Personal Data of 1.8M Texans Exposed for Years by Texas Department of Insurance

The confidential personal data of 1.8 million Texans was exposed and available to the public for almost three years, according to a state audit report released last week. Information including names, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth of Texans who filed workers’ compensation claims with the Texas Department of Insurance was publicly available online from March 2019 until January 2022.

The unauthorized disclosure resulted from a glitch in the programming code of the department’s web application that manages workers’ compensation information, the department said. 

TDI became aware of the problem on Jan. 4, took the application offline and fixed the issue, the department said in a public notice released in March. In January, TDI began working with a forensic company to investigate the full nature and scope of the incident and determine “whose information was or might have been viewed by people outside of TDI,” the department said.

“The forensic investigation could not conclusively rule out that certain information on the web application was accessed outside of TDI. This does not mean all the information was viewed by people outside TDI,” the department said in an updated press release Tuesday. “To date, we are not aware of any misuse of the information.”

In addition to reviewing policies, procedures and security efforts, TDI is offering 12 months of credit monitoring and identity protection services at no charge to affected individuals. 

Despite increased awareness of data security issues, incidents like this demonstrate that data leaks and breaches are a problem that doesn’t seem to be getting better. Last year, data breaches set a record high, and they’re already up 14% in the first quarter of this year, compared with last year’s levels. Millions of people are affected by major data breaches hitting high-profile companies seemingly every year. 

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Garage-door maker employees get cash reward in takeover as private equity tests ownership model

In the otherwise-sleepy town of Arthur, Illinois, this week brought a life-changing surprise for hundreds of workers at locally based garage-door maker, C.H.I. Overhead Doors. 

 C.H.I.’s private equity owner, KKR, is selling the company to steel manufacturer Nucor in a $3 billion deal. The sale marks one of KKR’s largest returns in recent history, generating a massive windfall for both the firm and — uniquely — C.H.I.’s employees, from truck drivers to factory workers. 

On average, hourly workers at C.H.I. will receive $175,000 in a payout, with the most-tenured earning more than $750,000 as a result of the sale.

Rhonda Jamison, an office manager at C.H.I., has been with the company for 17 years and will be taking home 5.5 times her annual salary. 

“Words cannot explain how my mind was going in a hundred directions,” she said. “There is no way that I would have ever expected this much money.” 

The idea of giving rank-and-file workers equity grants in a sale is the brainchild of Pete Stavros, KKR’s co-head of U.S. Private Equity. Stavros said he became interested in employee ownership at a young age due to his father’s work experience.  

“My dad was a construction worker for 45 years,” Stavros said. “He actually loved his job, except for, really, two things: one, he couldn’t create wealth, on an hourly wage. And then second, the hourly wage itself really led to a misalignment of incentives with his employer, because the employer wants fewer hours and no overtime, and the workers want just the opposite.” 

Employee ownership model

Even Nucor will include their own profit-sharing model for C.H.I., and despite all the changes, C.H.I. employees say they have no plans to leave the company. 

“We’ve got more accountability for ourselves and to our teammates,” said Kenroy Morrison who is a general manager for C.H.I. in New Jersey. “It’s one of those things where I don’t see myself going anywhere. I’m here for the long haul.” 

Morrison said he plans to put his bonus toward a college fund for his two-year-old son. 

As for Jamison, who spends her days answering phones and ordering supplies, she also has big plans for her newfound money. 

“Well, we’re going to Disney,” she said. “I’m gonna’ pay off my house, I’m gonna’ pay off my cars, and we’re gonna’ give a little bit to the church and help my kids a little bit.”

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Leading Psychologist Bridges Trauma Healing and t…

Thema Bryant’s calling to psychology started when she picked up her family’s home telephone as a pastor’s kid growing up in Baltimore.

Her father, Bishop John R. Bryant, led Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church—one of the biggest congregations in the city and the oldest in Maryland.

