Monthly Archives: January 2017

BrainHQ Crushes Competition in First Review of Science Behind Brain ...

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 31, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The first systematic review of study evidence that commercially-available, brain-training programs might help with healthy aging just published in Neuropsychological Review. The reviewers found that BrainHQ from Posit Science had by far the most and the highest quality studies.

The authors of this first systematic review conclude “current evidence supports that at least some commercially available computerized brain training products can assist in promoting healthy brain aging.”

The reviewers surveyed the brain training market and the academic literature to categorize the quantity and quality of peer-reviewed studies showing effects of brain training in healthy aging.

They looked at 18 commercially-available, brain-training programs, and found that 11 had no clinical trials or empirical evidence for review.

The reviewers found seven companies had studies that were relevant, and met the review criteria of being peer-reviewed clinical trials of computerized exercises with formal cognitive outcome measures for healthy adults aged 50 and older. This methodology resulted in 26 studies for review.

Of those 26 studies, 10 were trials of Posit Science exercises.  Eight of those 10 studies were judged to be of the highest quality. Posit Science far outpaced its nearest competitor, which had three studies of which only one was considered high quality.

The reviewers wrote: “Multiple peer-reviewed articles evaluating Posit Science programs have fulfilled the gold standard for clinical trials.”

Of the seven companies that the reviewers found had any relevant evidence from trials, Lumosity was found to anchor the lower-end, with what the reviewers described as one randomized controlled trial of “moderate quality.”

The reviewers noted that until five years ago there were relatively few studies of brain-training programs. Even now, the lack of a systematic review has left “clinicians with inadequate information from which to base recommendations for their patients at risk of cognitive decline.”

However, with this review the authors conclude that the evidence behind a majority of the programs evaluated supports “the notion that the human brain is plastic in later life, and can benefit from specifically designed brain training programs.”

“There’s been a lot of conflicting reports on whether or not brain training works,” said Dr. Ralph Martins, who led the review team.  “This systematic review shows that some brain training has lots of evidence of efficacy, which may surprise some health professionals. Personally, I was more surprised by the amount of brain training on the market with no evidence at all.”

“This review performs an overdue public service by differentiating between what has been shown to work and what has little or no evidence,” said Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science, which makes BrainHQ. “It’s a strong response to those who have said that the evidence for brain training is ‘mixed’ – what’s mixed is the scientific quality of different brain training programs, some of which have strong evidence for efficacy and some of which have none.”

“This review marks a first step of treating brain training programs like we treat new pharmaceuticals – carefully evaluating which ones work, and then putting those to work to help people,” Dr. Mahncke concluded.

For more information, contact jeffzimman@positscience.com

AFRICAN UNION CALLS ON US TO RETURN GUANTANAMO BAY TO CUBA

The chairperson of the African Union Commission asked the United States on Monday to return Guantanamo Bay naval base to Cuba, and to end the embargo on the island.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma made this appeal in one of her last speeches as the African Union leader during the annual summit held at the organization's headquarters in Addis Ababa, where heads of state and governments from across the continent will elect her successor.

Dlamini-Zuma recalled the legacy of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, who died last November, for his role in the fight against colonialism and imperialism in Africa, which the Cuban regime supported militarily and with educational and health initiatives.

She stressed that the greatest tribute to be paid to Castro is to continue the friendship and solidarity with the Cuban people.

The South African politician expressed her willingness to fight for the total lifting of the economic embargo and the return of Guantanamo Bay to Cuba.

During the process of normalisation of bilateral relations between the United States and Cuba, the island has insisted on reclaiming the territory occupied by the US naval base since 1898, when the United States took control of the island after defeating Spain in the Spanish-American War.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

VIETNAM EXPECTS CLOSER BUSINESS CONNECTIVITY WITH SOUTH AFRICA

Vietnam hopes to increase exchange of economic information with South Africa and enhance closer connectivity between businesses of the two countries, Vietnam news agency quoted Vietnamese Ambassador to South Africa Vu Van Dung as saying.

Dung had a meeting with leaders of South Africa's Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) on Monday to discuss issues related to cooperation between Vietnam and South Africa as well as the embassy and the DCCI.

