Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Shark Loses a Tooth

A photographer off South Africa recently captured the moment a large great white shark breached the surface during an ambush attack on an unsuspecting seal.

What he soon found out was that in one of his images was a large triangular-shaped tooth, flying through the air.

Not a big deal for the shark. Great whites possess the ability to replace lost teeth rather quickly, and may lose more than 35,000 teeth in a lifetime.

But it was a huge deal for the photographer, David Jenkins, because his rare image reveals more about the dynamics of a white shark’s ambush attack.

“It all happened incredibly quickly,” he told the Daily Mail. “I didn’t know the shark had lost its tooth until I zoomed in on the image in the back of my camera to check if the photo was sharp and in focus.

“I have never seen this happen or even seen a photo of this happening on a real seal hunt before. It’s definitely a unique shot.”

The waters near Cape Town boast a large population of great white sharks, which sometimes launch airborne during their attacks.

http://www.grindtv.com/outdoor/nature/post/rare-image-shows-great-white-shark-losing-tooth-during-airborne-attack-on-seal/

Thanks to Pete Cuomo to bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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By Alan Yu

Sharks in Western Australia are now tweeting out where they are.

Government researchers have tagged 338 sharks with acoustic transmitters that monitor where the animals are. When a tagged shark is about half a mile away from a beach, it triggers a computer alert, which tweets out a message on the Surf Life Saving Western Australia Twitter feed. The tweet notes the shark’s size, breed and approximate location.

Since 2011, Australia has had more fatal shark attacks than any other country; there have been six over the past two years — the most recent in November.

The tagging system alerts beachgoers far quicker than traditional warnings, says Chris Peck, operations manager of Surf Life Saving Western Australia. “Now it’s instant information,” he tells Sky News, “and really people don’t have an excuse to say we’re not getting the information. It’s about whether you are searching for it and finding it.”

The tags will also be monitored by scientists studying the sharks. Researchers have tagged great whites, whaler sharks and tiger sharks.

“This kind of innovative thinking is exactly what we need more of when it comes to finding solutions to human-wildlife conflict,” says Alison Kock, research manager of the Shark Spotters program in South Africa. Kock tells NPR that the project is a good idea — but that people should know that not all sharks are tagged.

Her program does the same work, but humans do the spotting and tweeting.

Kock and Kim Holland, a marine biologist who leads shark research at the University of Hawaii, agree that the tweets won’t be enough to protect swimmers.

“It can, in fact, provide a false sense of security — that is, if there is no tweet, then there is no danger — and that simply is not a reasonable interpretation,” Holland says, pointing out that the reverse is also true. “Just because there’s a shark nearby doesn’t mean to say that there’s any danger. In Hawaii, tiger sharks are all around our coastlines all the time, and yet we have very, very few attacks.”

In Western Australia, the local government recently proposed a plan to bait and kill sharks that swim near beaches.

Holland says most shark biologists would agree that’s not a good plan, partly because of what researchers have learned using acoustic transmitters. Scientists tracking white sharks, for example, found that the species can travel great distances, going from Western Australia to South Africa in some cases.

“Because we know that they are so mobile, we’re not sure that killing any of them will have any effect on safety,” Holland says, pointing out that great white sharks don’t set up shop along the same coastlines for long. He says the number of these sharks is on the rise — but there aren’t that many to begin with.

“The other side of the coin is that it’s a horrible thing to see when people get killed, so there’s often public outcry for government agencies to do something.”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/12/31/258670211/more-than-300-sharks-in-australia-are-now-on-twitter?ft=1&f=1001

nelson-mandela-headshot-500px

In the desire to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s life — an iconic figure who triumphed over South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime — it’s tempting to homogenize his views into something everyone can support. This is not, however, an accurate representation of the man.

Mandela was a political activist and agitator. He did not shy away from controversy and he did not seek — or obtain — universal approval. Before and after his release from prison, he embraced an unabashedly progressive and provocative platform. As one commentator put it shortly after the announcement of the freedom fighter’s death, “Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view.”