“People would often call our home in moments of crisis,” said Bryant. “When people are in a moment of crisis, it often doesn’t matter who answers the phone, they kind of get started with whatever the issue is, and I was always drawn to bearing witness and to being willing to hear and listen and to encourage from very early on.”

Bryant went from being a curious and compassionate pastor’s daughter to a clinical psychologist specializing in trauma. Last year, she was named president-elect of the American Psychological Association (APA) and will begin her term in 2023.

Although she will be the fourth Black woman to hold the position, Bryant believes her background sets her apart and offers critical insight into the mental health needs brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among the Black community. A recent profile of Bryant in TheWashington Post was titled “Meet the psychologist drawing from the Black church to reshape mental health care.”

Bryant grew up in a faithful family; her mother was also a minister, and her older brother became a pastor. As an ordained elder in the AME church, she is unapologetic about grafting her approach to psychology in her faith.

“I believe there are many different callings,” said Bryant, a psychology professor at Pepperdine University and director of the school’s Culture and Trauma Research Laboratory. “I think when people hear the word ‘calling,’ they think solely preaching, but there many different ways that God can utilize us. I feel that God has called me to emotional healing, so I entered the field of psychology.”

The church has looked to mental health professionals to help respond to the onslaught of burnout, anxiety, and grief in recent years. Back in February, Bryant spoke at a conference held by Wesleyan Holiness Connection and Point Loma Nazarene University. The theme: “Pastoral Ministry in Times of Trauma.”

The concerns are even more acute in many Black communities, where even before the pandemic, pastors and ministry leaders functioned as de facto first responders, problem solvers, advocates, and therapists.

COVID-19 compounded the issues weighing on their congregants, which in turn compromised the mental health of these pastors and leaders, said Dawn Baldwin Gibson, executive pastor of Peletah Ministries. Her organization provides emotional and spiritual support to Black pastors and lay leaders in North Carolina.

“I am looking forward to seeing what Dr. Bryant will do with this moment,” said Baldwin Gibson.

Leaders like those at Peletah are among a new generation that’s working to shift how Black Christians address mental health struggles.

“I grew up with the saying, ‘What goes on in the house stays in the house’ or ‘You don’t air your dirty laundry.’ However, there is a beautiful Scripture in Proverbs that talks about how there is safety in a multitude of counselors,” said Baldwin Gibson. “We really try to engage that conversation, that you can have Jesus and a therapist.”

In addition to the stigma around mental illness in society and in the church, racism has been a factor that’s “resulted in a lot of people suffering in silence,” Bryant said. Black Americans may feel the pressure to keep their problems a secret to avoid any more negative associations with their community.

They may also fear bias or discrimination by mental health professionals themselves. Last October, the APA apologized for the harm it’s caused people of color over its 130-year history.

“When African Americans do seek care, there is an assumed bias that prevails and a lack of trust in the providers that plays a really large role in terms of the continuation of care,” said APA chief diversity officer Maysa Akbar.

Public health researchers suggested that Black Americans were at greater risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological ramifications of the pandemic as their community bore more illnesses, death, grief, economic decline, and social disruptions than the white population. Even Black churches remained closed and online-only far longer than other traditions.

As Bryant continues her work in trauma healing and steps into leadership at the APA, Black Christians are more sensitive than ever to mental health concerns. One journal article said the pandemic aftermath poses an opportunity as “COVID can legitimize confronting personal problems and thinking strategically about how to solve them in an environment of less stigma and skepticism than typically greet recommendations for improved mental health.”

Atlanta minister and psychologist Alduan Tartt, a member of the APA, says that Bryant’s approach of destigmatizing therapy is already making a difference in his practice.

“The number of Black men who are seeking therapy is at an all-time high. With campaigns such as ‘It’s okay to not be okay’ and some of the high-profile suicides and other efforts, it’s becoming manly to discuss your feelings, so that you don’t negatively affect your families,” he said. “Psychology used to only be behind closed doors, so stigmas were allowed to exist, but now people are seeing that it’s not about straightjackets and lying on a couch.”

