Month: January, 2017
Resist now!
| January 31, 2017 | 8:30 pm | Donald Trump, Immigrants' Rights | No comments

The president’s order was misguided.

January 29, 2017

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Resist-now-10892771.php

Hundreds of people protesting President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration march down Rusk Street outside Super Bowl Live in downtown Houston Sunday. ( Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Michael Ciaglo, Staff / © 2016  Houston Chronicle

Photo: Michael Ciaglo, Staff

Hundreds of people protesting President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration march down Rusk Street outside Super Bowl Live in downtown Houston Sunday. ( Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle )
Hundreds of people protesting President Donald Trump’s executive…

Where else could Lady Liberty be but in New York Harbor, gateway to a vibrant nation of exiles and refugees? She has held high her beacon of light, hope and new beginnings since 1886.

And now, her light has been extinguished, the ideals engraved on her pedestal defaced into mockingly ironic graffiti. With one cruel and ill-conceived executive order, this nation has entered a disorienting dusk.

How long the torch of liberty remains dark depends on the strength and fierce commitment of liberty-loving Americans everywhere. With every legal, nonviolent means available, this nation must resist a president in thrall to a man who, until invited into the White House, presided over a noxious website that traffics in white supremacy, anti-semitism, bizarre conspiracy theories and fake news. It’s apparently Stephen K. Bannon’s cowardly nativist notions that the president was implementing when he temporarily banned people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the country and indefinitely suspended the resettlement of refugees from Syria, the world’s most pressing humanitarian crisis. Trump’s order also threatens legal permanent residents.

We can point the accusatory finger at the president’s in-house ideologue – just named a full member of the National Security Council – and yet the buck stops with Trump. His cruel and intemperate campaign language has become, with shocking immediacy, cruel and intemperate action. His order, craven and xenophobic, irrational and counter-productive, is an affront to American values.

It was sickening over the weekend to hear Texas Congressman Roger Williams, as well as numerous Trump sycophants, defending this travesty. Listening to Williams, a mild-mannered former car dealer from Weatherford, we could imagine him in decades past rationalizing our internment of Japanese Americans or calmly explaining why we couldn’t take in Jews from Nazi Germany. Might be terrorists, you know.

The words of various apologists for the president’s unconstitutional order brought to mind John Kasich’s presidential campaign ad from way back in November 2015. The ad paraphrased the haunting words of the late German pastor and concentration-camp survivor Martin Niemoller, who warned that by ignoring threats against others, there would be “nobody left to speak for me.”

Not to be alarmist, but that warning is beginning to look prescient, particularly in America’s most diverse city, a city that long has welcomed refugees and immigrants, that recognizes and celebrates their contribution to this community.

We must resist. In the courts, in the streets, through phone calls and emails to our elected representatives, we must speak out on behalf of sacred American values. We must stand tall against this move by the president. As tall as that majestic lady who lifts her lamp “beside the golden door.”

Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism
| January 30, 2017 | 9:38 pm | Donald Trump, political struggle | 2 Comments

Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism Manifesto Signers (now closed)

Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism Manifesto Signers (now closed)

A Public Manifesto

Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism

Manifesto

As psychotherapists practicing in the United States, we are alarmed by the rise of the ideology of Trumpism, which we see as a threat to the well-being of the people we care for and to American democracy itself. We cannot remain silent as we witness the rise of an American form of fascism. We can leverage this time of crisis to deepen our commitment to American democracy.

What is Trumpism?

Trumpism is an ideology, not an individual, and it may well endure and grow after the Presidential election even if Donald Trump is defeated. (Variants can be seen all over Europe.) Trumpism is a set of ideas about public life and a set of public practices characterized by:

  • Scapegoating and banishing groups of people who are seen as threats, including immigrants and religious minorities.
  • Degrading, ridiculing, and demeaning rivals and critics.
  • Fostering a cult of the Strong Man who:
    • Appeals to fear and anger
    • Promises to solve our problems if we just trust in him
    • Reinvents history and has little concern for truth
    • Never apologizes or admits mistakes of consequence
    • Sees no need for rational persuasion
    • Subordinates women while claiming to idealize them
    • Disdains public institutions like the courts when they are not subservient
    • Champions national power over international law and respect for other nations
    • Incites and excuses public violence by supporters

At the political level, Trumpism is an emerging form of American fascism, a point being made by social critics across the political spectrum, including Robert Reich, Robert Kagan, and Andrew Sullivan. As journalist Adam Gopnik points out, whether or not the term “fascism” fully fits, it’s clear that the American republic faces a clear and present danger when the candidate of a major political party embraces an anti-democratic ideology. At the cultural level, the Urban Dictionary has defined Trumpism as “the belief system that encourages pretentious, narcissistic behavior as a way to achieve money, fame, and power.”

What are the Effects of Trumpism?

