Facebook to create 1,000 jobs in Ireland

Facebook is to create 1,000 new jobs in Ireland this year, the company’s chief operating officer has said.

Sheryl Sandberg made the announcement during a speech at a conference in Dublin on Monday.

The new roles will be across 60 teams at Facebook’s sites in Dublin, County Meath and County Cork.

The jobs will increase the company’s Irish workforce from 4,000 people to 5,000.

In November, Facebook announced it had taken out a long-term lease on a new site at the Bank Centre campus – previously home to Allied Irish Bank – in Ballsbridge, south Dublin.

All of the company’s 2,000 employees in Dublin are set to move there by 2022 and the building has space for 7,000 people.

Ms Sandberg made the announcement during Gather, a Facebook-run event for small and medium-sized businesses from across Ireland and Europe.

During her speech, Ms Sandberg outlined measures being taken to tackle fake news and election interference and said the social media giant needs to earn public trust amidst concerns over the use of its members data.

Facebook has also announced that it will increase the money it gives to two online safety programmes in Ireland to €1m (£882,000).

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A New Approach To Prevent Future Terrorism In Kenya

In his address on the Kenya Hotel attack Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said: “Even as we regret yesterday’s incident, as Commander-in-Chief, I want to commend the quick and effective response by our elite fighting teams for neutralizing all the terrorists involved in the attacks.” It is right for him to give credit to his brave warriors who certainly did the best they could with what they had. However, through a simple direct executive order Commander-In-Chief Uhuru Kenyatta could help his warriors gain a profound strategic advantage. It would actually help prevent future terrorism instead of responding after attacks have occurred, for far less than the cost of conventional defenses.

There is an unconventional, yet highly effective approach with a proven scientific record for diffusing terrosim and violence, called Invincible Defense Technology (IDT), based on the non-religious Transcendental Meditation (TM) program.There is an unconventional, yet highly effective approach with a proven scientific record for diffusing terrosim and violence, called Invincible Defense Technology (IDT), based on the non-religious Transcendental Meditation (TM) program.

As strange as it may sound, when large groups of trained practitioners sit down on a daily basis to do this program together, a powerful “field effect” of coherence and peace ripples throughout the consciousness of the surrounding population. The bigger the group the bigger the effect. The outcomes, confirmed repeatedly by extensive scientific research, are consistent and measurable decreases in war deaths, terrorism, and crime.

This surprising effect was demonstrated over a two-month period in the summer of 1993, in Washington D.C., where 4,000 meditators gathered for an experiment to lower crime in America’s capital. The result, as documented by an independent board of criminologists, was a 25 percent reduction in criminal violence. (Reference: Social Indicators Research, 1999, 47: 153-201).

In 1983-84, at the peak of fighting in the Lebanon war, as many as 8,000 but as little as a few hundred meditators gathered at different times in Israel, Lebanon, Europe, and the United States. The documented effects of these assemblies included increased cooperation between the warring parties (66 percent) and a decrease of hostilities (70 percent). The odds of these results occurring by chance or any explanation other than the meditation were calculated at one in ten million trillion! (Reference: Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1988, 32: 776-812, and 1990, 34:756-768).

Similarly, large TM groups in Manila, New Delhi, and Puerto Rico have generated significant declines in violent crimes. Alternative explanations could not account for the results. (Reference: Journal of Mind and Behavior, 1987, 8: 67-104).

Inexpensively, the Kenyan military could train and maintain a group of about 700 experts in the IDT strategy. Think of it as a “prevention brigade” whose members meditate twice a day to defuse the deeply-rooted regional stresses and hatred that are the cause of conflict. The research suggests that once such a program becomes operational, societal conditions in Kenya and beyond, could quickly improve. And for as long as the peace-creating group is sustained, the collective coherence throughout society would rise through the influences of greater harmony and peace. Better solutions will occur to the people and their leaders for improving their own living conditions. Violence will subside.

IDT is not restricted to the military; any large groups practicing the IDT techniques can accomplish the goal, meaning all types of citizens could be enlisted, from schoolchildren to retirees. Its coherence-creating effect has also been documented on a global scale in a study published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation. When large assemblies of civilian IDT experts gathered during the years 1983-1985, terrorism-related casualties decreased 72%, international conflict decreased 32%, and overall violence was reduced in nations without intrusion by other governments.

The Global Union of Scientists for Peace (https://www.gusp.org), a global group of eminent scientists and leaders dedicated to support alternative, peaceful means of conflict resolution, have endorsed the IDT approach. Among them are Yukio Hatoyama, former prime minister of Japan; former president of Mozambique Joachim Chissano (who applied IDT programs to end that nation’s civil war); Lt. General (Ret.) Vasyl Krutov, former chief of the Ukraine Anti-Terrorism Center; retired Ecuadorian Lt. General José Villamil (who also applied IDT to end conflict between Ecuador and Peru).

