Democrats take the House from Trump

By Alana Abramson for Time; Rozina Sabur for The Telegraph  

Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives but lost ground in the Senate following a contentious campaign that President Donald Trump worked to make all about him.

Democrats picked up at least 23 House seats in tallies early Wednesday, putting them within reach of the 218 seats needed to take control from Republicans, the Associated Press projected.

However, Democrats’ hopes of an overwhelming “Blue Wave” in both chambers of Congress and in governors races was dimmed as losses in at least three key Senate races — including Beto O’Rourke in Texas — meant Republicans would have control of the Senate with an even bigger majority.

Republicans also won the Florida governor’s mansion, with Ron DeSantis overtaking Andrew Gillum. In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams trailed Brian Kemp early Wednesday, but the race was still too close to call. In total, however, Democrats flipped 5 governorships – including in deep red Kansas where Laura Kelly defeated right-wing darling Kris Kobach.

What does this mean for Trump?
The Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, delivering a bitter blow for Donald Trump after a campaign that became a referendum on his leadership.

The Republican Party went into Tuesday’s elections in control of the chamber with a 43-seat majority. However, Democrats rode a wave of dissatisfaction with the US President to gain the 23 seats needed to win control of the House.

The lower chamber of the US Congress, the House is made up of 435 seats. The number of seats each US state receives depends on its population size. California, the most populous state, has 53 representatives while seven states – Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming – have just one representative.

“Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America,” Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi told cheering Democrats at a Washington victory party, saying House Democrats would be a check on Mr Trump.

“We will have a responsibility to find our common ground where we can, stand our ground where we can’t,” Ms Pelosi said.

Now the Democrats have won the House, they get to decide which bills come to the floor – meaning President Donald Trump’s domestic agenda will struggle to make its way into law.

The party with a majority in the chamber also controls its committee chairmanships and has the power to issue subpoenas – so a Democrat-controlled House could enforce aggressive oversight of investigations of the president’s administration, including alleged Russian collusion, Mr Trump’s business dealings and sexual assault allegations against him.

Pundits predict Democrats will launch controversial investigations into things like Mr Trump’s tax returns and his previous business dealings. They may also seek public hearings with members of the Trump family, including his son Donald Jr who appears to be a key figure in the Russia investigation.

They also could force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico, pass a second major tax-cut package or carry out his hardline policies on trade.

A simple House majority would be enough to impeach Trump if evidence surfaces that he obstructed justice or that his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia. But Congress could not remove him from office without a conviction by a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Senate.

House Democrats could be banking on launching an investigation using the results of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s already 18-month-old probe of allegations of Russian interference on Trump’s behalf in the 2016 presidential election. Moscow denies meddling and Trump denies any collusion.

Democrats on the House oversight committee, the chamber’s main investigative panel, had already suggested they were prepared to issue subpoenas if they gain control.

Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the oversight committee, said: “If Democrats win the majority in November, we would finally do what Republicans have refused to do, and that is conduct independent, fact-based, and credible investigations of the Trump administration”.

Mr Cummings said their investigations would “address issues like the security clearance process, conflicts of interest, the numerous attempts by Republicans to strip away healthcare from millions of Americans, postal service reforms, prescription drug pricing, and voting rights”.

Republicans have, however, held on to the Senate, meaning they will continue to approve Mr Trump’s cabinet nominees and appoint conservative judges to US courtrooms.

First e-toll case heads to court

Source: MyBroadband, Netwerk24 

According to a report by Netwerk24, the first e-toll test case will be heard in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

The report states that the test case will involve the transport company Thandanani Packers & Hauliers, which owes R400 000 in e-toll bills.

The company has stated that it cannot afford e-tolls, and if they were forced to pay this money the business will need to close.

Outa said the case will focus on the overall legality of the e-tolls system and will be used for the main dispute of the overall “legality challenges” to the e-tolls system itself.

The legal team for the supporters of Outa wanted Sanral to suspend enforcement of all other e-toll legal claims against motorists, but Sanral’s team would not agree to this.

