Religious exemptions and a Measles outbreak in Gauteng

There has been an outbreak of Measles in Gauteng.
According to the front page of The Saturday Star dated April 6, the outbreak is centred around a family that refused vaccination for “religious reasons”.
Refusing vaccination for “religious reasons” is utter hogwash. Judaism has no proscriptions on vaccination as far as I could find, Islam has actual fatwas supporting vaccination, and the mainline Christian denominations all agree that vaccination is beneficial.
In the US, the problem of outbreaks due to people refusing to be vaccinated has led to several states banning all but medical exemptions. There is currently a measles outbreak underway in Minnesota.
According to the JustAnswer website:

The only requirement that is currently mandatory in South Africa is proof of immunisation against yellow fever for any person that enters the country from a country that is deemed by the WHO as a country where yellow fever transmission is present.
Compulsory vaccination can also be enforced where there is a threat to public health.
It should not be seen as child abuse and is in discretion of the parent.

In other words, in South Africa vaccination is voluntary, except in certain situations.
The Bill of Rights bans discrimination against religion. It is disappointing that some hide behind this to refuse vaccination.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination | Tagged , , , ,

No, autism and psychopathy are NOT the same!

So I’ve been reading Adam West’s serialised deconstruction of “Atlas Shrugged” on his Daylight Atheism blog.
One thing about Rand’s protagonists is abundantly clear – they are all psychopaths.
In the comments section, one misguided soul asked if Rand was maybe autistic. The short answer is no. Another example of this misguided but widely held belief is the Ben Affleck starrer “The Accountant“, where the lead character is an autistic who is an accountant working for organised criminals, and a stone cold murderer.
The association of autism with psychopathy is fractally wrong. It misunderstands autism, empathy, psychopathy, and empathy’s relationship to autism and psychopathy.
There are two broad types of empathy: affective and cognitive. Affective empathy is the capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental states, including the ability to feel what others feel. Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand what somebody else is thinking or feeling. Autistics score poorly on cognitive empathy but highly on affective empathy. They are bad at working out what other are thinking or feeling, but feel it intensely when they do. Psychopaths are literally the opposite: they score highly on cognitive empathy but minimally on affective empathy. They can easily work out what others are thinking or feeling, but hardly feel it themselves. And this is what makes them so dangerous.
Autistics are not psychopaths. Please stop making that mistake.

Posted in Autism Awareness, Background Data | Tagged , , , , , ,

Measles, measles everywhere

Several Measles outbreaks are currently underway.
In Romania, a major outbreak there has already killed over 20 people. The number of cases is heading to 5,000.
In Italy, over 1,600 cases of Measles have been reported since the start of the year, higher than the total number of cases seen during all of 2016. Some blame has been placed on the antivaccine Five Star Movement. Also, a nurse was caught faking giving children vaccines.
In Minnesota, the Somali community has suffered an outbreak. Fears over the discredited link between vaccines and autism led to a fall in vaccination rates to 42%, which has now culminated in the current situation.
In Portugal, a 17 year old has died.
Measles is one of the most infectious diseases around. The Community immunity threshold is 95%. This means that in order for the disease to not spread, 95% of a community must be up to date with their MMR/MMRV vaccinations. The ongoing outbreaks are the inevitable result of the fearmongering and lies spread by antivaccination groups and individuals, and the loss of Community immunity.

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Mad March? More like Mad April

April is Autism Awareness Month. Several organisations and areas (like Guam, for instance) have “lit it up blue”. I, like many self advocates, am “toning it down taupe”, as “Light it up blue” was started by “Autism Speaks”.
There has been a Meningitis C outbreak in Nigeria. The WHO and others have been supplying vaccines to contain infection.
I’m going to a SIGiST Meeting next week Wednesday. I’ll write about it.
Finally, even I’m getting fatigued with what’s happening in South African political circles. Shortly after Midnight on March 31, President Jacob Zuma dismissed Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, and replaced them with Mmalusi Gigaba and Sfiso Buthelezi respectively.
The response was immediate. Ratings Agencies Fitch and Standard and Poor’s downgraded South Africa to Junk Status, and Moody’s will almost certainly also do so. On April 12, Jacob Zuma’s 75th birthday, mass protests organised by opposition political parties called on him to step down. ANC insiders have also urged Zuma to reverse his decision or resign the presidency. Zuma, however, has declared he is staying put.
Hoo boy.

