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Man in North Sumatra jailed for insulting Prophet Muhammad on Facebook

first_imgJudges at the Simalungun District Court in North Sumatra have sentenced Gernal Luncu Nainggolan to one year in prison after he was found guilty of insulting Prophet Muhammad on Facebook.The verdict hearing took place on Oct. 8. The sentence was lighter than the initial punishment demanded by prosecutors of 1.5 years’ imprisonment.Presiding judge A. Hadi Nasution said the judges opted for a lighter sentence as Gernal had apologized for his mistakes. Both the defendant and prosecutors accepted the verdict and decided not to file an appeal.Read also: Medan YouTuber sentenced to prison for insulting Prophet Muhammad’s wife in a viral videoSimalungun Prosecutor’s Office intelligence unit head Ratno Timur Habeahan told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that prosecutors decided to accept the verdict because the sentence still fulfilled two-thirds of the initial sentence demand.He added the prosecutors were still waiting to receive a copy of the verdict before transferring Gernal to a penitentiary, with the defendant sent to the Pematang Siantar detention center in the meantime.Gernal was found guilty of violating articles 45A and 28 of the 2016 Electronic Information and Transactions Law on inciting hatred on the basis of ethnicity, religion or race. He was reported to the authorities for a Facebook post that allegedly insulted Prophet Muhammad.He also mentioned controversial cleric Bahar bin Ali bin Smith in another post in May.Officers from the Simalungun Police arrested Gernal on May 21. He pleaded guilty and apologized for actions upon his arrest. (ami)Topics :last_img read more

Cabinet meets with overseas based nationals at Dominica Diaspora Dialogue

first_imgLocalNews Cabinet meets with overseas based nationals at Dominica Diaspora Dialogue by: – November 1, 2011 Tweet Sharing is caring! Share Sharecenter_img 105 Views   no discussions Share Audience at this morning’s Dominica Diaspora DialogueMembers of the Cabinet this morning met with several overseas based nationals at a Dominica Diaspora Dialogue under the theme “Enhancing Partnership for Sustainable Development” at the Fort Young Hotel in Roseau.This dialogue organized by the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit of the Ministry of Employment, Trade, Industry and Diaspora Affairs is an avenue for members of the Cabinet to meet with overseas based nationals with a view to discussing pertinent issues affecting them, development ideas for the country which they may have as well as areas in which they can invest in the country.Monsignor Eustace Thomas prayed that members of the general public find ways to build the nation instead of destroying it.“Father may this dialogue be sober, cordial, uplifting and devoid of any form of acrimony, false accusations and hate. May our statements and questions be respectful, impartial and non-partisan so that while this function will come to a close, this year’s independence theme “Celebrating 33; Joining Hands In Unity” will have fulfilled its purpose.”Monsignor Thomas also prayed that nationals would “get rid of the bitterness, passion and anger no more shouting or insults no more hateful feelings of any sort” and instead “be kind and tender hearted to one another and forgive one another as God has forgiven you through Christ.” Monsignor Eustace ThomasThe minster with responsibility for Employment, Trade, Industry and Diaspora Affairs Regional, Dr John Collin McIntyre while highlighting the importance of this dialogue, stated that it is an example of the benefits of working together.“This yearly event is perhaps the most important meeting organized by the Regional Integration and Diaspora Affairs Unit of my ministry. It provides and important bridge between the Dominicans resident abroad, recent returnees and the Government of Dominica. Many influential ideas are generated from these events and they assist us in developing policy solutions. They have long been a fruitful partnership between our overseas based nationals and the government and this is a great example of the benefit of working together towards a common goal,” he said.Dr McIntyre further thanked the overseas based nationals for their contributions to the development and policy making of Dominica through their many ideas.“We look forward to an open and enthusiastic exchange of ideas, as the ideas we develop here today will contribute to policy decisions of the future. We genuinely appreciate your contributions and look forward to the continued engagements in a productive dialogue. We would like to recognize the contributions of many other returnees; Dominicans who for whatever reason went abroad to live and develop their skills but have since returned to play their part in national development. We truly appreciate your contribution to development of the nature isle. We appreciate the efforts of those of you who despite living in foreign lands continue to keep Dominica in your hearts and are always willing to assist in whatever way possible,” the minister said.Dr. John Collin McIntyre Meantime Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit while addressing the Diaspora Dialogue said although countries around the world are faced with very challenging times the government is committed to working with persons who are serious about the development of the island.“We have continued to hold our own in so far as the economic situation confronting Dominica and we will all appreciate that Dominica has been making strides over the last several years and we are committed to this. We’re committed to engaging everybody who is serious about working for the development of Dominica, those who see that they have a constructive role to play, those who love this country and like would like to see this country taken to the next level and see that there can be more progress and prosperity, we want to move to a point where everybody in this country can have a decent home, a decent shelter and we want to ensure that we continue with our objective of ensuring that we have at least one university graduate in every home in this country,” he said.The Prime Minister also told the overseas based nationals that the dialogue is an opportunity for them to identify ways in which they can find areas in which they can make a contribution to Dominica’s development.Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit“The purpose of this gathering is to hear from you in large measure as to what can you do from where you are to help in the building of Dominica. You’re a medical doctor, you’re a nurse, teacher, professor at a university, an accountant, you are involved in investment banking; whatever you’re involved in, how can I make a contribution to Dominica’s development.Mr Skerrit also noted that in recent times “a lot more Dominicans are coming to the island to invest in the country and not waiting when they retire”. This year’s dialogue took a slightly different twist in that officials from the various banking institutions, the National Cooperative Credit Union, Customs and Immigration Departments, Dominica Social Security, Invest Dominica Authority and DEXIA were in attendance to assist the overseas based nationals with inquiries and concerns which they may have.Dominica Vibes Newslast_img read more