“Sanral’s lawyers said a general stay could not be agreed whilst road users were being encouraged not to pay e-tolls,” Outa said.

Sanral added that it would continue to issue a significant number of summonses and proceed with e-toll claims.

Source: MyBroadband

Telkom, the partly state-owned South African telecommunications company, is billing the national police service for two contracts that cover virtually the same work, five people familiar with the situation said.

The Pretoria-based company secured a contract to work on the service’s switching centers, which allow the South African Police Service to communicate with staff and stations across the country, and started work in mid 2016 using Netxcom ICT Solutions (Pty) Ltd. as a subcontractor, the people said, declining to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak to the press.

While Netxcom is continuing to do the work, Telkom has withheld some of the payments it owes to the subcontractor even though it has continued to receive money from the police, the people said. It is now in a legal dispute with Netxcom, which has sued to get the money it believes it is owed. Telkom said it did withhold some payments to subcontractors because of contractual “inadequacies” without naming Netxcom.

A few months after Netxcom started work, Telkom signed a separate R497-million ($34 million) contract, which will run for five years, with the police to do the same work on the same switching centers with a few minor additions. That agreement, which has been seen by Bloomberg, includes another subcontractor known as AppCentrix (Pty) Ltd. as a participant. It was not put through a competitive bidding process, as is mandatory for all government contracts over 1 million rand unless the requirement is waived by the National Treasury.

Treasury unaware
The Treasury says that it is unaware of the contract. The State Information Technology Agency, or SITA, which procures all of government’s information technology, was not consulted by the police on this contract as is also mandatory, the people said, declining to be identified because the information isn’t public.

Telkom spokeswoman Nomalungelo Faku cited confidentiality clauses when asked why a tender for the new contract had not been held. The police and SITA didn’t respond to queries. Netxcom and AppCentrix declined to comment.

“As a principle, Telkom does not withhold payment to its vendors,” Faku said by email, saying she was commenting on behalf of George Candiotes, Telkom’s executive for legal services. “However, during 2017 Telkom conducted a supplier review. Based on this certain actions were taken between Telkom and suppliers including the withholding of payments where certain inadequacies in the contractual arrangements were identified.”

Wasteful spending
Emails between senior officials of of Telkom’s BCX unit seen by Bloomberg said that the failure to pay Netxcom was souring Telkom’s relationship with the police and that Netxcom was still doing work for the police.

Telkom hasn’t answered questions on how the two contracts with the police differ.

The revelations come as Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over as president in February, is overseeing a drive to stem irregular and wasteful spending that’s led to the termination of boards of state companies.

Internal email communication, seen by Bloomberg, between Telkom staff including its chief executive officer, Sipho Maseko, and Candiotes corroborated what the people said about the non-payment of fees to NetXcom.

The South African Police Service “has not indicated any direct issues with the vendors or the work and we are receiving payment,” Candiotes said in an April email to Maseko. “Our view is that we are currently exposed in the instance where we cannot show why we cannot make payment, despite our contentions we have terminated the agreement.”

Telkom, which is 41% owned by the government, is trying to terminate the relationship with Netxcom in favor of its newer contract, the people said.

By Jillian D’Onfro for CNBC

In response to the European Union’s $5 billion antitrust ruling in July, Google will change how it bundles its apps on Android phones and charge a licensing fee for phone makers that want to pre-install apps like Gmail, Maps and YouTube in the EU.

Google will also end restrictions on phone makers selling modified or “forked” versions of the mobile operating system.

Previously, Google tied together a suite of 11 different apps that phone makers would have to pre-install if they wanted to license its app store, Play. In July, the EU ruled that this bundling was anti-competitive — pushing consumers toward Google’s search engine and weakening rival app makers — though it only specifically called for Google to separate Chrome and Search from Play.

In response, Google said in a blog post on Tuesday that it will start offering separate licenses for Search and Chrome, as well as a license for its suite of apps like Maps, Gmail and Docs. That means that if phone makers want to pre-install those apps, they will have to pay a fee, though the amount was not specified. Google says the new licensing fee will offset revenue lost through compliance efforts that it uses to fund the development of Android, which it offers as a free, open source platform. The licenses for Search and Chrome will not have a fee.

