October 2009

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Eskom's Electricity Pricing Juggernaut

Picture: Axel Buhrmann Ebrahim-Khalil Hassen - "Give us massive price increases or the lights will once again go out," is the nub of the message from Eskom to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA). This simple and powerful posture by Eskom however hides the emergence of what might be called a "policy juggernaut." The term "policy juggernaut" has been coined by South African sociologist Karl von Holdt who defines it as a dense cluster of institutional, personal and economic interests, which...

The Underside of South African Democracy

Picture: Locace Richard Pithouse - Abahlali baseMjondolo is a shackdwellers' movement. It was formed by and for shack dwellers in Durban in 2005. Since then the movement has extended to cities like Pietermartizburg and Cape Town. It now has members in 54 settlements. The movement has campaigned, with considerable success, against unlawful evictions by the state and private landowners. It has also campaigned, with significant although limited success, for access to basic services and for the upgrade of settlements where people...

Obama at the Precipice

Picture: Jurvetson William J. Astore - TOUGH GUYS DON'T NEED TO DANCE IN AFGHANISTAN It's early in 1965, and President Lyndon B. Johnson faces a critical decision. Should he escalate in Vietnam? Should he say "yes" to the request from U.S. commanders for more troops? Or should he change strategy, downsize the American commitment, even withdraw completely, a decision that would help him focus on his top domestic priority, "The Great Society" he hopes to build? We all know what happened. LBJ listened to the...

Is the IMF Suited for Its Purpose?

"Has the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lived up to its founding goals or is it just a club for rich countries to dictate growth?" asks Al Jazeera, after the IMF met for its annual meeting in Turkey last week. Two years ago, The IMF was fighting for relevance but has come back with vigour, bolstered by a new role given to it by G20 leaders at the London Summit earlier this year -- to bail out countries affected by the global financial and economic crisis and to play a key role...

Denialism: A National Deficiency?

Picture: /*dave*/ Glenn Ashton - South Africans have an alarming tendency to deny wrongdoing. This trait is shared, to varying degrees, with other nations but it is far more extreme here. Our reluctance to acknowledge fault is remarkable. South Africans, particularly men, apparently have an inability to admit wrongdoing or culpability - even if caught red-handed. This national quirk rears its ugly head every time some sort of scandal breaks. The first response is always denial. The second response is to shift blame....

Trucks and Trigonometry: The Reason Boys Outperform Girls in Maths and Science

Spatial abilities, particularly three-dimensional thinking, are important to develop skills in various kinds of maths and science, says Dr. Lise Eliot, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School. Girls and boys seem to start out fine in the early years of schooling with respect to these subjects. In Kindergarten, there is no difference between boys and girls. The change starts to take place (slowly) at primary school. By the time children...