Given the countless efforts previously tried by Kenya that have not worked, why not give this scientifically-validated method a try? It is simple and inexpensive, and with a documented record of success, a cutting-edge brain-based technology that could potentially maximize the safety and security of Kenya’s people and curb the bloodshed. And not just for Kenya, but for the turbulent Middle East and beyond. Here is an opportunity for Kenya to become a global leader in peace-making, so needed by this troubled world.

At one time, meditation was considered “mystical.” Now, doctors routinely prescribe it. That’s because research shows Transcendental Meditation reduces stress and improves health. Hundreds of studies confirm real benefits for individuals, including better energy, learning ability, job productivity, and happier relationships.

The revelation that group meditation reduces turbulence in society and improves community or global health is simply an extension of the individual practice of meditation.

This is a new paradigm to be implemented, for it may hold the secret for planetary peace. If wars start in the minds of men, then peace logically should start there as well.

By LtGen (Ret) Clarence McKnight, MajGen (Ret) Kulwant Singh, UYSM, PhD, and Dr David Leffler

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Police speak to Prince Philip after he is pictured driving without seatbelt two days after crash

Photos published on Saturday showed Prince Philip behind the wheel of a Land Rover Freelander on the Queen’s Sandringham estate.

He was on his own in the car and not wearing a seatbelt in the images.

A Norfolk Constabulary spokeswoman said the force was aware of the photographs and that “suitable words of advice have been given to the driver”.

“This is in line with our standard response when being made aware of such images showing this type of offence,” the spokewoman added.

It comes after the 97-year-old duke was pulled from his wrecked Freelander on Thursday after it flipped on its side following a collision with a Kia.

Two women inside the Kia were hurt in the collision but a nine-month-old baby boy in the vehicle was unharmed, police said.

Philip – who passed a breathalyser test after the crash – passed a police eyesight test on Saturday, a source told the Press Association.

The Queen’s transport manager Alex Garty was seen at Sandringham as a new Freelander was delivered to the royal residence on Friday.

It is believed to be the same car that the duke has been seen driving near to Balmoral in the past.

The crash happened on Thursday as Philip’s Freelander pulled out of a side road on to a stretch of the A149 which was earmarked by the local authority for possible safety measures.

Norfolk Police said two women – the 28-year-old Kia driver who suffered cuts to her knee and a 45-year-old passenger who broke a wrist – were treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn that day and discharged.

The force is currently investigating the crash and it said “any appropriate action” will be taken if necessary.

Philip visited hospital on Friday morning on doctor’s advice but has “no injuries of concern”, a palace spokeswoman said.

He “exchanged well-wishes” with the other people involved in the crash, she added.

Nick Freeman, the lawyer dubbed Mr Loophole, said the duke could be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention if he was deemed to have made a mistake.

But he added: “If the sun was so low and right in your eyes, sometimes it’s impossible to see, and that may well have been the case, and that would afford him a defence.”

Buckingham Palace is yet to comment on the images of Philip driving on Saturday.

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Migration to Europe in charts

Migration has once again become one of the most important issues in Europe.

Italy’s decision in June not to accept the rescue vessel Aquarius with more than 600 migrants on board attracted widespread criticism, and the issue of border controls for migrants threatened to break up the German coalition government.

So, how many people are arriving now, where are they from and what is happening to those who have arrived in the EU in previous years?

Number of arrivals has been greatly reduced

The highest number of arrivals – 1,015,078 – was recorded in 2015. More than 800,000 of them were trafficked by sea from Turkey to Greece, and the majority of them continued to travel through Europe to reach Germany and Sweden.

Since 2015, the number of refugees and migrants arriving in Greece has fallen dramatically, after the EU and Turkey signed an agreement to send back to Turkey migrants who do not apply for asylum or whose claim was rejected.

While the number of arrivals has dropped in Greece, the number of people arriving in Italy showed little change until 2018 when it also dropped considerably. In 2016 and 2017, 180,000 and 119,000 arrived in Italy respectively, smuggled by traffickers from North Africa and rescued at sea. In 2017, Italy received 67% of the EU’s migrant arrivals.

However, since January this year, the number of arrivals in Italy has greatly reduced, with 20,120 arriving by mid-September 2018.

In the same period, Spain received the highest number of migrants and refugees – almost 35,000 – the majority of them by sea and more than 5,300 by land to Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish enclaves in North Africa.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that routes used by human traffickers are constantly changing and are dependent on a number of factors, but the drop in numbers reaching Italy is attributed mainly to its close co-operation with the Libyan coastguard.

