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World rings in the new year amid wildfires, protests
31 December 2019, 2:37 PM

Millions of people began ringing in 2020 with fireworks, dancing and champagne on Wednesday, but Australia’s celebrations were overshadowed by deadly wildfires while protests dampened the festive mood in Hong Kong and India.

New Zealanders were among the first to welcome the new year, with fireworks lighting up the night sky over Auckland.

Watch below as New Zealand welcomes 2020.

Large crowds thronged Sydney harbour to watch Australia’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks, even as smoke turned the evening sky in nearby coastal towns blood-red.

Many towns along the country’s eastern coast cancelled their fireworks as thousands swarmed to beaches to escape the fires.

Millions of people began ringing in 2020 with fireworks, dancing and champagne on Wednesday, but Australia’s celebrations were overshadowed by deadly wildfires while protests dampened the festive mood in Hong Kong and India.

Hong Kong’s government also cancelled its popular New Year’s Eve fireworks in Victoria Harbour due to security concerns as protesters staged more rallies against what they see as an erosion of democracy in the Chinese-ruled city.

Thousands in India also planned to greet the new year with protests, angered by a citizenship law they say will discriminate against Muslims and chip away at the country’s secular constitution.


Sydney decided to press ahead with its fireworks display despite calls by some members of the public for it to be cancelled in solidarity with fire-hit areas in New South Wales, of which the city is the capital.

“Tonight we expect a million people around the Harbour and a billion people around the world to watch Sydney’s New Year Eve celebrations, which is Australia’s biggest public event,” City of Sydney mayor Clover Moore told reporters.

Some tourists trapped in Australia’s coastal towns posted images of blood-red, smoke-filled skies on social media. One beachfront photograph showed people lying shoulder-to-shoulder on the sand, some wearing gas masks.

The fires have spread across four states, with fronts stretching hundreds of kilometres in some cases. They have killed at least 11 people since October and left many towns and rural areas without electricity and mobile coverage.

Defending the decision not to cancel Sydney’s fireworks and reallocate funds to fire-affected regions, Moore said planning had begun 15 months ago and most of the budget had already been allocated.

The event was also a boost to NSW’s economy. Not everybody welcomed that decision.

“Is Sydney seriously still getting fireworks tonight when half our country is on fire,” Twitter user @swiftyshaz13 said.


In Hong Kong, rocked by months of sometimes violent demonstrations, protesters were urged to wear masks at a rally called “Don’t forget 2019 – Persist in 2020” on Tuesday evening, according to social media posts.

“My new year wish is this movement can end soon but not because we lost the fight, because we win the fight,” said 40-year-old clerk Kong, who joined a small lunchtime protest in the central financial district and gave only her last name.

Authorities have deployed 6,000 police officers and Chief Executive Carrie Lam appealed for calm and reconciliation in her New Year’s Eve video message.

The protests began in June in response to a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party, and have evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.

India has also been gripped by weeks of protests over legislation introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government that eases the way for non-Muslim minorities in neighbouring Muslim-majority nations such as Pakistan and Bangladesh to gain Indian citizenship.

Protesters planned demonstrations on Tuesday in the capital New Delhi, now in the grip of its second coldest winter in more than a century, the financial capital Mumbai and other cities.


Children’s Rights groups plead with communities to report sexual offenders
30 December 2019, 8:18 PM

Children’s Rights groups have again made a plea to communities to report known sexual offenders to police. They say everyone has a legal obligation to do this and failure to report abuse can result in a criminal offence.

Three years ago a 9-year-old was allegedly violated by a 61-year old. The alleged perpetrator is the relative of a friend she played with. Now, she’s more in court than in school.

Her grandmother learnt of her encounter through the school governing body after she penned a letter that was found in a fellow pupil’s book.

“It was openly known that this old man rapes children and even impregnated some of them, but the community swept it under the carpet. That is why I involved the community and had a petition signed so that something could be done.”

The girl’s nightmare didn’t end there. Earlier this year, she was allegedly also raped by two nyaope addicts while walking home from school.

