit once again as Iron Man; Benedict Cumberbatch is Doctor Strange; Scarlett Johansson is back as Black Widow; and Australia’s Chris Hemsworth is Thor.

Black Panther — the Marvel breakout of the year after the standalone pic’s massive opening in February, Captain America, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Hawkeye, the Guardians of the Galaxy and their assorted allies.

Their mission is to prevent the powerful purple alien Thanos (Josh Brolin) from destroying the universe.
“We took a picture of every single person whose character has been in the MCU. We hung it up on a wall all around us,” co-director Anthony Russo, who helms the film with his brother Joe, told reporters ahead of its release.

“We basically spent months and months and months talking about where we could go with each character, how we could draw them through the story,” he added.

“Every one of these characters… has been on a very specific journey through the MCU to arrive at this moment.”
This is the third “Avengers” film, before the final, untitled saga set for next year.

An important source of inspiration is the Marvel canon — the storylines developed over decades in the original comic books.
“Infinity War” is drawn from the “Infinity Gauntlet” series of the early 1990s.

“It starts with those comics and us beginning to rip pages out or rip copies of pages out and put them on the walls and start to be inspired,” explains Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, which is owned by Disney.

“It’s a North Star for us as we lead these giant productions into reality.”

In the movie’s trailer, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) — Thanos’s daughter, of sorts — explains that the villain believes that if he annihilates half of the universe, he can save the other half.

He needs the so-called Infinity Stones to do it. So, the heroes need to keep him from getting them.

The film cost an eye-watering $300 million to make, according to Hollywood media.

“It was about the most fun creative exercise I think I’ve ever been through in my life,” said Anthony Russo. “We thought about everybody in the MCU.”

Lionel Messi
Barca clinch 25th La Liga title
30 April 2018, 5:54 AM

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as Barcelona clinched a 25th La Liga title on Sunday after winning 4-2 at Deportivo La Coruna despite throwing away a two-goal lead in a thrilling game which also confirmed Depor’s relegation.

Celebrations erupted in the streets of Barcelona, as fans chanted and danced into the night.

Barca only needed a draw to seal the title and they made a perfect start when record signing Philippe Coutinho scored with a stylish chipped shot in the seventh minute while Messi doubled their lead in the 38th by volleying home an outrageous cross by Luis Suarez.

Deportivo had been unlucky to go two goals down and they deservedly pulled one back through Lucas Perez five minutes before halftime before Turkish midfielder Emre Colak equalised in the 68th.

Clarence Seedorf’s side needed victory to survive in the top flight for another week and they came close to finding a third goal and becoming the first team to beat Barca in the league this season.

But the runaway leaders kept coming back at them on the counter-attack and it was top scorer and talisman Messi who restored their lead, striking from close range in the 82nd minute after being teed up by Suarez.

Messi claimed his 32nd league goal of the season with the help of another pass from Suarez to round off the victory and give Barca a seventh Liga title in 10 years, completing a fourth domestic double in that same period after beating Sevilla 5-0 in the King’s Cup final last week.

Ernesto Valverde’s unbeaten side have 86 points after 34 games, second-placed Atletico have 75 from 35 and third-placed Real Madrid 71 from 35. Deportivo are 18th on 28th, 12 points adrift of 17th-placed Levante with three games left.

Ramaphosa assures that corruption will not be tolerated
27 April 2018, 12:33 PM

President Cyril Ramaphosa has used his Freedom Day speech to reassure South Africans that corruption and maladministration will not be tolerated by government.

Ramaphosa has told thousands of people, who had gathered at the Dr Molelela Stadium in the Free State, that all the monies that has been stolen will be paid back.

The crowd reacted with cheers as the President spoke.

The President has also acknowledged that although government has built over 4 million houses for the needy, there are still those that did not benefit from the houses that have been built.

His statement comes after many people here said they would be happy if the President could address housing challenges.

Ramaphosa says government was happy to see that many parents take education seriously as over 1 million pupils start school each year.

Income inequality and the minimum wage
26 April 2018, 5:39 AM

 

For decades South Africa rivalled BRICS partner Brazil as the country with the most unequal income distribution. However since 2000 income inequality in Brazil has dropped leaving South Africa unrivalled in this regard. The primary measure of income inequality is the Gini coefficient and countries with equitable distributions of income have Gini a coefficient of 30 or less. According to the World Bank the Gini coefficient of South Africa is 63 with Brazil now ranking eighth with a coefficient of 51

Decreasing income inequality in Brazil was due to social transfers made to the poorest population, pension reform and changes to the education system. South Africa is also attempting to reduce the level of income inequality via, inter alia, a national minimum wage.

It is envisaged that from next year all employees will earn at least R3 500 a month or R20 an hour. On the face of it this should result in a noticeable reduction in income inequality and thus a drop in the Gini coefficient. However measures of income inequality incorporate earnings (i.e. wages and salaries) as well as grants, pensions, rental income, income from savings etc. Generally inequality in earnings is far more severe than that associated with other forms of income. StatsSA’s labour dynamics survey of 2016 indicates that when these other forms of income are removed from calculations the Gini coefficient jumps to 81. By establishing the minimum wage at an appropriate level earnings income could improve dramatically.

Calculations show that if every person in formal employment earned the minimum wage the inequality in earnings will drop from 81 to 74. Given that earnings are a large part of household income this will also result in the national Gini coefficient dropping by a similar proportion.

However this reduction relies on the employers in the formal sector carrying a significantly higher wage bill. If, in the current economic climate, employers do not fork out significantly more in wage payments these prospects change dramatically. If the national minimum wage is coupled to a stagnant wage bill then large scale job losses will take place. Furthermore those job losses will be among low wage employees aggravating existing levels of income inequality.

Unless employers increase their wage payments significantly half the intended beneficiaries of the minimum wage may lose their jobs. If this happens the level of earning inequality, and thus the level of income inequality, will rise from the existing 0.81 to 0.84 or, put differently, from the envisaged 0.74 to 0.84. Such an increase will dramatically impact on the misfortunes of workers who currently earn low wages.

The diagram below displays the three income profiles associated with a) the status quo, b) all employees in the formal sector get the minimum wage and c) all formal workers get the minimum wage but employers do not increase their wage payments.

Obama to deliver Nelson Mandela Centenary Lecture
23 April 2018, 12:53 PM

Former US president Barack Obama will deliver the Nelson Mandela Centenary Lecture on July 18 at the Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg.

It’s just been announced that Obama, also a Nobel peace prize winner, will give the lecture to mark 100 years since Madiba’s birth in 1918.

Meanwhile, former President Nelson Mandela’s personal assistant Zelda La Grange says as the world marks 100 years since Madiba’s birth, it needs to do self introspection. La Grange says the world has dropped its moral bar.

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