Survey: Americans Still Value Social Security

first_imgINDIANAPOLIS – A recent survey finds broad support across party lines and age for the value of Social Security – even when it comes to paying a little more to expand benefits.The survey of Americans 21 and older finds 3 out of 4 value Social Security, with 86 percent agreeing that the current program does not provide sufficient income for beneficiaries.Stephen Gorin is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance, which issued the findings.“Large numbers of people, including many Republicans, who you might not expect, were willing to pay a bit more to ensure that Social Security is solvent well beyond the next 75 years,” he says.The study was based on an online survey in June of more than 2,000 Americans aged 21 and over.Gorin says the survey finds more Americans are willing to make tradeoffs, such as a gradual increase of one percent over 20 years on the Social Security tax rate.“What it breaks down to is for somebody – a worker – who’s earning $50,000 a year,” he points out. “They might wind up paying 50 cents a week more each year, and that would be matched by the employer.“That would go a long way towards ensuring the stability of the Social Security Trust Fund.”Gorin says most of those surveyed want to see a package of fixes that would support and expand Social Security for 75 years and beyond.Mary Kuhlmanlast_img read more

Cricket News BCCI announces cash reward for Virat Kohli brigade after historic series win against Aussies

first_img For all the Latest Sports News News, Cricket News News, Download News Nation Android and iOS Mobile Apps. New Delhi: The Committee of Administrators (CoA) of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Tuesday has announced cash awards for the Indian squad for the historic win in Test series against Australia. The win is historic as Team India became the first Asian team to defeat Aussies on their home soil in a Test series. BCCI has announced Rs 7.5 lakh per match for reserve players, Rs 25 lakhs for each coach. For Team India Support Staff (non-coaching), bonuses will be equivalent to the pro-rata salary/professional fee. For all Test team members, bonuses will be equivalent to actual match-fee payable which is Rs 15 lakhs per match for playing a match.After seven decades of pain, Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team etched their name in the history books as they became the first Indian team to win a series Down Under. With victories in Adelaide, Melbourne and a draw in Sydney, India won the four-Test series 2-1 to officially clinch the Border-Gavaskar Trophy outright.Also Read | Rishabh Pant is one for future, says Sourav GangulyThe series result comes as a massive boost to the Indian team and it serves as a catalyst to end their overseas woes after losing 1-2 to South Africa and 1-4 to England. In both the series, India had missed out on capitalizing on key opportunities but in Australia, all their plans came to the fore. Kohli’s Indian cricket team achieved what previous Indian teams could not. All the pain suffered by legends like Vijay hazare, Vijay Merchant, Ajit Wadekar, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman will now be erased as Kohli’s side create a new chapter.After the historic win, Indian skipper Virat Kohli said, “By far, this is my biggest achievement. It’s at the top of the pile. When we won the 2011 World Cup, I was the youngest member of the side. Saw everyone emotional there, but I didn’t feel it. Here, after coming three times, this win means something else. The series win will give us a different identity, and what we’ve been able to achieve… something to be proud of’’. Virat Kohli-led Team India is all geared up for the three-matches ODI series against the Aussies, commencing from January 12. last_img read more

Steelers CB Gay fined $15,750 for hit on Campbell

first_imgCleveland Browns quarterback Jason Campbell lies near midfield after suffering a concussion in the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. Pittsburgh won the game 27-11. (AP Photo/David Richard)NEW YORK (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay has been fined $15,750 by the NFL for his hit last Sunday that gave Browns quarterback Jason Campbell a concussion.Gay was fined Friday for unnecessary roughness because he unnecessarily delivered a forcible blow to the head and neck area of Campbell.Also fined Sunday was Saints defensive end Cam Jordan, docked $10,000 for a hit on Falcons QB Matt Ryan.Lions DT Ndamukong Suh was fined $7,875 for motioning a throat slash in a game with Tampa Bay. Jets DT Kenrick Ellis was fined $7,875 for unnecessary roughness when he grabbed Baltimore QB Joe Flacco’s face mask.Bears guard Kyle Long was docked the same amount for unnecessarily striking a Rams opponent during a skirmish involving several players.___AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.orglast_img read more