Although Google doesn’t make money from Android directly, it generates advertising revenue through search as well as Chrome, Maps and Gmail, serving ads within those apps and using data it collects from users to better target ads across its platforms.

“Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA [European Economic Area],” wrote Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s vice president of platforms.

Google’s previous agreements with phone makers also prevented them from selling modified versions of Android if they wanted to use its suite of apps, but the company will now allow manufacturers to build forked smartphones and tablets for the EEA.

Overall, Google’s Android powers more than 80 percent of the world’s smartphones. These changes, which will come into effect on Oct. 29, will only affect phones for the EEA, a group consisting of 28 EU countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

By Peter Bright for ARS Technica 

Last week, Microsoft started distributing the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, version 1809, to Windows users who manually checked for updates. The company has now halted that rollout after many reports that installing the update is causing serious data loss: specifically, deleting the Documents, and perhaps Pictures, folders. Microsoft is also advising anyone who has downloaded the update but not yet installed it to not install it at all.

The exact circumstances causing data loss aren’t clear; the handful of reports on Microsoft’s forums and Reddit don’t have any obvious commonalities, and people report seeing only one affected system among many when upgraded. There will need to be some amount of investigation before a fix can be developed.

This will be too late for anyone that’s suffered data loss; although file recovery/undelete tools might be able to salvage the deleted files, the only reliable way of recovering them is to restore from a backup.

A data-loss bug is bad. Data-loss bugs are the worst kind of bug that Microsoft could ship; for rarely backed-up home users, at least, they’re worse even than a security flaw—who needs hackers and malware to destroy your data when the operating system does it for you? This bug is sure to raise new doubts about Microsoft’s testing, pace of delivering updates, and dependence on the Insider Program to find and report such problems.

Making this worse is that the bug does appear to have been reported. Numerous reports in Feedback Hub, Microsoft’s bug-reporting tool for Windows 10, complain of data deletion after installing preview releases. None of the bug reports appears to have many upvotes, and the reports generally lack in detail. So just as with the more recent reports, they make it hard to pin down the root cause. But it’s obvious that, at the very least, something was going wrong and that it was important enough that it should have been investigated and addressed.

Compounding this issue is that Microsoft’s rollout of version 1809 was already unusual. For reasons unknown, Microsoft didn’t release this update to the Release Preview ring, so the most realistic installation scenario—someone going from version 1803 to 1809—didn’t receive much testing anyway. And all this is against the longer-term concern that Microsoft laid off many dedicated testers without really replacing the testing that those testers were doing.

Microsoft issues a fix

Microsoft has fixed a bug in its latest Windows 10 October 2018 update that deleted files en masse for some users.

The software giant was forced to pull the update over the weekend due to the data deletion issues.

Now, the update is back online, but Microsoft says it is only releasing it to members of the Windows Insider program before making it available to the general public.

 

By Sam Mkokeli, Mike Cohen, Paul Vecchiatto and Amogelang Mbatha for Fin24/Bloomberg 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed former central bank Governor Tito Mboweni as his finance minister on Tuesday, replacing Nhlanhla Nene, who lied about his meetings with the Guptas.

Mboweni, the nation’s fifth finance chief in less than three years, will have to oversee an economy that’s fallen into recession and help Ramaphosa rebuild confidence battered by almost nine years of mismanagement under former President Jacob Zuma. He must also reassure investors and credit-rating companies of credible plans to stabilise debt and revive growth in the mid-term budget on October 24.

“In the wake of Mr. Nene’s resignation, I have decided to appoint Mr. Tito Mboweni as minister of finance with immediate effect,” Ramaphosa said. “Mr. Mboweni takes on this responsibility at a very critical time for our economy.”