Baldwin Gibson has similarly seen church leaders involved in her ministry undergo emotional breakthroughs from attending therapy after years of skepticism and overlooking their own mental health needs.

“I heard Dr. Bryant say in an interview that ‘Busy doesn’t mean healed,’” said Baldwin Gibson, who is reading the psychologist’s new book, Homecoming: Overcome Fear and Trauma to Reclaim Your Whole, Authentic Self.

“That resonated with me because so many of us are going at breakneck speed, but we have to take the time to write, journal, take the walk, take time to breathe and focus on what it means to take care of ourselves.”

Bryant’s work at Pepperdine includes leading graduate-level research on the trauma around abuse, trafficking, genocide, and racism, as well as the role of religion in recovery.

“People always hold up that Jesus forgave quickly. Right. That Jesus said, ‘Forgive them, they know not what they do.’ But I what I want to point out to you is that forgiveness is different than reconciliation,” she said during remarks to pastors at Point Loma Nazarene. “Some of the reason people can’t heal is because we are forcing them to reconcile with people who aren’t sorry… Jesus forgives us, but to be reconciled with God requires repentance.”

Bryant recalled a woman in her Bible study sharing that her father sexually abused her, but that the woman had forgiven him and dropped her children at his house to attend the group.

“What have we taught that you believe I am going to applaud you for that?” said Bryant, who has shared about her own experience as a survivor of sexual assault. “So I said to her, ‘Sis, you are not going to be able to stay today. I am going to give you the handout. I need for you to get those kids, and next month, we have childcare here, so you can bring them here.’”

She wants all types of communities, including churches, to benefit from what scholars are learning about trauma healing, mental health, and faith.

“I use this mantra ‘psychology for the people.’ What that means is I am trying to cross barriers—economic or cultural barriers that withhold information that can be helpful to communities that need it the most,” she said.

“What we know about mental health or psychology should not just be in the academy. Many of us conduct research and it gets published in journals and the general public often can’t access those journals unless they are a part of a university and access them in the library.”

Bryant dispenses insights and advice on reality shows, TikTok, and in her podcast Homecoming, which was highlighted by the NAACP. Her teachings sometimes incorporate dance or poetry. While Bryant is navigating new territory, she draws from those who came before her.

“The first Black woman to lead the APA, Dr. Jessica Henderson Daniel, who is also AME, is my mentor, so we don’t arrive where we arrive by accident,” she said. “As a field, we have to be to holistic and respectful of integrating and acknowledging people’s faith. I will not be the first person to focus on these issues, but I do want to build on that legacy.”


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Airport vendor draws scrutiny for selling $27 beer at LaGuardia

State transportation officials are tightening the rules on concessions prices at New York City-area airports after finding one vendor charging as much as $27 for a beer at LaGuardia.

The policy changes come after a probe prompted by a traveler’s complaint last year on social media about the listed prices of a seasonal beer, which exceeded $27, said the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which regulates LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports. 

“Nobody should have to fork over such an exorbitant amount for a beer,” Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole said in announcing stronger measures to curtail the practice. Airport concession prices are capped at what would be charged locally, plus an additional 10%. 

A Port Authority Office of Inspector General review of the concessionaire managed by New York-based operator OTG found 25 customers were charged between $23 and $27 for a beer at Terminal C at LaGuardia, a price the Port Authority called “totally indefensible.” All customers have since been refunded for their orders, according to the agency. 

The $27.85 tab for a 23-ounce Sam Adams Summer Ale initiated the probe, The City reported

OTG fully cooperated with the Port Authority, said the company, which faulted “a clerical error with a listed price of a seasonal beer.” The specific beer was offered last summer in more than 130 restaurants and bars operated by OTG across the country, and “this one location is the only place it was keyed in error,” a spokesperson stated in an email. 

The company has taken steps to prevent future overcharges from occurring, including hiring new executives for the team that oversees pricing, OTG added. 

The Port Authority said it would conduct random price checks to better protect people from being overcharged for goods purchased while waiting to board airplanes. 