  1. Fear and alienation among scapegoated groups, beginning with Latino immigrants and Muslims, and then other groups who become identified as threats
  2. Exaggerated masculinity as a cultural ideal, with particular influence on young people and economically insecure men
  3. Coarsening of public life by personal attacks on those who disagree
  4. Erosion of the American democratic tradition which has emphasized the agency of we-the-people instead of the Strong Man tradition of power

Where Did Trumpism Come From?

This question is bigger than Donald Trump. The next public figure to capture the wave of Trumpism may be less clownish and have a better set of movement-building skills, and thus be even more dangerous. Following is a partial list of forces that underlie Trumpism:

  • Economic insecurity, particularly among working-class Americans
  • The threat of terrorism since 9/11
  • Fear of immigrants (related to economic insecurity and threats of terrorism)
  • Distrust for government and politicians at a time of polarized gridlock
  • Growing distrust for other institutions such as religion, the press, and the courts
  • Rapid cultural change that has left many people confused and alienated

Why Therapists Must Speak Out

We must speak out for the well-being of people we treat and care for in our work. Trumpism will undermine the emotional health of those seen as the “other” in America—both historically denigrated groups and those whose turn will come. And it will compromise the integrity of those who are seduced by the illusion that real Americans can only become winners if others become losers. The public rhetoric of Trumpism normalizes what therapists work against in our work: the tendency to blame others in our lives for our personal fears and insecurities and then battle these others instead of taking the healthier but more difficult path of self-awareness and self-responsibility. It also normalizes a kind of hyper-masculinity that is antithetical to the examined life and healthy relationships that psychotherapy helps people achieve. Simply stated, Trumpism is inconsistent with emotionally healthy living—and we have to say so publicly.

We must speak out for the well-being of our democracy, which is both a way of living and acting together and a set of political institutions. Therapists have taken for granted how our work relies on a democratic tradition that gives people a sense of personal agency to create new narratives and take personal and collective responsibility for themselves, their families, and their communities. Reliance on a Strong Man who will solve our problems and deal with internal and external enemies is a direct threat to the democratic basis of psychotherapy. Therapy only flourishes on democratic soil.

Why speak collectively? Our responses thus far have been primarily personal—and too often confined to arm-chair diagnoses of Donald Trump. But a collective crisis faces our nation, a harkening back to the economic depression and demoralization of the 1930s (which fed European fascism) and the upheaval over Jim Crow and Black civil rights in the 1950s. Fortunately, the resolution of these crises led to a deepening of American democracy, not the abandonment of it. Martin Luther King, influenced by his mentor Bayard Rustin and by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, didn’t just critique unjust systems from the outside. He called for strategic, collective work to take back an American democracy that belongs to all the people. As therapists, we have been entrusted by society with collective responsibility in the arena of mental, behavioral, and relational health. When there is a public threat to our domain of responsibility we must speak out together, not just to protest but to deepen our commitment to a just society and a democratic way of life. This means being citizen therapists who are concerned with community well-being as much as personal well-being, since the two are inextricably joined.

Where We Stand as Citizen Therapists

We understand the draw of Trumpism and we acknowledge that some of our fellow citizens, and some of our clients, voted for Donald Trump not because they embrace all aspects of Trumpism but because they are frustrated with their circumstances and fed up with the current political system. We are against Trumpism and its architects, not against those who are inclined to give it a chance to change the direction of the country.

But we reject the false equivalence of saying that because there is dishonesty and demagoguery on all political sides, why not support someone from the outside? Trumpism is qualitatively different. To repeat: Trumpism undermines the core of American democracy by promoting the idea of a single leader who will bring greatness to the nation by battling Those People. Democracy requires personal and collective agency so that we can work together across differences to solve problems and develop a shared way of life. Psychotherapists must be firmly on the side of democracy and work in solidarity with groups directly threatened by current and future versions of Trumpism. This work does not end with the election. The wake-up call has been received. Our first response is this manifesto. More to follow.

Therefore, as citizen therapists we stand united against the dangerous ideology of Trumpism, and we encourage others to join us in a deepened commitment to a democratic way of life that engages the talents, yearnings, and capacities of all the people.

KKE: Greek and Turkish workers must fight together against the bourgeois classes

Monday, January 30, 2017

KKE: Greek and Turkish workers must fight together against the bourgeois classes

https://communismgr.blogspot.com/2017/01/kke-greek-and-turkish-workers-must.html

The Press Office of the CC of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) issued a statement regarding yesterday’s violation of the Greek maritime borders by Turkish warships. More specifically, the statement says:

 
“The KKE denounces the violation of  the Greek maritime borders, in the area of Imia, by Turkish warships in the presence of the heads of the Turkish armed forces, which took place on Sunday 29th of January.
 
