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Kenya: Clergymen call for review of tax regime, reduction of school fees


Religious leaders have faulted the government of Kenya for the high cost of living occasioned by rise in prices of basic commodities, and called for a review of the current tax regime to cushion Kenyans from the tough economic times.

Speaking at Kangeta in Igembe Central, Meru County Sunday when they presided over the induction of two church ministers into Archdeacons, the head of the National Independent Church of Africa (NICA) Archbishop Dr. Stephen Marete and Bishop Stephen Kalunyu who heads the NICA Mission Diocese which covers Meru, Isiolo and Marsabit noted that the suffering of Kenyans had reached record levels never witnessed before, calling upon those in authority to urgently consider reviewing the current tax regime which will bring a sigh of relief to vulnerable Kenyans.

Archbishop Marete advised that the tough economic times calls for proper priorities by the government, arguing that projects like the BBI referendum which is currently on halt could wait for better times, arguing that the Covid 19 pandemic has already worsened the situation.

The Cleric also faulted the move by a number of universities to increase school fees which led to student protests, arguing that such a move was ill advised and untimely.

He noted that even the previous amounts charged by the institutions of learning were already an uphill task for struggling Kenyans to raise and should therefore be reduced to manageable levels.

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Kenya: Moi University students demonstrate over delayed disbursement of HELB Loans

Africa/Kenya/12-03-2021/Autor(a) y Fuente:

According to the University student leadership, the loan has been delayed for three months now, a situation that has left most of the students helpless.

The angry students protested along Uganda Road in Eldoret town calling upon the HELB management to respond to the issue urgently warning that they will be forced to paralyze all activities in Eldoret town by Monday if they will not have received the loans.

“HELB is the only salary for the comrades, the delays cause a burden to us,” said the Chairman, Moi University School of Law Annex Chair, Budi Gini.

The students who were waving placards said the loan was supposed to have been disbursed the first or second week after the university opened.

«We have teamed up with the main campus, town campus, and the school of law, Annex to air our grievances,” said Kasina Manasseh, the Moi University Economic Students’ Association Assistant Secretary-General.

“The Dean of Students told us that he had contacted the HELB management and forwarded the names of the students on session, but when we contacted HELB, they claim the HELB loans have been disbursed partially, but nothing is reflecting in our bank accounts, who is tricking who?” posed Kasina.

Kasina claimed other universities such as the University of Nairobi, Kenya Methodist University, Maseno University among others have already received their money.

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Lessons to be learned from Scottish exam fiasco: Protesting can change results… and the SNP are absolutely bulletproof

By: Damian Wilson

A plan to downgrade 124,000 school exam results has been reversed in Scotland in the face of a massive outcry. Is this a precedent for unpopular results in future? And how shambolic do the SNP have to be before they lose support?

Timing is everything in politics and no one is more aware of that today than Scotland’s under-fire education secretary John Swinney. After days of protests by school students and teachers, which led to a reversal of the decision to downgrade 124,000 exam results, Swinney faces the humiliation of a no-confidence motion in the devolved parliament.

But it’s not game over for him yet, thanks to the increasingly tight grip the Scottish National Party (SNP) has on politics north of the border.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, which slammed school doors shut five months ago, exam grades needed some careful consideration to ensure the entire academic year was not wasted.

In Scotland, the idea was to use teacher estimations of final grades which the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) would then run through a moderation algorithm for adjustment, using the previous performances of each particular school.

Even the class idiot could see what was about to happen here: schools that struggled in the past would be deemed to be still struggling, while those that enjoyed success would be considered as continuing on an upward trajectory. The disastrous outcome led to 124,000 exam results being downgraded, affecting 76,000 pupils.

What this looked like to those studying for their all-important Higher – the Scottish equivalent of the A-Levels – was that those pupils in deprived areas were marked down by 15.2 percent on the grades their teachers had calculated, while the wealthiest pupils suffered downgrading of only 6.9 percent.

The student protest signs said it all: “Judge my work, not my postcode.”