Travelers who come across examples of overpriced food, beverages and other products sold at area airports should report them on social media and tag the airport, the bi-state agency advised.


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Biden visits site of racist mass shooting

BUFFALO: President Joe Biden laid flowers and prayed on Tuesday (May 17) at the site of America’s latest deadly mass shooting, warning that the white supremacist ideology motivating the alleged gunman is tearing the country’s “soul” apart.

In the hastily organised trip to Buffalo, New York, Biden, accompanied by his wife Jill Biden, reprised the wearily familiar role for presidents of consoler-in-chief.

The first couple began by laying a bouquet at a makeshift memorial outside the neighbourhood supermarket where a white gunman allegedly murdered 10 African Americans on Saturday.

A strong breeze tugged at balloons and flowers piled under a tree while the Bidens paid their respects, the president making the sign of the cross before giving way to a delegation of elected officials laying their own bouquets.

Biden then went into private meetings with relatives of the victims and first responders, where the White House said he was offering “condolences and comfort to those affected by this tragedy”.

Biden was later scheduled to deliver a speech that, like so many he has given, will urge Congress to overcome division on restricting firearms ownership, a constitutionally protected right that has led to there being more guns than people in the world’s richest nation.

After decades of mass shootings in schools, nightclubs, movie theatres and churches, many Americans are numb to each new outrage, while presidents have repeatedly discovered their powerlessness to change laws in the face of a reluctant Congress.

In Saturday’s rampage, the killer wielded an AR-15, a military style weapon which has been used repeatedly in mass shootings around the country while at the same time being one of the most popular rifles for legitimate gun enthusiasts.

Having long campaigned unsuccessfully to ban assault-style rifles, Biden will once more demand laws to “keep weapons of war off our streets”, the White House official said.

He will also highlight the failure to keep firearms away from people with serious mental illness who are “a danger to themselves or others”.

RACIST IDEOLOGY

The most acute portion of Biden’s remarks could be about a deeper rooted threat to the nation – the racism and extremism that the 79-year-old Democrat cited as motivations for first coming out of retirement to take on then president Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

In a preview of the speech, the White House official signalled strong wording from Biden, who will “call this despicable act for what it is: terrorism motivated by a hateful and perverse ideology that tears at the soul of our nation”.

“He’ll call on all Americans to give hate no safe harbour, and to reject the lies of racial animus that radicalise, divide us, and led to the act of racist violence we saw on Saturday,” the official said.

Biden also will call on Americans “to seek a more perfect union that embraces the diversity that has made us the strongest and most dynamic nation in the history of the world”.

The suspect captured after the shooting was said by police to have authored a lengthy manifesto promoting extreme, but increasingly widely held, white supremacist ideas.

At the heart of the manifesto was a rant about what’s dubbed “replacement theory”, which purports the existence of a leftist plot to dilute the white population with non-white immigrants.

It is a conspiracy theory that, like the bizarre QAnon narrative, has spread from the furthest fringes of society to surprisingly mainstream areas – most notably Tucker Carlson’s enormously influential nightly talk show on Fox News.

Prominent Republican members of Congress have also echoed “replacement theory” talking points, which in turn are not too distant from Trump’s multiple speeches as president in which he demonised illegal immigrants as invaders, once calling them “animals.”

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25 Pairs Of Shoes From Target You’ll Wear Again And Again This Summer

Keep your feet cool and comfy all season long.

We hope you love the products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Just so you know, BuzzFeed collects a share of sales and/or other compensation from the links on this page. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

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Leiland-James Corkill: Laura Castle guilty of murdering baby

Laura Castle shook Leiland-James Corkill to death after she “lost it” over his crying, a jury heard.
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What Was the Largest Tornado in the United States?

The United States is a rather large country, and various natural disasters are common in certain areas. The West Coast is prone to earthquakes, a potentially catastrophic supervolcano is located in Wyoming, and a portion of the country is designated as “Tornado Alley” for its frequent tornadoes. The U.S. has been the site of many devastating tornadoes in the past, and today we’re going to discover and identify the largest tornado in the United States.