A total of 20,760 have arrived in Greece so far this year, bringing the total number of arrivals in the EU in 2018 to just over 76,000

Syria is still the most common country of origin of those arriving in Greece. Arrivals from Iraq and Afghanistan are also among the top countries of origin.

In Italy and Spain, arrivals from mostly African countries top the list. In Italy, the most common country of origin is Tunisia, followed by Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Spain received most of its migrants from Guinea, followed by Morocco and Mali, as well as the Ivory Coast, Syria and a number of other Sub-Saharan African countries.

Crossing the Mediterranean

The highest estimated number of dead and missing migrants in the Mediterranean – 5,096 – was recorded in 2016, despite a significant drop in migrant crossings compared with the previous year. Since then the number of deaths has fallen.

The Mediterranean crossing is becoming deadlier every year, if the number of estimated deaths is viewed as a proportion of the number of people who actually manage to reach the EU.

In 2015, there was one death in every 269 arrivals recorded. In 2016, this went up to one death in 72 arrivals and in 2017 to one in 57 arrivals.

But based on figures to mid-September 2018, the deadliest year so far has been this year, with one death for every 49 people who arrived in the EU.

That’s because in 2014 and 2015 the majority of refugees and migrants arriving in the EU entered Greece from Turkey, using a much shorter sea route, while since 2016, that has been replaced by a much longer and more dangerous route – to Italy from Libya.

Syrians top asylum seekers list

The top countries by origin of asylum seekers in the EU since 2014 are Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, all countries with recent or ongoing conflicts.

Between 2014 and 2017, a total of more than 919,000 Syrians applied for asylum in the EU.

Asylum seekers from Eritrea, Bangladesh, Somalia, Iran and a number of Sub-Saharan countries are among the top 10 countries of origin of those who have been applying for asylum in the EU since 2014.

Germany took the highest number of asylum seekers

Sharing the burden of asylum applications equally between the EU countries is once again the top issue on the EU agenda. The June EU summit, where the leaders agreed that member states should distribute asylum seekers among themselves, has not solved the issue because the redistribution will be only on a voluntary basis.

The number of first-time asylum applications reached a record level in 2016 and has fallen since.

Germany tops list for granting asylum

Each asylum application is assessed on an individual basis. The process can take many years, and those who apply for asylum are given basic housing, food, education and healthcare.

At the end of the process, asylum is granted to those who can prove they fled war and persecution, while those who do not meet the criteria are refused asylum.

The top country for successful asylum applications is Germany, followed by France, Italy, Austria and Sweden.

Failed asylum seekers

The governments of the EU countries have warned that those who do not have a legitimate asylum claim will be returned to their country of origin.

The European Commission estimated that there were more than two million people staying in the EU illegally in 2015. Hundreds of thousands of those who do not qualify for asylum have been returned since then, but there are still hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants living in the EU.

The European Commission says it does not want its migration policy to be judged on how many returns there have been and that its aim is that everyone who qualifies for asylum gets it, with people who are not eligible not coming in the first place.

Correction 30 July: The chart on successful asylum applications has been amended to include the total number of first-instance decisions.

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Drivers could be charged up to £1,000 a year to park at work

Under plans to cut congestion, reduce pollution and raise money for public transport, a workplace parking levy is being considered by at least 10 councils.

The charges would affect businesses with more than 10 parking spaces and the AA said the costs would be passed on to workers.

The levy has already been rolled out in Nottingham where four in 10 companies pass on the costs to staff.

Since it was introduced in 2012, the charge has raised £53.7m which has been used to improve Nottingham’s tram network.

Hounslow Council in west London is proposing to charge between £500 and £1,000 a year for every parking space and at least nine other councils are considering imposing the levy.

Other cash-strapped authorities are likely to consider the measure because of a shortage of funding for road improvements and public transport.

Edinburgh and Glasgow councils have announced they plan to go ahead with the charge while Reading, Oxford, Bristol, Cambridge and the London boroughs of Merton, Brent and Camden are at the consultation stage.

Pollution from traffic has been linked to childhood asthma, bronchitis, dementia and high blood pressure.

Nottingham city council says that since it introduced the levy it is the only big city in England to have reduced traffic on A-roads during the morning rush-hour.

But AA president Edmund King said: “We need more incentives to switch to electric vehicles rather than a tax on work to drive businesses out of town or out of business.

“If it spreads to other cities, workplace parking levies could become the new poll tax on wheels.”

A survey of almost 9,000 AA members who worked in big towns found 57% drove and had free parking at work while 17% said they would probably have to change their job if a workplace parking charge was introduced.

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SGR Pact With China A Risk To Kenyan Sovereignty

Kenya’s key strategic assets at home and abroad will not be protected by “sovereignty” and risk being seized by the Chinese government should there be a default in repaying the Standard Gauge Railway loan, a copy of the contract seen by the Sunday Nation reveals.