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A Scandalous week

In the last week, South Africa was rocked by five scandals. Any one of the five on its own would have been shocking. Collectively, they are an utter disgrace.

Durban loses the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games

On Monday, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) announced that they were looking for an alternative city to host the 2022 Commonwealth games after original host city Durban failed to meet certain commitments. Financial issues, including the refusal of the South African Government to provide guarantees, and the missing of several deadlines, like the failure to appoint a Local Organising Committee, led to the decision. The original budget requested was far too small to pay for everything needed to host the Games. In the end, Durban presented the option of a scaled down 2022 Games. This was unacceptable to the CGF, and Durban was stripped of the right to host the Games.
Another alleged problem is government interference. It has been claimed that Government wanted to run the Games. If true, this would be most inappropriate as this area is the responsibility of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
It is estimated that R118-million was spent on the bid. That is money that could have been spent on things like schools, bursaries and social grants now gone down the drain. Why did Durban bid when there weren’t the resources to carry it out?
This is also a huge embarrasment to South Africa. On the same day the CGF made its announcement, a team arrived to inspect the country’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Make no mistake, this has damaged our prospects. It also means that any talk of South Africa hosting an Olympic Games will remain just that for the foreseeable future: talk.

DPCI Head dismissed

On Friday, a full bench of the High Court in Pretoria ruled that Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko’s 2015 decision to appoint Lieutenant General Berning Ntlemeza to head the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) aka the Hawks was unlawful and invalid, and set it aside. Two Courts had ruled that Ntlemeza was dishonest, had lied under oath and lacked integrity.
In 2015 Judge Elias Matojane had set aside Ntlemeza’s suspension of then Gauteng Hawks head Anwa Dramat for his alleged involvement in the illegal repatriation of a group of Zimbabwean nationals in 2010. In his verdict, Matojane said that Ntlemeza “lacks integrity and honour” and had perjured himself under oath.
Also in 2015, the High Court in Durban set aside the suspension of Kwazulu-Natal Hawks Head Johan Booysen. Judge Anton van Zyl found that Ntlemeza embarked upon action which was simply unsustainable if he had considered the information at his disposal, and had supported the case on pure speculation. When Booysen made detailed submissions to Ntlemeza, he ignored them and suspended Booysens anyway. Because of Ntlezema’s conduct van Zyl made a costs order against the Police.
Nhleko ignored two High Court Judgements and appointed Ntlezema over other perfectly qualified and far less controversial candidates. His conduct in the matter could politely be called suspicious.


This week, Popo Molefe, the former chairperson of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) filed an urgent application to have the dissolution of PRASA’s Board declared unlawful and set aside. Last week, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters dissolved the Board. On Monday, she appointed a new Board. Molefe alleges that the Board was about to take the Hawks to Court over their inaction in investigating and bringing charges against PRASA members fingered in varous investigations.


South African Airways has reported that its projected losses for the 2016/17 financial year amount to R3.5-Billion, more than double the original estimate of R1.7-Billion. This loss will have to be made good by taxpayer money. Global ratings firm S&P Global this week warned that South African SOEs like SAA were putting a massive strain on the economy, and that continued bailouts will ultimately push the country’s sovereign debt below investment grade.