Yet, before we can look at the largest tornado in the U.S., we have to define them.

What is a Tornado?

tornado storm
Tornadoes are powerful columns of air that can be hard to see.

Rasica/Shutterstock.com

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that reaches from the cumulonimbus clouds of a thunderstorm to the ground in most cases. Tornadoes often appear as condensation funnels, and they become more apparent as they pick up debris.

For the most part, tornados don’t tend to get incredibly large. On average, they will measure about 250ft across and have winds of 110 mph or less. However, some tornadoes are much larger and more powerful than those. Tornados most commonly form in the spring and summer in the United States.

Tornadoes (also called twisters, whirlwinds, and more) are classified by their strength rather than their size or duration. The current classification is measured using the Enhanced Fujita Scale, ranging from EF0-EF5 with the wind speeds as such:

  • EF0: 65-85 mph
  • EF1: 86-110 mph
  • EF2: 111-135 mph
  • EF3: 136-165 mph
  • EF4: 166-200 mph
  • EF5: 200 mph+

The stronger the tornado, the rarer it is for them to form. Relatively few EF5s have been recorded since the Enhanced Fujita Scale was introduced.

How Many Tornadoes Hit the United States Each Year?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, about 1,000- 1,200 tornadoes form in the United States each year. The strongest tornadoes ranking EF4 and EF5 occur more frequently in the U.S. than in any other country throughout the entire world.

The number of spotted tornadoes has been increasing since the government started tracking tornados in 1950. However, that might not be due to changing climate conditions but rather the improvement of technology to track tornadoes.

Also, people live in more locations throughout the United States now than ever before, so it’s only natural that greater numbers of tornadoes are tracked by weather services.

Out of the 1,200 or so tornadoes that hit the US, about 1 a year is an EF5. Since 1950, only about 62 tornadoes have been classified as an EF5. As you might imagine, there is a correlation between the biggest tornadoes and the strongest tornadoes. We can use this data to help narrow our search for the largest tornado to strike the U.S.

What Was the Largest Tornado in the United States?

Twister In Storm - Gray landscape
The largest tornado struck Oklahoma in 2013.

iStock.com/RomoloTavani

The largest tornado in the United States was the 2013 El Reno tornado, a tornado that measured 2.6 miles wide at its greatest width. The El Reno tornado was impressive yet devastating for many reasons, including its vast size.

The El Reno tornado formed a few miles southwest of El Reno, Oklahoma, the city for which the tornado is named. According to mobile Doppler radar, the tornado reached wind speeds of about 296 mph, with even higher speeds detected in the vortex. That means this was firmly an EF5 tornado capable of doing extreme damage to any areas it struck. The winds in this tornado were some of the highest ever measured on earth.

The tornado’s size at touchdown was rather typical, but it soon swelled to over a mile in width. At one point as it tore a path across the area, the tornado grew to 2.6 miles in width over thirty seconds. Meanwhile, the tornado was rapidly intensifying in terms of wind speed.

Fortunately, the majority of the tornado’s path placed it in rural areas away from people. Yet, eight people died as a result of the tornado, and 151 people were injured across Canadian County, Oklahoma.

Three of the individuals killed by this tornado were storm chasers, making this storm the first time that scientists were killed in pursuit of a tornado. In the aftermath of the tornado, researchers discovered that the death toll could have been much higher.

When the tornado warning was announced, many people fled in their vehicles to avoid the tornado. Unfortunately, that put many of them on highways in the path of the twister. Fortunately, the atypical tornado changed course, perhaps saving the lives of hundreds.

What Made Largest Tornado in the United States Unique?

The 2013 El Reno Tornado was unusual in many regards. Of course, the size and wind speed of the tornado was somewhat unusual. Even stronger tornados, like the 1999 Bridge Creek Tornado, did not have such a wide vortex.