The initial agreement for the Mombasa-Nairobi railway signed on May 11, 2014 also details how the pact will be governed by Chinese laws with all disputes being arbitrated in Beijing.

In addition, the contract, and a subsequent one on the Nairobi-Naivasha phase, also have a confidentiality clause gagging Kenya from making the deal public “without prior written permission of the lender (China)”.

This comes more than two weeks after President Uhuru Kenyatta, responding to a question from NTV’s Mark Masai during a live television interview on December 28 last year, promised to release the SGR contract to put to rest any “porojo” (rumours) that the Chinese could seize the Port of Mombasa.

This week, State House spokesperson Kanze Dena, in response to our enquiries, said the contract “can be released anytime, even this week”.

IMMUNITY

However, the signed SGR deal seen by the Sunday Nation suggests the risks go beyond the port.

“Neither the borrower (Kenya) nor any of its assets is entitled to any right of immunity on the grounds of sovereignty or otherwise from arbitration, suit, execution or any other legal process with respect to its obligations under this Agreement, as the case may be in any jurisdiction,” Clause 5.5 of the Preferential Buyer Credit Loan Agreement on the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR reads.

The contract is signed by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and Mr Li Riogu, then-Chairman and President of the State-owned Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China.

In the deal, Kenya is also compelled to import goods, technology and services from China.

According to experts interviewed for this article, the blanket reference to “any asset” not only exposes the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), whose leaked audit report last month raised questions about its vulnerability in case of default, but also allows the Chinese lenders to take over other critical resources — anything from airports and natural resources to embassies abroad.

CONFIDENTIALITY

When we put the implications of this clause to Mr Rotich, the Treasury Cabinet Secretary gave a terse response: “Where did you get such information? Send me where you got it from. Not aware about such a thing [sic].”

The apparent exposure of Kenya’s assets gets even more curious given the clause that says the loan agreement would be “governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of China”.

The initial SGR loan agreement, signed slightly over one year after the Jubilee administration came to power, is also designed to be kept secret, as captured in clause 17.7 of the loan pact.

This raises questions on the Freedom of Information requirements by the Kenyan Constitution.

“The borrower (Kenya) shall keep all the terms and conditions hereunder or in connection with this agreement strictly confidential.

“Without the prior written consent of the lender (China), the borrower shall not disclose any information hereunder or in connection with this agreement to any third party unless required by applicable law,” the confidentiality clause reads.

PORT

After concerns were raised last month that KPA could potentially be seized in case of a default in loan repayment, Chinese officials disputed the claim in carefully worded statements.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “We have checked with the relevant Chinese financial institution and found that the allegation that Kenyan side used the Mombasa Port as a collateral in its payment agreement with the Chinese financial institution for the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway is not true.”

It is a statement that could be true if viewed with a narrow lens, considering that there is no specific reference to the port in the contract seen by the Sunday Nation, but the sweeping statement that makes all assets fair game bears the trap.

The Chinese have repeatedly rejected accusations that they were involved in debt-trap diplomacy by burdening poor countries with unsustainable loans.

On Thursday, Ms Dena told the Sunday Nation there was no confidentiality clause blocking the public release of the entire SGR contract.

“It has nothing to do with secrecy, we have been on holiday and we are still settling back.

“There is no diplomatic barrier preventing Kenya from making the loan deal public. The document will be made available even this week to everyone through the media houses,” Ms Dena said.

COLLATERAL

Law Society of Kenya Nairobi Branch Chairman Charles Kanjama said the secrecy clause is standard for such agreements.

He is however concerned the sovereignty waiver on the assets and relying on Chinese laws are signs of doubt by the lender.

“The agreement is being made in Kenya, the railway is built in Kenya and the assets they are talking about are in Kenya, so why is it being governed by the laws of China?

“Had there been more transparency or choices of who funds the railway then Kenya may have got a better deal,” Mr Kanjama said.

Daly and Inadmar Advocates partner and cross-border commercial contract specialist Shitul Shah said lending countries only ask for collateral when they have questions on the “credibility” of the borrower.

ARBITRATION

But even more intriguing is the clause in the contract that says any disputes on the loan would only be resolved in Beijing through the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (Cietac).

“The arbitration award shall be final and binding on both parties. The arbitration shall take place in Beijing,” the agreement says, effectively blocking other international commercial dispute resolution avenues.

Kenya has further signed never to dispute the choice of Cietac as an arbitrator and to take its decision.

Mr Shah said although parties to a contract have the freedom to agree on which law would govern the agreement, China’s choice of the arbitrator and the specification that the arbitration would he held in Beijing is “suspect”.

