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first_img18 February 2009Soweto, South Africa’s famous township, is well known to tourists who’ve visited Johannesburg and gone looking for a taste of the city’s African culture and history of resistance against apartheid.Now, adventure tourists can also board the bus to Soweto, as a project to develop a “vertical adventure centre” with a distinctive township feel starts coming to fruition.And, if you’re a local and you’ve already done the bungee swing between the two 100-metre-high Orlando Towers in Soweto, and need to push the boundaries further: no problem. For a new adrenaline rush, you can now do the swing inside one of the towers.Zoopy TV takes a flying leap from Soweto’s Orlando Towers. Click arrow to play video.Yes, from this weekend you can line up for the internal bungee swing, says Bob Woods, the project director and rope expert. The external swing involves falling 30 metres from the top of the tower, then swinging back and forth like a pendulum and eventually being lowered to the ground.On the internal swing, you swing high inside one of the towers and then are lowered to some 15 metres above the ground before taking a foefie slide (zip slide) back to earth.Soweto’s Orlando site is dominated by the huge, colourful twin towers, which used to supply electricity to the former white suburbs of Johannesburg, but which are now defunct. The disused power station building is a cavernous structure some five storeys high, overlooking a dam.Phase one almost completeThe internal swing and other features will complete phase one of the adventure tourism project taking place at the towers, made possible by a loan of R3.6-million from the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).“Adventure tourism is a major growth market around the world, and the creation of an adventure tourism facility will undoubtedly contribute towards Soweto’s economic diversification and tourism attractiveness,” says Kate Rivett-Carnac, the DBSA’s tourism specialist.Woods says the vast walls of the towers will be developed into a “vertical adventure centre the scale and nature of which describes a truly unique and legendary facility.”He promises that by late March you can expect to be abseiling down the towers, and by early May you are likely to be bungee jumping between the two towers. He has brought in Canadian experts to help with the final rigging for the bungee jumping.Climbing the wallsAlso in the pipeline is climbing the internal walls of the towers, a climb of some 60 metres. Woods is concerned that climbing is an elitist sport – he’d like to bring it to young Sowetans.“I would like to promote climbing among the people of Soweto. It can often be a tool in helping to channel energies in a positive way,” he says. Other facilities below the towers he foresees are a restaurant, a music venue and bar, and a small skateboarding park.“We want to create the feeling of a park, where families can spend the day.”Since opening in June last year, Woods says he has had 15 to 20 jumpers take to the towers each day. Most visitors to the site are Gautengers, with 18 percent being foreign tourists. But it seems most people can’t quite bring themselves to jump off the towers, preferring instead to take the lift up, and stand admiring the view.Otherwise, from March you will be able to take a foefie slide ride from 10 metres up the side of one of the towers.You pay R360 for the swing, or R60 to take in the view from the top. The swing is open on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 5pm. You can book your place on the website.Source: City of Johannesburglast_img read more

first_img22 June 2009South Africa held on for a 26-21 win over the British and Irish Lions in the first test in Durban on Saturday to put the world champions in prime position to secure a series victory. Never before in their history have the Lions trailed in a series in South Africa and gone on to win it.The truth be told, the Springboks should have won the match by a far more comfortable margin, although the Lions created a number of excellent opportunities that were stopped at the last split-second only.Behind a dominant pack in the set pieces in the first half, thanks mainly to Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira, who destroyed Lions tighthead Phil Vickery time after time, the Boks built up a comfortable 19-7 advantage at the break.Clawed their way backNot long after the restart they increased their advantage to 26-7, but a questionable stream of substitutions from the hour-mark onwards, during which the entire South African bench was given a run, led to the Lions clawing their way back into the contest. In the end they came up just short.Springbok coach Peter de Villiers’ excuse afterwards that “the Lions are a brilliant team” was seen differently by others. Keith Wood, hooker for the 1997 Lions team that won the series two-one, wrote in The Telegraph that he found De Villiers’ early substitutions of some of his leading players “a tad arrogant”.The general consensus – in both local and UK newspapers – was that De Villiers allowed