That’s not all that made this tornado unique, though. At one point, the tornado was projected to travel into the Oklahoma City metro area, a highly populated place. During that time, local media issued warnings, including one unfortunate advisory that called for people to flee the area in their vehicles.

While this was happening, a major highway came to a standstill with traffic. Hundreds of cars and drivers were in the path of the storm. Fortunately, before the tornado bore down on Oklahoma City, it took a northeast turn and avoided the packed highways and highly populated areas. Shortly after, it dissipated after spending 40 minutes on the ground.

Although sudden changes in the tornado’s path probably saved travelers’ lives, they also cost veteran storm chasers their lives. Every tornado is unpredictable. Yet, the 2013 El Reno Tornado was especially unpredictable, changing directions and sizes so quickly that many experienced scientists were caught by surprise.

Another interesting fact about this tornado was that it was originally classified as being an EF3 due to the lack of structural damage to support an EF5 rating. That was probably due to the tornado not hitting populated areas, though. The storm was upgraded to an EF5 at a later time based on radar measurements.

The 2013 El Reno Oklahoma tornado was the largest tornado in the United States. Although it claimed the lives of storm chasers and injured many people, this immense and powerful storm could have been far worse.  

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Body found after empty boat seen doing circles off North Carolina coast, Coast Guard says

A body was found off the North Carolina coast after an empty boat was seen traveling in circles, officials said.

Someone called to report that the 16-foot boat was cutting circles in the water off Emerald Isle near the Bogue Inlet Pier around 3:40 p.m. Friday, May 13, officials with the U.S. Coast Guard told the Carteret County News-Times.

The Coast Guard later got a report that the boat had run aground, Petty Officer Steve Lehmann told McClatchy News on Sunday, May 15, and crews confirmed that no one was on board.

Family members told officials that the man who had been on the boat had gone out fishing alone, WITN reported.

Helicopter and boat crews with the Coast Guard along with local agencies began searching for the man, Lehmann said, and his body was found shortly after. Officials told WITN his body was found about a mile off Bogue Inlet.

The man’s name has not been publicly released, and no additional information was available May 15.

Emerald Isle is 145 miles southeast of Raleigh.

___

© 2022 The Charlotte Observer

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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South Africa: Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana – Government Communication and Information System Budget Vote 2022/23

Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana Presentation of the Government Communication and Information System Budget Vote (Brand SA & MDDA)

Honourable Speaker,

The Minister in the Presidency,

Honourable House Chairperson,

Members of Parliament,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

As we table the Government Communication and Information System 2022/2023 Budget, let us reflect on a year that has showed the resolve of South Africa, our people and this Government. Most recently, devastating floods hit several parts of our country causing a tremendous upheaval in the lives of our people, mostly in KZN, who was still in the process of building back after the riots, less than a year ago.

Ravaging floodwaters and the endless COVID-19 pandemic, proved though, that yet again, when we stand together as one nation there is no challenge that we cannot overcome.

We heard inspiring stories of citizens who risked their own lives to save others, and how communities across geographical, racial, and cultural divides came together in support of one another. The helping hands and brave actions that the whole world bore witness to, crystalised President Cyril Ramaphosa’s concluding words of the 2022 State of the Nation Address when he said, that we should leave no one behind. The one silver lining in the midst of any crisis in South Africa, is that we don’t talk about Ubuntu, we live it.

Honourable House Chairperson,

During these testing times, our nation’s communication system, spearheaded by the Government Communication and Information System, GCIS has been at the forefront to ensure that South Africans are kept abreast of critical developments and interventions.

Communication became an essential tool as it provided reliable information that enabled residents to access government support and make informed decisions. GCIS convened the communication workstreams consisting of government communicators to provide accurate, useful and up-to-date information frequently to assist those affected by the floods, while at the same time ensuring that the media network in the country was well informed of all official undertakings and processes.

We will continue to use the power of communication to support the rebuilding efforts, and in the same way draw all South Africans into a united and focused national drive on the President’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, towards a prosperous South Africa, that we can one day say – we ‘built, back, better’.

