RDP housing fraud syndicate arrested‚ says Johannesburg mayor – Times LIVE

The clean-up in Johannesburg begins!

Two Joburg housing officials along with two accomplices have been arrested on charges of fraud and corruption linked to a syndicate involving land and RDP houses.

Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba said they have appeared in court and were released on R5‚000 bail each.

The case has been postponed to 11 April 2017. “A syndicate working in collusion with the Department of Housing‚ municipal officials and a councillor started allocating stands to people at a fee wherein unsuspecting individuals bought the said stands.

A similar modus operandi applied to the allocation of RDP houses‚” he said in a statement. Many of the victims have already constructed houses on illegally sold land‚ Mashaba added.

Source: RDP housing fraud syndicate arrested‚ says Johannesburg mayor – Times LIVE

“Bathroom Bills, Transgender Laws at Odds with Science” | Time.com

A person’s biological sex seems simple but is deceptively complex. It appears to be binary: An XX chromosomal pair is female, and an XY chromosomal pair is male. Doctors look at a newborn’s genitalia, pronounce the baby a boy or a girl, and the birth certificate reflects that sex assignment.

Deep-seated religious beliefs, cultural constructs, the regulation of sports (such as the rules confronted by Texas high-school wrestler Mack Beggs) and recent laws are premised on the bedrock belief that each of us is either a man or a woman. Yet the reality is that today in the United States alone there are approximately one million people who — from the moment of birth — cannot clearly be defined as either male or female.

This physiological truth is unrelated to whether someone is straight, gay or transgender. Many individuals are born with sex chromosome, endocrine or hormonal irregularities, and their birth certificates are inaccurate because in the United States birth records are not designed to allow doctors to designate an ambiguous sex. Countless people likely have no idea that they fall into this group. The more we learn about our DNA, the more that biological sex — from the moment of conception — looks like an intricate continuum and less like two tidy boxes. This understanding makes it virtually impossible for judges to consistently apply a law that permits or prohibits conduct based on whether someone is a man or a woman.

Source:  Time.com

Politics is too complex to be understood in terms of Left and Right | British Politics and Policy at LSE

What does it really mean to be “right” or “left” in England today? Can we be certain that all who identify as conservative are against immigration? Or can we say that anyone opposing Trident is invariably “left”? And can we assume that one can never be both pro-immigration and “right-wing” in economic terms? Jonathan Wheatley explains ideology has a cultural and an economic dimension, and each should be assessed separately. He also argues that for many voters, the terms “left” and “right”, especially in economic terms, don’t mean much.

The notions of “left” and “right” have come to define how we understand politics in Western Europe. When it comes to political parties, the consensus in Britain is that UKIP, followed by the Conservatives, take the most right-wing position, while the Greens, SNP and Labour adopt a position furthest to the left. So when a ComRes poll found that the Conservatives were seen by voters as marginally to the right of UKIP, political pundits were shocked.

In ideological terms, the common assumption is that if you are anti-immigration, support an independent nuclear deterrent and adhere to pro-free market economic policies you are “right-wing”. If you welcome migrants, want to scrap Trident and believe in more state regulation you are “left-wing”. But as the recent spat between the Institute of Directors and Home Secretary Theresa May demonstrates, pro-business free-marketeers can also be pro-immigration. Conversely, many of those who feel the state should do more to protect their jobs may feel antagonistic towards immigration.

Source:  British Politics and Policy at LSE

EU to issue Brexit response within 48 hours of trigger

The EU will take just 48 hours to issue its first plan for Brexit negotiations after Britain formally triggers its departure, European Council President Donald Tusk has said.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union –the divorce notification clause – by the end of March.

Mr Tusk said the European Council, the EU institution which groups the bloc’s national leaders, would issue its draft plan for the talks soon after that.

“When the UK notifies, it is our goal to react with the draft negotiation guidelines for the 27 members to consider, for this I think we need more or less 48 hours,” Mr Tusk told a news conference in Brussels.

Source: EU to issue Brexit response within 48 hours of trigger

Behind the Asian Awakening Happening In Film | Advocate.com

Never before have we seen as much LGBT art and activism coming out of repressive Asian countries like China, Singapore, and Taiwan. Transgress Press recently published Lei Ming’s Life Beyond My Body, the first book written by a transgender man in China. After a neglected childhood in a rural Chinese village, Ming left home at 16 to find answers to who he is in a culture that still doesn’t speak of men like him. Ming, who is in the U.S. for a spring book tour of the West Coast, tells of using black market testosterone and being jailed over his identity — but most of all, of finding his place in the world.

Meanwhile, in May, New York Review Book Classics releases Qiu Miaojin’s Notes of a Crocodile, with a new English translation by Bonnie Huie. Hugely popular among college-educated lesbian and bisexual women in Taiwan and mainland China (though she was never published there), 26-year-old Miaojin stabbed herself in the heart with an ice pick (or knife) in 1995. Her pre-suicide depression never tampered her brilliance, though, and just after her death she was given one of Taiwan’s most prestigious literary prizes for the book. Interest in Miaojin, who is credited with birthing the LGBT movement in Taiwan, crosses national boundaries. A Hong Kong filmmaker recently released a Chinese-language documentary on Miaojin as well.