The Vietnamese diplomat said that Vietnam and South Africa - a large economy of Africa and the world - still hold great potential for stronger trade cooperation although two-way trade reached only US$1.2 billion in 2016.

"Vietnam will host the APEC this year with about 200 activities along with the APEC high-level week at the end of the year, which is a good chance for enterprises from Durban and South Africa in general to tighten connections with their partners in Asia-Pacific region," he said.

Dao Manh Duc, head of the Vietnamese embassy's office for trade affairs said, although Vietnamese products are suitable for the South African market, they have yet been popular among South African consumers and businesses due to a lack of information as well as business exchange channels.

South Africa's strong products such as beef, fruits, wine and mineral products have yet to successfully enter the Vietnamese market, added Duc.

He also asked the DCCI to enhance the sharing of information and partnership opportunities through trade promotion events hosted by the DCCI and increase meetings between trade delegations of both sides.

Alta Keyter, DCCI Director for Marketing and Communications, said that in the future, the DCCI will promptly update information about Vietnam's goods, tourism and trade fairs and exhibitions in its news bulletins.

Durban is the largest port city in South Africa as well as a major container port of the South Hemisphere.

It is South Africa's economic hub with diverse sectors including production, tourism, transportation, finance and import-export activities. With long beaches, warm weather and unique culture, the locality is also an attractive tourist destination.

The DCCI was established in 1856, grouping over 2,800 firms.

It is one of the largest and most prestigious commerce and industry chambers of South Africa.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

South Africa: Minister Siyabonga Cwele On Implementation of SA Post ...

The Minister of Telecommunications And Postal Services, Dr. Siyabonga Cwele says the South African Post Office is turning around and ready to play its part in delivering more services to all citizens

The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Dr. Siyabonga Cwele says the South African Post Office (SAPO) is turning around and ready to play its part in delivering more services to all citizens.

Minister Cwele and Deputy Minister Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize were briefing Parliament about the progress that is being made in the implementation of the SAPO Strategic Turnaround Plan that was approved by Cabinet in June 2015.

"The SAPO is a Titanic. It is large and takes time to turn but it is turning into an organisation that play an increasingly important part in the radical transformation of our society," said Minister Cwele.

He said the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services was engaging with the National Treasury to expedite the corporatisation of the Postbank. Nominees have passed the fit and proper process and will be appointed after following due process.

Minister Cwele said the SAPO Strategic Turnaround Plan requires that the SA Post Office is modernised to focus on new businesses that are based on courier services, financial services and on the internet economy.

He said the performance of the post office was slightly behind the projections but the focus on generating revenue through new businesses will improve performance going forward.

SAPO Board Member Mduduzi Zakwe said SAPO's stable IT environment is an important cog of the turnaround. It is a platform to launch new innovations and it is being modernised through an upgrade of our network and systems for financial services and mail operations. We are undertaking a technology upgrade at our data centre to improve resiliency because our customers are expecting secured services.

SAPO CEO Mark Barnes said customer confidence is beginning to return.

"Now that we are operationally stable, the key thing is to bring back customer confidence, especially amongst those customers who left the post office over the past three years. We have to consistently demonstrate our ability to deliver and that we have a stable workforce," he said.

Barnes said the Postbank will provide inclusive financial services at the right cost to communities in rural areas. He also said the SAPO was interested in participating in the distribution of the South African Social Security Agency grants.

"We are also focusing on e-Commerce in collaboration with the Universal Postal Union and local and international players to make a case for South Africa being an e-Commerce Hub for the Southern Africa region. In line with this, we intend expanding our space at OR Tambo by 70% and are also engaging our port and rail operators.

This will provide us with an opportunity to launch a new courier business after we closed CFG.

Source: Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services

Minister Malusi Gigaba: Hospitality Sector Representatives meeting

As committed, publicly, last week, we met, this morning, with the leadership of the hospitality sector � industry associations, hotels and restaurant owners and managers. Participants included:

Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa

Restaurant Association of South Africa, and

National Accommodation Association.

It was an open and frank meeting from which I expect measurable benefits for the country, and citizens. We talked seriously about current compliance issues, relating to laws of the country in respect of employment of immigrants vis-A�-vis SA citizens.