Mboweni, who trained as an economist, served as head of the South African Reserve Bank for a decade until 2009 and for four years as labor minister in former President Nelson Mandela’s cabinet. His major achievement at the central bank was building the nation’s foreign-exchange reserves to almost $40 billion from less than $10 billion.

The rand gained 0.6% to R14.76/$ by 16:51 in Johannesburg, reversing an earlier decline of as much as 1.4%. Yields on benchmark 2026 government bonds fell six basis points to 9.22%.

By Kgomotso Modise for EWN

The Gauteng government says while it would like to see e-tolls scrapped, it’s not up to the province to make the call.

Last week, while answering to Parliament, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande revealed that over 15 000 motorists have been issued with summonses for outstanding debt.

In July, the provincial ANC announced plans to do away with the disastrous system with Premier David Makhura conceding that it has failed.

Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe says the e-toll system was introduced by the national government so the province has no power to scrap it.

“The Gauteng government has made its position clear. But we don’t run or operate the e-toll system. This is a national government project and can only be scrapped by them.”

Masebe also says Gauteng has no say in who gets summonsed by roads agency Sanral.

“I can’t talk about Sanral’s fees and the operation of the e-tolls. That must be directed to the national government.”

He says Makhura and President Cyril Ramaphosa agree that something has to be done, but no plan has been finalised.

By Luke Daniel for The South African 

Embattled state owned enterprises (SOEs) are South Africa’s biggest and most dangerous economic stumbling blocks.

This is according to the international rating agency, Moody’s, which points to Eskom’s major failings as a cause for national concern.

State owned enterprises all performing dismally
While speaking at the Investor Service’s conference on Thursday, the agency’s senior credit officer for infrastructure finance, Helen Francis, outlined the dire position most SOEs find themselves in.

The massive financial drain perpetuated by failing SOEs has been well documented. Eskom, in particular, has reported over R19bn in irregular expenditure and continues to rely on government bailouts to stay afloat.

Worrying, Eskom is undoubtedly the largest and most vital SOE – supplying 90% of South Africa with electricity.

Yet, the embattled national power supplier just can’t seem to get back on its feet, following Gupta interference involving former company boss, Brian Molefe. Recently, the company issued an ominous statement, bemoaning the fact that its coal reserves were dwindling as a result of dodgy tenders.

Looking across the entire SOE spectrum paints a dismal picture. It’s not just Eskom that is dying, and in that way draining the already unsteady economy of vital funds. Transnet, South African Airways (SAA), the South African Broadcasting Corporation, and many more national companies are failing to make ends meet.

Corruption still plaguing SOEs
Speaking to Fin24, Futuregrowth Asset Management’s, Olga Constantatos, said that turning the situation around would not be easy and that much more needs to be done.

Constantatos commented on the disease of corruption and gross mismanagement which afflicts both Eskom and Transnet, saying:

“Much more needs to happen. The latest results at Transnet and Eskom point to the circumventing of controls – with Eskom’s R20 billion in irregular expenditure and Transnet’s R8bn. We need to see prosecutions. We need to see arrests of people who were stealing money essentially from you and me.”

Constantatos added that there needs to be stiffer repercussion for SOEs which flout due process, and as such, essentially, steal from the taxpayer and investors, saying:

“As bond investors, we are custodians of the nation’s pension funds. We should not be allocating capital to institutions where there is malfeasance, or lend blindly to companies that are not responsible.”

By Phillip de Wet for Business Insider SA

The Constitutional Court has ordered the decriminalisation of dagga for personal use – but that doesn’t mean you can’t be fired for using cannabis.
Policies on inebriation are still in force, and in some jobs a legal requirement, even though they’ll need to be adjusted.

Things will be particularly complicated over the next two years, while changes are made to legislation.
Smoking dagga can still get you fired, under the right circumstances. And staying away cannabis – at least just before you go to work – could still be a legitimate requirement for some jobs.

But things got a whole lot more complicated after the Constitutional Court on Tuesday said the use of dagga is not a criminal act.

And during the two-year period the Concourt gave Parliament to bring legislation in law with the Constitution, things are going to be particularly difficult when it comes to people getting high on the job, experts say.

