Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Obama selfie

This time it is First Lady Michelle Obama that's selfie-ing with Bo, the Obama family dog.
Michelle Obama with Bo                  (c) White House Photo
"Selfie" was named 'word of the year' by Oxford Dictionary.
Dictionaries defines it as:
(n.) a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.
It's not a new word -- its origins date to a 2002 posting in an Australian Web forum, according to Reuters -- but that doesn't matter. "The Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past 12 months and it does not have to be a word that will stick around for a good length of time," Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, tells Reuters.
Oxford's editors say use of the word has gone up a staggering 17,000% in the past year, Reuters reports.

Sugar-coating a deadly health crisis

Does South Africa’s economy need a spoonful of medicine to make our sugar intake go down?

A study – the first of its kind in the country – has revealed that one in five South Africans is eating too much sugar, and that our collective sweet tooth is likely to cause a few cavities in the country’s coffers.
The study, known as the South African National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey (Sanhanes-1) and compiled by the Human Sciences Research Council, conducted surveys and interviews with more than 25 000 people across 500 different areas in South Africa. The findings showed that 19.7% of South Africans were consuming an excessive amount of sugar. Almost 21% reported a family history of high blood sugar as well.
Our sugar high is part of a global trend. A report called Sugar: Consumption at a Crossroads, compiled by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, says that the global consumption of added sugar has "increased dramatically" over the past few decades.
The average person now consumes 17 teaspoons (70g) of sugar and similar sweeteners a day. In certain countries it’s much, much higher. In the United States the average is 40 teaspoons a day, and in Mexico it’s 35.

Zimbabwe's ambassador to Australia: "I can't go back, I fear for my life"

"Zimbabwe's ambassador to Australia has asked for political asylum just days before her term ends saying she fears for her safety if she goes home, media reported on Saturday.
Jacqueline Zwambila, who is a member of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was appointed to Australia to renew ties between the countries after a unity government was formed in Zimbabwe in 2009."

Monday, December 30, 2013

Boko Haram: An overview of 2013

The year 2013 is only hours away, yet no respite in sight for the many Nigerians daily tormented by the terror called Boko Haram.  Will the new year be different?
Nigeria's information minister, Labaran Maku, is quoted as saying that the government hopes to stamp out the insurgence in the new year.
"What is clear is that in the year 2013, tremendous success was made and most of the insurgents that infiltrated into other states from the North East when the pressure went there were picked up. Some were picked up as far away as Lagos and Ogun and a number of them are in detention and trial is going on gradually," he said.
No doubt, the government has made little success.  A lot remains to be done.  Thousands of Nigerians are now refugees in Cameroun.  For many of them the fear of Boko Haram seems the beginning of wisdom.

Maternal mortality in Nigeria

More women die during child birth in Nigeria than in Afghanistan, Iraq and India combined, according to figures from the World Bank.  Yet the combined population of these countries is more than ten times that of Nigeria.
In a country where the health of citizens is taken seriously, this is a crisis that requires declaring a state of emergency.  Healthcare administration and management in Nigeria requires drastic overhaul.
But who cares?  Certainly many in Abuja don't.

Monday, December 23, 2013

AK 47, Africa and the curse of a weapon

Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau

The man who invented AK-47, Michail Kalashnikov is dead.  He died Monday, according to Russia Today.  Kalashnikov died peacefully at the age of 94.  He spent much of his life in the Ural Mountains, the region in his home country of Russia where his popular rifle is produced.

One of the terrorists in Kenya's Westgate attack
Kalashnikov's invention is a Russian invention that has found huge market in Africa.  It’s the most common weapon of destruction in Nigeria’s Niger Delta and the northeast where Islamic terrorists and militants continue to engage government in the struggle for power.  
For Africa, the name Kalashnikov is a sad reminder of all that's wrong with the continent; its violent struggles of the part, and present. 
Nigeria’s chief of army standards and evaluation, Major-General Shehu Abdulkadir, recently noted 70 per cent of the 10 million illegal weapons in circulation in West Africa are in Nigeria.  Most of these weapons are AK-47s.  In many corners of Africa, these weapons are favored by political thugs, militants, religious terrorists, drug gangs, kidnappers, autocrats, guerrillas, child soldiers and armed robbers.  