the Lions back into the game by pulling off some of his most important players far too soon.A bad mistakeWatching the coach being interviewed afterwards, it was not so much his words but his manner that suggested that he knew he had made a mistake.It was an error that almost backfired as the Lions pressured the Boks for extended periods during the second half, pinning the hosts in their 22-metre area.Twice the pressure led to converted tries. Like many times in the past, however, South Africa turned to captain John Smit to lend a calming hand. He had been substituted, but his replacement Deon Carstens suffered an injury shortly after coming on and Smit returned to the fray to see his men over the finishing line.Ticket pricesBefore the match, the Absa Stadium in Durban was swathed in a tide of red as Lions’ supporters dominated the crowd. Their presence was far greater than it had been 12 years earlier at the same ground.Besides the fact that the Lions have wonderful supporters, it also spoke to the fact that tickets for the tests cost R1 140 per person – R4 560 per family of four – plus another R50 for the match programme.While the Lions fans can afford that amount with the favourable exchange rate – and the costs favour them far more than South Africans – one must question the wisdom of the SA Rugby Union’s pricing, which certainly leaves the majority of local fans with a snowball’s chance in hell of being able to see their heroes in action.In 1998, then Springbok coach Nic Mallett was axed after criticising the ticket costs of R350 for Bok tests. Eleven years later, that amount has increased 300%. What else has gone up by 300% in the same amount of time?First opportunityIt was the Lions who had the first opportunity to put up points in the game when JP Pietersen was a little too hasty in his bid to chase a kick upfield. Referee Bryce Lawrence awarded a penanlty to the toursists and Stephen Jones stepped up to take a shot at goal.The flyhalf, who takes probably the least amount of time over his kicks among top class international kickers, was wide of the mark.A few minutes later, an excellent kick into the Lions’ left-hand corner by Fourie du Preez, and good chasing by JP Pietersen, forced a Springbok scrum only five-metres from the opposition’s tryline. The ball was moved smartly to the left and then recycled quickly, with plenty of men lined up to take a crack at the Lions’ line.Captain’s tryIt was captain John Smit, charging onto the ball at pace, who did the trick, bursting through a gap between two players to crash over for the first points of the contest in the fifth minute. Ruan Pienaar added the extras to put the hosts into a 7-0 lead.Only two minutes after that, the Lions sounded a massive warning to the Boks when they moved a ball out wide to the left. There was a hint of a forward pass to Ugo Monye, but the officials let it go and the winger pinned his ears back and dived for the left-hand corner.Pietersen tackled him, bringing him up slightly short of the whitewash, but momentum was set to take him over for the five points. Jean de Villiers, though, came across to support Pietersen and managed to get his arm under the ball and rip it free.After a comical consultation between referee Lawrence and the French television match official Christophe Berdos, during which they struggled to understand one another, Lawrence awarded a 22-metre drop out when the Lions should have been awarded a five-metre scrum.Scrum dominationShortly afterwards, the Springboks won a penalty when Mtawarira drove Vickery back at a rate of knots and the Lions’ scrum collapsed. Pienaar slotted his kick at goal and South Africa were out to a 10-0 lead in as many minutes.The Lions had an opportunity to cut the South African lead to four points when Habana was somewhat unfortunate to be penalised for holding onto the ball. Jones, though, sent his kick past the left-hand upright and the Lions remained 10 points adrift.Midway through the half, Du Preez made a nice sniping break around the blind side and down the right hand touchline. He beat the first attempted tackle, but was taken out by a shoulder charge from flanker Tom Croft as he was about to kick through.Referee Lawrence had a word with Croft and awarded the Springboks another penalty. This time Steyn was handed the ball to have a shot from the right hand touchline and some distance from the uprights. He was spot on with his aim and South Africa’s lead increased to 13 points.Lions’ responseThe Lions hit back quickly a few minutes later. After moving the ball slickly to the right, Jamie Roberts smashed into a half-gap in the midfield, drawing two tacklers before releasing his centre partner Brian O’Driscoll. The Irish star made some running before drawing another tackler and setting Croft free to run in for a try.Jones knocked over the conversion and suddenly what had appeared to be a Springbok cruise was a contest once again with the hosts 13-7 in front.When Lions’ skipper Paul O’Connell was blown up for going off his feet at a ruck, Steyn tried a long range shot at goal. He had enough distance, but lacked the direction.The Boks