This action- 21 years after the Imia crisis- consists a dangerous development added to the successive violations of the Greek air and maritime space, the challenging of the Treaty of Lausanne which defines the Greek-Turkish borders, the threats which Ankara fired recently, after the decision of the Supreme Court for the non-extradition of the 8 Turkish military officers who asked for protection-asylum in our country.
The governmental efforts to pass a climate of complacency do not correspond to the seriousness of the situation that the Turkish aspirations form about grey zones in the Aegean, the competition between the bourgeois classes of Turkey and Greece for the geostrategic upgrading in the region, in combination with the sharpening of the inter-imperialist competitions in the Middle East, North Africa, in Eastern Mediterranean. 
 
In practice, it turns out that the positions which present EU and NATO as guarantors or talk about “European” and “NATO’s” borders in the Aegean, are dangerous and have no relation whatsoever with the defense of our country’s sovereign rights. NATO’s presence in the Aegean not only it does not prevent, but emboldens Turkish aggressiveness.
 
The developments require the substantial awareness and preparedness of the people, strengthening of the struggle for our country’s disengagement from the imperialist plans, strengthening of the common struggle of Greek and Turkish working people against the bourgeois classes and the policy which serves their interests”.
 
Source: 902.gr / Translation: In Defense of Communism.
Class politics can clear up Labour’s Brexit confusion
| January 30, 2017 | 7:38 pm | class struggle, Donald Trump, political struggle, UK | No comments

 


Jan
2017
Monday 30th
posted by Morning Star in Features
http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-08c8-Class-politics-can-clear-up-Labours-Brexit-confusion#.WI-o0xsrJPY

Under pressure from both sides of the referendum divide, Labour needs a new narrative that inspires the 99 per cent, writes CHARLEY ALLAN


WHEN did Europe become such a toxic issue for Labour?

For as long as I can remember, it’s always been the Tories’ kryptonite — so what changed things? In a word, Brexit.

But why should that cause trouble for Jeremy Corbyn when his views are closer to public opinion on this than any other party leader’s?

The answer comes down to a polarised society, with Labour representing constituencies that voted in very different ways last June.

Labour should be celebrating Britain’s newfound freedom to renationalise the railways and vital utilities, but instead finds itself constantly on the back foot.

A dangerous false narrative of Inners versus Outers has taken hold, fuelled by inflated fears about immigration and a dumbed-down debate on single-market membership, and Labour should be looking for any way to bridge the Brexit divide.

Corbyn struck exactly the right tone when he told party members on Saturday: “We are not a party for the 48 per cent or the 52 per cent, but for everyone.”

With the Lib Dems offering Remainers nothing but false hope for a second referendum while the Tories and Ukip try to carve up the leavers between them, Labour needs to think big and aim for everyone set to suffer from a “bankers’ Brexit” — popularly known as the 99 per cent.

That requires a coherent class analysis of the current crisis, but even with a correct line — such as that there is no sense supporting free movement inside a trading bloc we’re no longer part of — Labour’s message has a hard time cutting through.

Much of that is down to straightforward media bias, but it doesn’t help that the left lacks strong talking points to unite around.

Many Labour members across the country campaigned hard last year to “remain and reform” the EU, winning varying degrees of support for this message.

While nationally around two-thirds of Labour supporters voted for the party’s position, next month’s byelections in heavily pro-Brexit Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent highlight how important it is for Labour to show it fully respects the referendum result.

And with Ukip leader Paul Nuttall standing in Stoke, the stakes couldn’t be higher — which is probably why Labour MPs have been whipped to trigger Article 50.

Unfortunately, this has led to two front-bench representatives of “Remainia” — shadow early years minister Tulip Siddiq, whose Hampstead & Kilburn seat voted 75 per cent to stay in the EU, and shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central, 60 per cent) — to resign from Labour’s top team.

Despite media attempts to spin this as a “rebellion” against Corbyn, it’s hard to see it having much effect on the by-election battles ahead.

Labour supporters in Stoke, where a whopping 69 per cent of voters opted to leave the EU, are more likely to be put off by a Labour candidate who has described Brexit as a “massive pile of shit” — and calling Corbyn an “IRA-supporting friend of Hamas” won’t go down well with Momentum activists on the ground.

The Lib Dems currently pose no electoral threat to either Siddiq or Stevens’s seats, but spare a thought for my own MP Catherine West, a loyal leadership supporter who represents the most pro-Remain constituency in the country.

With over 80 per cent of voters choosing to stay in the EU, Hornsey & Wood Green is a top target seat for the Tories’ former bedfellows, who rode the anti-Blair backlash to win here in 2005 and 2010.

West has stated several times that she’ll vote against Article 50 — but has so far chosen not to resign as shadow foreign minister. Breaking a three-line whip would normally result in being kicked out of the shadow cabinet, at least for a few months, but Keir Starmer defied the leadership last year over HS2 and still kept his place on the front bench.