A full U-turn on the decision means that teacher estimates of grades will now be used. But for the SNP, a centre-left party that ostensibly promotes social democracy, this is an unnecessary shambles, reinforcing a divisive ‘us-and-them’ sentiment across Scottish society and setting a messy precedent.

No wonder Scottish Labour went for the jugular with its no-confidence motion. But even that is doomed to fail, for which the education secretary will be grateful.

YouGov’s latest opinion poll predicts the SNP is headed for a landslide election win next May, with 57 percent of those polled planning to support Nicola Sturgeon’s nationalists and a massive 53 percent supporting independence.

Both figures are the highest yet recorded by the polling organisation on these issues, and are indicative of the huge support that Sturgeon commands.

While these figures are impressive, it is the support of just six people that will save Swinney’s skin.

The half dozen Green members of the Scottish Parliament have said they will oppose tomorrow’s no-confidence motion proposed by Scottish Labour and supported by the Scottish Conservatives and Lib Dems, and along with Swinney’s SNP colleagues, that will be enough to ensure his survival for now.

And while a successful no-confidence motion can certainly end a political career, it’s the Scottish government’s hugely unpopular approach to deciding upon academic grades which caused the totally avoidable shambles in the first place.

Sturgeon announced on March 18 that schools in Scotland were to shut and were unlikely to open again before the end of summer, so surely there should have been a clear, fair approach to deciding how academic grades would be awarded from that point?

Instead, the horrifically unjust “computer says no” method that was used blew up in the government’s face.

While Downing Street faces its own issues with exam grades and looks set to follow Scotland’s lead in allocating grades, lucky Prime Minister Boris Johnson has managed to sidestep this particular steaming pile of mess that Sturgeon ploughed straight through.

How the SNP ever allowed the SQA to convince them it was acceptable is a mystery, and should form a question on any future politics exams. The claims that a skewed set of results this year would affect results in future years is typical nonsense.

It demonstrates the unhealthy political preoccupation with statistics, even when granting them primacy messes with people’s lives. A school pupil’s successful grades or an uptick on a statistician’s graph?

A second question could look at how despite the obvious unfairness of the botched plan, to which they have now held up their hands, the SNP still manages to thrive on seemingly bulletproof public support.

Class, discuss.

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American university students are coddled, thin-skinned snowflakes, and social media is to blame

By: Robert Bridge

The explosion of ‘cancel culture’ and the social justice mindset on college campuses across the US was inspired by social media, where the idea of creating digital ‘safe spaces’ without ‘trolls’ has invaded the real world.

For those born around 1995, this column will likely be filed away under the heading: ‘Aging Generation X-er with No Clue Rails against Evils of Social Media.’ And I suppose there may be some truth to that claim. After all, the greater part of my life – like that of many other people – was spent without access to handheld technologies and the endless apps, add-ons and what-nots. The reason is not because I lived on an island, or was born among the Amish, but because such technologies were not around in my time. In other words, the youth of Generation X was more defined by Alexander Graham Bell than Steve Jobs.

Today, the ‘reality’ for those born after 1995 – the so-called ‘Generation Z’ – is radically different from those born just a decade earlier, since they have had an intimate relationship with the Internet practically since birth. It would be naïve to think this age demographic – many of whom were nurtured on social media – would reach adulthood with the same set of attitudes, values, and worldview as their predecessors. What’s shocking is just how different they really are.

Starting in 2014, just as Generation Z was entering college, a strange new phenomenon began surfacing on campuses across the country. Students, who are traditionally the staunchest defenders of free thought and the least likely to be prudes, began tossing around vague concepts carried over from the internet, such as ‘safe spaces,’ ‘microaggressions,’ and ‘getting triggered.’

A 2014 article in The New Republic shed an early light on this encroaching mentality: “What began as a way of moderating internet forums for the vulnerable and mentally ill now threatens to define public discussion both online and off,”wrote Jenny Jarvie. “The trigger … signals not only the growing precautionary approach to words and ideas in the university, but a wider cultural hypersensitivity to harm and paranoia about giving offense.”

