Take Five: HIV grinds porn industry to a halt

M&G geek girl, Faranaaz Parker, rounds up five interesting things that happened in the world of tech, health and the environment.

Social services ‘loses’ R10.5-bn in grants
Never mind the over R700-million that auditor general Terence Nombembe believes the National Prosecuting Authority wasted on irregular expenditure, I lost my cool when I heard that the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa), which administers the country’s R80-billion social grants budget, has been “unable to verify” the expenditure of about R10,5-billion in social grants.

Of course, social development minister Edna Molewa says she’ll be taking steps but I’ll believe that when— Well, I just don’t believe that. They’ve been trying to rout out fraud in the social security system for years now and yet Sassa’s irregular expenditure last year topped R60-million. Now this.

As a tax-payer, the whole thing makes me twitchy and cynical. Why can’t government be as good at giving away our money as they are at taking it from us?

Porn industry grinds to a halt
News out of Los Angeles this week is that the multi-billion dollar porn industry has ground to a halt, after a leading porn star was diagnosed with HIV.

Although porn stars are tested regularly for STDs the problem lies in the “window period,” an early stage of infection during which HIV is undetectable in the blood.

The 2004 HIV scare, during which 30 companies stopped filming for a month to have their actors tested, was kicked off by a single actor who tested negative for HIV days before shooting the film in which he infected three of his co-stars, who later went on to work with others.

Condoms are not routinely used in porn films because, according to film-makers, viewers find them to be a turn-off. Now Aids activists are calling for greater regulation of the porn industry and for condoms to be mandatory in porn films.

This is one area at least where South Africans are ahead of the game. We may have recently produced our first all-black porn film but it was strictly no glove, no love on the set of Mapona, which the film-makers say is intended to promote safe sex.

Mmm-hmmm— I’m sure that’s not all it’s intended to do.

Brazil to auction off the Amazon
Brazil plans to auction off about 2,5-million acres of land in the Amazon.

But experts believe this may actually help to save the rainforests. Illegal loggers have already slashed and burned their way through about 20% of the rainforest.

The Brazilian government is hoping that the new approach will help encourage sustainable logging, create jobs and contribute towards tax revenue.

Sounds good in theory but implementation would require hawk-like monitoring, something that could be difficult out in the forest. Is Brazil really prepared to gamble on one of the planet’s largest carbon sinks?

If at first you don’t succeed—
This week Frito-Lay, a PepsiCo subsidiary, ended its run of potato chip packaging made from plant-based material because consumers found it too noisy. (Some said it was louder than the noise inside a jet cockpit!)

According to Fast Company, the noisy packaging turned people off so much that sales for potato chips that used the compostable packaging actually dropped by 11%.

Seems people want to do their bit only as long as it doesn’t interfere too much with the status quo. Did PepsiCo learn nothing from the polyurethane female condom?

But PepsiCo haven’t given up hope yet. In the UK, it’s now looking at using potato peelings from chip production to make packaging for Walkers chips. Bring on the green, I say.

McDonalds: It looks like food but is it?
And as a parting shot, the Daily Mail this week published a bit of anti-food porn.

Manhattan artist Sally Davies photographed a McDonald’s kids’ meal every day for months. Despite a bit of desiccation and shrivelling, the meal was still intact 175 days later.

McDonald’s, of course, called it a stunt.

A lot of questions have been raised about the experiment—whether a control should be used, whether storing in extremely dry conditions caused the meal to dry out and why the bits most likely to rot, such as lettuce and tomato, have been removed—but admit it, looking at these pictures is like watching a bad horror movie. We’re disgusted, we can’t take our eyes off it but we’ll be back for the sequel. Or in this case, seconds.

Faranaaz’s interests span technology, gaming, health and the environment. Read her weekly wrap every weekend on the M&G and follow her on Twitter here.

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