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News Blog

A collection of longer form stories, submitted, sourced, or written by our team, that would not make sense to cover in a traditional broadcast news format, but which we wanted to share with you anyway.

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Iono - Behind the Bulletins

Week in Review - 16 September 2017

Government's financial woes were once again highlighted this week as it was revealed that the Italian company heading up the construction of the Neckertal Dam were cutting shifts and exploring other money saving mechanisms following government's failure to pay them some N$ 396 million. Later in the week Minister of Agriculture, Water, and Forestry John Mutorwa said that the Cabinet Committee on Finance had met to address the matter, that the company would be paid by next week, and that they would ensure that payment for the remaining 10% of the project is forthcoming to ensure the successful completion of what will become Namibia's biggest dam. 
 
One of the ways that government is hoping to migitate the financial difficulties they are in is of course through the collection of outstanding tax amounts during the second tax amnesty that began on Monday and will run for the next 6 months with the option of tax payers setting up payment plans for their outstanding amounts. The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry is not so sure the amnesty will be effective though, pointing out that most businesses are in a downturn and have a diminished capacity to pay outstanding amounts. The NCCI suggests that the Ministry of Finance rather look at widening the tax base and improve collection through hunting down businesses which hide income.
 
In other local news the Bank of Namibia stated that virtual currencies such as Bitcoin are not legal tender in Namibia and cautioned people wishing to trade in them that they do so at their own risk, and applications opened for the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship which sees selected Namibians between the age of 25 and 35 get to spend 6 weeks at a US university or college furthering their education in the fields of public service, business and entrepreneurship, or civic engagement.
 
In South Africa Standard Bank appointed Sim Tshabalala as sole chief executive officer, ending a dual role that he had shared with Ben Kruger, and making him the first black person to lead Africa's largest lender alone. In other good news former Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana was convicted of three counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after he pleaded guilty. There was bad news for the country though as it was revealed that the South African Revenue Service missed its first quarter revenue target by R13.1 billion, pointing out that if the trend continues the overall target would be missed by about R50 billion.
 
Elsewhere in Africa, a South African company was granted one of only two licenses for the cultivation, processing, and sale of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes in Lesotho, Tanzania confiscated diamonds worth nearly $30 million after accusing British company Petra Diamonds of undervaluing an export shipment, Nigeria declared a curfew in the southeast following brewing tensions between pro-Biafra supporters and the military while other parts of the country braced for flood waters from the rising Niger River. Political tensions continued in both Kenya and Zimbabwe with Kenya's opposition refusing to accept the terms and date for the re-run of the recent election which was nullified by the court, and in Zimbabwe the opposition coalition lead a court challenge against the President's declaration of voter registration dates, while at the same time facing internal divisions and power struggles.
 
Internationally condemnation continued to mount against Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, it was reported that more than half of the world's refugee children – some 3.5 million altogether – do not attend school, Facebook was fined 1.2 million Euros for breaching Spain's privacy rules, Norway went to the polls, and a contentious postal survey on same-sex marriage kicked off in Australia.

Week in Review - 09 September 2017

Fresh off of last week's Hurricane Harvey that battered Houston Texas and the flooding that monsoon rains caused in much of the Asian sub-continent, this week it was Irma that was doing the damage, the category 5 hurricane decimated the island of Barbuda, leaving at least 50% of inhabitants homeless and destroying at least 95% of all buildings on the island. The Hurricane also completely cut off the island of St. Martin after causing extensive damage to both the air and sea-ports. Irma is the largest Caribbean storm in recorded history and is said to have maintained its intensity for longer than any other storm has managed. The storm has also damaged buildings and cost lives in islands including both the British and US Virgin Islands, Peurto Rico, Anguilla, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Irma is also expected to affect parts of Cuba, as well as The Bahamas before turning northwards and hitting the mainland US Coastline in Florida.
 
As if that part of the world wasn't suffering enough on Friday morning it was also reported that a magnitude 8.1 earthquake had struck off Mexico's Pacific coast, claiming several lives in Mexico and at least one in neighbouring Guatemala, as well as triggering a tsunami warning.
 
Locally there was relief as the Ministry of Finance announced a second tax arrear recovery programme that will run from September 11th 2017 up until March 11th 2018 and will include as an option the chance to pay off outstanding amounts owed to the receiver in instalment payments over the amnesty period. Staying in Namibia it was reported that the company building the Neckertal Dam has had to reduce shift hours due to incomplete payment by government, Namibia's airports and border posts are in the process of switching to a new biometric system, the Unam Faculty of Health Sciences is to launch four new specialised qualifications, and President Hage Geingob and a delegation of Ministers along with the First Lady will be attending the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, while also conducting other meetings and business at the same time.
 
