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Saturday, January 19 2019 @ 05:30 pm UTC

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Battalion installing barbed wire fences on the banks of the Rio Grande


Soldiers from the Kentucky-based 19th Engineer Battalion installing barbed wire fences on the banks of the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS - They started work in the cool of the morning and moved quickly, uncoiling reel after reel of vicious-looking fencing and tying it with barbed wire to green poles hammered into the ground.

Over the course of three days, a gleaming, shoulders-high barrier of concertina-wire emerged like a silver snake along a lush riverbank, stretching as far as the eye could see.

This was the work of 100 or so American troops from the 19th Engineer Battalion, based in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Rather than finding themselves in a far-off warzone, the soldiers are in Laredo, a busy border town overlooking a stretch of the Rio Grande river in southwest Texas, carrying out controversial orders from President Donald Trump.

He has sent about 5,800 troops to the border to forestall the arrival of large groups of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico and towards the US, in a move critics decry as a costly political stunt to galvanize supporters ahead of midterm elections earlier this month.

Before the election Trump called the matter a "national emergency" and warned that so-called migrant caravans were an "invasion" with "some very bad thugs and gang members."

So far at least, the most visible aspect of Trump's deployment is the fence, a visible deterrent and physical obstacle to migrants, designed to corral would-be asylum seekers towards organized points of entry into the US.

Residents with cakes

Over the weekend, Lieutenant Alan Koepnick's platoon could be seen stringing concertina wire, which is built to snag clothing, along one edge of a quiet riverside park near downtown Laredo.

As families walked dogs, grilled sausages and relaxed, the soldiers mounted the wire, occasionally ripping their camouflaged uniforms on its metal barbs.

Koepnick said some Laredo residents had voiced disquiet about the fencing and the presence of US troops.

"But there's also been a lot of support, people coming in, vets shaking our hands, bringing us cakes, water, things like that," Koepnick told AFP.

About 100 yards (meters) behind him, a group of people on the Mexican side of the river could be seen standing on the bank.

"You'll see people across the river cursing at us in Spanish, throwing bottles at us. But on this side it's more positive," Koepnick said.

He and his soldiers were unarmed, but a group of armed military police officers stood by to provide "force protection."

Under US law, the military is not allowed to conduct domestic law enforcement in most cases, so soldiers here will not have any direct interactions with migrants.

Trump created a media whirlwind by sounding the alarm about the migrant caravans before the November 6 elections. He has mainly stopped raising it since, though last week he praised the military's work.

"They built great fencing, they built a very powerful fence," said Trump, who wants to build a hardened wall along the entire 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border.

Laura Pole, a British tourist visiting Laredo for the third time, was less enthusiastic.

"It reminds me of Hitler and the concentration camps," she said, but added: "I really don't know what's the best thing to do."

No risk of combat

The border mission has put the supposedly non-political military in an uncomfortable spotlight.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has hit back at critics who say the Pentagon should not be doing Trump's political bidding, saying "we don't do stunts".

He visited troops on the border last week and reiterated that their job in the short term was to assist under-resourced Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and put up physical obstacles.

But "longer term, it's somewhat to be determined," he said.

After some rank-and-file troops grumbled about the purpose of the mission to US media last week, they are now under strict instructions not to voice personal opinions to the press.

Several soldiers AFP spoke to said their time on the border provided valuable real-world training, albeit without the risks of combat.

"We have a very large group of brand-new soldiers and it's really good for them," Corporal Samuel Fletcher said, citing a chance for the green troops "to do real work and put their skills to use."

Focus on Tijuana

In Laredo, large groups of migrants from the caravans in Mexico had not arrived.

Instead they were mainly headed to Tijuana, about 1,300 miles away in San Diego, where authorities say more than 3,000 have already arrived.

Still, a CBP agent, who was not authorized to give his name, said he was glad of the military assistance as each day, "hundreds" of migrants attempt to cross the approximately 30-mile stretch of border he patrols.

The military deployment is set to wrap up December 15 and it is not clear what will become of the wire fencing.

Already, the winds whistling down the Rio Grande valley are strewing trash, clothing and plastic bags along the jagged wire.

"Nobody seems to know when it's coming down. It's not really our decision," said Koepnick.

"If we are told to take it down, we will take it down with a smile on our faces, like good soldiers."


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GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - Marc Rodgers, station commander of the NSRI Plettenberg Bay station, urges bathers and paddlers along the Plettenberg Bay coastline to be cautious due to confirmed increase shark activity inshore along the coastline.

The sharks are attracted to and feeding on a juvenile Humpback whale carcass that has washed ashore among rocks at Groot Bank, close to Keurboomstrand, off-shore of the Salt River.

Bitou municipal solid waste removal are investigating options to remove or dispose of the carcass.


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Panel supports land expropriation plans

Some opposition parties say panel didn’t follow proper process.


BUSINESS NEWS - A panel of South African lawmakers resolved that the constitution needs to be changed to make it easier to seize land without paying for it, the latest twist in a divisive debate over how to address racially skewed ownership patterns dating back to apartheid and colonial rule.

The ANC used its majority in Parliament’s Joint Constitutional Review Committee to force through the adoption of a report Thursday that recommends that the wording of section 25 of the constitution be changed to explicitly allow for expropriation without compensation.

The decision was backed by the populist Economic Freedom Fighters, the third-largest party, and the United Democratic Movement.

The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition, and several other smaller parties complained that the panel didn’t follow proper procedure because it largely ignored more that 400,000 written submissions from the public on the issue.

While the National Assembly’s approval of the report is seen as a formality, it is likely to be challenged in court. The South African Institute of Race Relations, a Johannesburg-based research institution, on Wednesday said it has briefed its lawyers about the procedural flaws with a view to seeking a judicial review of the parliamentary process.

If the process isn’t derailed by lawsuits, another lawmakers’ panel will draw up revised constitutional provisions that deal with property rights, which could take several months.

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Join us for another excellent ACTIVE Network ....!

- NETWORKINGBuzz over Coffee...!

This is your invitation to "Buzz over Coffee" with the "friendsofgeorge". Come and introduce yourself and market your Company and Product. It's all free. Please don't be late as we would like to start at 10h00 sharp. It is not necessary to reserve but it would help if you do for catering purposes. You can contact me, Hayleigh on 084 3808195 or mail me at marketmanager@friendsofgeorge.co.za.

Kind Regards



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- GENERAL NEWSIn a damning judgment slamming the rugby legend’s widow, Amor was described as lacking in compassion in trying to overturn his most recent will.

Amor Vittone inherits only a TV from Joost, judge rules

Joost van der Westhuizen and his estranged wife Amor Vittone during happier times.

NATIONAL NEWS - A high court judge in Pretoria has lashed singer Amor Vittone’s denial that her late husband, rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen, was no longer able to hold a pen when he drew up a new will as “scandalous” and her conduct towards him as “lacking respect and compassion”.

Judge Hans Fabricius yesterday granted an order to Joost’s brother Pieter and attorney Ferdinand Hartzenberg, declaring his 2015 will to be valid and reflecting his last wishes. The master of the high court was instructed to accept the will and appoint Pieter as the executor of his brother’s estate.

Amor was also ordered to the pay the legal costs relating to the application.

In terms of the will Amor inherits only a television set while the bulk of Joost’s estate is left in trust to his children, aged 13 and 11. The will also makes it clear that Amor may not get any direct benefit from the trust and that Joost wanted his children to maintain a good relationship with his parents and brothers.

Amor opposed the application, claiming a 2009 joint will in which she was Joost’s only heir was the only valid will as he had not signed his 2015 will. She claimed he was still able to hold objects in 2015 and would have been able to sign his will and questioned his mental capacity.

Joost died of motor neuron disease in February 2017, but Hartzenberg said his condition had deteriorated to such an extent by 2015 that he could not hold a pen, although there was nothing wrong with his mental abilities and he could still communicate using modern technology and his eye movements.

Judge Fabricius said there was a whole history leading up to the new will, including Joost’s physical and mental condition, which indicated that he knew exactly what he wanted and why. It was strange that Amor, who was Joost’s wife for many years, would not have been able to say how his condition progressed.

He said there was enough evidence that Joost was unable to even hold a trophy presented to him in 2015 and Amor’s denial that he could not hold a pen was “scandalous, to put it lightly”.

As for his mental condition, Amor said nothing about what she observed. She also said nothing about allegations that she had threatened to change the children’s surnames and keep them away from Joost if she was not declared the heir of the entire estate or about Joost setting up a trust because of her undisciplined spending.

The judge remarked that this was not the way to treat someone you once were in love with, or how you should treat your children.

He said it was probably best to say as little as possible about Amor’s affidavit because of issues relating to respect and compassion, adding that he would have expected more than a denial of Joost’s physical and mental condition, which was no defence.

Amor in court papers blamed their break-up on a video allegedly depicting him having sex with another woman, but Hartzenberg said the video was irrelevant and only showed Joost “interacting” with the woman. He said Joost had often complained to him about Amor’s extramarital affairs and was so concerned that there would be nothing left for the children because of her spending habits that he set up the J9 Trust to ensure the children’s finances were properly managed.

He said Joost wanted to go ahead with their divorce in 2015, but kept it back after her father asked him to do so because she did not want negative publicity before the launch of her new CD. His condition deteriorated so badly thereafter that he was no longer able to proceed with the divorce.


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- GEORGE NEWS Outeniqua-rolbalklub bederf brandweerhelde

Rita Louw verpak die groot aantal worsrolletjies wat aan die brandweerpersoneel geskenk is.
GEORGE NUUS - Uit dankbaarheid vir hul geesdrif en heldhaftige pogings om die vure onder baie moeilike omstandighede teen die Outeniquaberge te beveg, het Outeniqua-rolbalklub besluit om die dapper vegters met ietsie te ete en te drinke te bederf.

Klublede het ingespring en worsrolletjies gemaak wat deur die klub geskenk is.

Kiste vol koeldranke en water is ook aan die brandweerstasie gegee om as lafenis in die snikhete omstandighede te dien.

Petro Scheepers (links) en Rita Louw by van die drinkgoed wat geskenk is.


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Peruvian police also rescued a five-month-old baby that was set to be sold for 4,000 Peruvian soles ($1,200)

INTERNATIONAL NEWS - Authorities in Peru said Thursday they had busted an alleged baby trafficking ring that included the country's former police chief. Police arrested 14 people and carried out raids on 18 properties in the southern city of Arequipa, prosecutor Rosmery Palomino said in a video posted on Twitter.

They also rescued a five-month-old baby that was set to be sold for 4,000 Peruvian soles ($1,200).

The gang, which included doctors, sought out women who were seeking abortions to persuade them to carry their pregnancies to term so that they could sell their babies.

Civil registry officials who were part of the ring would then help carry out the necessary paperwork.

The swoop was the result of an investigation that began in May and involved extensive wiretapping.

The alleged ringleader was a model Cinthia Tello, whose partner, retired General Raul Becerra, was director of Peru's National Police in 2010.

Tello, who was also a beauty pageant producer in Arequipa, "is the leader - she would receive babies in her house, before handing it over to the adopter," prosecutor Miriam Hernandez told reporters.

Among those arrested were a gynecologist and a pediatrician, as well as three women whose job it was to contact pregnant women who were seeking abortions.

Peru has one of the strictest set of laws governing abortion in South America, with the procedure only legal in cases where a pregnancy presents a danger to the life of the mother.


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US President Donald Trump campaigned on a vow to clamp down on illegal immigration, including a signature promise to build a wall on the Mexican border
INTERNATIONAL NEWS - The United States will no longer allow people who enter the country illegally to claim asylum, officials said Thursday, unveiling a controversial new crackdown on immigration.

The restriction on asylum claims will seek to address what a senior administration official called the "historically unparalleled abuse of our immigration system" along the border with Mexico.

The new rule was published by the Department of Homeland Security and is expected to get President Donald Trump's signature shortly - as well as face court challenges.

The American Civil Liberties Union said that the right to request asylum must be granted to anyone entering the country, regardless of where they were.

"US law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry. It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree," the ACLU said.

But according to the new rule, Trump has authority to restrict illegal immigration "if he determines it to be in the national interest."

Trump's administration argues that he has the executive power to curb immigration in the name of national security, a power he invoked right after taking office with a controversial ban on travelers from several mostly-Muslim countries - the final version of which was upheld by the US Supreme Court on June 26 after a protracted legal battle.

"Today's rule applies this important principle to aliens who violate such a suspension or restriction regarding the southern border," Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker said.

Those seeking political or other kinds of asylum - nearly all of them coming from impoverished and violent crime-plagued countries of Central America - will be heard exclusively at the border crossings, administration officials told journalists.

This is expected to put a dent in those streaming into an already overburdened system, officials said, noting that there is a backlog of more than 700,000 cases in the immigration courts.

Campaign controversy
Many politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that the US immigration system is hugely inefficient and unable to cope with demand. However, Trump's focus on the issue during campaigning for Tuesday's hotly contested midterm congressional elections was criticized as veering into immigrant-bashing and even racism.

In speeches and on Twitter, Trump hammered away nearly daily at "caravans" of a few thousand impoverished Central Americans that periodically attempt to walk up through Mexico and then gain entry to the United States.

He called a current caravan, which is still hundreds of miles from the US border and dwindling in numbers, an "invasion" and said it would bring hardened criminals to US streets.

Administration officials say that aside from the rhetoric the border really does have a problem, given that anyone who manages to get across can request asylum and subsequently often vanish while their case sits in the court system.

"The vast majority of these applications eventually turn out to be non-meritorious," a senior administration official said, asking not to be identified.

Less than 10 percent of cases result in asylum being granted, the government says.

Human rights campaigners and other critics of the Trump crackdown say that by restricting asylum seekers to the narrow border crossing points - which are already under enormous pressure - the government is effectively shutting the door on people who may truly be fleeing for their lives.

"The government cannot abdicate its responsibility towards migrants fleeing harm," the New York Immigration Coalition advocacy group said. "We will resist this."

But the administration official argued that "what we're attempting to do is trying to funnel credible fear claims, or asylum claims, through the ports of entry where we are better resourced."

That way, he said, courts will "handle those claims in an expeditious and efficient manner, so that those who do actually require an asylum protection get those protections."

In 2018, border patrols registered more than 400,000 illegal border crossers, homeland security said. And in the last five years, the number of those requesting asylum has increased by 2,000 percent, it said.


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PROPERTY NEWS - For most South Africans, money is tighter than those jeans you bought just before the winter season started. On the bright side, thanks to the ever-rising fuel costs and a weak economy, you could probably still manage to squeeze that near-empty wallet into the pocket of those jeans.

"Our current economy has restricted the cash flow of most consumers. Many homeowners are searching for ways to cut back on their expenses. One trick they could try is to request that their bank reduce the interest rate on their home loan. However, only a few banks would be willing to provide this service and will only grant it provided that the debtor has shown an impeccable payment record. It is a bit of a long shot, but if you are successful, you stand the chance to save thousands," says regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett.

The writer of the personal finance blog Stealthy Wealth gives a practical example. The original interest rate on his home loan was 0,05% below prime, and his instalments were around R9 219 a month with roughly R925 000 left to pay off over the next 18 years (216 months). He then had his interest rate reduced to 0,3% below prime, changing his instalment amount to R9 071 per month, saving him R148 each month and a total of R31 968 by the end of the loan term.

"During tight financial periods, this monthly saving can offer some much-needed relief for households. This is why it is so vital to keep up with payments - even more so when times are good. During seasons when they have cash to spare, I would advise homeowners to direct this money into their bond repayments. Not only will this shorten their lending term, but should they ever need to lower their instalments at a later stage, they will also stand a better chance of being able to do so," says Goslett.

According to Mary Lindemann, COO of BetterBond, not all banks will consider reducing your interest rate just because you ask. "Some banks regard your home loan agreement as a legal contract where the rate has been agreed on for a certain term. Other banks do consider relooking at the rate, based on the risk - i.e. the current loan to value (LTV) of the mortgage bond. Some banks will consider the request in an attempt to retain their customer and it will be referred to a special team called a retentions unit to consider."

Goslett adds, "In order to apply for a lower instalment rate, you would need to submit a formal request to your bank stating how well you have kept up with your payments and requesting that they re-evaluate the interest rate based on the fact that you've proven to be a low-risk client."

If this does not work, it might be worth exploring which rates you could receive at other financial institutions to use as leverage for your negotiations.

"Originators such as BetterBond do not assist with switching home loans, so you would have to do this research yourself. After reviewing all your quotes, if you do decide to change your home loan from one financial institution to another that offers you a better rate, you need to consider the various ad hoc costs this move would incur and weigh this amount up against how much you will end up saving by the end of the loan term at your new financial institution".


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- GEORGE NEWSCongratulations and a very big welcome Hayleigh and we wish you every success for the future regarding this new venture of yours. This from myself and all the staff.

Rocky Sonnekus