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The Syria Crisis

A Conflict of Interests 

Earlier last month, several news agencies reported proposed plans by the US and its allies on a military intervention on the “Syria crisis”. It came amidst alleged reports that the Syrian government had been using chemical weapons on its own people. The attack which took place in Damascus had swift reaction from Western powers. Accusations have been thrown both sides with the Syrian government pointing to rebel forces being responsible for the attack. On 28 August, CNN reported that “the US has concluded Syria carried out the chemical weapons attacks against its people”, as stated by President Barack Obama the previous day. US Secretary of State John Kerry called the attacks a “moral obscenity” and said that Mr Obama was consulting US allies before he would decide on his response. The NATO had also issued a statement in which it said that “[a]ny use of such weapons is unacceptable and cannot go unanswered” and further added that it considered “the use of chemical weapons as a threat to international peace and security.” However, while the US, UK and France seemed more than willing to launch a strike on Syria, Russia and China were certainly unappeased by these plans and had even warned against them. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that as yet, the West has not succeeded in producing any proof that the Syrian government was indeed responsible for the chemical weapons attacks. Mr Lavrov further added that military intervention without the backing of the UN Security Council would be “a crude violation of international law”. The Security Council was greatly divided with Russia and China opposing intervention and France and the UK warning that the UN could possibly be bypassed if there was “great humanitarian need”.

However, perhaps there is more to the situation than simple humanitarian effort; and the possible effects of such an intervention into Syria could easily involve more than just the US and the Syrian government. To understand the situation a little better, it would be necessary to take into account several other key Middle-Eastern states. One in particular which stands out is Iran. According to Michel Chossudovksy, a prominent author on the US war in Syria, there are two underlying reasons why the US has been targeting Syria. Firstly, Syria’s strategic alliance with Iran displeases the US, and secondly, the Pentagon’s strategy for encircling and isolating Iran as a means to topple its current government. The latter is quite prominent as, to the East of Iran, there is US occupied Afghanistan and Pakistan. To the west there is Iraq and Kuwait, according to Chossudovsky, some of 15 000 troops were deployed in the country in December 2011. Then of course there are the numerous US bases both in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Furthermore, Chossudovsky is of the opinion that once the military intervention in Syria spills over, Hezbollah in Lebanon, one of Iran’s most notorious allies would effectively be neutralised.

Another aspect of the Syria crisis is the possible repercussions of military intervention in the country. The most dangerous one would certainly be retaliation, not only by Syria but several other key role players in the area. Iranian leaders have already warned the US to stay out of the conflict in Syria and have even threatened to retaliate against Israel. Israel had a swift response to the threat and issued gas mask to all of its citizens. Notably, the Jerusalem Post has reported that the Israeli government was only providing gas-masks to legal citizens of the country; tourists and temporary residents had to purchase their masks privately. Retaliation by Syria itself was further reassured when Iran’s Fars News Agency quoted a Syrian military official saying that “[i]f Syria is attacked, Israel will also be set on fire…”. Then of course there are the numerous Islamist extremist and militant groups, among others Hezbollah would be a major role player, as the group is already heavily involved in Syria’s civil war. However, on the other hand, other reports such as Middle East Online suggest that the main goal of the US is to see Assad removed from power and that both Washington and Tel Aviv are aligned in removing Assad, with the aid of regime change. Then there is Russia’s interest in Syria. Russia, a close ally of Syria and its most powerful one had sent several warships to the Mediterranean.

However British Prime Minister David Cameron recently lost a vote in the House of Commons as MPs rejected possible UK military action against the Syrian government. Already, the tension from both sides has had a ripple effect as Syrian oil prices hit a two year high in mid-September. Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation issued a statement in Pretoria confirming that the South Africa government opposed any foreign military intervention in Syria. Furthermore, Monyela was also quoted saying that “South Africa is alarmed at the latest escalation in the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic”.

