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Sentech on track to meet digital migration deadline of March 31
14 December 2021, 8:48 PM

The country’s broadcasting signal distributor Sentech says it’s on track to complete the installation of digital set-top boxes countrywide by the end of March next year – that will mark the end of the Analog Broadcast era in South Africa and usher in a new era of Digital Broadcasting.

South Africa should have moved to Digital Broadcasting for both TV and Radio from Analog five years ago, but the government has failed to meet that deadline until now.

In his State of the Nation Address in February this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa gave Sentech the new deadline of 31st March next year.

Sentech’s Executive for Operations, Marlon Finnis, says they are now on track to meet the new deadline.

Sentech says the installation of set-top boxes will enable television viewers throughout the country to receive a better quality picture on their TV screens and a multitude of channels at the same time.

Finnis says the installation of set-top boxes has been completed in the Northern Cape and Free State provinces. The rollout has now moved to North West, other provinces will soon follow.

Households with a combined income of less than R3 500 a month qualify for a free installation.

‘No complaints’

The broadcast signal distributor says it does not predict any problems following the migration from analogue to digital in the Northern Cape.

Sentech CEO Mlamli Booi says they’ve had a successful transition in both the Free State and Northern Cape and have not received any complaints.

“We’ve developed and established infrastructure for digital broadcasting and we’ve been in the journey of switching off analogue to digital. The network is stable. Sentech has done a great job to make sure that it is maintained, kept at the highest level of quality and at all times the signal is up and running. So, we have been making good progress having switch off analogue in the free state and now we are in the Northern Cape we will be moving to the North West and other provinces where we will be turning off analogue so that we can free up the spectrum that is so much required,” says Booi.

Government clarifies the switch from analogue to digital:

Where is South Africa’s digital migration?

In 2006, the South African government accepted the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) agreement that called for countries to migrate from analogue Television to Digital Television by June 2015.

The purpose of the mandate known as the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) process was to improve the quality of TV services and maximise the efficient use of the spectrum.

The South African government initially set the deadline to complete the migration process by 2011, however, this never happened as the programme suffered setback after setback during the technology negotiations process.

On March 18, 2015, South Africa started the process of migrating broadcasting signals from analogue to digital. However, recently Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Khumbudzo Ntshavheni indicated that the television broadcast digital migration process is set to meet the 31 March 2022 deadline that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced during his State of the Nation Address earlier this year.

To assist the masses, the government says it will run an Analogue Switch-off message that will scroll on analogue TVs with dates to ensure that the population is aware and migrates before the set dates to continue receiving television services.

 

Eastern Cape residents affected by massive storm seek assistance
14 December 2021, 6:56 PM

Residents in certain areas of the Eastern Cape are picking up the pieces as a massive storm left a trail of destruction over a large area.

The largely rural Amathole District felt the brunt of the storm on Monday. Mopping up operations have started while the authorities have started the damage assessment process.

Some of the affected residents are however questioning the response they will get from the local authority, saying they only got empty promises during previous storms.

The weather was fierce, but no lives were lost in this area. More than a thousand households are affected by the storm just in the Raymond Mhlaba local municipality.

The towns of Alice, Middledrift and Dimbaza were also hit.

The residents are counting their losses, “As for now l don’t know what will happen because l lost everything. But here and there, l wish there will be someone who may assist me,” laments one resident.

The Raymond Mhlaba Municipality says it’s doing everything possible to assist the victims. Mayor  Zinziswa Rasmeni says resources are limited.

“We are coming from a meeting with Social Development SASSA and ADM we were talking about people that were never assisted in the previous disaster but they are promising they have their records where ever they get their donors they will be able to assist.”

Gift Of The Givers Community Liason Officer, Kwanele Damane says, “As Gift of the Givers we came here with a donation of blankets and food to help with the disaster.”

The inclement weather did claim a life in Mdantsane, a Xhosa initiate was struck by lightning.

‘No hope of receiving assistance’

The community of kwaGaga, outside Alice in the Eastern Cape, is not holding out much hope of receiving assistance from their local government after a storm sowed devastation over the area on Monday.