“Normally, you would need an independent arbitrator, because this is about mediation, which should be made neutral and impartial by all means.

“Specifying the mediator and the unneutral ground to carry out the mediation is suspect. This can be challenged in law,” Mr Shah, who also practices in New York and London, told the Sunday Nation.

LOAN

Other experts with knowledge of Kenyan government contracts, who spoke in confidence, said a neutral country or organisation is usually preferred.

One gave the example of a controversial Sh30 billion pipeline security commercial contract Kenya signed in 2017 with the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense System limited whose arbitration clause nominates London.

In the SGR contract, the Exim Bank also makes it a mandatory requirement that the commercial loan be insured by the China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation (SinoSure).

All charges regarding the management of the loan, which run into billions of shillings, are to be paid by Kenya.

Apart from the $1.6 billion commercial loan and $1.6 billion concessional loan from the China Exim Bank to build the first phase of the SGR, several other loan deals have been signed, stirring debate on Kenya’s ability to repay.

FEASIBILITY

The ongoing second phase of the SGR between Nairobi and Naivasha costs at least Sh160 billion.

The deal signed in December 2015 is similarly skewed against Kenya.

The phase between Naivasha and Malaba, whose funding has not been secured, is expected to cost Sh500 billion.

Like the first phases, this would include supply of locomotives, wagons and coaches.

However, the financial viability of the SGR passenger and freight service has remained a subject of debate since its launch in May 2017.

CRBC, the Chinese operator of what is the biggest single infrastructure project since independence, is reportedly paid at least Sh1 billion per month to run the service.

Auditor-General Edward Ouko is yet to release any report on the SGR as required by law for a project of such magnitude.

His office did not immediately respond to our enquiries on whether there was any audit report for the project that started in 2014.

CARGO

Aware of the heavy burden the project was going to have on a developing economy like Kenya’s, the Chinese negotiators made sure they were well-protected.

For example, the agreement specified a ‘take-or-pay’ basis agreement with KPA, ensuring commitment to have cargo from the port transported on the railway line to guarantee its use and revenues.

Before the deal was sealed, Kenyan negotiators found it hard to assure China that indeed most cargo would pass through the SGR.

In a compromise, the government saddled KPA with long-term Service Purchase Agreement and a ‘take or pay’ deal with Kenya Railways Corporation to facilitate efficient movement of cargo and attract business for the railway.

“This is a key issue for the Bank,” Exim bank officials said during the negotiations in a strategy that put the port at the centre of the deal.

REVENUE

Yesterday, Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said there was no cause for alarm.

“KPA guaranteed the quantum of cargo to be ferried by SGR vide the “Take or Pay” Agreement in order to ensure its financial viability.

“Already the volume of cargo is way ahead of the anticipated quantum. For example, the operation has hit 15 train pairs in a day, which was the projected volume by mid 2019.

“Further, with the ongoing investment in clinker and bulk cargo handling, the actual turnover will outstrip projections over the life of the loan repayment period, thus resulting in excess cash flows and reserves. This will mitigate any loan repayment risks on a sustainable basis,” he said.

But in another strategy to secure the Chinese lenders, according to the contract, two escrow accounts were set up with full control of the Chinese – especially at default or when railway revenues fail to meet the loan obligations.

The agreement states that while the revenue account would be in Kenya Shillings, the repayment one would be in US Dollars.

Any costs associated with the running of the accounts are to be borne by Kenya.

ESCROW

One alternative source of funding for Kenya to cover its part in financing was agreed to be the establishment of the Railway Development Levy on all imports into the country.

The government also in its financing model for the project would initiate road transit toll levy, green tax in new vehicle registration and an insurance levy, fuel levy and the sale of the current Metre Gauge Railway — assets estimate to be capable of raising Sh41 billion.

There would also be various port levies on imports and exports in addition to a road haulage tax to discourage the use of trucks and divert some cargo to the railway.

The Chinese lender, according to the contract, has the prerogative to open an account in Kenya’s name and keep records of the loan balance.

Kenya, which has little control over the account, is expected to accept the bank records as the outstanding balance.

STUDY

Further, the deal stipulates that even if Kenya gets alternative funds to offset the loan in lump sum, the Chinese bank has the right to refuse such payment or give conditions before accepting.

This option would also require advance notice, making the loan hard to buy off.

Some of the skewed clauses appear to have been noticed years before the actual agreement was signed but the warnings were ignored — before those who raised the issues later changed tune.

One such person was then-KRC managing director Nduva Muli, who would later be appointed Transport Principal Secretary when the Jubilee administration took over before being forced out in 2015 over corruption allegations.

After receiving budget allocation in 2011 to conduct a feasibility study, Transport Permanent Secretary Cyrus Njiru abruptly blocked the process.