But instead of adjusting their sails for the approaching tsunami of tears, universities broke with a thousand-year-old academic tradition, allowing the feelings and emotions of misguided adolescents to supersede the wisdom and reasoning of the educators. In fact, the world of academia not only failed to stop the flood, but, due to its own extreme liberal bent, helped to aggravate the strife by blaming the perceived ills of the world on some select bogeymen. More often than not these were dead white guys, members of a clan known as ‘the patriarchy’ that thrives today on its so-called ‘white privilege.’ Thus, college campuses are now riddled with angst and activism to the point that even the rules of English grammar and mathematics have become suspect.

Perhaps the greatest casualty from this radical makeover, however, is the trust that had been cultivated over the centuries between student and teacher. Professors today are hypersensitive to the grim fact that they may lose their job for doing or saying something ‘offensive’ that violates the rules of politically correctness. At the same time, many colleges are now extremely hesitant about inviting controversial speakers to their campus for fear of ‘triggering’ their students and inciting protests.

The intellectual bubble that now encapsulates the college campus mirrors the reality on social media, where users have a strong tendency to mingle with only those individuals who share their worldview. Whenever some annoying outsider with a different opinion attempts to ‘troll’ them, canceling that person and their alternative views is as easy as ‘unfriending’ them. Meanwhile, there is a certain status and feeling of moral superiority that comes from ‘canceling’ some heretic that has fallen afoul of political correctness.

In the 2018 book ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’, Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, argue that the digital constructs of ‘safe spaces’ have done far more harm than good.

“Social media has channeled partisan passions into the creation of a “callout culture,” Lukianoff and Haidt argue. “New-media platforms and outlets allow citizens to retreat into self-confirmatory bubbles, where their worst fears about the evils of the other side can be … amplified by extremists and cyber trolls intent on sowing discord and division.”

According to Lukianoff and Haidt, Generation Z’s fierce aversion to controversial and even shocking information means that college campuses have become “more ideologically uniform,” thereby hindering the ability of “scholars to seek truth, and of students to learn from a broad range of thinkers” as historically has been the case at university.

The problem with allowing cancel culture to take root on social media and the university in the first place is that American society is now confronted with a mammoth weed on its front lawn. And while most people agree it is a problem, at the very least an eyesore, those who propose solutions risk being canceled themselves.

Last month, for example, 150 public figures, including Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushdie and JK Rowling attracted anger and ridicule after they signed a letter that called out ‘cancel culture.’ In part, the letter warned that the “restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation.”

Not only were these left-leaning signatories extremely late to the game, they themselves have been accused of attempting to silence voices, mostly conservative ones, they did not agree with. Others, like Jennifer Finney Boylan, actually apologized to the mob for endorsing the milquetoast proposals put forward in the letter.

The tragic irony is that Western civilization, which was constructed on the free flow of ideas, is no longer capable of even pointing out problems without attracting scorn and derision. Such a repressive atmosphere, endorsed by ideologues that listen only to the voices inside their own heads, is severely threatening future progress. If this dangerous new tendency is not confronted head on and brought under control, it will be Western civilization itself that eventually finds itself ‘canceled’ due to its inability to evolve.

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Slavoj Zizek: Politically correct white people who practise self-contempt are contributing NOTHING in the fight to end racism

By: Slavoj Zizek

Smashing up monuments and disowning the past isn’t the way to address racism and show respect to black people. Feeling guilty patronizes the victims and achieves little.

It was widely reported in the media how on June 21, German authorities were shocked by a rampage of an “unprecedented scale” in the centre of Stuttgart: between 400 and 500 partygoers ran riot overnight, smashing shop windows, plundering stores and attacking police.

The police – who needed four and a half hours to quell the violence – ruled out any political motives for the “civil war-like scenes,” describing the perpetrators as people from the “party scene or events scene.” There were, of course, no bars or clubs for them to visit, because of social distancing – hence they were out on the streets.