They say nothing has come of the promises from their local government after a storm ripped through the village in February last year.

Monday’s storm cut a path over the Amathole region and the towns of Alice, Fort Beaufort and Keiskammahoek were some of the areas hardest hit. The wind, lightning and hail left a trail of destruction behind it. The residents here are frustrated.

Mthatha villages

The death toll has risen to six following a heavy hailstorm that wreaked havoc in Mthatha villages. More than 19 people are still in hospital, while hundreds of homeless people say they are still waiting for the government’s intervention.

Many have no food, no clothes, electricity and clean water. Bereaved families say they have no means to bury their loved ones. The Ngolomane family lost their 17-year-old daughter to the storm.

Hailstorm claims six lives:

 

Kim Kardashian passes key test in bid to become a lawyer
14 December 2021, 6:37 PM

Kim Kardashian has cleared a key hurdle in her unconventional quest to become an attorney. The reality television star and entrepreneur said Monday on Twitter that she passed California’s First-Year Law Students’ Examination—a daylong test required of aspiring lawyers in the state who are not taking the traditional path of attending an accredited law school.

“OMFGGGG I PASSED THE BABY BAR EXAM!!!!” she wrote to her 70.7 million followers, posting photos of herself posing in a bright blue jumpsuit.

“For anyone who doesn’t know my law school journey, know this wasn’t easy or handed to me.”

Passing the test—better known as the baby bar—means Kardashian can continue her legal studies and will be able to take the full bar exam.

She said in 2019 that she was studying to become a lawyer through what is known as the Law Office Study Program, in which would-be attorneys train under the supervision of an experienced lawyer or judge.

California is among the handful of states that has such a program and is the only one with a baby bar.

Pass rate information was not yet available for the Oct. 26 exam that Kardashian took, but only 21% of those who took the exam in June passed–less than half the rate for the state’s most recent regular bar exam.

The State Bar of California on Monday said baby bar results are confidential and it could not confirm Kardashian passed.

Kardashian, whose father Robert Kardashian was on O.J. Simpson’s defense team during his 1995 murder trial, has previously said that she wants to become a lawyer to work on criminal justice reform.

She is studying under the supervision of attorneys Erin Haney and Jessica Jackson, whom Kardashian thanked on Twitter, saying they had brought her along to observe their court appearances.

Kardashian also noted she had failed the exam three times before passing. That made this her final opportunity: California typically allows people to take the First-Year Law Students’ Examination just three times but gave anyone who failed the June 2020 exam one extra try due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am so happy for her,” said University of Washington law professor, Steve Calandrillo, who tutored Kardashian on contracts via Zoom to prepare for the test. “She has worked so hard for two years now. It is not an easy exam.”

Pfizer says COVID-19 pill near 90% effective in final analysis
14 December 2021, 4:51 PM

Pfizer Inc on Tuesday said final analysis of its antiviral COVID-19 pill still showed near 90% efficacy in preventing hospitalisations and deaths in high-risk patients, and recent lab data suggests the drug retains its effectiveness against the fast spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The US drugmaker last month said the oral medicine was around 89% effective in preventing hospitalisations or deaths when compared to placebo based on interim results in around 1 200 people. The data disclosed on Tuesday includes an additional 1 000 people.

Nobody in the trial who received the Pfizer treatment died, compared with 12 deaths among placebo recipients.

The Pfizer pills are taken with the older antiviral ritonavir every 12 hours for five days beginning shortly after onset of symptoms. If authorised, the treatment will be sold as Paxlovid.

Pfizer also released early data from a second clinical trial showing that the treatment reduced hospitalizations by around 70% in around 600 standard-risk adults.

“It’s a stunning outcome,” Pfizer Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten said in an interview.

“We’re talking about a staggering number of lives saved and hospitalizations prevented. And of course, if you deploy this quickly after infection, we are likely to reduce transmission dramatically,” Dolsten said.

Dolsten said he expects authorisation for use in high-risk individuals from the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies soon. He does not believe an FDA advisory panel meeting will be needed.