“I have therefore been directed to advise you not to go ahead with the study as this is not consistent with the consensus within government,” the PS wrote.

LEVERAGE

In a memo (No. 3073) to the Board of Directors, Mr Muli warned that Kenya would get a bad deal if it did not carry out its own feasibility study to find out the most suitable route, cost and financing modalities, in line with “normal practice in infrastructure projects”.

Other important aspects would be environmental impact, rolling stock requirements and projected traffic data.

But Mr Muli would later realise the Chinese had been secretly conducting their own feasibility study, and his March 16, 2008 letter was three months late. He received their report six days later. Nevertheless, he made his point.

“The government does not have information to safeguard its interest during negotiation of the proposed G-to-G (government-to-government) arrangement and also during construction to ensure the envisaged specifications and benefits of the new railway line are achieved,” he wrote to the board, claiming Kenya Railways had been sidelined.

When Kenya Railways finally gave its assessment of the Chinese study, it was scathing. The Chinese were overly optimistic.

There were no market study or financial modelling reports to indicate viability. The study also lacked an environmental and social assessment.

WARNING

Kenya Railways analysis pointed out that the projected cost was higher per kilometre and the speed was slower for both passenger and freight services.

The Kenyan experts also noted: “The study appears to be generous with bridges/tunnels forming 7.2 percent of the total length of the line (including 60 long bridges). In addition, it is also over-generous with the number of stations. This could have inflated the cost of the line.

“A railway (unlike a road) must be designed, built and operated as a business for profitable taking in order to avoid the expensive investment turning into a white elephant. The study by CRBC falls short of delivering a bankable project.”

The warnings were never heeded. A year after coming to power, President Kenyatta’s administration would seal the deal, dismissing all concerns.

The cost, which was first set at Sh220 billion, later jumped to Sh327 billion as publicly available information on the real amount kept changing.

CORRUPTION

Land acquisition costs would also climb 10 times to Sh30 billion.

Mr James Shikwati, who runs an African think tank on public policy, says China’s deals with a country depend on how the leaders present themselves on the negotiation table. He blames Kenya’s ‘tenderpreneur’ culture by the elites for the bad deal.

The Inter Region Economic Network founder said China invests in the US and Europe and the contracts they enter into are fairer, a concept he refers to as ‘water taking the shape of the bottle’.

In other words, the Chinese simply play along the way the hosts allow.

“It is time we start changing our political elite ecosystem where people only care about their cut in the deal and it doesn’t matter whether it is viable or how expensive it is,” Mr Shikwati told the Sunday Nation.

China is now Africa’s single largest trading partner and continues to bag and fund mega infrastructure projects.

Source Nation Ke

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Inflation falls to lowest level in nearly two years as oil prices 'tumble'

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) fell to 2.1% in December, as was widely predicted by economists, from 2.3% in November, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed.

This is the lowest rate since January 2017 when it was 1.8%

Inflation is now close to the Bank of England’s 2% target, which means policymakers are likely to leave interest rates on hold ahead of Britain’s expected departure from the European Union at the end of March.

Mike Hardie, head of inflation at the ONS, said: “Inflation eased mainly due to a big fall in petrol, with oil prices tumbling in recent months.

“Air fares also helped push down the rate with seasonal prices rising less than they did last year. These were partially offset by small rises in hotel prices and mobile phone charges.”

At the pumps, motorists faced lower fuel costs with petrol down by 6.4p per litre on the month to 121.7p, which was the lowest price since April 2018.

Diesel also fell by 4.6p to 131.9p per litre, the lowest since July 2018.

The fall in inflation will come as a relief to some consumers who have reined in their spending ahead of Brexit.

Separate figures have shown a boost for household spending power as the rate of wage growth is easily outpacing that of price increases.

Inflation had been steadily rising after Britain’s decision to leave the European Union in June 2016 as sterling plunged in value. Inflation peaked at a five-year high of 3.1% in November 2017.

“Although we think that Brexit uncertainty will keep the MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) on hold for the time being, we doubt the Bank will miss out on the global tightening cycle altogether,” Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics said.

“The MPC has raised rates several times in the past when the prevailing rate of inflation has been below target, because it feared that domestic price pressure would build if it did not act.

“And with external pressures depressing inflation and a recovery in wage growth in train, we suspect it won’t be too long before the MPC reaches the same conclusion again.”

The ONS said most goods and services lifted inflation, apart from clothing and footwear, which had a small downward pull on the rate, with prices falling by 0.9% in the year to December.

The Retail Prices Index (RPI), a separate measure of inflation, was 2.7% last month, down from 3.2% in November.