The biggest and most shocking of the stories involves SASSA, the South African Social Security Agency. On Thursday, the Constitutional Court heard a case brought by the Black Sash and Freedom Under Law about the contract between SASSA and CPS, a subsidiary of Net1 that had been contracted to distribute grants.
The story begins in 2012 when Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), a subsidiary of Net1, was given a contract by SASSA to distribute grants. But a losing bidder took the matter to Court. In 2014, the Constitutional Court invalidated the contract due to severe tender irregularities. However, because the distribution of Social Grants is so vital, the Court allowed CPS to continue administering the grants‚ while SASSA was instructed to devise an in-house payment system or choose a new distributor.
Despite having more than two years to either build a system or pick another distributor for grants, SASSA did neither. A new round of bidding for distributing grants failed when none of the applicants met the requirements, and SASSA did next to nothing to build internal capacity so that it could distribute grants.
There are suspicions that SASSA’s failures to pick a new distributor and to build capacity were deliberate. Two years is ample time to do both, never mind either. Even if there was no company with the capacity to carry out the distributions, any competently run company would have found a way to build that capacity in well under a year.
Net1 and CPS also seem to have dirty hands in this affair. As part of its role, CPS was given broad access to beneficiary data to enable it to distribute grants. The undertaking was that the data would be used for distributing grants only. But Amabhungane, the investigative arm of the Mail and Guardian Newspaper, claims to have evidence that beneficiary data was used by other companies in the Net1 group to market financial services to grant recipients, and to directly debit their grants to repay those services. CPS and Net1 deny the claims. If true (and I am confident that Amabhungane has the evidence), this is at best a gross abuse of CPS’s position, and at worst illegal.
On Friday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the invalid CPS contract be extended for another 12 months. The judges were so unhappy with the conduct of Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini that they have ordered her to provide reasons why she should not be held accountable for court costs in her personal capacity. SASSA must now report back to the Constitutional Court every three months with evaluations on the process to find a new service provider, or with taking the grants payments in-house.
The entire situation stinks.

Here’s hoping that next week, next month, next year will see less idiocy.

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On camouflaging signs and traits of autism

So I read an interesting article on the “Spectrum News” website. Autistics often engage in camouflaging – hiding their autistic behaviours – but autistic females are generally better at it. As the article says:
As a group, women with autism have higher camouflaging scores than men, the researchers found. This finding meshes with anecdotal reports that women feel pressure to fit in and try to do so by imitating socially successful peers. This may also contribute to the gender bias in autism — that is, more women have autism than the reported sex ratio indicates because many women with the condition fly under the diagnostic radar.
Food for thought.

Posted in Autism Awareness, Background Data

Running back towards the cliff

On Tuesday, Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan delivered the Budget Speech.
One fact was abundantly clear: the tax kitty is depleted. South Africa’s government doesn’t have the money to fulfill all its obligations.
In the same week as Gordhan’s Budget Speech, the Minister and Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources (Mosebenzi Zwane and Godfrey Oliphant) were allocated a Mercedes Benz S400 and Porsche Cayenne respectively. This is despite “austerity measures” which supposedly limited the cost of new vehicle purchases to R750,000. In addition, Brian Molefe, who as CEO of Eskom drove the State Owned Enterprise into the ground, was appointed a Member of Parliament.
What the actions above show is a government that doesn’t understand, doesn’t care, or both. Almost 23 years of bad decisions, incompetence, corruption, patronage and snouting have caused matters to reach a critical point. Yet still it continues on its course, refusing to address the issues and their underlying causes. And how can it, when the President was found liable for using state money upgrades at his private residence, and yet only had to pay back a fraction of the money squandered?
Some people have mentioned a tax boycott. I don’t have that option as my income tax is taken off my salary directly. Yet I completely understand the anger. Ferial Haffajee, Editor at Large for Huffington Post South Africa, has an Opinion Piece “I Want Some Service For My Tax“. I totally agree with her. Like her, over the last few years, I have been paying more and more and getting less and less. And so has everyone else. And I’m fed up.
Unless things change very soon, South Africa will become another African failure: a country that started out with so much promise, only to be brought down by corruption and incompetence.

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