Longboard skating on Table Mountain

I have a friend I used to ride the Colorado skate parks with who always said “longboards are the wrong boards.” After eating some tarmac last year while trying out a friend’s board I wholeheartedly agreed with him and vowed to keep riding my street board only.

Here’s me eating it:

But this year I decided to give longboarding a second chance and bought a new set-up. I’ve been cruising with my good friend Shaun and we’ve been finding some magic up on Table Mountain. I made a short film about our endeavours. No face plants this time.

Offsets to Cushion South African Carbon Tax

CAPE TOWN, May 28 2014 (IPS) - To curb greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa wants to put a tax on carbon emissions from big polluters.

The aim of making polluters pay for the carbon they pump into the atmosphere is to help South Africa, the world’s 12th highest emitter of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, transition to a low-carbon economy.

“We have one of the most carbon intensive economies in the world,” Anton Cartwright, a researcher on the green economy at the University of Cape Town’s African Centre for Cities, told IPS.

Coal-burning power plants provide close to ninety percent of South Africa’s electricity, making the economy highly carbon intensive.

“We don’t get a great bang for buck on our coal,” said Cartwright. “We use a low-grade coal with a very high CO2 content.”

The tax was slated to take effect in 2015 but in February this year National Treasury announced it would be pushed back to January 2016, citing the need for “further consultation.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AND INFOGRAPHIC AT IPS.

South Africa battles drug-resistant TB

TB_picture

South Africa is battling to reduce its cases of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) with the success rate for those on treatment at about 40 percent.

CAPE TOWN, Mar 12 2014 (IPS) – Despite an increase in diagnosis times, South Africa is facing a growing drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) burden as nationally there remains a large gap between the number of patients diagnosed with multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and those who start treatment.

Between 2007 and 2012, recorded cases of MDR-TB, which is resistant to at least two of the primary drugs used to combat standard TB, almost doubled.

South Africa has improved its ability to test for drug-resistant TB by introducing GeneXpert, a rapid testing machine that can diagnose TB in sputum samples in less than two hours.

But in 2012, just 42 percent of patients diagnosed with MDR-TB began treatment, according to government figures. The success rate for those on treatment is about 40 percent.

“If we don’t do something about it now, MDR-TB is going to become XDR-TB [extensively drug-resistant TB],” Dr. Jennifer Hughes, a drug-resistant TB doctor with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), told IPS. XDR-TB is a strain of TB resistant to at least four of the main TB drugs.

“If we don’t start focusing on how we treat XDR-TB properly as well, we’re just going to drive further and further resistance as we go.”

Read the full article at IPS.

Jozi

ImageGrowing up in Cape Town I seldom heard a good word about Joburg. The city was commonly denigrated for not having a coastline and for being a hotbed for hijacking, murder and robbery.

But lately I’ve also heard good things. Particularly, how welcoming people are, unlike the insular Cape Town set.

At times I’ve flitted with moving to Joburg and trying to seek my fortune among the rest of the people hustling in the city space. Through work and travel I’ve become increasingly attracted to world cities and the urge to know Joburg has grown ever stronger.

Today was the fourth of a five-day trip to the city of gold. A break from Cape Town, a chance to watch Bruce Springsteen rocking the FNB stadium, and a chance to explore the city spaces. Newtown, Braamfontein and the rest. It was also an opportunity to get robbed.

I pulled up to a red light in Newtown at about noon, window rolled halfway down, driving alone, on my way back from Museum Africa. Out the corner of my eye I saw two guys at the window. “I don’t want to hurt you,” said one. “But give it.”

The second guy was standing right behind him. I’m still not sure if they were holding weapons. Could have been since the guy in front seemed to be holding something under his shirt. Automatically, I reached for my wallet and handed it to them. That wasn’t enough. They also wanted my phone, which I handed over, meek as a lamb.

After parting with my valuables I pulled off, and immediately began beating myself up for not checking to see if they had weapons, and for not just dropping the car into first and pulling away before they could rob me. I could have been a lot tougher about the whole thing. Not an easy victim.

The rest of the day was consumed by an unmemorable wash of admin: cancelling bankcards, getting my sim card blocked, changing passwords for email and twitter.

Jozi screwed me today. Part of me wants to write the city off and not give it another chance. But that would be shortsighted. I have the feeling I’ll be back, hopefully a little more streetwise. And since I met someone minutes after he’d been stabbed during a mugging on the path up to the car park from Sandy Bay in Cape Town last Wednesday, I can’t say I feel much safer in the mother city either.

Pills, patents, profits

Here’s my latest article for The Big Issue on how patent laws help keep the profits rolling in for multinational pharmaceutical corporations. It delves into how some of the proposed changes to South Africa’s patent granting system could alter the pharmaceutical landscape in future.

Pills and profits_The Big Issue