There was good news on the financial front as it was reported South Africa and Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa's two largest economies, had emerged from recession, while there was bad news for South Africans as the price of fuel increased sharply with local economists pointing out the knock on effect this will have from everything from transportation and commuting to food and agricultural prices. In other financial news Shoprite shareholders voted in favour of buying roughly 1.75 billion Rands worth of shares from ex-CEO Whitey Basson, which this journalist hopes he uses in a similar vein to PSG founder Jannie Mouton, who has used some of his billions to create a philanthropic organisation which aims to plough back into and develop the country.
 
Elsewhere in Africa, UN investigators have accused Burundi's government of crimes against humanity including executions and torture, it was revealed that a fire that killed nine teenage girls at a Kenyan high school dormitory was started deliberately, while Kenya's Raila Odinga refused a power sharing option and also rejected the initial date selected for a rerun of elections, claiming he had not been consulted. Meanwhile a spate of unsolved murders in Uganda has put massive public pressure on the police, and armed forces from various SADC member states were on high alert for possible deployment following the murder of Lesotho's army chief and two senior officers on Tueday.
 
Internationally the UN said it had evidence that Syrian government forces were behind April's horrific Saron Gas attack, Catalonia took one step closer to seceding from Spain, International condemnation grew against Myanmars de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her country's treatment of the marginalised Rohingya Muslim minority.

The Cancer Association of Namibia's take on 'vaping'

This is a very interesting article written by Rolf Hansen, the CEO of the Cancer Association of Namibia on the topic of e-cigarettes and 'vaping':

The tobacco industry remains pursuant in finding “grey areas” to infiltrate the market with “smart” and “healthier” ways to sell their products and promote smoking.
 
An electronic cigarette/ E-cigarette is a handheld electronic device that tries to create the feeling of tobacco smoking. It works by heating a liquid to generate an aerosol, commonly called a "vapour” that the user inhales. Using e-cigarettes is sometimes called vaping. The liquid in the e-cigarette is usually made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and flavourings.
Most E-cigarettes contain zero tobacco products, or heat as opposed to combust tobacco, or does not contain e-liquids with nicotine at all. Vapour from an electronic cigarette simulates tobacco smoke, but the process of burning tobacco does not occur.
 
The health risks of e-cigarettes are uncertain at current, as this is new technology flooding the market. But, because of the contents of the e-liquid (i.e. toxicants and traces of heavy metals at levels permissible in inhalation medicines, and potentially harmful chemicals not found in tobacco smoke at concentrations permissible by workplace safety standards. However, chemical concentrations may exceed the stricter public safety limits), the Cancer Association of Namibia has been inundated with calls from the public on weather “vaping” is allowed in public places, restaurants, schools and enclosed areas.
 
Vaping is still dangerous, and many vaporizers employ e-liquid or e-juice that contains nicotine, but usually not in the high concentrations that represent in cigarettes. Overall, it remains a very unhealthy situation, and the combustion process to produces the vape creates a lot of the carcinogens present in cigarette smoke as well.
 
E-cigarettes are likely safer than tobacco cigarettes, but the long-term health effects when used by non-smokers (including second hand inhalation) can lead to nicotine addiction, and there is concern that children could start smoking after using e-cigarettes. So far, no serious adverse effects have been reported in trials globally we have learnt, but definite less serious adverse effects include throat and mouth irritation, vomiting, nausea, and coughing.
 
Given all the information presented on the topic, the Cancer Association of Namibia cannot condone the use of e-cigarettes/vaping, especially in public places and around children due to the adverse effects it may have. No smoking remains in our opinion the best option.
 
How does the electronic cigarette work?
 
An electronic cigarette or e-cigarette is a handheld electronic device that creates an aerosol by heating a liquid. The user then inhales the aerosol. Using e-cigarettes is sometimes called vaping. The liquid in the e-cigarette, called e-liquid or “e-juice”, is usually made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and flavourings.
 
Where does the nicotine in “e-juice” come from?
 
The main ingredients in the e-liquid usually are propylene glycol, glycerine, nicotine, and flavourings. However, there are e-liquids sold without propylene glycol, nicotine, or flavours. The liquid typically contains 95% propylene glycol and glycerine. The nicotine in e-liquid is the same as that used in pharmaceutical nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). It is extracted from a member of the tobacco family but not the same plant as used for smoking tobacco as that has much less nicotine in the leaves than the rustic type of tobacco plant.
 
Is tobacco used in electronic cigarettes?
 
Although they do not produce tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and recent research suggests nicotine exposure may also prime the brain to become addicted to other substances.
 
How addictive are Vapes?
 
When you start smoking, vaping or supplying nicotine to your receptors, they multiply. If you stop smoking or vaping, the receptors don't go away. Nicotine use very quickly escalates into addiction, even when dealing with tobacco-free, odourless “vaping” associated with e-cigarettes.
 
What are the known health factors on E-Cigarettes / Vapes?
 
A 2014 World Health Report (WHO) report found e-cigarettes release a lower level of particles than traditional cigarettes. Comparable to a traditional cigarette, e-cigarette particles are tiny enough to enter the alveoli of the lung, enabling nicotine absorption. E-cigarettes companies assert that the particulates produced by an e-cigarette are too tiny to be deposited in the alveoli.  Exactly what comprises the vapour varies in composition and concentration across and within manufacturers. Different devices generate different particle sizes and cause different depositions in the respiratory tract, even from the same nicotine liquid. Reports in the literature have shown respiratory and cardiovascular effects by these smaller size particles, suggesting a possible health concern.
 