About Town

first_imgATLANTIC HIGHLANDSThe Atlantic Highlands Arts Council, an all-volunteer arts council, plans an all-new website and logo and is looking for someone to design the logo.Designers are invited to submit a logo expressing the vision and role of the arts council by July 2 to be considered for a $200 prize. Entries may be submitted by mail or e-mail or hand-delivered.Contest rules are available at www.atlantichighlandsartscouncil.org; by e-mailing [email protected], or calling 732-737-7160.* * * * *Captain David Harrison, base commander for Naval Weapons Station Earle, will speak at the Historical Society meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 20. The meeting will take place at the Atlantic Highlands Senior Center in the Municipal Harbor.A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Harrison has served in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he led Navy efforts against radio-controlled improvised explosive devices (RCIED). Among his many U.S. Department of Defense positions, he has worked in Counter-Terrorism Policy and as deputy director for Deep Submarine Rescue and Diving. He received a Bronze Star and three Joint Meritorious Unit Awards for Operations Enduring Free­dom and Iraqi Freedom, and also holds a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from Tufts University.Harrison will talk about environmental and community initiatives supported by the Navy in Monmouth County communities, and will answer audience questions. He also will share information and stories about the history and current use of the naval base.NWS Earle was commissioned in 1943, and includes a 2.9 mile-long pier in Sandy Hook Bay plus Bayshore property in Leonardo and a larger inland base in Colts Neck.LINCROFTDebbie Mans, executive director of the N.Y/N.J. Baykeeper headquartered in Keyport, will report on the health of New Jersey and New York bays, especially Raritan Bay, at 6:30 p.m., Monday, June 25 at Brookdale Community College.The presentation, open to the public, will include the college’s students and the members of the N.J. Friends of Clearwater and the Jersey Shore (Monmouth) Group of the Sierra Club.Mans also will discuss the ups and downs of her organization’s disputes with the state Department of Envi­ronmental Protection (DEP) over Baykeeper’s attempt to determine if oysters, whose beds were decimated by overharvesting and pollution, can be repopulated in Raritan Bay.The DEP, having been criticized by the U.S. Environ­mental Protection Agency (EPA), shut down the Baykeeper’s effort to reintroduce the oyster. The DEP claimed that if poachers illegally took the oysters from the bay’s polluted waters, the contaminated oysters could make people ill and jeopardize the state’s entire shellfish industry. The U.S. Navy became involved in the issue.A cash buffet will be offered at 6 p.m. Mans’ presentation begins at 6:30 p.m.COLTS NECKThe Ashley Lauren Foundation is holding a Dance Walk for Kids with Cancer fundraiser.The event will be held on Saturday, June 23, with registration beginning at 11 a.m. It will take place on the walking path at the Colts Neck Municipal Complex, 124 Cedar Drive.The dance walk was made popular on Facebook by Ben Aaron, an LXTV NBC reporter, and has been viewed by 17 million people. It is walking and dancing – all done to music.A $10 donation will be accepted and be used to support the programs of The Ashley Lauren Foundation that help ease the burden of families with a child with cancer.The foundation helps with direct family assistance with such items as household bills, bills and medications not paid through medical insurance and traveling expenses to and from hospitals. The fundraising will also support programs for assistance with food, clothing, and household items; emotional support; support groups; parties for children; advocacy; outings; birthday and holiday gifts for children; the Making Dreams Come True program and anything else that is needed to make their lives easier and to let each child know that he or she is important.Additional information is available by calling the Ashley Lauren Foundation at 732-414-1625.