Lindiwe Sisulu and the New Denialism

Picture credit: Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, addresses Parliament during the State of the Nation Address in June this year courtesy GovernmentZA/flickr

Richard Pithouse - Lindiwe Sisulu's assertion that people under forty "have lost nothing [to apartheid]" is one of the most extraordinary statements to have escaped from the mouth of a cabinet minister since 1994. The pretence that apartheid's consequences came to an end in 1994 is the sort of denialism that is so out of touch with reality - and in a way that works to naturalise inequalities inherited from a long history of brutal oppression that turned race into class - that it's almost obscene to even engage it as if it were a serious proposition.


Synthetic Biology: Artificial Life Threatens Nature and Society

Picture credit: Get ready for extreme genetic engineering in your ice cream cautions environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Glenn Ashton - If genetic modification of our food were not enough, biologists continue to push the boundaries of their ability to alter life on earth in novel and unpredictable ways. The latest version is known as synthetic biology, or "synbio". We are all familiar with chemical based artificial ingredients, especially flavourants and preservatives, in our food. However our evolving ability to manipulate genes enables us to synthesise entirely new living organisms in previously unimaginable ways. Get ready for a new synbio product that is about to enter mainstream society in a big way - a supposedly "nature identical" vanilla essence ready to go on sale. Ice cream lovers should take note.

Brazil's Dilma Rousseff Re-Elected in Close Vote

Picture credit: Dilma Rousseff in Porto Alegre during the second round of voting in Brazil last week courtesy Ichiro War/Sala de Imprensa/flickr Emile Schepers - Brazil's incumbent president, Dilma Rousseff, of the left leaning Workers' Party (PT) won a close election on Sunday, defeating right winger Aecio Neves, of the so-called Social Democratic Party (PSDB) by a margin of 51.56% to 48.52%. The falloff of the vote for Rousseff since her first election in 2011 can be attributed to several things: The sharp worldwide drop in the price of oil, which has led to an economic slump in Brazil. There were also riots last year over the quantity of money government was spending on the FIFA World Cup. At the same time, while poverty has been drastically reduced, health, education and transportation services urgently need improvement.

Sometimes It's Better Not to Overstay One's Visit: Once More on NUMSA and the Demise of COSATU

Picture credit: Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary of Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and Irvin Jim, General Secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa Leonard Gentle - NUMSA gains nothing from the charade of ANC mediation and the endless postponement of the organisational consequences of what is actually a major political break. COSATU's unending internal shenanigans and the ANC's Task Team are at best, a distraction and at worst, a cynical ploy to drain NUMSA's energy in on-going self-defeating procedures. NUMSA should just get on with the December launch of its much-postponed United Front. There is everything to be gained there. Like the EFF, NUMSA will face every kind of demonization and character assassination. But that is the path of social justice.

Nene's Medium Term Budget Fails to Get Balance Right between Fiscal and Social Responsibility

Picture credit: South Africa Ebrahim-Khalil Hassen - South Africa's new finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, has delivered his inaugural Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement. How does it measure up? Measuring the budget's performance should not just be about fiscal responsibility; it should also be about social change. Unlike his counterparts in other developing countries who have managed to decrease economic inequality through innovation budgeting, Nene has demonstrated no flair by unimaginatively prioritising fiscal prudence over social change. It is true that South Africa's budgeting and financial systems are routinely ranked amongst the best in the world. But what is the point of having a world-class budgeting system if it is unable to support social change?

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How Will Governments Relate to People Who Are More Empowered? Is the Internet Transforming Democracy?

Picture credit: Here Is the City Video Watch - Mass person-to-person collaboration has the potential to upend the fundamental power structure of the world as we know it. Not just hyperbole, but a process already taking place across the UK and the world. Us Now follows the fate of Ebbsfleet United, a football club owned and managed by 30,000 of its online fans; Zopa, a bank in which everyone is the CEO, and CouchSurfing, a vast online network whose members share their homes with strangers. The founding principles of these projects - transparency, self-selection, open participation - are fast becoming the mainstream of how our social and political lives are governed. This film describes this transition, and confronts UK politicians George Osborne and Ed Miliband with the possibilities for a new brand of participative government.

Syrian War Leaves Ancient Art Endangered

Picture credit: World Monuments Fund Video Watch - In March 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan, 6th century statues carved into the rock in Afghanistan. Today the war in Syria is putting valuable cultural artefacts under threat. Lisa Ackerman, Executive Vice President of The World Monuments Fund, talks about how the current Syrian civil crisis has caused catastrophic destruction to the old city Aleppo and left its antiquities in the hands of looters. Most tragically, basalt relief sculptures unearthed in the Temple of the Storm God, which date back from the third to the second millennium B.C., appear to have been destroyed.

How about Handing over Hard Cash to the Poor with No Strings Attached?

Video Watch - Technology allows us to give cash directly to the poorest people on the planet. Should we do it? In this thought-provoking TED talk, veteran aid worker Joy Sun talks about unconditional cash transfers highlighting an innovative project that makes once off cash donations to poor individuals with no strings attached. Watch this talk to learn what difference a thousand dollar direct cash transfer can make to the life of a poor person who is able to spend the money as he or she pleases. The results have been surprising and debunk the notion that the poor are unable to make autonomous judgments about what's good for them.

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