“This is a curveball,” Richard Malkin, managing director of company wellness provider Workforce Healthcare, told Business Insider South Africa after the Concourt judgment, even if, ultimately, “nothing is really going to change from a workplace perspective.”

Occupational health and safety rules demand that companies keep the workplace safe, and that includes making sure nobody operates dangerous machines while inebriated – whatever the substance of choice.

For jobs involving heavy machinery, Malkin says, policy should require employees to disclose, up front, if they are using tranquillisers, for instance, even if under the direction of a doctor.

“The requirement is that you can’t be under the influence of any mind-altering substance; whether it is legal or illegal doesn’t really come into play.”

Jobs in finance, or customer-facing jobs such as call centre agents advising customers, should also come with policies on inebriation.

But testing for dagga use is not as straight-forward as a breathalyser test for alcohol. The common, cheap, and fast urine test for cannabis actually detects a metabolic product that can linger for days – well after the user is no longer mentally affected.

So what happens if that test shows dagga use, and you tell the boss you smoked dagga days before? Right now, at least, Malkin believes the only thing a company could do is ask for a spectrophotometric test, which takes around two days and costs around R2,000.

In the meantime, the employee will have to be temporarily suspended from sensitive duties, as a precaution.

The result of such a test could be grounds for dismissal, speculate labour specialists who were still studying the Concourt ruling, on the basis of dishonesty. Using dagga may not be a firing offence, but lying about it could be.

First, though, there could be a considerable fight about the whole process.

“Someone may have okayed drug testing by a company in a contract, but now that company can no longer look at THC [the active ingredient in cannabis],” says Quintin van Kerken, of The Clear Option, an organisation that works in the cannabis and addiction-treatment industry.

“It is pointless, because THC now falls under your right to privacy, so they can’t do anything with a THC test.”

Van Kerken believes there will be test cases about cannabis intoxication and medicinal use of cannabis in the workplace – perhaps soon – but until then there will be considerable confusion about the matter.

In the meanwhile, employees and employers both had better look at the exact wording of policies around drugs and inebriation at work, because a blanket reference to “alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription medication”, such as those now commonly found, don’t strictly apply do dagga anymore. Probably.

By Luke Daniel for The South African

The Sunday Times has dropped a bombshell, exposing a secret plot to overthrow President Cyril Ramaphosa, spearheaded by Jacob Zuma and his cohorts.

According to the report, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is doing everything in its power to downplay the allegations, as some party members deny their involvement and others do damage control.

It’s alleged that Zuma has held a number of covert conferences with his ANC allies. According to sources within the party, battle plans are being drawn for a presidential overthrow.

Who is team Zuma?
Former president Zuma has some staunch allies within the part – most of them high-ranking officials, with the power to seriously disrupt the status-quo. The report alleges that two meetings took place in Durban last week. Below is a list of those who are said to have been in attendance.

Former President Jacob Zuma
The man with the plan, Msholozi himself – sources within the ANC claim that Zuma is the mastermind behind the fight back and that his political supporters have been brought together to enact a presidential coup. A top ANC executive, who wished to remain anonymous, said:

“Zuma has a grudge… because of his removal. That is why he is always in the public eye. He’s not campaigning for the ANC, but against the ANC. He’s campaigning to the extent of not sleeping. He attends every function, funeral and church service – to make sure he’s in the public eye.”

ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule
Ace Magashule was elected Secretary General at the ANC’s 2017 National Conference. Magashule has always been a part of team Zuma – his leadership position seen as a trade-off for Ramaphosa’s presidency.

No stranger to controversy, the former Free State premiere has been embroiled in the dubious Vrede dairy project. This connects him directly to the infamous Gupta family, and to the broader issue of state-capture.

Supra Mahumapelo
President Jacob Zuma with North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo at the National Day of Reconciliation celebrations under the theme “Bridging the Divide towards a non-racial society” at Gopane in the North West Province.
The former premier of the North West province, Supra Mahumapelo, almost singlehandedly, managed to collapse local government under his tenure. The province was hit by a wave of service delivery protests, state coffers were looted, and the province was eventually placed under national administration.