As the world remembers Mandela, here are some of the things he believed that many will gloss over.

1. Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism. Mandela called Bush “a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly,” and accused him of “wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust” by going to war in Iraq. “All that (Mr. Bush) wants is Iraqi oil,” he said. Mandela even speculated that then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan was being undermined in the process because he was black. “They never did that when secretary-generals were white,” he said. He saw the Iraq War as a greater problem of American imperialism around the world. “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care,” he said.

2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right.” Mandela considered poverty one of the greatest evils in the world, and spoke out against inequality everywhere. “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,” he said. He considered ending poverty a basic human duty: “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life,” he said. “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

3. Mandela criticized the “War on Terror” and the labeling of individuals as terrorists without due process. On the U.S. terrorist watch list until 2008 himself, Mandela was an outspoken critic of President George W. Bush’s war on terror. He warned against rushing to label terrorists without due process. While forcefully calling for Osama bin Laden to be brought to justice, Mandela remarked, “The labeling of Osama bin Laden as the terrorist responsible for those acts before he had been tried and convicted could also be seen as undermining some of the basic tenets of the rule of law.”

4. Mandela called out racism in America. On a trip to New York City in 1990, Mandela made a point of visiting Harlem and praising African Americans’ struggles against “the injustices of racist discrimination and economic equality.” He reminded a larger crowd at Yankee Stadium that racism was not exclusively a South African phenomenon. “As we enter the last decade of the 20th century, it is intolerable, unacceptable, that the cancer of racism is still eating away at the fabric of societies in different parts of our planet,” he said. “All of us, black and white, should spare no effort in our struggle against all forms and manifestations of racism, wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.”

5. Mandela embraced some of America’s biggest political enemies. Mandela incited shock and anger in many American communities for refusing to denounce Cuban dictator Fidel Castro or Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who had lent their support to Mandela against South African apartheid. “One of the mistakes the Western world makes is to think that their enemies should be our enemies,” he explained to an American TV audience. “We have our own struggle.” He added that those leaders “are placing resources at our disposal to win the struggle.” He also called the controversial Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat “a comrade in arms.”

6. Mandela was a die-hard supporter of labor unions. Mandela visited the Detroit auto workers union when touring the U.S., immediately claiming kinship with them. “Sisters and brothers, friends and comrades, the man who is speaking is not a stranger here,” he said. “The man who is speaking is a member of the UAW. I am your flesh and blood.”

http://thinkprogress.org/home/2013/12/06/3030781/nelson-mandela-believed-people-wont-talk/

Thanks to Dr. D for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

solar power

Outside Phoenix, Ariz., on Wednesday, a power company turned on one of the largest solar power plants of its kind in the world. But unlike other solar farms, this plant continues giving power to 70,000 Arizona households long after the sunset.

The Solana plant uses 3,200 mirrors that are tilted so they focus the sun’s rays to heat a specially-designed oil. That boils water, which drives turbines and generates electricity. Or, the oil can heat giant tanks of salt, which soak up the energy. When the sun goes down, or when households need more power, the hot salt tanks heat up the oil, which again boils water to drive the turbines.

Whereas conventional solar panels only give power when the sun is up, these giant salt batteries give renewable energy on demand. They can store six hours-worth of energy, which can meet the demands of Arizona customers, according to months of test data.

“That’s the sort of thing you can do with a conventional gas plant that no one had envisioned doing with renewables,” says Patrick Dinkel, vice president of resource management for Arizona Public Service, which is Arizona’s largest utility company.

The company has already bought the power from this plant for the next 30 years, to add to the state’s goal of generating 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. The plant does mean higher energy bills for APS customers — an extra $1.28 per month for the first five years, $1.09 per month for the next five, and then 94 cents per month after that, according to the company. Dinkel says the state won’t see a lot more of these plants soon because that would cost too much.

“Right now natural gas wins that race (for cheap power,)” Dinkel says. “The challenge is no one knows what those economics look like in five years.”