Source: Behind the Asian Awakening Happening In Film | Advocate.com

Cardinal Nichols: Pope Francis’ ‘toughness’ will see the Catholic Church through reforms | America Magazine

As the United States engages in fierce debates over refugee resettlement, its role on the global stage and the implications of electing an anti-establishment president, similar scenes are unfolding across Europe, where populist political leaders are gaining traction and borders are tightening up.

The head of the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, says one way to combat “a corruption of the democratic system” that he believes can accompany this strain of politics is for politicians to model their rhetoric on that of another European leader, Pope Francis.

“The biggest challenge in political leadership is not to play to people’s fear but to genuinely appeal to what is best in them and to lead from what is best, not from what is worst,” the cardinal told America.

Source: America Magazine

Food for thought: In praise of quinoa | The Economist


PEOPLE are funny about food. Throughout history they have mocked others for eating strange things. In 1755 Samuel Johnson’s dictionary defined oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people”. Nineteenth-century Japanese nationalists dismissed Western culture as bata kusai, or “stinking of butter”. Unkind people today deride Brits as “limeys”, Mexicans as “beaners” and French people as “frogs”. And food-related insults often have a political tinge. George Orwell complained that socialism was unpopular because it attracted “every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer [and] sex-maniac…in England”. In many countries today, politicians who wish to imply that their rivals have lost touch with ordinary voters sneer that they are latte-drinkers, muesli-munchers or partial to quinoa.

This South American grain gets a particularly bad rap. To its fans, it is a superfood. To its detractors, it is like the erotic sci-fi murals found in Saddam Hussein’s palaces—pretentious and tasteless. An advertisement for Big Macs once riffed on this prejudice. “Foodies and gastronauts kindly avert your eyes. You can’t get juiciness like this from soy or quinoa,” it said, adding that “while [a Big Mac] is massive, its ego is not.” Even those who love quinoa sometimes fret that scarfing it may not be ethical. What if rising hipster demand pushes the price up, forcing Andeans to eat less of their beloved grain? Or what if the price falls, making Andean farmers poorer? A headline from Mother Jones, a left-wing magazine, perfectly captured the confusion of well-meaning Western foodies: “Quinoa: good, evil or just really complicated?”

Source: The Economist

Macron consolidates lead over Le Pen in French election polls | Reuters

Centrist Emmanuel Macron saw his position as favorite to win France’s presidential election boosted on Thursday in two polls, with one showing him ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of the two-stage contest.

A monthly Cevipof survey, seen as the most authoritative because it has a far bigger sample size than most polls, put Le Pen well ahead in the April 23 first round though Macron was seen easily beating her in a May 7 runoff.

However, a Harris Interactive poll showed Macron winning the first round with 26 percent of votes, with Le Pen taking second place on 25 percent, setting him up to trounce her in the run-off with a score of 65 percent.

It was the second poll in the space of a week that put the 39-year-old ahead of Le Pen in the opening round, a signal that the centrist former economy minister may be consolidating his position 45 days from the first stage of the contest

Source Reuters

Malema barred by court from inciting land grabs – Times LIVE

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema was barred from inciting illegal land grabs by the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The court granted an interdict to civil and business rights watchdogs Afriforum and AfriBusiness‚ which had submitted an application for such a ruling in November 2016.

Malema‚ at the time‚ had made statements about occupying land in South Africa.

Tarien Cooks‚ safety coordinator for AfriForum‚ said in a statement on Tuesday that the EFF had been asked last year to stop inciting land grabs as it was a criminal offence.

A new party of the centre? It makes fixing Labour seem easy | Rafael Behr The Guardian

In a crisis there are always people saying something must be done. Most of their plans are worse than doing nothing. I’d like to have coined that maxim but I borrowed it from a former Downing Street adviser – someone who has seen first hand how the attraction of doing something drastic in politics conceals the risk of doing something stupid.

The context was discussion of a new party. It isn’t hard to find this conversation in Westminster. It takes place whenever there is a gathering of two or more people who despair equally at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour and Theresa May’s navigation of Brexit. It isn’t a plot: no one is recruiting MPs to some new force. But there is a lot of speculation that someone should.

The conversation begins with the thought that Labour is doomed. Corbyn’s closest allies insist he can still be prime minister, but with dwindling conviction. John McDonnell complains about conspiracies by MPs and the media, not because he fears a coup but because he needs one. It isn’t a coincidence that the Corbyn locomotive ran out of steam once Owen Smith’s leadership challenge was crushed. Battle against “Blairites” was the coal in the furnace. Without an internal enemy to fight, the wheels stop turning.

Source: Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian