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Trump doubts he needs to send more U.S. troops to Middle East to counter Iran

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he doubted that the United States needs to send more U.S. troops to the Middle East to counter Iran as he prepared to meet Pentagon officials to discuss it later in the day.

U.S. military leaders have discussed sending some 5,000 troops to the region with tensions running high with Iran. Trump, asked by reporters about the plan, said he did not think they would be needed, but that he was willing to consider it.

Reporting By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; editing by Grant McCool

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Thandi Modise animal cruelty case postponed | News | National

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Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise appeared at the Potchefstroom regional court on Monday, over alleged animal cruelty at a farm she owned in the North West.

The case was postponed as Modise’s legal team said they needed more time to challenge the charges laid against her by AfriForum.

In 2014, the National Council of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) approached the lobby group after they found that Modise’s farm was left abandoned for weeks.

More than 50 pigs and 80 animals were found dead on the farm after being neglected, while other pigs had resorted to eating the carcasses of the dead animals.
The NSPCA had to euthanise 117 animals due to their dire condition.

At the time the farm was found to be abandoned, Modise said the farm manager had asked for a leave of absence two weeks ago to attend to an urgent family matter.
She said she believed his replacement had matters under control and was shocked to learn he had disappeared. Modise also claimed that she was actively involved in the farm and would visit every two weeks.

Workers contradicted that, saying that she made an appearance there at intervals “of six to eight months”.

It later emerged that workers were being starved on her farm too. A worker on a neighbouring farm said that a Zimbabwean worker named “Nina” had asked him for mealie pap, after she told him that she was not paid.

A neighbouring employee also said that one of Modise’s workers had come to beg for maize porridge in June after being hired in May and not receiving his wages.

READ MORE: Modise’s farm: ‘Workers starved too’

The case is being taken on by AfriForum’s head of private prosecution unit, Gerrie Nel, who is acting on behalf of the NSPCA after the NPA refused to act against Modise.

The hearing is set to continue at the end of October where Modise will once again appear at the regional court in Potchefstroom, North West.

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University applications could be after A-levels

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Universities are considering whether to shift the timetable of the admissions system so that applications would take place after students have their A-level results.

A review into the admissions process has been launched by Universities UK.

It will examine whether it would be fairer to move away from a system based on predicted exam grades.

Paul Cottrell, head of the UCU lecturers’ union, said an “overhaul of university admissions is long overdue”.

The review, to be chaired by Paddy Nixon, vice-chancellor of Ulster University, says it will “draw on best practice from across the UK”.

But universities in Scotland have run their own review of admissions, with an emphasis on ensuring access for applicants from deprived areas.

Fairer choices

Universities have been under pressure over entry systems – with criticism over the increasing use of unconditional offers, in which students commit to a university place in return for being accepted regardless of their exam results.

Unconditional offers give universities more certainty over their recruitment numbers and finances – but there are concerns this is achieved at the cost of “pressure-selling” tactics on students.

There have also been challenges over whether disadvantaged students have fair access into the most selective universities.

The review, due to report back next spring, will look again at the findings of an inquiry carried out under the Labour government, which called for applications to be made after A-level results – changing to what is called “post-qualification admissions”.

At present, students apply and narrow down their selections before they take their A-levels – and universities make offers using the grades predicted by their schools.

But most predicted grades are incorrect and there have been arguments that students would make better informed choices and rely less on guesswork if they could apply after they knew their results.

There have also been social-mobility arguments that under the current system some disadvantaged youngsters might not even apply to universities their subsequent results might have allowed them to enter.

The Sutton Trust education charity has called for an end to the use of predicted grades, with figures showing almost three-quarters of students did not achieve the grades they had been predicted.

‘Remove barriers’

This change to a post-results system has been proposed before but a stumbling block has been whether this would mean an earlier start for school exams or a delayed start for beginning university.

The Ucas admissions system allows for some changes after results, in the “clearing” and “adjustment” processes, but there have been calls for a more comprehensive restructuring of admissions.

“There is growing support for a shift to a post-qualification admissions system,” said Mr Cottrell, acting leader of the UCU lecturers’ union.

“Our research shows such a move would not only be fairer for students, it would bring the UK into line with the rest of the world and eliminate the use of controversial unconditional offers and the chaotic clearing process,” he said.

The chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, said the review would help “to build greater levels of transparency, trust and public understanding in admissions practices”.

The higher education watchdog, the Office for Students, is to launch its own review of admissions in England later this year.

Chief executive Nicola Dandridge said the aim would be to “remove barriers to disadvantaged applicants, and to promote transparency and clarity about admissions and offer-making processes”.

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Broken promises: Houses are cracking over old coal mine where diggers risk their lives for cash

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Residents of Blaauwbosch village in Newcastle, who live near an old coal mine where informal mining takes place, say they are fed up with empty promises by the government and local politicians. They told GroundUp they want to be moved elsewhere.

The residents say the walls of their houses are cracking because of the informal – and illegal – mining activity. Over 50 households are affected.

Mzamo High School, which was near the mine, was relocated by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education at a cost of R37m, and reopened in February 2017. Residents say they have been left behind.

“Many promises have been made to us, and we are now fed up,” said resident Msi Mavuso. “We are still living under dangerous conditions. Our houses are so cracked, they can fall in at any moment.

“For years, we have been promised by the local authorities that we would be moved to a safe place, but nothing has been done,” he said.

“Some have managed to move to other safe places and rebuild their homes, but not all of us can afford that because most of us are unemployed and struggling to make ends meet in this village,” said Mavuso.

As far as GroundUp can tell, people in the area discovered the coal in the 1980s and digging has been taking place at this site since then. But we cannot confirm this.


“Illegal coal diggers risk their lives everyday for coal digging”


Elderly resident Vusi Manana said: “Illegal coal diggers risk their lives everyday for coal digging to eke out a living because of a high rate of unemployment in this area. No one will stop them; even the government departments have failed. They won’t stop digging. What we are asking for as residents… is to be moved to a safe place.

“In every election campaign, the politicians come here and make promises to us that we would be moved from this area, but after elections they never come back. They did the same even in this year’s election campaigns.”

Kaizer Mbuli, one of hundreds of informal coal diggers, said: “I have been doing this since I was a young boy. We know that what we are doing is illegal, but we have no choice. This is our livelihood. We support our families.” He has two children.

The informal miners also dig up different types of soil, mix them together and make bricks. They dig the coal in order to bake the bricks.

Nothando Dub, spokesperson for Sisonke Environmental Justice Network, a community organisation based in Newcastle, said that it had “inspected the living conditions of the residents of Blaauwbosch living near the coal mine” and taken the matter up with the Department of Mineral Resources.

Ward 18 councillor Dolly Mnguni said that a housing project would start later this year and that there were plans to move the residents who were living near the coal mine.

The Department of Mineral Resources said that it had inspected the site and intended to rehabilitate it, but that officials from the department had been prevented from entering the area.

“The department will continue to try and gain access to the area and work with the provincial government to find sustainable solutions for the affected households.”

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