didn’t have to wait long to increase their lead, however, as Mtawarira, to cries of “BEAST!” from the Durban crowd, forced another penalty out of Vickery. Pienaar made it count by landing his third kick out of three to put South Africa nine points in the clear.Pienaar then added another penalty to make it 19-7 as the Lions faced penalty after penalty under the Springbok onslaught, which was especially evident in the set pieces.Half-timeThe Springbok flyhalf could have taken South Africa into the twenties before the break, but he missed for the first time on the day and the half-time score stayed at 19-7.The Lions, inevitably made a front row change at the break, bringing on Adam Jones for Vickery.Early in the second half, the Boks produced a superb rolling maul, forcing the Lions to retreat. They eventually managed to slow the maul down, but did so by entering it from the side and the referee awarded a penalty to South Africa inside the Lions’ 22. SA captain John Smit rolled the dice and told Pienaar to kick for touch.Springbok tryFrom the resulting lineout, the Springboks formed another rolling maul and after some excellent control blasted the Lions off the ball as Heinrich Brussouw crashed over for a try. Pienaar added the extras and only 10 minutes into the second period it was South Africa 26, the Lions 7.Once again, the Lions came roaring back and scrumhalf Mike Phillips, from close range, burst through the middle of the Boks’ ruck defence and came within centimetres of scoring, but just before he grounded the ball Bakkies Botha knocked it out of his grasp and South Africa were awarded a scrum.The stream of substitutions began three minutes later, with Danie Rossouw coming on for Brussouw, who played like he belonged in his first start for the Springboks.A nice break from Tommy Bowe took the tourists deep into the South African 22, but his pass was spilled and the danger averted.Strange refereeing decisionOne of the assistant referees then spoke to referee Lawrence and alerted him to some foul play by Matthew Rees. Lawrence called it a punch, but inexplicably failed to send Rees off. Just as well he didn’t either, as Rees’ so-called punch was revealed by slow motion replays to be nothing more than a soft slap at most, although he had, no doubt, changed his mind about delivering a punch part way through doing so.Four minutes after Brussouw’s departure, Andries Bekker and Jaque Fourie were added to the Bok mix.With 15 minutes to play, the Springboks’ 19-point lead and the Lions’ desperation to get back into the match was underlined when they won a penalty deep in South African territory. An easy kick at posts was on offer, but the Lions opted for a scrum, needing more than three points at a time to have a chance to win the game.Pienaar departed for a blood bin treatment, allowing Morne Steyn on for his first Springbok cap, while Smit and Mtawarira were taken from the front row.Croft’s secondThe Lions’ decision not to kick at goal some minutes earlier was rewarded in the 67th minute when, after having set up camp in the SA 22, they scored their second try. After holding the ball through more than 10 phases they finally found some space in the middle of the field and Croft took a try-scoring pass from O’Driscoll for the second time.Jones converted from just left of the posts and the score had become 26-14 in South Africa’s favour.Shortly afterwards, Monye looked odds-on to score, but Steyn, with a desperate and excellent convering tackle knocked the ball loose with the tryline beckoning the winger.Phillips dots downIt didn’t take long for the Lions to score, however, as they kept the Springboks pinned deep in their 22. Scrumhalf Phillips went over after spotting a gap and when Jones added two points for the conversion there were only five points in the match, with South Africa 26-21 ahead and five minutes to play.South African captain John Smit was soon back on the field, in the tension-filled atmosphere, trotting to a scrum slowly while saying plenty to his team-mates to calm them as he passed by.The Lions had an opportunity to kick for posts, but with three minutes to play and five points needed for a win they opted to go for a lineout and went unrewarded.In the final minute, Roberts, who had been impressive in the Lions’ midfield, was penalised for holding onto a ball on the ground. Pienaar kicked the penalty into touch and the Boks won the subsequent lineout before clearing the ball to touch once more, bringing the final whistle from referee Lawrence.It was with a sense of relief that they claimed victory. It could have been with a sense of elation, but the hasty substitutions, which coach De Villiers said were aimed at speeding up the game, backfired badly.Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