* * * * *Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, the Monmouth County Park System’s Eco-Elephant Family Flea Market is the place to be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 23.Held at Dorbrook Recrea­tion Area on Route 537, this event features individual, business and nonprofit vendors. Who knows what you might find? Discovery is half the fun.Prospective vendors are still welcome up to and including the day of the event. Vendors are responsible for providing their own tables, tent, merchandise and genial attitude. Those interested should email [email protected] or call 732-542-1642, Ext. 31.Additional information regarding the Monmouth County Park System is available by visiting www.monmouthcountyparks.com or calling 732-842-4000. Those with hearing impairment may dial 711 for the TTY/TDD number.RED BANKThe Men’s Ministry of the Pilgrim Baptist Church will host its annual Fatherhood Mentors Breakfast at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 16.The guest speaker for this year’s event will be Derrick Simmons of the Boys & Girls Club of Paterson.There is no cost for the breakfast. Fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers and surrogate fathers are encouraged to bring a young man for a morning of fun and fellowship. All are welcome.Further information is available by calling 732-747-2348.* * * * *The New Jersey premiere of Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love, will be presented as a benefit by Monmouth Arts at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 21.The film will be shown at the Clearview Cinema on 36 White St. A reception will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Art Alliance, 33 Monmouth St.The reception and film will be $35 for Monmouth Arts members, $45 for non-members, and $10 for the film only.The proceeds will be used to match a New Jersey State Council on the Arts grant to benefit Monmouth Arts community arts programs.Sony Pictures Classics, Surf Taco, and the Springpoint Senior Living Foundation are sponsors of the event.LITTLE SILVERThe Little Silver Public Library is sponsoring a talk at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28, by author Jon Gertner who will discusses his book, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation.Gertner, an editor at Fast Company magazine and a writer for The New York Times magazine, documents the scientists behind the success of Bell Labs and looks at the reasons why Bell Labs became a source of innovation for electronic communication today.MIDDLETOWNThe Toms River-based ASTRA group is returning to lead the kick-off event of the teen summer reading program at the Middletown Township Public Library.The evening event of stargazing will be held at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, at the library’s main branch, 55 New Monmouth Road.Telescopes will be provided for taking a peek at the cosmos, along with sky charts to use and take home.Funding for the library’s public programs comes from the support of the Middle­town Township Public Library Foundation, Inc.last_img read more