All three suspects have been denied bail.

Her grandmother explains that attending two different court cases has taken a toll on her young life.

“I’m hurt. A piece of me has been forever damaged. I stay awake the night before every court case, thinking of her reliving the trauma in court.”

Children’s Rights group says community members who fail to report such cases perpetuate the cycle of abuse.

Teddy Bear Clinic’s Shahida Omar says, “The message that is conveyed out there that this kind of behaviour can continue by remaining silent. They are then instrumental in promoting this kind of behaviour in the community as it gives a message to would-be offenders that there is no recourse for this kind of unlawful behaviour.”

Omar explains that criminal charges can be instituted against anyone who contravenes the law.

“It’s not a moral obligation to report, it’s a legal obligation. First, in terms of the Children’s Act where there is any suspicion, doubt or inkling of an idea that something is happening, it’s a legal obligation to report in terms of the Sexual Offences Act. Failure to report constitutes a criminal offence, people out there need to be aware of the reporting requirements.”

There will be many more victims like this if communities remain complacent.

For this 9-year-old the road to justice is pitted with lengthy proceedings and missed tuition.

A veritable nightmare which no child should ever have to endure.

The backlash in China and globally about the ethics of his research and work was fast and widespread.
Chinese court sentences “gene-editing” scientist to 3 years in prison
30 December 2019, 8:16 PM

A Chinese court sentenced the scientist who created the world’s first “gene-edited” babies to three years in prison on Monday for illegally practising medicine and violating research regulations, the official Xinhuanews agency said.

In November 2018, He Jiankui, then an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, said he had used gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to change the genes of twin girls to protect them from getting infected with the AIDS virus in the future.

The backlash in China and globally about the ethics of his research and work was fast and widespread.

Xinhua said He and his collaborators forged ethical review materials and recruited men with AIDS who were part of a couple to carry out the gene-editing.

His experiments, it said, resulted in two women giving birth to three gene-edited babies.

The court also handed lesser sentences to Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, who worked at two unnamed medical institutions, for having conspired with He in his work.

“The three accused did not have the proper certification to practice medicine, and in seeking fame and wealth, deliberately violated national regulations in scientific research and medical treatment,” the court said in its verdict, according to Xinhua.

“They have crossed the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics.

Getting into the swing of things, Kamte knows what it takes to compete at the highest level.
South African golfer James Kamte gives back to his community
30 December 2019, 6:41 PM

Professional Eastern Cape born golfer James Kamte is giving back to his community as he launched a golfing foundation in his hometown of Humansdorp. It’s aimed at exposing young golfers from disadvantaged areas to golf.

Getting into the swing of things, Kamte knows what it takes to compete at the highest level. He is a product of the Ernie Els Foundation and turned professional in 2004. He then started giving golfing clinics in 2015.

“I always wanted to give back but I couldn’t do it back then due to my hectic traveling. But now the time is right and they have shown dedication and commitment. I have no doubt that one day, they will turn into professional golfers and they will make their community proud.”

Golfer Bridget Gasa says that Kamte always had a passion to develop golf in this region.

“It’s nice to see someone exposing golf to disadvantage golfers, he has done a really good job and the kids have responded positively, he is making a huge difference.”

Young golfer, Sonwabile Matshoba, says that he is glad to be part of this winning foundation: “James is teaching us a lot about golf and we are very confident. The future looks good.”

Kamte’s sights are now on next year’s European Tour but he will first tee it up at the South African Open at Rand Park Golf Club early January.


AFROPUNK festival celebrates arts, film and fashion
30 December 2019, 6:28 PM

A two-day AFROPUNK 2020 kicked off at Constitution Hill, Braamfontein, on Monday.

The event has been running for three years in South Africa and celebrates arts, film, and fashion produced by Africans.

The event made its debut in Brooklyn, USA, in 2005 then expanded to multiple cities across the world including Paris, London and more recently Johannesburg. Artists this year include Miguel, Solange and Sho Madjozi.

The annual global festival has become a defining culture in the music world, bringing a triumph of multiculturalism and diversity to inner cities.



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