The requirement to employ 60% citizens came out strongly, with all acknowledging its importance. There was consensus on dire consequences of failure to respond and impact on communities, as well as on balancing international migration with security needs of the state.

The main purpose of the meeting was therefore to look at civic issues affecting citizens, as well as our approach to management of international migration. It was important because in the past we really had not managed immigration effectively. Thus we had taken a proactive approach to migration, to ensure positive spin-offs for the country and its people.

The burning issue currently is the grave concern that had been raised with us by many citizens, labour stakeholders and affected government departments. The crux of the matter, as observed, is that many businesses, particularly in the construction and hospitality sectors, do not hire South African workers, preferring migrants.

It is a matter we cannot put aside, thus its prioritisation going-forward. And so we have resolved this year to pay serious attention to this matter, even to contain possible threats that may arise from mismanagement of the situation.

As you would know, South Arica has already seen unfortunate incidents of attacks on foreign nationals some of which flowing from employment practices, with a serious dent on the country's reputation internationally.

I made it quite clear from the start of the meeting that we needed a very strong partnership with business, and that it was important to clarify issues and act accordingly even before we are pressurised by the public.

As we have said, this carries potential to fuel perceptions that businesses exploit migrants to lower wages and conditions, while locals suffer in a sea of poverty and want. This does much further to undermine South Africa's economic and developmental goals that we have outlined, as a nation, collaboratively, and consultatively, in the National Development Plan.

Especially in the current global financial and economic situation, volatility and slow growth, rolling back the tight of inequality, unemployment and poverty is extremely important. Job-creation is prioritised in the National Development Plan, as a step towards eliminating poverty and inequality. Practical steps include an increase in both quality and quantity of employment; to roll-back the frontiers of rising unemployment, particularly for the young.

Representatives were honest to concede that the problems were concerns that have been raised with them before, especially in hospitality, construction and mining. Stakeholders stated that they had not done research to determine numbers of people hired in the country.

They believed this opens up a potential relationship with the department to improve on employment practices, and to educate others about these issues. Among other things, they agreed to raise awareness on the dangers and consequences of employing undocumented people, including the risk on their part to jeopardise their licences.

The stakeholders raised some of their views on reasons why certain sectors may not be employing citizens, ranging from wages to perceptions around work ethics.

The sector welcomed the initiative we took, and agreed to do all in their power to ensure its objectives are met. They viewed the partnership in a serious light, believing its success will help in diffusing tensions that may arise from failure to assure citizens that their interests are uppermost.

Consensus was reached to prioritise our citizens on employment and various economic opportunities.

The hospitality sector committed to play its role in this regard. But obviously, it should all translate into action.

The meeting therefore agreed on practical steps to take swiftly to deal with these issues. Agreement was reached with all stakeholders present, on the need to do the following:

Respond urgently and sensitively to the concerns raised by citizens regarding the sector

Improve employment practices, with citizens prioritised, and not prejudiced. For citizens these issues are fundamental as they relate to satisfying their human needs as they impact greatly on living standards.

Enforce, with support of the associations, rules and regulations

Stakeholder engagement for dissemination of information, legislation and regulations

Target businesses for inspections and impose penalties accordingly. Section 49 (3) of the Immigration Act, 2002 stipulates that anyone who knowingly employs an illegal foreigner or a foreigner in violation of this Act, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment as determined by the courts.

In sum, Government has a duty to ensure proper monitoring mechanisms are in place for South Africans to benefit the most from economic and employment growth, across all sectors.

We remain confident that business is committed to developing South Africa, and playing its part in developing our local skills base, employing workers and growing the economy in line with the National Development Plan Vision 2030.

It is quite clear that the route taken elsewhere in respect of immigration is not a route worth taken by SA.

It is our responsibility as government to respond to issues raised. If we are not responsive, we will be implicated in any of the tensions that worsen from a failure to act. It is important to hear the concerns of citizens and to respond to their needs.

Lastly, we continue to urge all leaders to be mindful of what they say in public. Our next meeting will be with construction and agriculture which should be conducted with the same spirit of collaboration.

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa

2017 State of the Nation Address set for 9 February

It's all systems go for President Jacob Zuma's annual address to the nation, which will be delivered during a Joint Sitting of Parliament on Thursday, 9 February.

The Presidency on Tuesday said preparations for the State of the Nation Address (SONA) are continuing in earnest within government to ensure that the occasion is a success.

President Zuma has called the Joint Sitting of Parliament to deliver SONA 2017. The joint sitting comprises the two Houses of Parliament - the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

As part of preparations on the side of the Executive, the President is expected to convene the Cabinet Lekgotla from Wednesday until Saturday in Pretoria to review the past year and discuss the priorities for the current year.

The Cabinet Lekgotla follows the Lekgotla of the National Executive Committee of the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), which sets the tone and direction for the Government Programme of Action each year, based on the organisation's annual January 8 anniversary statement.

SONA 2017 takes place during the year in which one of the key architects of the free and democratic South Africa, Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo, would have turned 100 years old, had he lived.

In this regard, the deliberations in the Cabinet Lekgotla will be informed by the uplifting legacy of OR Tambo, based on building a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

Discussions are expected to reflect strongly on radical socio-economic transformation to uplift the poor and the working class and to move the country forward to prosperity and true reconciliation, which is what OR Tambo strove for, said the Presidency.

The theme of SONA 2017 is The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo: Unity in Action Together Moving South Africa Forward.

SONA 2017 will communicate the outcomes of the Lekgotla as well as celebrate the legacy and values of OR Tambo, and will promote unity in action by all South Africans towards prosperity and radical socio-economic transformation.

Given the continuing slow economic growth, the Presidency said the Lekgotla will also deliberate strongly on efforts to reignite economic growth, working with other social partners, taking forward the achievements of the past year in promoting unity in action in protecting the economy and advancing growth in a difficult economic environment.

The Cabinet Lekgotla will be attended by Ministers and Deputy Ministers, as well as Premiers and representatives of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

SONA activities

A number of activities will take place before and after the SONA.

The President, supported by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Investment Promotion, will host a Pre-SONA Investor Briefing in Cape Town on 7 February.

The session will be attended by CEOs, labour leaders and the leadership of business organisations. The session will contribute to the preparations of the SONA and further promote unity in action towards inclusive growth.

SONA will be followed by the prestigious Annual Presidential Golf Challenge tournament and fundraising dinner on 10 February, the proceeds of which will go to the Jacob Zuma RDP Education Trust.

The Golf Challenge is organised by the Department of Public Service and Administration each year, and the sitting Head of State and Government decides the charity of his choice for the proceeds of the fundraiser.

The President, Deputy President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers, Directors-General, heads of State Owned Enterprises and executives from private sector companies will be attending the Presidential Golf Challenge.

The Jacob G Zuma RDP Education Trust was formed in 1995 by its patron, President Zuma, who was a Member of the Executive Council (MEC) of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal at that time.

The trust started its work in KwaZulu-Natal, and has since extended its footprints to the Eastern Cape and the Limpopo Provinces.

It is intended that within three to five years, learners from all nine provinces will benefit. During its 21 years of existence, the Jacob G Zuma RDP Education Trust has benefited more than 20 000 learners, said the Presidency.

Follow the conversation and stories on social media using #SONA2017.

Source: South African Government News Agency

Safer Seafood: IAEA Develops Tools to Help Fight Toxic Marine Algae

When tiny marine organisms grow uncontrolled, forming what is called a harmful algal bloom, their toxins can make people sick, harm ocean life and cause millions of dollars in lost seafood revenues. To help mitigate the outbreaks of these toxins, scientists at the IAEA are working with researchers in Cuba to detect and measure biotoxins in the ocean and to develop monitoring and reference tools that will help control such outbreaks worldwide.

With a better understanding of how harmful algal blooms behave and how their toxins enter the food chain, it will be easier for countries to monitor toxins and control the consumption of contaminated seafood, said Marie-Yasmine Dechraoui-Bottein, a research scientist at the IAEA leading this collaborative project with the Centre de Estudios Ambiantales de Cienfuegos (CEAC) in Cuba. Harmful algal blooms have a particularly big impact on small island states that rely heavily on their fisheries and tourism.

In Cuba, the fishing and sale of thirteen fish species including groupers, snappers and jacks have been prohibited year-round since 1996 due to a high risk of ciguatera fish poisoning � due to toxic algae. It is only recently that Cuban scientists, with the help of the IAEA, acquired the capability to measure ciguatera toxins in seawater and in fish and shellfish using a nuclear technique called the receptor binding assay (RBA), a specific and sensitive monitoring tool that is based on measuring the interaction between the toxins and receptors marked with radioactive labels.

During the course of a recent field mission in Cuba, a team of IAEA scientists and local fishermen collected fish and algae samples at different depths to study the distribution of toxic harmful algal bloom species.

Once the samples have been processed in Cuba, they will be tested at the IAEA's marine laboratory in Monaco. As a result, the IAEA will develop the first-ever reference material for ciguatoxin monitoring worldwide. Such reference materials are critical for national authorities in managing marine environments and adhering to fish trade regulations.

While the exact number of people affected and economic losses are difficult to estimate, the impacts of harmful algal blooms are nevertheless considerable. With these data and reference materials, we can refine how we monitor toxins to help minimize their impact, said Dechraoui-Bottein. It is important to keep in mind that ciguatera fish poisoning remains the most common non-bacterial seafood intoxication worldwide.

The damage caused by harmful algae blooms

Harmful algal blooms are conglomerations of ocean-borne microorganisms that can be red, blue, pink or even invisible to the naked eye. They can produce natural toxins such as neurotoxins, which may accumulate in marine fish and shellfish to quantities that are dangerous for human consumption. Eating seafood contaminated with these biotoxins can cause a range of symptoms, from gastrointestinal problems to severe neurological effects and, in rare cases, even death.

Harmful algae bloom outbreaks affect many regions around the world, from the Americas to North Africa to Asia. In the last few years, outbreaks of harmful algal blooms have plagued areas of coastline and inland lakes of the Americas.

For example, in February 2016, harmful algal blooms in Chile decimated 40 000 metric tons of salmon, causing a loss of around $500 million for the local fishing industry as well as a hike in the price of salmon. In 2014, a large bloom in Lake Erie disrupted the water supply of 500 000 Ohio residents for three days.

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency

Police officers honoured for bravery

The country's men and women in blue have been honoured for their bravery, hard work, dedication in the fight against crime and commitment to serving all communities in South Africa.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) hosted the Annual National Police Day event and the National Excellence Awards in the North West on Friday.

The day was set aside to pay tribute to police officers who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in the execution of their duties.

Celebrations saw the police's top management and personnel interacting with the community of Ikageng Village in Boitekong, near Rustenburg.

The police donated school uniforms to needy learners of Lerulhware Primary School, food parcels to the community and handed over a house to an eighty-year-old woman, Ms Johanna Kolobe, as part of the SAPS's social crime prevention programme which addresses the root causes of crime, SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Sally de Beer said on Monday.

The elderly lady, De Beer said, who is staying with her four minor grandchildren in a shack, survives on the pension she receives.

The celebrations were followed by the fourth annual National Excellence Awards, which were held at the Superbowl at Sun City, in recognition and honour of the extraordinary efforts of employees of the SAPS.

De Beer said: These are the men and women who stood out as being truly dedicated to their calling and who excelled in the execution of their duties, their commitment to uplift needy communities and who performed acts of exceptional bravery.

During the National Police day celebrations and the National Excellence Awards ceremony, tribute was paid to SAPS colleagues who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in the execution of their duties.

The Acting National Commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane congratulated all provincial nominees and winners, as well as all national nominees, finalists and winners present.

He said their presence is an indication of the organisation's sincere appreciation for their outstanding efforts.

"We must continue to be visible, to react to and investigate each crime with vigour, our intelligence must lead us in crime prevention and detection and we must tackle criminals and crime trends robustly, yet strictly within the confines of the law, General Phahlane motivated the winners.

The 27th of January was declared by Cabinet as National Police Day as a day to celebrate and honour members of the SAPS for their hard work.

Source: South African Government News Agency