FH Firemen’s Fair Returns with Fervor

first_imgBy John BurtonFAIR HAVEN – The borough firehouse on River Road is a sea of activity this week.Men and women are cleaning and moving boxes, forklifts are lugging heavy items, trailers are being backed up with loud beeping sounds and then being unloaded.The site is busy, similar to the energy and din of a construction project, all to prepare for the Aug. 23 start of this year’s edition of the annual Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair.On this day, John Feeny, one of the three co-chairs of the fair committee, looks out over the buzz of activity and says, “It’s unbelievable how everyone knows his position and does it.”Fair Haven fireman John Felsmann and his daughter, Kirstan, give the thumbs from the balcony of the Fair Haven Firehouse after posting the fair info on a billboard.The annual event, touted by the volunteer fire company’s members as the largest firemen’s fair in the state and the second largest fair of any kind in the state, is about to begin its eight-day run. It begins Friday, Aug. 23, and continues daily through Saturday – with the exception of Sunday, Aug. 25.The event is a massive undertaking for department members, residents and others who volunteer – including some who now live out-of-state and travel back to the borough to help. All donate their time to make the event a success.Feeny, along with co-chairs Jim Butler and Andy Schrank – all longstanding fire department members – talked earlier this week about what it takes to get the operation going each year.There are various committees designated to oversee different parts of the fair: the rides, games and one of the largest operations for the endeavor – the huge amount of food that gets served over the course of the fair.The running of the fair requires the efforts of about 125 volunteers each night to operate the various attractions. The attractions requiring the most effort is working the dining tent adjacent to the First Aid bays. The tent and bays can fit about 150 diners per seating who can select from a variety of seafood or “landlubber” dinners, prepared and served by volunteers. During the day, volunteers work on getting things ready for evening, including local kids who take on the responsibility of shucking corn.While committee members couldn’t come up with the number of dinners served, Butler says, “It’s an amazing number.”What’s also amazing is the amount of other food that gets eaten during the fair, they noted.According to Butler, last year’s fairgoers consumed about 18,000 hot dogs and about the same number of hamburgers.“The first night they smell so good,” Schrank said of the hot dogs, “but by the end you’re sick of them.”Along with those offerings, ice cream is available and there is a beer garden for beer and wine for adults.The operation of the fair involves a system that has been honed over the years, with volunteers working on what they know and like. That keeps the operation moving.Schrank has been involved with the fair for 32 years; Feeny tops that with 40 years under his belt. Butler, who has been working with the fair “since I was a kid” and was one of the kids who helped shuck corn, totals his time at more than 35 years.“We’ve been doing this so long it goes like clockwork,” Feeny said.The rides are operated by employees of the Majestic Amusements Company of York, Pa. The games, which are set up by that vendor, are operated by the fire company members and other volunteers who are known faces to those wandering through the fair.Renee Evans, a Fair Haven First Aid Squad member, and Chris Cerruti of the Fair Haven Fire Department, clean the snack bar kitchen in preparation for the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair.The organizing, including obtaining the required permits and working with vendors, is “all year long,” Schrank said. The work really gets going in June, when orders are placed. The days leading up to the fair are for setup and running it is the time for the sweat equity.“The event is the department’s largest annual fund­raiser, with proceeds going to support and supplement the approximately $30,000 annual department budget. The money helps buy need­­ed equipment, vehicles and for the upkeep of the facility,” said Schrank, adding, “The cost of doing this is incredible.”Perhaps even more than the money raised, the reason to continue the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair is that it has become an important tradition, woven into the fabric of the community, the three pointed out.“I don’t think we ever thought about not doing it,” Schrank said.Butler added, “It’s just part of what we do.”last_img read more