GCIS will build on the commitment of the 2022 State of the Nation Address that affirmed our nation’s path to stabilisation and recovery, empowering South Africans with information, to become agents of meaningful change, fulfilling our constitutional mandate.

Honourable members,

The work of Brand South Africa remains crucial in ensuring that South Africa is positioned to strengthen our competitiveness and effectively bring the world to our door. As such, we will invest R33 million to drive Brand SA activities that contribute to social cohesion, national pride, and active citizenship, through the Play Your Part programme.

We must create favourable conditions to attract both domestic and foreign investment, tourism, and optimised trade relations with other countries. Therefore, the main thrust of the programme will be promoting constitutional values, encouraging entrepreneurship to boost the economy and job creation, and doubling efforts to deal with the issues that negate our nation brand’s reputation.

Brand South Africa will invest R63 million in activities that advance our country’s nation brand reputation to improve our global attractiveness and competitiveness.

In doing so we will support our drive to attract foreign direct investment as part of the government’s work to re-ignite economic growth and create much-needed jobs.

Through targeted marketing campaigns of “We invite you to believe in SA” and “Think South Africa, Think opportunity”, we will positively position our nation with international, regional and domestic investors.

The campaigns will bring to the fore South Africa as a strategic entry point for investors, through the African Continental Free Trade Area or AfCFTA, and we will optimise these campaigns through support of programmes for example, to train One Million women and youth on the AfCFTA by 2025.

We will also use our nation’s participation in the World Economic Forum, Mining Indaba, BRICS and United Nations General Assembly to position South Africa as a trade and investment partner of choice. This will be complemented by our growing brand advocacy through the Global South Africans network that targets South Africans living in the USA, UK, China, Australia and other key markets on the African continent.

To ensure that our work is having the desired results, Brand South Africa will conduct an assessment and monitoring of the country’s performance and global reputation. This will be supported by work to counter negative messaging and perceptions about South Africa through a strategic reputation management programme that will position South Africa favourably domestically, regionally and internationally.

The lifting of international travel bans and the national state of disaster will allow for a lot more travel both domestically and internationally. It presents us with an opportunity to increase our country’s footprint in various markets.

Brand South Africa has earmarked R14 million to ensure uniformity in messaging and the branding of the country by key stakeholders as part of promoting the country internationally.

The organisation will leverage partnerships to market the nation’s brand, promote the nation’s value proposition and meaningfully interface with stakeholders who positively influence our nation’s brand. Brand South Africa will also host its flagship Annual Nation Brand Forum that brings together the country’s key stakeholders in the promotion of our brand globally.

Honourable members,

I would like to draw your attention to an important sector that is the heartbeat of our nation’s vibrant smaller communities. Community media has emerged as an alternate voice to the mainstream media. It adds to the plurality of voices we desperately seek as a thriving democracy.

This sector has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which placed a massive strain on the financial resources of many community media initiatives, compromising the many gains we have achieved in the sector since the start of democracy. This year will therefore be a period of recovery for the community and small commercial media, supported by government through the Media Development and Diversity Agency.

The MDDA is in the process of finalising the Sustainability Model for the community and small commercial media projects, which will be a first for the local community.

media sector and is supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The thrust for the model is centred around the theme of ‘Building a resilient and future-forward community and small commercial media sector”.

We will also support the sector through our Grant Funding Policy to ensure the growth of the community and small commercial media projects. The MDDA has approved grant and seed funding for 24 community radio stations and 10 community and small commercial print projects across the country. We believe that this will go a long way in helping the sector stabilise and begin a path to recovery.

Community media that operate in the poorest, vulnerable and most economically underdeveloped communities find it nearly impossible to generate revenue through traditional means such as advertising. Our Fundraising and Support Strategy aims to assist these media to become self-sustainable over the longer term. We are targeting international donors and major media companies for financial and non-financial support. In this regard, over the last financial year, we launched an official Fund Raising Strategy.