Justine Sacco's apology for offensive tweet

Justine Sacco                (c) abcnews.go.com
Here is the former PR executive's apology as tendered to The Star newspaper South Africa and ABC News:
Words cannot express how sorry I am, and how necessary it is for me to apologize to the people of South Africa, who I have offended due to a needless and careless tweet," Sacco said in the statement. "There is an AIDS crisis taking place in this country, that we read about in America, but do not live with or face on a continuous basis. Unfortunately, it is terribly easy to be cavalier about an epidemic that one has never witnessed firsthand.
For being insensitive to this crisis -- which does not discriminate by race, gender or sexual orientation, but which terrifies us all uniformly -- and to the millions of people living with the virus, I am ashamed.
This is my father's country, and I was born here. I cherish my ties to South Africa and my frequent visits, but I am in anguish knowing that my remarks have caused pain to so many people here; my family, friends and fellow South Africans. I am very sorry for the pain I caused.
The apology came a day after IAC said it had fired Sacco.  "There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally," InterActive Corp said in a statement.   Hers is a remarkable lesson in How Not To Be a PR.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

PR executive Justine Sacco fired for lousy tweet about Africa

A PR executive for major media company IAC who tweeted a racist 'joke' on Friday that sparked a social media revolt has been fired from her position following the incident.
Justine Sacco - the now-former Communications Director for IAC, a company owned by Barry Diller - was about to board a 12-hour flight from London to Cape Town when she Tweeted: 'Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just Kidding. I'm White!'
The post had been retweeted over 3,000 times and was picked up by media outlets around the world, however Sacco remained completely unaware of it all because she was in the air.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mandela’s legacy as a health campaigner

Mandela during a visit to HIV program in 2002 (c)irinnews.com
It’s not often that we see politicians celebrated the way former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has been celebrated the past two weeks.  As I watched the remains of the 95-year-old activist committed to mother earth last Sunday, something in me wished we had him a little longer.  Many in South Africa would wish same. But alas Madiba’s long walk to freedom has ended.
For quite some time now, South Africans battled with the difficulty of dealing with the prospect of losing the man who not only led the country out of apartheid but saved it from the precipice of a civil war.  So deep is the affection for Mandela among South Africans of all races that the thought of his death seemed incomprehensible.  It seems too high an aspiration to place on one individual, but in the eyes of many in Africa, Mandela represents hope, freedom and peace, virtues that are very short supply on the continent.
Mandela stands out as a human rights icon and a remarkable lesson in leadership.  In no other part of the world is that lesson most needed today than in Africa.  In many ways, what Robert Mugabe is today in Zimbabwe is what Nelson Mandela could have been in South Africa; but he chose a different path. He opted for reconciliation, reconstruction and restoration and in doing so united a broken nation.  His life and the causes that he lived for resonates among people of all race, creed and persuasions.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Selfie: Danes surprised by global attention

L-R: PM Cameron, PM Thorning-Schmidt and Obama (c)afp
"More Scandi stylein politics would do the world a lot of good." I totally agree.
While reactions in the US and UK has been heated and largely negative over the selfie involving President Obama, PM Cameron and PM Thorning-Schmidt.  Citizens of Denmark, home country of the lady that initiated the controversial selfie, careless.
Distasteful? Inappropriate? The Danes don't think so:
Cute PM Thorning-Schmidt and huzzy (c) dailymail
"Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt made headlines after snapping a selfie of herself nestled in between UK Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama at Mandela's memorial service on Tuesday.
The "selfie" went viral online almost immediately. But you could be forgiven for not knowing who this blonde beauty taking a photo with a smartphone of herself with two political power houses is, unless you are Danish, like myself, or up to date on your current affairs.
Many newspapers are calling into question whether it was appropriate for "Gucci Helle," as she is called by many Danes for her sense of style, to take a "selfie" during Tuesday's memorial service.
The Times wrote that Obama tested the limits of "funeral etiquette" (despite the memorial not being a funeral) with the self-portrait. Although they may have been acting less than gracefully at the moment the snap was taken, they did seem to be enjoying each other's company and Thorning-Schmidt just couldn't resist the urge to document the moment for herself. She may after all never have the opportunity again.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's just a selfie, Presidents are humans after all

Two key moments dominated today's memorial service for the late South African leader, Nelson Mandela in the social media. The first is President Barack Obama's historic handshake with Raul Castro, the Cuban president, and brother of Fidel Castro.  The other is Obama's selfie with Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and British PM, David Cameron.
I can understand why the handshake is of interest.  America's 50-year-old diplomatic face-off with Cuba has meant leaders of two nations just don't interact. I am not sure Fidel Castro ever shook hands with any US president and he tenured through at least ten of them.
On the selfie, the reactions on Twitter and Facebook have been mixed.  It's amazing how it turned out to be such a social media feast.  Here's the take of some of the mainstream media on it:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Islamist militants attack airforce base

Scene of a recent Boko Haram attack
Hundreds of Islamic militants in trucks and a stolen armored personnel carrier attacked an air force base and international airport on the outskirts of a Nigerian city before dawn Monday, officials and witnesses said, possibly leaving scores of people dead in one of the insurgent group's most daring attacks.
Two helicopters and three decommissioned military aircraft were "incapacitated" in the attack, said a statement from Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, the Ministry of Defense spokesman. He said some army bases also were hit.
Twenty-four insurgents were killed and many were wounded along with two air force personnel, Olukolade said in a statement.