The U.S. Department of Energy lent Abengoa Solar, the Spanish company that built that plant as well as Europe’s first solar thermal power plant, $1.4 billion, out of the $2 billion price tag. It’s the same program that financed Solyndra, a solar panel firm that went bankrupt in 2011. But this is a different kind of investment, says Armando Zuluaga, general manager of Abengoa Solar. He points out the company already has a public utility buying their output for the next 30 years, so the government will get its money back with interest.

“There’s no market risk here,” Zuluaga says. “It’s just about getting the plant built.”

This won’t be the last we hear of Abengoa Solar and this technology. The company is building a similar, though smaller plant in the Mojave desert in California, which will come online next year, as well as plants in South Africa.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/11/232348077/in-ariz-a-solar-plant-that-powers-70-000-homes-day-or-night

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

screaming vagina

A former women’s prison in South Africa which once held Winnie Mandela is now home to a 12m-deep screaming vagina.

Visitors are invited to walk through the artwork, by 30-year-old artist Reshma Chhiba, in a reaction against the former symbol of oppression.

As they do, the scarlet walls ring out with screams and laughter. The “yoni” – the Sanskrit word for vulva, or vagina – is skirted by acrylic wool imitation pubic hair over a tongue-like sponge walkway.

Chhiba said: “It’s a screaming vagina within a space that once contained women and stifled women. It’s revolting against this space… mocking this space, by laughing at it.”

The prison, in the central Johannesburg area of Braamfontein, dates back to 1892, and its Womens’ Prison held Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 1958, when she was imprisoned for protesting against apartheid segregation, and again in 1976.

The artist said the work also opposes deeply entrenched patriarchal systems, and taboos around the vagina.

“You don’t often hear men talking about their private parts and feeling disgust or shamed,” as women often do, she said.

“And that alone speaks volumes of how we’ve been brought up to think about our bodies, and what I am saying here is that it’s supposed to be an empowering space.”

The artist also said the work aims at respect for the female body, in a country where 65,000 attacks on girls and women are reported annually. Before walking through, visitors have to remove their shoes.

“By talking off your shoes, essentially you are respecting it, making it a divine space, a sacred space,” said Chhiba.

Though the fine art graduate and practising Hindu insisted she “definitely did not make this work for the sake of controversy,” the work has – predictably – sparked a reaction.

Benathi Mangqaaleza, 24-year-old female security guard at the site, which also houses the country’s constitutional court, said: “It’s the most private part of my body. I grew up in the rural areas, we were taught not to expose your body, even your thighs let alone your vagina. I think it’s pornographic, I think they have gone too far.”

Kubi Rama, head of Gender Links, a lobby group promoting gender equality in southern Africa, praised the work, saying: “It is bringing the private into the public, that the woman’s body is not necessarily a private matter.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/walkin-vagina-installed-in-johannesburg-womens-prison-8792192.html


Artists spent a month in South Africa taking pictures on decades-old film engineered with only white faces in mind.

Can the camera be racist? The question is explored in an exhibition that reflects on how Polaroid built an efficient tool for South Africa’s apartheid regime to photograph and police black people.

The London-based artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin spent a month in South Africa taking pictures on decades-old film that had been engineered with only white faces in mind. They used Polaroid’s vintage ID-2 camera, which had a “boost” button to increase the flash – enabling it to be used to photograph black people for the notorious passbooks, or “dompas”, that allowed the state to control their movements.

The result was raw snaps of some of the country’s most beautiful flora and fauna from regions such as the Garden Route and the Karoo, an attempt by the artists to subvert what they say was the camera’s original, sinister intent.

Broomberg and Chanarin say their work, on show at Johannesburg’s Goodman Gallery, examines “the radical notion that prejudice might be inherent in the medium of photography itself”. They argue that early colour film was predicated on white skin: in 1977, when Jean-Luc Godard was invited on an assignment to Mozambique, he refused to use Kodak film on the grounds that the stock was inherently “racist”.

The light range was so narrow, Broomberg said, that “if you exposed film for a white kid, the black kid sitting next to him would be rendered invisible except for the whites of his eyes and teeth”. It was only when Kodak’s two biggest clients – the confectionary and furniture industries – complained that dark chocolate and dark furniture were losing out that it came up with a solution.

