Tag Archives: South Africa

Touring the World’s Worst Slums for Fun and Profit

The townships of South Africa, the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai’s Dharavi slums — here, residents eek out an existence amid crushing poverty that most in the developed world can’t begin to imagine.

However, the sheer morbid curiosity about those living in such conditions has spawned a controversial form of voyeuristic tourism. It’s often dubbed “slum tourism,” “poverty tourism,” or just “poorism.” Whatever you call it, it’s a niche industry designed to commodify the world’s worst slums for fun and profit.

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Scotland full of eastern European criminals

SCOTLAND has so many eastern European criminal suspects that the Polish military has been called in to fly them home, the Sunday Express has learned.

Hundreds of overseas fugitives are being caught here and sent home every year with majority coming from Poland, South Africa and the USA.

Earlier this year, there were close to 400 live cases involving 62 different countries – either Scots who had fled abroad or foreign nationals wanted for often serious crimes.

The military flights from Edinburgh Airport – dubbed Con Air after the Hollywood movie – were introduced to keep costs down and cope with the soaring demand.

A Scottish Government report on international criminals, seen by the Sunday Express, states: “To facilitate the increasing number of extraditions to Poland and to reduce costs involved, arrangements have been made for Polish military flights to land at Edinburgh airport.”

Following the introduction of the European Arrest Warrant in 2004, thousands of foreign suspects are being caught and sent home from Britain every year.

Four years ago, the Polish authorities also introduced regular military flights from Biggin Hill airport in Kent to cope with a peak in demand.

An 80-seater Polish military twin-propeller aircraft was sometimes making two flights a week to Warsaw, extraditing suspects in crimes ranging from murder to theft of a chicken. Many of those extradited were returning to Britain within days.

Last night the Scottish Conservatives said it was right for the Polish authorities to foot the bill for the removal of wanted criminals.

Alex Johnstone MSP added: “It stands to reason that the more foreign people who come to live in the UK, the more there are going to be in prison settings.

“The vast majority of Polish migrant workers have been an asset to Scotland, taking jobs many people here have no interest in pursuing.

“But it is important that when crimes are committed, taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill of keeping them in jail and they should serve their sentences in their native country where possible.”

However, the need for military extradition flights reveals the worrying level of international offenders in Scotland.

The Sunday Express can also reveal details of a new Home Office operation to catch foreign offenders who have committed a crime on these shores.

Operation Nexus was introduced by the Metropolitan Police in London and has since been rolled out to Birmingham, Manchester and now north of the Border.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We liaised closely with the Metropolitan Police prior to the roll out of this operation in Scotland in May 2014, to learn from their considerable experience when dealing with offenders who are foreign nationals.

“Police Scotland, in partnership with Home Office Immigration Enforcement Officers, have successfully removed a number of foreign nationals as a direct result of Operation Nexus. There are also a number of pending cases.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was an operational matter for the Home Office. The Home Office insisted the flights were under the remit of the National Crime Agency.

The news follows a damning report last week which exposed a staggering failure to deal with the soaring numbers of foreign criminals in Britain.

Home Office officials have lost track of 760 of the 4,200 offenders who had been freed back on to our streets by the end of March 2014 pending their removal.

The report by the National Audit Office said this figure included 58 ‘high harm’ individuals, a category that includes rapists, killers and drug dealers.

Prime Minister David Cameron blamed “obstacles” such as EU legislation on human rights and free movement.

His comments came as the family of murdered schoolgirl Alice Gross gathered for her funeral.

The 14-year-old went missing from her home in Hanwell, west London, in August and her body was found hidden in the River Brent about a month later.

Her suspected killer, Latvian national Arnis Zalkalns, now dead, was a convicted murderer who came to the UK in 2007.

The world’s most extraordinary hotels in pictures

Mihir Garh, Rajasthan 
“The fort sits in splendid isolation amid the Thar Desert near Jodhpur. It looks like an enormous sandcastle, a mirage, and is not just a unique place to stay; it’s a shrine to the artistic and architectural traditions of Rajasthan in general and Jodhpur in particular.”

Planet Baobab, Botswana
“Botswana’s Makgadigadi Pan comprises the world’s largest network of salt pans – a thirsty, mirage-inducing landscape of flat, shimmering expanses under hard blue skies. Halfway along the sole tarred road through this arid moonscape, a statue of an anteater towers at the dusty verge. It is a surreal sight, and an appropriate signpost for the distinctive Planet Baobab.”

Prendiparte B&B, Bologna, Italy
“A medieval high-rise turned romantic hideaway, the Torre Prendiparte is unlike anywhere else you’ll ever stay. The living area is on the first two floors and comprises a snug, classically-furnished living room, mezzanine bedroom, and kitchen. Above this is the former jail where you can still see graffiti left by prisoners on the 2m-thick walls.”