first_imgThe development of hardier maize varieties will change the lives of millions of Africans. (Image: MediaClubsouthafrica.com) South Africa is one of the leading participants in research into genetically modified foods, and particularly maize, the most commonly grown staple food on the continent.Professor Jennifer Thomson of the University of Cape Town’s Department of Molecular and Cell Biology is a principal authority on the subject and has been at the forefront of genetic engineering since the 1970s.She now serves on the National Biotechnology Advisory Committee which advises the Minister of Science and Technology and has advised on the GMO (genetically modified organisms) Act, which was passed by Parliament in May 1997, followed by the regulations in November 1999.According to Thomson, the state of GMO research in other African countries is very positive. One organisation making progress is the non-profit African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), based in Nairobi, Kenya.Its purpose is to develop or acquire biotechnology crops through royalty-free licenses. Intellectual property is transferred to African farmers, some of whom have become hugely successful.Plant pathologist Dr Wilson Songa, the Kenyan Secretary of Agriculture, sits on the organisation’s board of trustees, while Thomson is Chairperson Emeritus.Developing hardy plantsWater deficiency is one of Africa’s biggest challenges, and negatively influences food production as well as economies in severely affected countries. Irrigation is expensive and out of range of the majority of small-scale farmers. Crop plants which can efficiently use what little water there is, and still produce an acceptable yield, will have the advantage in these arid areas.One of AATF’s biggest projects at present is Water Efficient Maize for Africa which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.The gene for drought tolerance is acquired royalty- free from Monsanto, a US-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is bred into local maize varieties and is being tested in field trials in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique.The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, based in El Batan, Mexico, is involved in developing hardier varieties of both maize and wheat for developing countries.The results of a study undertaken by the centre in 13 African countries were published in August 2010, and revealed that the distribution of new drought-tolerant maize varieties could improve yields by an average of 25%, help to alleviate poverty, and generate as much as US$1.5-billion (R10.5-billion) in benefits for consumers and producers.Resistant to viral diseasesProf Thomson and her colleagues have focused their attention on the most destructive maize pathogen on the continent – the maize streak virus (MSV). This disease was first observed by entomologist Claude Fuller in KwaZulu-Natal province (known at the time as Natal), and described in his 1901 report as “mealie variegation”.MSV occurs throughout Africa and causes one of the most serious viral crop diseases on the continent. Transmitted by insects, it manifests as pale yellow or yellow-white leaves, stunting the plant severely and often preventing it from producing complete cobs or seed. Research has shown that infection within the first few weeks of planting can result in a total crop loss, and devastation for farmers.The development, through breeding or genetic modification, of a maize variety that resists MSV has been a priority in a number of African countries, among them Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria.Locally, research into MSV resistance is now funded by the South African branch of the Pannar Seed Company, based in KwaZulu-Natal. The project was initially funded by the Claude Leon Foundation, a trust which supports postdoctoral research, then by the Rockefeller Foundation and South Africa’s Maize Trust.The process is slow and expensive, which is why few academic research laboratories are able to undertake it.Strict regulationsSouth Africa has a GMO regulatory body which falls under the Department of Agriculture and is administered by the department’s biosafety directorate. There is a full-time registrar and any application is first directed to a scientific advisory committee and handled on a case-by-case basis.The advisory committee advises an executive council, which is the decision-making body. The council consists of members from the health, environment, and trade and industry sectors, all of whom scrutinise the application closely.The application is approved only if the council is satisfied, or it may be declined or sent back for more research.OppositionSome organisations are opposed to the genetic engineering of foods. Biowatch South Africa, based in KwaZulu-Natal, is the main watchdog and was established in 1997 to keep tabs on issues of genetic modification, and promote biological diversity and sustainable livelihoods. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are also active in their opposition.There are five main areas of controversy – safety, effect on natural ecosystems, gene flow into non-GM crops, moral and religious concerns, and corporate control of the food supply.During the research process geneticists have to ensure that they don’t introduce a virus that can harm humans or animals. The Food and Agriculture Organisation has done extensive analyses and has shown that to date no modified foods are harmful in the short term.GM foods are subjected to a battery of tests run by toxicologists. Although all findings are published in books or journals, access to literature on research carried out by government bodies is not always possible.The concern that GM foods are inherently allergenic or cause physiological changes is not based in fact. Testing is rigorous and foodstuffs must undergo and pass the full range of tests before the regulatory body gives approval.When asked about concerns of vegetarians and vegans, Thomson stated that there is no animal DNA in any GM plant that is eaten.The way forwardIn his closing speech at the 2010 African Green Revolution forum held in early September in Accra, Ghana, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said , “I saw African scientists this week who are at the forefront of developing Africa’s own solutions to unlock agricultural productivity.”One of the strategies for the future, said Annan, will be to boost investment in science, technology and research, in order to ensure food and nutrition security. He added that this would work only if it’s done on a sustained basis and in cooperation with farmers.It is clear that Africa is taking responsibility for her own needs with a vision and the implementation of a plan. The key to understanding the future regarding GM products is knowledge. There are many publications freely available that debate both sides and without doubt, South Africa and other African states are on par with European countries and the US in the field of research and advancement in GM foods.last_img read more

first_imgA Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Backyard also does one other little thing – it has actual people confirm things like price and hours of happy hours, Taco Tuesdays and other sorts of things, meaning that when you get these search results, you can be sure that when you ask for a happy hour right now, it isn’t a happy hour that used to exist three years ago. And when you click through to an individual business’s page, you can see an aggregate of Yelp reviews, this verified contact, pricing and hour data, and even add it to your Foursquare to-do list.Beyond that, Backyard really might be just another “Where’s a good bar/salon/restaurant” app like any other, but the idea of cartering search results according to my demographics sets it apart. Tags:#Product Reviews#web Recently, I’ve answered the question “What do you write about?” with “Not coupons.” It’s not that I don’t like a deal (who doesn’t?), but that coupons are coupons and aren’t technologically interesting. Backyard, a self-described “scrappy young startup” showed today at the Launch conference and gives their users “relevant & valuable information about deals in their area.” Normally, this is the sort of thing that would fall into the realm of what I don’t write about, but CEO Steve Espinosa showed me that Backyard has something different to offer. By working with Facebook Connect, the site immediately works to use demographic data to cater not only the look of the site, but also determine what sort of results you see. Consider it a personalized sort of Yelp search engine.Right now, Backyard sticks with two primary realms – deals like happy hours, sushi specials, lunch specials and taco Tuesdays and services like manicures, pedicures, haircuts and tanning services. The company discussed more realms, but that’s not the interesting part. Espinosa differentiated the site from Yelp, showing that if you search for a place for a bar on Yelp (especially in a city like San Francisco), all you’ll see is a page of five-star reviews. Backyard differentiates search results according to demographics it gathers from your Facebook profile and caters the search results accordingly. It also takes into account what places your friends on Facebook like, taking that into account when it returns search results.“If you like rap, we’ll likely direct you to a club,” said Espinosa. “If you like rock, we’ll probably send you somewhere else.”Backyard helps the user interpret results, showing a percentage on each that indicates how much higher or lower the price for the service there is compared to the average of all results. Where does Backyard get its results? A combination of sources, from Yahoo Local to Yelp reviews to Facebook data. Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Related Posts mike melanson Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

first_imgJustin Timberlake shared pictures of his childhood in which he is seen playing a tiny banjo amongst a group of adults with their full-size instruments.The photos were uploaded Thursday and the “Mirrors” singer is recognizable with his trademark curls, and looks for words as he strums his instrument, while rocking in a pair of red and white spotted dungarees, reports usmagazine.com.The photos were uploaded ThursdayHis pictures show that he has been fine tuning his musical talents long before his first public appearance on “Star Search” at the age of 11.The former NSYNC star has his mother to thank for sporting his early musical talents.last_img read more