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Opinion | Racists to the Right, Anti-Semites to the Left

The last five years in Western politics has seen a repeated failure of “cordons sanitaires” — the barriers that political establishments have tried to throw up against both radical ideas and xenophobic sentiments. The rise of populism and the return of socialism have breached these cordons, and racism and Judeophobia have come through the breach with them — to the point where it’s entirely plausible that Britain will soon find itself with a prime minister, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has an anti-Semitism problem, even as the United States has already elected a birther to the presidency.

This week we’re watching two interesting attempts to re-establish or shore up those old barriers. On the right, there’s the congressional Republican effort to isolate Steve King, the Iowa congressman whose racist comments and flirtations with white nationalism have become, at long last, a matter of severe embarrassment to his colleagues. On the left, there’s the mass exodus of corporate and political sponsors from this weekend’s Women’s March, which has fallen into controversy because of some of its leaders’ ties to Louis Farrakhan, and reports that anti-Semitic canards were aired at its organizing meetings.

The two efforts are similar but not parallel. The push against King is an attempt to redraw a line effaced by Donald Trump’s race-baiting, and since as you may have noticed Trump is still the president, it matters only as a possible marker for a post-Trump Republican future, not a defining statement for the G.O.P. today. The exodus from the Women’s March, on the other hand, is an attempt to get out ahead of a problem before it becomes worse — before anti-Semitism migrates from the left-wing fringe to the center, before the party starts getting its own versions of Jeremy Corbyn in positions of real influence.

This is not to say that anti-Semitism or other paranoid worldviews are a new problem on the left, or that the Democratic Party has always handled them effectively. The permanent prominence of Al Sharpton and the eternal return of Michael Moore testify to certain unsuccessful reckonings, and the grass-roots left can be as amenable to conspiracy theories as the grass-roots right. But the fact that Trump is in the White House while the Democratic National Committee bails on the Women’s March illustrates a fundamental difference; if the Democrats struggle with the tiger, the Republicans have let it leap the cage.

But it’s possible that this is changing, with the Women’s March’s eccentric leadership as a leading indicator, and that a more left-wing, populist, anti-establishment Democratic Party — a party reshaped by Ocasio-Cortezan energy, shall we say — will become increasingly influenced by paranoias and bigotries that bubble up on the far left. (The Democrats are already vulnerable to paranoias of the center, like the obsessive fixation on Vladimir Putin’s puppeteering whenever populism wins another victory — but that’s a subject for another time.)

For liberals pondering how to sustain a quarantine in a more populist future, the right’s experience with (and leading up to) Trump offers several lessons. The first is the obvious one: For a quarantine to work, you have to be willing to commit to it even when it has electoral costs. That’s emphatically not what Republicans working to sideline Steve King are doing; they’ve turned on him only after a hard-fought midterm election in which they didn’t want to lose his seat. In this sense the partial G.O.P. abandonment of Roy Moore, which helped cost the party a Senate seat, was a more limited but also more important case study in how to establish a cordon sanitaire.

The ascent of Trump was the opposite case. The party establishment could have worked to marginalize or exclude him from the primary process; the birtherism alone offered grounds enough. But the G.O.P. feared the possibility of a Trump third-party run too much to take a stand or draw a line — and because it didn’t, imagining that he could never win, many more lines have subsequently ended up erased.

The second lesson is less high-minded and more complicated. You can’t make your quarantine too broad, or you’ll end up repressing ideas that need to be debated, and empowering demagogues when they’re the only ones who will talk about them. The centrist political parties of Europe have fallen victim to this trap; their respectable consensus excluded far too much (skepticism of the euro, of austerity, of mass immigration) and reaped the whirlwind when centrist governance stopped working. And the pre-Trump Republicans had a similar problem: By trying to simply bury the “America First!” ideas that Pat Buchanan ran on in the 1990s, they created a return-of-the-repressed scenario, where a big swathe of their own voters felt chronically unrepresented and ignored and turned eagerly to Trump.

For Democrats this dilemma is likely to play out over foreign policy, and especially policy toward Israel. Anti-Zionism isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism, but the difference can get blurry quick, and the Israel debate is the place where rhetorical poison seems most likely to infect left-wing politics. Which means that most establishment Democrats would prefer not to have debates about Israel at all, just as most establishment Republicans circa 2013 hoped to stop debating immigration.

But for a party whose base is clearly less sympathetic toward Israel than Democratic elders in D.C., repressing the debate would be a mistake — because then anti-Zionism is more likely to percolate below the party’s surface and then bubble up as bigotry. The challenge is to figure out how to quarantine those kinds of hatreds and also represent your voters — because if you fail at the second task, even with the highest of principles the quarantine won’t hold.