Siblings Collect Athletic Footwear for Children in Haiti

first_imgRUMSON – Brother and sister duo, Akash and Priya Verma, started Immortal Soles, a nonprofit organization that brings used athletic footwear to needy children in Haiti.The two Ranney School students, Akash, a freshman, and Priya, a seventh grader, founded Immortal Soles in 2013 after spending a year living in New Delhi, India, teaching impoverished children in the slums the kinds of children who their charity now helps how to play the universal game of tennis.Akash and Priya were so moved by the Indian children’s enthusiasm for sport, their athletic ability and the poor conditions they live in, that they felt that they wanted to help. They couldn’t bear to watch these good kids, some of whom were their own age, playing tennis barefoot or in broken sandals all in effort to keep busy and off the streets of India. All the while in America, children in affluent communities throw out a pair of cleats after their sports season is over and purchase new running shoes every year.“It was really sad to see them without shoes,” Akash said. “We take stuff like that for granted so often here, and it was so hard to see them not have the same opportunities as us.”They decided they needed to bridge this gap, which pushed them to start Immortal Soles when they returned to U.S.“Part of the bigger goal of Immortal Soles is to help the kids learn values taught through sports,” Akash said. “The shoes we send them help them get better, which teaches them that even though they’re in poverty they can make something of themselves.”The brother and sister originally planned for Immortal Soles to send shoes to India, to help the children that Akash and Priya witnessed begging in the streets on their walk to school each day, but India puts high duties on goods entering the country and that made it too expensive. Instead, Immortal Soles partnered with Goals Haiti, a nonprofit organization that teaches soccer to children in Haiti in hopes to better the children’s lives and teach them valuable skills.“Goals Haiti works so well with us, and they have such a huge need for what we can give them,” Monica Logani, Akash’s and Priya’s mother, said.After a child in Haiti receives a pair of cleats, a volunteer at Goals Haiti takes a photo of him or her with his or her new footwear. Goals Haiti sends these images to Immortal Soles, which posts the photo on its Instagram account (@immortalsoles) and tags the person from America that donated the shoes to show them who they are helping.“They can see how they are affecting the kids with their simple, little donation. They’re amazed when they see the kid’s smile in the photo because they probably didn’t realize that they’d actually be doing so much,” Akash said. “It really makes a difference, to the kids in Haiti and the kids here.”In 2014, the first year that Immortal Soles held shoe drives, it collected about 200 pairs of shoes to send to Haiti. The Ranney School, Rumson Fair Haven High School and the Rumson Recreational Program all contributed to this number.This year, Immortal Soles plans to add CBA to the list of schools where they will hold drives and hopes to more than double the number of pairs of shoes to send to Haiti. “It’s been getting bigger and bigger, better and better, but the ultimate goal is to get as many kids involved as possible in the future,” Akash said.last_img read more

HBO head takes leave

first_img“Two years ago, I decided that I could handle drinking again. Clearly, I was wrong. Given that truth, I have committed myself to sobriety. I intend to take a temporary leave of absence from HBO effective today, in order to go back to working with AA.” Albrecht said he was “deeply sorry for what occurred in Las Vegas this weekend and for any embarrassment it caused my family, the company I love, and myself.” He called the weekend a “wake-up call to me of a weakness I thought I had overcome long ago.” While he wasn’t free to discuss the incident while authorities and his attorneys are “still determining the facts, it is my hope to do so in the near future,” Albrecht said in his statement. A call to the Clark County, Nev., District Attorney’s Office regarding the arrest was not immediately returned Tuesday. On Sunday in Las Vegas, the HBO chairman and chief executive was arrested for investigation of assaulting his girlfriend outside the MGM Grand casino. The arrest came just hours after Saturday’s Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather Jr. boxing match aired on pay-per-view by HBO. Officers assigned to the match reported seeing Albrecht fighting with a woman identified only as his girlfriend in the MGM Grand’s valet parking lot shortly after 3 a.m., a Las Vegas police spokesman said. Albrecht was booked into the Clark County Detention Center and held for investigation of a misdemeanor battery-domestic assault. He was later released.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! HBO chief executive Chris Albrecht said he was taking a leave of absence to regain control of his alcoholism following a weekend assault arrest in Las Vegas. Bill Nelson, HBO chief operating officer, will take over Albrecht’s duties “pending resolution of the police incident,” the company said. “We take these matters very seriously and will monitor this situation closely,” Time Warner chairman and chief executive officer Richard D. Parsons said in a statement. HBO Inc. is a division of Time Warner. In a statement sent to HBO staff members and released publicly Tuesday, Albrecht said he had been a “sober member” of Alcoholics Anonymous for 13 years. last_img read more