Qasr al Sarab, UAE
“Rising from the shifting sands, Qasr Al Sarab appears like a mirage on the edge of the vast Empty Quarter desert. Outside high crenellated walls echo fortresses of old. Inside rooms continue the dream of Arabian Nights with sumptuous fabrics, carved Islamic designs, woven rugs, wooden doors and metalwork lanterns.”

Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, Tasmania, Australia
“A stay at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge plunges you into the heart of Tasmania’s wilderness, with luxury that feels as organic as your surrounds. The cabins are nestled privately in the bushland, with wallabies bounding past the windows and wombats shuffling amid the trees.”

Free Spirit Spheres, British Columbia, Canada
“Suspended in the trees on sturdy guide ropes, Vancouver Island’s Free Spirit Spheres look like giant eyeballs peering deep into the British Columbia woodlands. Step inside and the handmade orbs – accessed via spiral rope staircases or slender steel bridges – are lined like comfy boat cabins with built-in beds and cabinets.”

Taskonak Hotel, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
“Göreme has dozens of beautiful cave-hotels but Taşkonak manages to dish up the cave-suites and stupendous views Cappadocia is famous for without breaking your budget.”

Thonga Beach Lodge, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa
“One of few such lodges within the extraordinary 328,000 hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a Unesco world heritage site.”

Saugerties Lighthouse, New York state, USA
“Saugerties Lighthouse is a historic 1869 landmark that makes a wonderful base for exploring the scenic Hudson valley. It is 100 miles north of New York City, and the red brick building has played a pivotal role in safely guiding steamboats, barges and other vessels safely along the Hudson river over the years. More recently (in the mid 1990s), the lighthouse was transformed into a two-room B&B, providing safe haven of a different sort.”

The Gibbon Experience Treehouse, Bokeo Reserve, Laos
“The tree houses erected by conservation group Animo are a thing of architectural wonder, straddling the giant trunks of strangler fig trees. But more extraordinary still is that to reach these vertiginous eyries you’ll have to trek through the fecund realm of the tiger, then catch a series of exhilarating zip lines strung across the forest canopy, before flying into your night’s accommodation.”

Dalai Lama unable to attend Mandela memorial

The Dalai Lama will not attend memorial services for fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela in South Africa, where he has twice been unable to obtain a visa.

A spokesman did not say why the Buddhist spiritual leader is missing the memorial service in Johannesburg and funeral in Mandela’s hometown.

He said only that “logistically it’s impossible at this time.”

South Africa blocked the Dalai Lama from attending a Nobel laureates’ peace conference in 2009, and stalled on a 2011 visa until the Tibetan leader withdrew the application.

The Dalai Lama has been based in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala since fleeing from China in 1959. He seeks more autonomy for Tibet, but China accuses him of being a separatist.

These Giant Copper Orbs Show Just How Much Metal Comes From a Mine

Not too long after the California Gold Rush, a similar mania descended upon South Africa. Miners struck gold, and opportunists flooded into the country to seek their fortune.

The gold has since dwindled, but the discovery of other minerals such as platinum has helped make South Africa one of Africa’s wealthiest countries by GDP.

In terms of socioeconomics and the environment, however, that wealth has been troubling: It isn’t evenly distributed among all South Africans.


Earlier this year the platinum industry’s labor unions went on strike, demanding better wages. Elsewhere, mining tycoons promised village residents a stake in new mines, and have yet to deliver. These social issues are all fairly abstract.

But one artist set about to make them as visceral as possible, by simply calculating just how much metal comes from a mine.

Nababeep South Mine

The South African artist Dillon Marsh often looks closely at how human activity leaves traces and scars upon the environment.

“Air and water pollution, acid mine drainage, toxic waste and abandoned, non-rehabilitated mines continue to be a detriment to the environment,” he says.

But unlike slash-and-burn foresting, or melting glaciers, there’s no obvious visual reference for understanding the impact mining has had on the earth. The bounty is extracted from underground, and then exported elsewhere.


“Due to the nature of mining operations, where minerals are extracted bit by bit over long periods of time, it has always been difficult to imagine the full amount extracted from each mine.”

So Marsh did some research. He compiled numbers on the historical output of pure minerals from five mines in the Namaqualand region, and then used Google Earth to approximate the area of those mines. With those data sets, he used CGI to render huge copper orbs, and then digitally added them to photographs of the mines. In For What It’s Worth, each floating sphere is a volumetric estimate of how much copper has been extracted from each mine.

Each orb represents somewhere between 3,000 and 300,000 tons of copper, but each sphere looks paltry when stacked against the vast, but marred South African landscapes.


For an economic activity that’s usually quantified in numbers, that comparison would be hard to come by otherwise. Just imagine if that same treatment could be applied to other less-than-visible environmental concerns, like carbon dioxide emissions.

For What It’s Worth is the first in a series that Marsh says will look at other mining minerals in South Africa.