In terms of second hand smoke, emissions from electronic cigarettes are not comparable to environmental pollution or cigarette smoke as their nature and chemical composition are completely different. The particles are larger, with the mean size being 600 nm in inhaled aerosol and 300 nm in exhaled vapour. The exhaled aerosol particle concentration is 5 times lower from an e-cigarette than from a combustible tobacco cigarette. The density of particles in the vapour is lower than in cigarette smoke by a factor of between 6 and 880 times lower.
 
For particulate matter emissions, e-cigarettes slightly exceed the WHO guidelines, but emissions were 15 times less than traditional cigarette use. In January 2014, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease stated "Adverse health effects for exposed third parties (second-hand exposure) cannot be excluded because the use of electronic cigarettes leads to emission of fine and ultrafine inhalable liquid particles, nicotine and cancer-causing substances into indoor air."
 
Since e-cigarettes have not been widely used long enough for evaluation, the long-term health effects from the second-hand vapour are not known. There is insufficient data to determine the impact on public health from e-cigarettes. The potential harm to bystanders from e-cigarettes is unknown, because no long-term data is available at current.
 
E-cigarettes used in indoor environments can put at risk non-smokers to elevated levels of nicotine and aerosol emissions. Non-smokers exposed to e-cigarette aerosol produced by a machine and pumped into a room were found to have detectable levels of the nicotine metabolite cotinine in their blood. The same study stated that 80% of nicotine is normally absorbed by the user, so these results may be higher than in actual second hand exposure. In 2015 a report commissioned by Public Health England concluded that e-cigarettes "release negligible levels of nicotine into ambient air with no identified health risks to bystanders".
 
E-cigarette use by a parent might lead to inadvertent health risks to offspring. E-cigarettes pose many safety concerns to children. For example, indoor surfaces can accumulate nicotine where e-cigarettes were used, which may be inhaled by children, particularly youngsters, long after they were used. A policy statement by the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Society of Clinical Oncology has reported that "Third-hand exposure occurs when nicotine and other chemicals from second-hand aerosol deposit on surfaces, exposing people through touch, ingestion, and inhalation"
 
Do smoking laws apply to vaping?
 
Many jurisdictions worldwide have recently begun enacting laws (by amending tobacco control laws already in place) that prohibit e-cigarette usage everywhere that smoking is banned, although some countries with comprehensive smoke-free laws will still allow for vaping to be permitted in bars and restaurants while prohibiting e-cigarettes in other indoor places.
 
In Namibia, our current Tobacco Control Act of 2010 does not make provision for e-cigarettes / vaping in direct context. This is, because the Act is primarily focussed on tobacco products. In the event that an e-cigarette contains any form of tobacco product, the Act then comes into play.
 
The onus thus rests on the owner / management per venue to, on the basis of “right of admission”, prohibit the use of e-cigarettes / vaping in their respective institutions.
 
What about Hubbly Bubbly?
 
A hubbly bubbly – also called a hub, hookah, water pipe, or shisha – is an instrument for smoking tobacco, which is often flavoured. It consists of a base container, usually made of glass, attached to one or many smoking tubes. While many hookah smokers may consider this practice less harmful than smoking cigarettes, hookah smoking carries many of the same health risks as cigarettes. Just like regular tobacco, shisha contains nicotine. In fact, in a 60-minute Hookah session, smokers are exposed to 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.
 
Smoking a hookah doesn't have to mean smoking tobacco or taking in nicotine, which are common substances associated with smoking. But hookah smoking has its own demon — combusted charcoal — which carries health risks even when non-tobacco shisha is used!
 
As tobacco molasses is primarily used in this product, it falls directly under the Tobacco Control Act of 2010. It is illegal to smoke under the age of 16 years, in public and enclosed spaces and is punishable by enactment of the law.
 
Is vaping still smoking?
 
Vaping is still dangerous, and many vaporizers employ e-liquid or e-juice that contains nicotine, but usually not in the high concentrations that represent in cigarettes. Overall, it remains a very unhealthy situation, and the combustion process to produces the vape creates a lot of the carcinogens present in cigarette smoke as well.
 
E-cigarettes are likely safer than tobacco cigarettes, but the long-term health effects when used by non-smokers (including second hand inhalation) can lead to nicotine addiction, and there is concern that children could start smoking after using e-cigarettes. So far, no serious adverse effects have been reported in trials globally we have learnt, but definite less serious adverse effects include throat and mouth irritation, vomiting, nausea, and coughing.
 
Given all the information presented on the topic, the Cancer Association of Namibia cannot condone the use of e-cigarettes/vaping, especially in public places and around children due to the adverse effects it may have. No smoking remains in our opinion the best option.