The vortex of complaint

first_imgTim CohenIt’s not often you can generalise about a nation, particularly South Africa, but it’s probably true to say that South Africans in general have at least one common quality. We like to complain.By reputation, the British keep a stiff upper lip. By reputation, the French make light of things, and waft them away in a dazzling display of philosophising. By reputation, the Chinese keep stum, and seek solace in the learned balance of Confucius. By reputation, the Japanese blame themselves.But given half a chance, particularly in private, South Africans let loose in blathering explosion of anger and bile in which every conceivable thing or person is to blame, other than, of course, themselves. It’s evident on seemingly interminable talk shows on the country’s many problems and particularly on the anonymous feedback commentary on the internet. Frequently, it must be said, it has a bit of racial edge.It wasn’t always thus. It may just be a kind of wishful interpretation of history, but it does seem as if the stultification of free speech during the apartheid years has invoked a swing in the opposite direction now that speech is all too free. Now, given half a chance, everybody goes wild, so much so that the point is often lost as the arguments move away from the topic and get sucked down more familiar and emotional by-ways. Friends of mine describe this process as the vortex; the great whirl-wind of noise a wobbly nation makes as it desperately tries to keep its balance.So the country’s recent electricity cuts, termed “load shedding” for reasons best known to politicians and people who throw switches, have provided a truly magnificent opportunity for the vortex to be released. The arguments about the electricity cuts have a truly splendid way of allowing the protagonists to simply justify their pre-existing beliefs. Power utility Eskom is a state-owned, corporate entity. It’s a vertically integrated utility and as such, it not only owns, operates and maintains the national transmission grid but is also responsible for generating almost all the country’s capacity. This allows the left to blame government for corporatising the entity, and the right to blame government for not corporatising the entity enough.Whatever the case, it’s well known that Eskom provides some of the cheapest electricity in the world, and not by small margins either. The average wholesale cost of electricity is a full 60% lower than its nearest rival, which apparently is Canada. One of the reasons for this extraordinary proficiency is that South Africa has huge coal reserves and, consequently, generation is close to supply and, consequently, electricity in South Africa is cheap but also dirty.But cheap electricity in South Africa also has a historical explanation too. When Eskom was established as a self-funding organisation, it expanded its generating capacity in line with the growth expectations the organisation’s management anticipated at the time. The big-boom period was in the 1970s when gold was, well, the same price it is now. The country’s growth rate was impressive, and because the lead time in establishing large coal fired furnaces is so long, Eskom built like crazy.The result was overcapitalisation of the company and, for years, Eskom had a surplus generating capacity. Consequently, nobody bothered much. And so the electricity blackouts have caught everyone a bit by surprise, intensifying the vortex into a veritable cacophony of complaint.But in fact, in a way, electricity shortages are the kind of problem you want to have. Most often they suggest strong underlying and democratic economic growth. It means consumers are stepping up and buying electronic goods in small mountains. It means lives are improving in incremental but significant ways with washing machines and stove cookers.Of course, it would be nice if someone had their eye on the ball and managed to plan correctly. And strangely enough, someone did. A government white paper produced eight years ago suggested that at the current growth rates, South Africa would run out of electricity in – you guessed it – 2008.Personally, I blame it on the vortex. Sometimes complaining takes you further away from the problem rather than closer to it. A culture of complaint is often lauded as the first step in recognising a problem. But when it turns a kind of campaigning negative, it constitutes a retreat into argument rather than a spur to better planning. In short, the vortex sucks.Tim Cohen is a freelance journalist writing for a variety of South African publications. He is currently contracted as a columnist to Business Day and the Weekender, where he worked for most of his career, and financial website Moneyweb where he writes on business and corporate activity for an associate site called Dealweb. He was the 2004 Sanlam Financial Journalist of the Year.last_img read more