Such civil disobedience has not been limited to Germany. On June 25, thousands packed out England’s beaches, ignoring social distancing. In Bournemouth, on the south coast, it was reported: “The area was overrun with cars and sunbathers, leading to gridlock. Rubbish crews also suffered abuse and intimidation as they tried to remove mountains of waste from the seafront, and there were a number of incidents involving excessive alcohol and fighting.”

One can blame these violent outbreaks on the immobility imposed by social distancing and quarantine, and it is reasonable to expect that we’ll see similar incidents across the world. You could argue that the recent wave of anti-racist protests follows a similar logic, too: people are relieved to deal with something they believe in to take their focus away from coronavirus.

We are, of course, dealing with very different types of violence here. On the beach, people simply wanted to enjoy their usual summer vacation, and reacted angrily against those who wanted to prevent it.

In Stuttgart, the enjoyment was generated by looting and destruction – by violence itself. But what we saw there was a violent carnival at its worst, an explosion of blind rage (although, as expected, some leftists tried to interpret it as a protest against consumerism and police control). The (largely non-violent) anti-racist protests simply ignored the orders of the authorities in pursuit of a noble cause.

Of course, these types of violence predominate in developed Western societies – we’re ignoring here the more extreme violence which is already happening and will for sure explode in countries like Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia. “This summer will usher in some of the worst catastrophes the world has ever seen if the pandemic is allowed to spread rapidly across countries already convulsed by growing violence, deepening poverty and the spectre of famine,” reported the Guardian earlier this week.

There is a key feature shared by the three types of violence in spite of their differences: none of them expresses a consistent socio-political program. The anti-racist protests might appear to, but they fail in so much as they are dominated by the politically correct passion to erase traces of racism and sexism – a passion which gets all too close to its opposite, neo-conservative thought-control.

The law approved on June 16 by Romanian lawmakers prohibits all educational institutions from “propagating theories and opinion on gender identity according to which gender is a separate concept from biological sex.” Even Vlad Alexandrescu, a centre-right senator and university professor, noted that with this law, “Romania is aligning itself with positions promoted by Hungary and Poland and becoming a regime introducing thought policing.

Directly prohibiting gender theory is, of course, part of the program of the populist new right, but now it has been given a new push by the pandemic. A typical new right populist reaction to the pandemic is that its outbreak is ultimately the result of our global society, where multicultural mixtures predominate. So the way to fight it is to make our societies more nationalist, rooted in a particular culture with firm, traditional values.

Let’s leave aside the obvious counter-argument that fundamentalist countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are being ravaged, and focus on the procedure of “thought policing,” whose ultimate expression was the infamous Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books), a collection of publications deemed heretical or contrary to morality by the Sacred Congregation of the Index, so that Catholics were forbidden from reading them without permission.

This list was operative (and regularly updated) from early modernity until 1966, and everybody who counted in European culture was included at some point. As my friend Mladen Dolar noted some years ago, if you imagine European culture without all the books and authors who were at some point on the list, what remains is pure wasteland…

The reason I mention this is that I think the recent urge to cleanse our culture of all traces of racism and sexism courts the danger of falling into the same trap as the Catholic Church’s index. What remains if we discard all authors in whom we find some traces of racism and anti-feminism? Quite literally all the great philosophers and writers disappear.

Let’s take Descartes, who at one point was on the Catholic index, but is also regarded today by many as the philosophical originator of Western hegemony, which is eminently racist and sexist.

We should not forget that the grounding experience of Descartes’ position of universal doubt is precisely a ‘multicultural’ experience of how one’s own tradition is no better than what appears to us as the ‘eccentric’ traditions of others. As he wrote in his ‘Discourse on Method’, he recognized in the course of his travels that traditions and customs that “are very contrary to ours are yet not necessarily barbarians or savages, but may be possessed of reason in as great or even a greater degree than ourselves.”

This is why, for a Cartesian philosopher, ethnic roots and national identity are simply not a category of truth. This is also why Descartes was immediately popular among women: as one of his early readers put it, cogito – the subject of pure thinking – has no sex.