The artists feel certain that the ID-2 camera and its boost button were Polaroid’s answer to South Africa’s very specific need. “Black skin absorbs 42% more light. The button boosts the flash exactly 42%,” Broomberg explained. “It makes me believe it was designed for this purpose.”

In 1970 Caroline Hunter, a young chemist working for Polaroid in America, stumbled upon evidence that the company was effectively supporting apartheid. She and her partner Ken Williams formed the Polaroid Workers Revolutionary Movement and campaigned for a boycott. By 1977 Polaroid had withdrawn from South Africa, spurring an international divestment movement that was crucial to bringing down apartheid.

The title of the exhibition, To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light, refers to the coded phrase used by Kodak to describe a new film stock created in the early 1980s to address the inability of earlier films to accurately render dark skin.

The show also features norm reference cards that always used white women as a standard for measuring and calibrating skin tones when printing photographs. The series of “Kodak Shirleys” were named after the first model featured. Today such cards show multiple races.

Broomberg and Chanarin made two recent trips to Gabon to photograph a series of rare Bwiti initiation rituals using Kodak film stock, scavenged from eBay, that had expired in 1978. Working with outdated chemical processes, they salvaged just a single frame. Broomberg said: “Anything that comes out of that camera is a political document. If I take a shot of the carpet, that’s a political document.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2013/jan/25/racism-colour-photography-exhibition

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South African council cleaners have used a lorry to move a stranded whale from a beach near Cape Town.  Officials pulled the huge mammal through heavy traffic down a busy road along the city’s False Bay coastline.  Salvage staff needed an industrial digger to move the 30 metre southern Right Whale, which became stranded on Sunday at Cape Town’s Capricorn beach.

City emergency services spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes confirmed the beach had been closed amid fears deadly Great White sharks had entered shallow waters to feed on the carcase.  He said: “The whale was spotted on the beach on Sunday afternoon. “It had become beached and was dead by the time officials could get to it.  The animal had several bits of flesh taken out of it, and it appears it had been bitten by sharks.”  He added: “We called in the city’s specialist marine rescue team, who used diggers and a lorry to remove the whale.

“It was heaved onto the back of a truck and taken to a landfill site for disposal.”

Mr Solomons-Johannes said experts would examine the dead animal to try to establish how it died.  He added: “Samples were taken from the whale and these will be analysed to try to work out what happened to it.  We hope to get the results within the next couple of days, which may help to explain why it died.”

City officials closed several beaches around Cape Town on Sunday after sharks were spotted in waters close to the beached whale.

Mr Solomons-Johannes on Tuesday confirmed some had reopened following the removal of the carcase but said Capricorn beach itself would remain closed until further notice.  He said: “Capricorn beach remains closed for the next few days until the whale blood and oil has dispersed sufficiently.

“The city is appealing to all water users to be vigilant at this time, obey the shark siren, and to take note of the Shark Spotters’ flags and signage for regular updates on shark sightings.  Beach users are advised that the general caution will remain in place until further notice.”

Specialist teams of Shark Spotters were working on several of Cape Town’s beaches to watch for any signs of the deadly animals.  The killer beasts are frequent visitors to the waters around the city and have been responsible for a string of attacks on humans.

British man Michael Cohen, 47, narrowly escaped with his life in September 2011 after he was bitten by a shark on a beach near Cape Town.  The keen swimmer lost his right leg and part of his left foot after being savaged in the False Bay water.

Zimbabwean tourist Lloyd Skinner was eaten alive by sharks in January 2010 as he swam near the town of Fish Hoek.  Shocked holiday-makers watched from the shore as he was pulled underwater, and rescuers later recovered only his goggles.

Southern Right whales are also regularly seen in the sea around Cape Town.

The massive mammals spend most of their time in the deep ocean but move towards the Cape peninsula during winter and spring to mate.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/9596404/South-African-whale-driven-through-streets.html