Marko Svicevic

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Oscar - We Haven’t Forgotten

With Oscar Pistorius’ next court date set at 3 March 2014, it seems all attention has shifted on the world famous, blade runner’s court trial for the murder of his girlfriend and model Reeva Steenkamp. On 14 February 2013, Steenkamp was shot and killed in their Silver Lakes home. Subsequently, Pistorius was arrested and charged with her murder and has appeared appeared in court several times. According to sports.ndtv.com, Pistorius’ lawyers will be working with an American team of forensic specialists. They will help Pistorius prepare his defence and likely counter evidence given by nearly 50 police officers and criminal experts that the prosecutors could call up in the trial.

If found guilty and convicted, Pistorius faces jail terms of up to 25 years for murder. According to South African criminal law, Pistorius may even get a slighter sentence of 15 years or even a five year sentence, if found guilty of culpable homicide or negligent killing of Steenkamp. Ever since the incident, many people have been extremely quick to call him a murderer, say things like, “he should rot in jail” and even link the incident with “Bullet for my Valentine”. However, as is often the case, a person’s positive attributes are swiftly thrown down the drain when in comparison to their negative counterparts.

Have we forgotten all that Oscar has achieved?

There is certainly no doubt that Pistorius shot and fatally wounded Steenkamp on that tragic day, whether this was pre-meditated or simply an accident should be left to the courts to decide. However, I do not think that Steenkamp’s murder should be the first and only thing that we think of when we think about Pistorius. What has become of all his past achievements? Here is a list of just some of his more well-known achievements and awards, something to consider when we think back of the man who beat all odds. 

Sporting Achievements

In September 2004, he won gold for the 200m and a bronze for the 100m in the T44 class (disability class) at the Paralympics in Athens. He also set a world record for the 100m.

In March 2005, he competed against able bodied athletes finishing sixth in the 400m final at the South African Championships.

In May 2005, he won gold in the T44 100m and 200m races at the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, England.

In May 2006, he gold in the 100m, 200m and 400m events at the 2006 Paralympic World Cup. He also set broke the world record for the 200m event.

In July 2007, he competed and came second in a 400m race against able-bodies athletes in Rome. The race was part of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) test to observe whether such “prosthetic limbs” as those used by Pistorius gave disabled athletes an advantage over their able bodied counterparts. Only four months earlier, the IAAF passed rule 144.2 banning such devices. The results from the race were found to be inconclusive.

In September 2008, he competed in the Beijing Paralympics. Although he failed to qualify for the South African Olympics team, he won three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 400m at the Paralympics.

In May 2011, he won the T44 400m and 100m races the the BT Paralympic World Cup.

In September 2011, he became the first ever Paralympian to win a world championship medal, winning a silver medal for competing in the heats at the IAAF World Championship in Daegu, South Korea.

In August 2012, he became the first ever double-amputee to compete in the Olympics, coming eight at the London 2012 Olympics.

In September 2012, he won a silver medal and two gold medals at the London Paralympics.

Awards

In 2006, Pistorius was conferred the Order of Ikhamanga, for outstanding achievement in sports, by former South African President Thabo Mbeki. 

In December 2007, he was conferred the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award for “outstanding courage and achievement in the face of adversity”.

In May 2008, Pistrius was listed on Time magazines “Time 100” most influential people.

In February 2012, he was awarded the Laureus World Sports Award for Sports person of the Year with a Disability.

These are just some of Pistorius’ more prominent lifetime achievements. A man who has overcome so much, he was and should still remain an inspiration to, not only disabled athletes but all those with some form of disability. To be able to have achieved all he has, took hard work and effort, and  this should at the least be acknowledged as his triumphs should overcome his mistakes. So perhaps the next time a mention of Pistorius is made, we should not forget how much he has already achieved and disregard his former glory and success.

Marko Svicevic

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Sex Among the Sexes

What Sex Surveys have revealed about our Sexual Preferences    

Here’s a fact: on average men and women think of sex 19 and 10 times a day respectively. Another proven fact is that humans and dolphins are among the only mammals that have sex for pleasure. Humans have significantly more sex for pleasure than we do for reproduction. Sex is emotional, sex is communicative and it creates a bond between partners. For humans, sex is enjoyable and fun (and if sex is not fun, then you’re probably not doing it right). Now how about another proven fact, “women are kinkier than ever and are not afraid to experiment in the bedroom”. This is according to Women’s Health editor Kate Wilson commenting on the annual Men’s Health and Women’s Health sex survey. Roughly 3000 readers undertook the survey revealing their darkest and dirties fantasies and more importantly showcasing some interesting sexual trends among the sexes. Here are some of the more startling “key findings”.

Cheating is the norm

A whopping 30% of women admitted to having cheated on their partner. Furthermore, 43% of women said they had sex with a married man. And the biggest shocker…30% of them did it at home. A tip for the guys, 30% of women did said they would take back a partner who they had caught cheating, with only 25% of men who would do the same, so if you’re ever caught, there is quite a chance she’ll take you back.

Oral sex is always a winner 

A third of women responded that they “loved” oral sex. A staggering 59% of men also felt the same way – performing oral sex is enjoyable.

However, the other side to oral sex includes that fact that 35% of female respondents admitted to performing oral sex only because they know their partner enjoys it.

Then there is foreplay. 90% of men and 93% of women rate kissing as the number one form of foreplay.

Connection is the goal

What is the main goal in bed? Well, according to 46% of female respondents, the primary goal in bed was to connect with their partners. As unbelievable as it may sound, only 9% of women actually had a goal of reaching an orgasm. And to make things even more awkward, 10% of them never reach an orgasm in bed. According to male respondents, 34% said their primary goal was for her to reach an orgasm where as 1.6% said it was to feel loved…

Housekeeping is a necessity

When it comes to trimming the hedges or referred to as “lady gardens”, 46% of females said they shaved completely. Amongst men this number was 21% although 41% of them said they did trim regularly. However, not everyone felt the same way about mowing the lawn as 5% of women said they did not trim compared to 17% of men.

Raunchiness – battle of the sexes

It’s no surprise that 61% of respondents had watched sex with a partner and 56% had engaged in some form of “e-sex” (phone, Skype, SMS, chat room sex). The kinkiness kicks in when 45% of female respondents admitted they enjoyed being spanked, 20% had used handcuffs and 7% had engaged in a threesome with another woman. And the kinkiest part, 51% have had a friend with benefits. Furthermore, 78% of women and 77% of men said the best place for meeting a friend with benefits was through a mutual friend. Finally, there is the 47% of females who said that sex in public was their biggest fantasy. It seems women are certainly wilder then men, just wait until you read the next part – masturbation!  

Masturbation

Probably the biggest shocker from the survey in regards to masturbation is that women do it more than men. 29% of men say they masturbate one or twice a week…compared to 37% of women. Also, aside the one in seven respondents admitting to masturbating twice a week, one in four women admits to keeping their masturbation a secret from their partners. And the biggest secret, no surprise that it was fantasising about other people. What the survey also showed was the percentages of the sexes that didn’t watch porn. Here are the percentages turned the other way around, 30% of women do watch porn. Double this figure and add eight to it and you get to 68% - the number of men who do watch porn (the other 32% probably lied).  

Condoms are a go, periods are a no

Seven out of ten women say they always use a condom. A further 48% of them would say no to sex if there is no condom. In other words, condom equals sex. 57% of women say they would not have sex with a married man and 38% also said no if they were too intoxicated. However, a staggering 71% of women would not have sex if they are on their period. Therefore, menstruation equals no sex.

And the best time of day to have sex – in the morning, according to 30% of men and 28% of women.

Sexiest City

And finally, what is the sexiest city in South Africa? Well, in the end that is for you to decide. Although men from East London rated getting the most sex, they also had the highest masturbation rate, 60% of women faked orgasms and 48% of them said that their partners “rushed too much”. Bloemfontein was rated as the “hardest working city” ironically of course, as they had the highest percentage of office sex in the country. Upington was rated the kinkiest city with 60% of respondents saying they had been handcuffed and 30% saying they had been tied up. And finally Pretoria. Although not having the highest rate of masturbation nor cheating, Pretoria had the most sex in cars….perhaps there is a valid reason for fighting to get a “good’ parking space around campus… 


Marko Svicevic