Today’s claims that sexual identities are socially constructed and not biologically determined are only possible against the background of Cartesian tradition; there is no modern feminism and anti-racism without Descartes’ thought.

So, in spite of his occasional lapses into racism and sexism, Descartes deserves to be celebrated, and we should apply the same criterion to all great names from our philosophical past: from Plato and Epicurus to Kant and Hegel, Marx and Kierkegaard… Modern feminism and anti-racism emerged out of this long emancipatory tradition, and it would be sheer madness to leave this noble tradition to obscene populists and conservatives.

And the same goes for many disputed political figures. Yes, Thomas Jefferson had slaves and opposed the Haiti revolution – but he laid the politico-ideological foundations for later black liberation. And yes, in invading the Americas, Western Europe did cause maybe the greatest genocide in world history. But European thought laid the politico-ideological foundation for us today to see the full scope of this horror.

And it’s not just about Europe: yes, while the young Gandhi fought in South Africa for equal rights for Indians, he ignored the predicament of the blacks. But he nonetheless successfully led the biggest anti-colonial movement.

So while we should be ruthlessly critical about our past (and especially the past which continues in our present), we should not succumb to self-contempt – respect for others based on self-contempt is always, and by definition, false.

The paradox is that in our societies, the white people who participate in anti-racist protests are mostly the upper-middle class white people who hypocritically enjoy their guilt. Perhaps these protesters should learn the lesson of Frantz Fanon, who certainly cannot be accused of not being radical enough:

Every time a man has contributed to the victory of the dignity of the spirit, every time a man has said no to an attempt to subjugate his fellows, I have felt solidarity with his act. In no way does my basic vocation have to be drawn from the past of peoples of color. /…/ My black skin is not a repository for specific values. /…/ I as a man of color do not have the right to hope that in the white man there will be a crystallization of guilt toward the past of my race. I as a man of color do not have the right to seek ways of stamping down the pride of my former master. I have neither the right nor the duty to demand reparations for my subjugated ancestors. There is no black mission; there is no white burden. /…/ Am I going to ask today’s white men to answer for the slave traders of the seventeenth century? Am I going to try by every means available to cause guilt to burgeon in their souls? /…/ I am not a slave to slavery that dehumanized my ancestors.”

The opposite of guilt (of the white men) is not tolerance for their continued politically correct racism, most famously demonstrated in the notorious Amy Cooper video that was filmed in New York’s Central Park.

In a conversation with academic Russell Sbriglia, he pointed out to me that “the strangest, most jarring part of the video is that she specifically says – both to the black man himself before she calls 911 and to the police dispatcher once she’s on the phone with them – that ‘an African American man’ is threatening her life.  It’s almost as if, having mastered the proper, politically correct jargon (‘African American,’ not ‘black’), what she’s doing couldn’t possibly be racist.”

Instead of perversely enjoying our guilt (and thereby patronizing the true victims), we need active solidarity: guilt and victimhood immobilize us. Only all of us together, treating ourselves and each other as responsible adults, can beat racism and sexism.

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Slavoj Zizek: In American protests, victims of Trump’s policies help the criminal erase the crime

By: Slavoj Zizek

Be they against the Covid-19 lockdown or police brutality, the protests gripping the US stem from a ‘money or life’ choice, where people are forced to choose money. The poor are victims, helping to cover up the crime against them.

Our world is gradually drowning in madness: instead of solidarity and coordinated global action against the Covid-19 threat, not only are agricultural disasters proliferating, raising the prospect of massive hunger – locusts are invading areas from Eastern Africa to Pakistan – but political violence is also exploding, often ignored by the media. How little do we read about the military border clashes between India and China, with multiple wounded?

In such a desperate age, one should be excused for escaping from time to time into good old formulaic crime series, like the British-French show ‘Death in Paradise’.

In one of the later episodes, the killer’s motive is the brutal humiliation and torment the victim had subjected him to in high school. Mortally wounded, the victim realizes what suffering he had caused, and uses the last ounce of his strength to alter the scene so that it would seem a third person had perpetrated the murder, in order to exonerate the real killer.