Sleeping Under The Stars: Tree House Hotels Around The World

As a child, you wanted a tree house. You’d spend hot summer nights at your lucky friend’s house, climbing makeshift ladders to play in a wonderland under the stars. That dream doesn’t have to die. As an adult, you can release your inner child at tree house hotels around the world. Some are located on luxurious animal preserves. Others are nestled in lush forests with nary a city light in sight. Here are five of the best on five continents.

Bonbibi treehouse

Treehouse Point, Washington

On the banks of the Raging River, 30 miles from Seattle, lies Treehouse Point. The brainchild of Peter and Judy Nelson, Treehouse Point offers six unique tree houses for guests looking for romance and tranquility (no children under 13 allowed). Each house boasts hardwood floors, hand-hewn beds and views of the forest and stars. Guests share bathrooms at the ground level. The Nelsons will help facilitate hiking trips and other tours.

Bangkok Treehouse

Bangkok Treehouse, Bangkok, Thailand

Inspired by Walden Pond, Bangkok Treehouse is an eco-friendly oasis in this teeming metropolis. Guests have a choice of three tree-top accommodations, all unique and some rustic. “The View with the Room” boasts bamboo floors, mangrove trees and is situated 23 feet in the air. The night sky is your canopy. Guests have access to private outdoor showers as well as a freshwater pool. Don’t be surprised to spy a lizard in your room. Mosquito netting keeps the pesky pests away at night.

Treehouse hotel

Lion Sands Game Reserve, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa

If you’re headed on safari but want a unique lodging experience, Lion Sands Game Reserve at Sabi Sand Game Reserve offers the Chalkley Treehouse. Named after the founder of the Reserve, the Chalkley is situated in a Leadwood tree and is outfitted with a double-bed, mosquito netting, lanterns and a water basin. It’s a rustic as you can get without truly being on your own. Hyenas and other wild animals may keep you company but the velvet African sky will bring you peace of mind.

Ariau Towers

Ariau Towers, Manaus, Brazil

Brazil was one of the first countries to get in on the tree house hotel act and Ariau Towers in Manaus remains one of the top hotels in the country. Inspired by Jacques Cousteau, the expansive property was built in 1987 on the banks of the Rio Negro. The eco-friendly hotel has a large number of tree houses to choose from. Elevated nearly 40 above the ground, the houses feature private balconies, hardwood floors, queen beds and full bathrooms. Myriad activities are nearby, from the Adolpho Ducke Botanical Gardens to the Lago Januari Ecological Park.

Tree Hotel

Treehotel, Harads, Sweden

The funkiest of all tree house hotels is the Treehotel in Harads, Sweden. The Swedes know design and Britta and Kent Lindvall had a clean aesthetic in mind when they built their hotel on the Lule River in Northern Sweden. Each of the six houses are unique and modern in design, with bespoke furniture, lighting and linens. The Cabin feels as if you’re in a high-tech train cabin. The Mirrorcube reflects the landscape at all angles. The UFO is just that, a mecca for sci-fi nerds everywhere. Guests have access to a tree house sauna as well. Head here in the depths of winter, when the spectacular northern lights are on display.

After Two Years on the Run, Fugitive Rabbi Nabbed in Holland

Rabbi Eliezer Berland

Johannesburg – A fugitive Israeli rabbi who fled to South Africa after being accused of sexual crimes has been arrested in the Netherlands.

A former follower said the Dutch and Israeli police arrested Eliezer Berland, of the Breslov Hasidic movement, at Amsterdam’s airport soon after landing on Thursday.

Berland was reportedly smuggled out of South Africa on Wednesday night by his followers, who had allegedly been helping him evade the police since he fled here in April.

IOL rabbi berland 2

His intention was to travel to Ukraine to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman, founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, in Uman, Ukraine.

The former follower said on Thursday the elderly man was travelling with his wife Tehila Berland and a few followers when he was arrested.

“Dutch border police officials were informed about his departure from South Africa and they were waiting for him. They approached him and told him that he was wanted for questioning in Israel.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland

“The rabbi was unmoved by his arrest and said that ‘if it is the way to Israel, no problem’,” said the man, who asked for his identity not to be revealed.

The Hawks, who had a warrant of arrest for Berland and had been trying to arrest him since his arrival in South Africa, did not have information on Berland’s arrest and were verifying the report, spokesman Paul Ramaloko said.

It is believed that Berland left South Africa soon after his close shave with the police on Monday night, when he evaded a roadblock in Sandringham, Joburg.

IOL rabbi berland (44490524)
Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who evaded police at a road block, has allegedly been smuggled out of the counrty.

Berland had been on the run since allegations of a sexual nature surfaced in 2012.

He went to the US, Italy, Switzerland, Morocco and Zimbabwe before finally arriving in South Africa in April.

Berland’s arrest has, however, not diminished the support he enjoys among his followers, according to the source.

“His followers are preparing to welcome him upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. They remain loyal to him.”