Mahumapelo, like Magashule, is a fierce Zuma loyalist and is said to play an integral role in Zuma’s political resurgence.

Meokgo Matuba
The presence of the Women’s League (ANCWL) secretary-general, Meokgo Matuba, is unsurprising. The ANCWL has always been a firm supporter of former president Zuma. Under the tenure of Bathabile Dlamini, the Women’s League has defended Zuma through his presidential ousting and court appearances.

Thanduxolo Sabelo
The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) KwaZulu-Natal secretary, Thanduxolo Sabelo, is expected to take charge of the organisation’s national administration at the next elective conference.

Sabelo, who has overwhelming support in KwaZulu-Natal will likely replace Collen Maine as the league’s president.

Dudu Myeni
South African Airways (SAA), is in a shambles, largely thanks to former board chairperson Dudu Myeni. The National Treasury has accused her of botching a multimillion-rand funding deal. The disgraced former chairperson is also implicated in the Gupta saga and is under fire for her role in state capture.

Myeni is a close friend of Zuma, with many political adversaries citing her appointment to SAA’s board as a direct influence of the former president.

Zuma meetings exposed
According to the Sunday Times, two meetings took place last week in Durban.

The first meeting, on Wednesday, was attended by Magashule, Mahumapelo and Myeni; it was held at the Beverley Hills Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks.

On Thursday, all players involved, including Zuma, convened at the Maharani hotel in Durban.

Deny, deny, deny
While all parties accused of attending these clandestine meetings have denied their involvement, several ANC executives confirmed the allegations.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Senzo Mchunu, said he was aware of the meetings but directed any further questions to Magashule.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson, Sihle Zikalala, argued that no formal meeting between Zuma and Magashule had been scheduled.

ANC NEC member, Enoch Godongwana, maintained that while he wasn’t aware of any secret meetings, a clandestine conference involving Magashule would be cause for concern, saying:

“I don’t know about the meeting. I don’t know about its purpose. Maybe they were meeting for a birthday party. But if [it was a secret meeting] then it’s a problem because the office of the Secretary General is supposed to be respected. It’s supposed to unite us. If it becomes involved [in such meetings] then it’s worrying.”

ANCYL executive, Sabelo, confirmed that he met Magashule, but argued that it was a chance encounter with no erroneous undertones.

Yet, denial falls flat before evidence held by the Sunday Times. A photograph showing Magashule, Mahumapelo, Matuba and Zuma gathered at the Maharani hotel has been published for all the world to see.

Team Zuma: Battleplan
While clandestine meetings are, by nature, designed to conceal plans, part insiders report that the group supporting Zuma are aiming to challenge the results of last year’s ANC National Conference. The outcome of which led to Ramaphosa becoming the country’s president.

It’s reported that the pro-Zuma faction is taking the legal route; arguing that the Nasrec conference was marred by voting irregularities relating to branch meetings and illegitimate delegates.

An ANC insider confirmed that Zuma’s battle plan is due to emanate from the North West, saying:

“We have been told about this serious fightback… the one way they are considering is the alternative political party that was formed. Then there is a fight to go to court and take that route. But the real purpose is to disrupt the momentum we are getting before election.”

The official response
The ANC Women’s League issued a statement saying it was “not surprised by the false story in Sunday Times by Qaanitah Hunter and Jeff Wicks”, adding: “We support freedom of media and believes that journalists must be independent voices, however we will not be silent when Qaanitah and Jeff peddles lies that there are plans to outs President Ramaphosa and portrays former President Jacob Zuma as an enemy that should be alienated by members of the organization.

“It might not be far from the truth that Qaanitah and Jeff are advancing interests of local or international forces that seeks to projects the ANC as unstable organization and by extension the government being unstable.”

Later, the party issued an official statement calling the story “shameless gossip”.

Follow us on social media: 

               

View our magazine archives: 

                       


My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Top