There is something noble in such a gesture, a trace of authentic redemption. But ideology finds a way to pervert even such noble gestures; it can compel the victim, not the criminal, to voluntarily erase any traces of the crime and present it as an act of his or her own free will. Is this not what thousands of ordinary people who demonstrate for an end to the lockdown are doing in the paradise called USA?

‘Money or life’ is not a free choice

Returning too quickly to ‘normality’, as advocated by Trump and his administration, exposes many people to the deadly threat of infection – but they nonetheless demand it, thereby covering up any traces of Trump’s (and the capital’s) crime.

In the early 19th century, many miners in Wales rejected helmets and other expensive protective equipment, even though this gear greatly reduced the possibility of deadly accidents which abounded in coal mines, because the costs were deducted from their salaries.

Today we seem to regress to the same desperate calculation, which is a new inverted version of the old forced choice ‘money or life’ (where, of course, you choose life, even if it is life in misery). If you now choose life against money, you cannot survive, since you lose money and life, so you have to return to work to earn money to survive – but the life you get is curtailed by a threat of infection and death. Trump is not guilty of killing the workers, they made a free choice – but Trump is guilty of offering them a ‘free’ choice in which the only way to survive is to risk death, and he further humiliates them by putting them in a situation whereby they must demonstrate for their ‘right’ to die at their place of work.

One should contrast these protests against the lockdown with the ongoing explosion of rage triggered by another death in the American paradise, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Although the rage of the thousands of black people protesting this act of police violence is not directly linked to the pandemic, it is easy to discern from their background the clear lesson of the Covid-19 death statistics: black and Hispanic people have a much greater chance of dying due to the virus than white Americans. The outbreak has thus brought out the very material consequences of class differences in the US: it’s not just a question of wealth and poverty, it is also quite literally a matter of life and death, both when dealing with police and when dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

And this brings us back to our starting point from ‘Death in Paradise’, to the noble gesture of the victim helping the perpetrator to erase all trace of his act – an act which was, if not justified, at least understandable as an act of despair. Yes, the black protesters are often violent, but we should show their violence a little bit of the same leniency as the victim does towards his killer in the ‘Death in Paradise’ episode.

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US nurses herald PROTEST over lack of safety gear putting them at risk of Covid-19

North America/United States/02-04-2020/Author and Source:

National Nurses United has accused HCA, a healthcare company that runs a chain of hospitals across the US, of putting members at risk when treating coronavirus patients. Protests this week will demand better work conditions.

“Nurses at various HCA hospitals are reporting that they have had to work without proper protective equipment,” Jean Ross, president of National Nurses United, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Nurses from HCA hospitals across seven states will protest through April 3 by picketing outside, demanding better work conditions.

Among the safety complaints cited by Ross are reports of having to reuse protective masks, not being informed when nurses are in contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient, and some nurses being told not to wear masks at all because it “scares” patients.

The union is demanding HCA hospitals provide “optimal personal protective equipment for nurses and other staff,” which includes respirators and “head-to-toe coverings.”

Keenan Willard@KeenanKFOX_CBS

: Nurses at Las Palmas Del Sol will be protesting the hospital’s lack of COVID-19 preparedness.

According to the LPDS Union, the protest will be tonight at 6:30 in front of Del Sol.

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NNU represents 10,000 registered nurses at 19 HCA hospitals in states such as California, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada and Texas.

This will not be the first time medical professionals have protested during the coronavirus pandemic. Nurses at Jacobi Medical Center, located in New York City – a city struggling with hospital capacity and a shortage of proper equipment – staged a protest on Saturday over the conditions they were working under, which includes reusing medical masks due to a lack of supplies.

“We’re all at risk if we lack the supplies we desperately need,” one nurse at the protest told the New York Post“It’s a pandemic. If we get sick, our community gets sick. We are all people and our patients deserve better.”

Hospitals in states such as Illinois, Georgia and California have seen nurses protest for similar reasons. The NNU’s new protest will be the first effort coordinated across multiple states.

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