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The East African : June 2nd 2014
18 The EastAfrican OPINION MAY 31 - JUNE 6, 2014 LAST WORD Bolivia builds Palace of Salt ≥eso≥t, Lot’s wife books p≥esidential suite A Bolivian resort is built on the world’s largest salt flat — even the furniture is made from blocks of the seasoning favourite. Staying in a hotel made entirely of salt, from the walls to the beds, is bound to leave visitors a little thirsty. At least, there is little chance of hungry guests running out of seasoning, especially as the menu is salt-themed, with the speciality being chicken salt. The Palacio de Sal hotel Joachim Buwembo Football, gambling and mobile phones: Uganda ≥eady fo≥ B≥azil around Uganda and all the evidence is there. Twenty years ago, there were no mobile phones. The state monopoly that managed landline phones had only connected 20,000 customers in nearly a century. Then mobile telephony came, and the service providers connected 17 million customers in less than two decades. You have heard economists praise W mobile telephony for helping Africa make development leaps, from farmers who can take a photo of a discoloured leaf, SMS it and get a diagnosis and prescription for their sick crop in a minute, to mobile money transfers that have brought the remotest village into the electronic monetary system, attaining what w o u l d have taken banks a thousand years. In Ugan- da, we have gone a step further in applying mobile technology: Now everybody can enjoy sports betting. Illustration: John Nyagah ho says we are not good at adopting new technologies? We are good, and quick at it too. Just travel A whole new sector has been created in our economy and yes, it is the fastest growing of them all, thanks to cheaply available mobile phones. We make money as we enjoy football by placing our bets by SMS. It is much more fun than digging and hoeing. Forget President Yoweri Museveni, who wants us to cultivate four acres each by dividing it into this and that crop to raise household incomes. Does he know the pleasure of making money by just selecting numbers and teams? He can dig his four acres if he wants, and leave us alone to place our bets. Very soon, the FIFA World Cup will kick off across the Atlantic; thanks to technology, the African population will be watching it from a million video shacks and we shall be firing up our economies with a spike in betting. Let me hope those killjoy Uganda police officers won’t crack down on unregistered sports betting companies during this season. By the way, wherever there is a mo- bile network now, there is sports betting. The police has been carrying out the occasional half-hearted crackdown on unlicensed betting houses, but even then, the few registered ones are remitting billions of shillings in taxes to the Uganda Revenue Authority. Fair enough, once in a while, a uni- versity student commits suicide after losing his tuition fees on sports bets. But don’t more students kill themselves over less serious matters, anyway? When thousands of Ugandans die on unregistered boda bodas every year, do they ban the unlicensed twowheeled killers? In less than two weeks, all eyes will be on Brazil for a whole month. Last time in 2010, Al Shabaab killed 80 of our soccer fans in Kampala as they watched the televised action from South Africa. But that did not dampen our love for the game. This time, we have an added mo- tive to follow the matches besides the thrill — betting profits. Whoever tries to stop us is wasting their time. Neither Al Shabaab, nor police can deter us from betting. Do the police expect us to ask the betting manager to show us his licence first, moreover when we are conducting the transaction via mobile phone? And where will they get 17 million pol icemen to check on what every mobile phone user is texting? Mind you, half the policemen themselves will be busy texting their bets… was built from one million 35cm blocks of the stuff over a two-year period and sits on the world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni. Guests can make use of the saunas and steam rooms — and, of course, salt baths —in the 16room resort. However, those who want to verify that the chairs and tables are indeed made from blocks of compressed salt, are strictly prohibited from licking them! From Russia with a patriotic pussy A Russian cat has become a wonder of the world for standing attention on two legs whenever the country’s national anthem is playing. Footage of the cat has gone viral on social media. The clip shows the cat rise to attention as the anthem kicks in with the words “Russia our holy nation, Russia our beloved country.” The pussy is undeterred by the laughter of its owners. The word doing the rounds in Russia is that if Vladimir Putin is looking for a new cat, the Russian leader may consider this patriotic pet. Man United get new headmaster New Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal is such a stickler for discipline he orders his players to sit up straight during meal times. The new Old Trafford boss apparently patrols the dining room on the lookout for any slouching stars, ordering them to sit up straight. The Dutchman, a trained gymnastics teacher, insists all his teams eat lunch together and he patrols the dining room to make sure there is no slouching. Van Gaal, 62, also rules his two grown-up daughters, Brenda and Renata, with a similar iron hand. His biographer Maarten Meijer intimated he could treat his United players like school kids. The great dead deer auto insurance scam Forty-one people in Phila- delphia, USA, are facing charges in what prosecutors call an elaborate insurance fraud scheme that used dead deer to fake car accidents. Ronald Galati Sr. is accused of running a $5 million scam out of his auto body shop. District Attorney Seth Williams said that Galati coached customers to claim they’d struck a deer rather than a car. That way, insurance companies would consider them “no fault” accidents and pay the claims without raising the customers’ premiums. Investigators say Galati stored deer carcasses, blood and fur in the back of his shop to use as props. Seoul now the capital city of seven-point tu≥ns Seoul in South Korea has created women-only parking spots to make the city more female friendly. Thousands of the slots have been created across Seoul, and they are specially wide and long and are even painted pink. The city’s assistant mayor for women’s and family affairs, Cho Eun-hee, said it was meant to “make things more comfortable” for women and was not a comment on their driving ability. “It is like adding a female touch to a universal design and making things more comfortable for women,” Cho Eun-hee said. But critics say that with the aim of making life easier, people dream up the most stupid things.
May 26th 2014
June 9th 2014