“We’re in very advanced regulatory dialogues with both Europe and the UK, and we have dialogues with most of the major regulatory agencies globally,” Dolsten said.

The efficacy of Pfizer’s pill in preventing hospitalisations and deaths in at-risk patients was widely expected, so the FDA’s decision could come within a matter of weeks, if not days, said Zarina Saidova, an analyst at Moscow-based Finam Holdings.

Saidova expects Paxlovid to generate $15 billion to $20 billion in revenue next year, a significant boost for the company in the face of a potential decline in vaccine sales.

There are currently no oral antiviral treatments for COVID-9 authorized in the United States.

Rival Merck & Co has asked for emergency use authorization of its antiviral pill molnupiravir. But that drug only reduced hospitalizations and deaths in its clinical trial of high-risk patients by around 30%.

Some scientists have also raised safety concerns about the potential for birth defects from the Merck drug, as well as worries that it could cause the virus to mutate.

Pfizer’s drug works differently. It is part of a class of drugs called protease inhibitors currently used to treat HIV, hepatitis C, and other viruses.

Pfizer shares fell 0.8% to $54.75 in trading before the bell, while Merck shares were flat at $72.69

Dolsten said recent laboratory testing showed that activity against the protease of the Omicron variant is as “good as basically any SARS-COV-2 variant of concern.”

The company has said it can have 180 000 treatment courses ready to ship this year and plans to produce at least 80 million more in 2022.

Dolsten said Pfizer is looking to expand that output further as new variants, like the newly-discovered Omicron, could push the need for antivirals substantially higher. Current vaccines appear to be less effective at preventing infection with Omicron.

Pfizer, which makes one of the leading COVID-19 vaccines with German partner BioNTech, has agreed to allow generic manufacturers to supply versions of the drug to 95 low- and middle-income countries through a licensing agreement with international public health group Medicines Patent Pool (MPP). However, Dolsten said that for next year he expects the drug will be mainly produced by Pfizer.

The US government has already secured 10 million courses of the Pfizer drug for $5.29 billion.

SADC remains committed to helping Mozambique to achieve peace: Minister Pandor
14 December 2021, 4:22 PM

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor says South Africa will continue to champion for peace and security. She was addressing the end-of-the-year media briefing on Tuesday.

She says Southern African Development Community (SADC) is very concerned about the situation in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique as the neighbouring country battles insurgency.

Rwandan and Southern African forces are assisting the Mozambique army to battle an ISIS-linked insurgency in the area. A major gas project has been shelved because of the insecurity in the area.

The regional bloc has since extended the mandate of its mission there. Pandor says the immediate priority for the SADC region is the resettlement of displaced people in the northern part of Mozambique, in the Cabo Delgado province.

SADC has since extended its mission’s work to restore peace and stability in the area that has been hit by violent extremism and terrorism.

“The SADC region remains unwavering in its commitment to helping the Republic of Mozambique to achieve peace and our leaders want lasting peace in the region. In August this year, we assumed the role of chair and we will continue to support efforts to ensure that there is rule of law.”

Minister Dr. Naledi Pandor holds end-of-year media briefing:

Travel ban

On other key international issues, Pandor has once again denounced the corrosive travel ban implemented on South Africa and neighbouring countries, saying such a move has inflicted harm on regional economies – after the discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“What is of concern to us is that we now know Omicron had been present in so many countries that banned us. They ignored science and they have thus imposed the terrible apartheid ban.”

Pretoria’s top diplomat has also reaffirmed South Africa’s position on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

“We believe the Palestinian question remains at the heart of instability in the Middle East. You need comprehensive and unconditional settlement and end Israel blockade.”

Minister Pandor says they are very concerned about the situation in Ethiopia. She says Pretoria will always advocate for peace and called on warring parties to negotiate in Ethiopia, the home of the African Union headquarters.

Pretoria is also keeping a close eye on the Kingdom of Lesotho and wants the current impasse in the kingdom of Eswatini to end.

Weather

 

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