And it also won’t hold, to reach our final lesson, if you fail egregiously at governing. Where did Donald Trump come from, ultimately? From the presidency of George W. Bush, in which establishment-Republican blunders gave us the Iraq debacle and the financial crisis. Where did European populism come from, ultimately? From the misgovernment of the eurozone by respectable centrists. Why have the Democrats managed to keep the cranks at bay more successfully than the G.O.P.? Because the party’s elite has mostly kept the trust of the party’s base.

I say “mostly” because the shocking defeat of Hillary Clinton did create a power vacuum in which more crankish figures — from various Resistance grifters to the Women’s March’s Farrakhan–friendly organizers — have gained prominence. But still, nothing like the prominence now enjoyed by grifters on the right.

For the Democratic Party’s cordon sanitaire to really fail, you would need something that Bush delivered, that Barack Obama avoided, and that Democrats should (obviously) hope their next president avoids as well — a failed presidency, in which the bonds of trust between voters and party leaders are decisively severed.

Without wishing liberalism well, I also hope it doesn’t come to that.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTOpinion) and Instagram, join the Facebook political discussion group, Voting While Female.

Ross Douthat has been an Opinion columnist for The Times since 2009. He is the author of several books, most recently, “To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism.”

You can follow him on Twitter: @DouthatNYT

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PM vows to 'listen' to concerns after historic defeat on Brexit deal

In a resounding defeat for the prime minister, 432 MPs voted against the deal – a majority of 230 – with 202 supporting it.

Jeremy Corbyn has now tabled a no confidence motion in Theresa May’s government, giving her less than 24 hours to fight for her job.

The Withdrawal Agreement had been sealed with Brussels in November after two years of negotiation, and the historic vote now plunges the nature of the UK’s departure from the European Union into doubt.

A third of Conservative MPs – 118 in total – were among those walking through the opposition lobbies, with only three Labour MPs backing the deal: John Mann, Kevin Barron and Ian Austin.

The prime minister was fully prepared for the loss, springing to her feet immediately afterwards with a promise to “listen” to concerns.

She warned the result would only provide more uncertainty, and “tells us nothing” about what a majority of MPs actually support.

Setting out her next steps, Mrs May confirmed she would hold meetings with Tory MPs, then her confidence and supply partners the DUP and a group of other senior, cross-party MPs.

She vowed to offer a “constructive spirit” but said given the time pressure as the clock counts down to Brexit day, “we must focus on ideas that are genuinely negotiable and have sufficient support”.

Mrs May also beat Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to the punch by saying there would be time cleared for a no-confidence motion – before he had the chance to call it.

The motion will be debated throughout Wednesday, with the vote to be held at 7pm.

If successful, a new government would have to be formed using current parliamentary arithmetic. If that proves impossible, then a general election will be held.

Before the vote, Mrs May made a last-ditch plea to convince MPs to back her plan, saying: “I believe we have a duty to deliver on the democratic decision of the British people, and to do so in a way that brings our country together.”

The magic number the prime minister needed to win the crucial House of Commons vote on her Brexit deal was 318.

Before the vote, Sky News analysis suggested she would fall far short, with 224 having been expected to turn against her deal.

The UK is due to leave the EU by default at 11pm on 29 March.

Mrs May triggered Article 50 – the exit mechanism starting a countdown – two years earlier.

In a statement, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening’s vote. While we do not want this to happen, the European Commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared.

“I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible.”

European Council president Donald Tusk tweeted: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?”

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Turkey ‘ready to set up Syria safe zone’

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he responded positively to Donald Trump’s call for a “safe zone” along its border with Kurdish-held Syria.

The leaders spoke by telephone after Mr Trump threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if it attacked a Kurdish militia when allied US troops withdrew.

Turkey regards the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist group.

On Tuesday, Mr Erdogan told Turkish MPs he had agreed that a 32km (20-mile) deep safe zone “will be created by us”.

There was no immediate response from Mr Trump or US officials, nor the Kurdish authorities who control more than 400km of the Turkish-Syrian border.

However, the US president tweeted on Monday night that he had spoken to Mr Erdogan to “advise where we stand” on the safe zone and efforts to eliminate the remnants of the Islamic State group in eastern Syria with the help of fighters from the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces alliance.

“Also spoke about economic development between the US & Turkey – great potential to substantially expand!” he added.

Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.

The YPG is heavily influenced by the ideology of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. However, it denies any direct organisational links to the group.

In mid-December, Mr Trump announced that the US would pull out its 2,000 troops from Syria because IS had been “defeated”.

The sudden move shocked allies and led to criticism. US Defence Secretary James Mattis and several other senior officials resigned shortly afterwards.

Opponents of the US withdrawal expressed fears that the Turkish military and allied Syrian Arab rebels would launch an offensive to drive YPG fighters and Kurdish civilians away from the border, as they did in the western Afrin region a year ago.

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