The referendum has turned established Westminster wisdom on its head — and Labour can now set a new agenda by reframing Brexit as a domestic issue instead.

Theresa May is too busy courting Donald Trump to care about a decent deal with the EU, and as the Tories prepare to turn Britain into a “rainy Panama” tax haven, the most pressing question is, what kind of country will we end up with? And, specifically, what’s going to happen to all our laws from the last four decades?

Invoking Article 50 will light the fuse of a legal time bomb — because much of our current legislation might simply cease to apply when we leave the EU.

All laws that refer to institutions such as the European Court of Justice or any of the EU’s numerous regulatory agencies will no longer be fit for purpose.

To prevent legal black holes appearing all over the place, May plans to introduce a “great repeal Bill” — described in Parliament as the “download and save” law.

The idea is that, come Brexit day, the European Communities Act of 1972 will be repealed and all EUrelated legislation since then transposed into domestic law — but of course there’s a Tory twist.

Despite her denials, May is preparing to use the process to undermine a whole host of political advances, from workers’ rights to environmental and consumer protections.

Buried in the unpublished Bill will be “delegated powers” — provisions for the government to make future changes to these new incorporated laws without parliamentary approval.

May claims these are necessary because we won’t know the final details of Brexit until we’re ready to leave, but in reality the Tories are attempting the largest legislative land grab of our lifetimes.

Whose finger will be on the delete key when it’s time to copy-paste these laws individually into the statute books? With a majority of just a dozen MPs, May might find it difficult to push her plan through Parliament.

Day-to-day legislation is tough enough for such a weak government, let alone a 45-year legal rewrite.

And no prime minister, especially not the unelected May, would have a mandate to reshape Britain like this without first mentioning it in a manifesto.

But for Labour, taking back control of the narrative starts with explaining how a “people’s Brexit” can make everybody’s lives better, no matter which way they voted last year.

  • Chat to Charley on Twitter: @charleyallan.
Upcoming Protests against Trump’s Ban, Wall, and Other Repressive Measures
| January 30, 2017 | 7:33 pm | Donald Trump, Houston Socialist Movement | No comments
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The inauguration of Donald Trump as President marks the beginning of a new, increasingly dangerous period in our history. But the unprecedented mass demonstrations of the past 10 days signal the beginning of a new era of resistance. The Houston Socialist Movement urges you to participate in as many protests and other acts of resistance as possible. Here are three important actions occurring this week:
Tonight, at 7 pm, FIEL is holding a vigil, “We shall Overcome/Juntos Venceremos,” at City Hall, 901 Bagby St.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, at 5:30 pm, LITE, HSM, and MEAP are holding a demonstration, “Protesta contra Pena Nieto y Trump,” at the Mexican Consulate, 4506 Caroline St.
Friday, at 4 pm, our friend Sayed and other individuals and groups are holding a rally, “Super Bowl Weekend #NoBanNoWall Protest” at Westheimer Rd. and Post Oak Blvd.
HSM is glad to support these events and other upcoming actions. We will get another email about demonstrations next weekend out to you ASAP.
In Solidarity,
HSM
Kenya: State of the Internet
| January 30, 2017 | 7:29 pm | Africa | No comments

AfricaFocus Bulletin
January 30, 2017 (170130)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

Kenya has long been a global technology leader for innovation in
mobile and internet technology, including the use of mobile phones
for uses as diverse as cash transfers and crowdsourcing of reports
on election violence (in 2008). Kenya also features an active press
and civil society accustomed to speaking out about national issues
including corruption and human rights violations. With national
general elections scheduled for August this year, these assets can
play important roles in sustaining peace and democracy. But they may
also be threatened by government restrictions or by use of social
media for propaganda and incitement to violence.

For a version of this Bulletin in html format, more suitable for
printing, go to http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/ken1701.php, and
click on “format for print or mobile.”

To share this on Facebook, click on
https://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?u=http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/ken1701.php

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from a report on The
State of the Internet in Kenya from the Bloggers Association of
Kenya, released in November 2016, as well as two short articles with
relevant updates on recent technological advances, including solar-
powered TV’s aimed at rural markets.

For the role of Ushahidi, developed to monitor post-election
violence in 2008, visit http://www.ushahidi.com/about and
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ushahidi

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Kenya, see
http://www.africafocus.org/country/kenya.php

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on information and communication
technology, see http://www.africafocus.org/ictexp.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

State of the Internet in Kenya 2016

Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE)
http://bake.co.ke/

November 2016

[Excerpts: full report, as well as the report for 2015, available at
http://ifree.co.ke/reports]

Growth of the Internet in Kenya

For this report, we tracked the 36 most active blogs within the BAKE
server and the stats from individual blogs for the period between
October 2015 and October 2016. According to our analysis of the data
collected, the blogging scene has seen a huge growth in the terms of
monthly readership in the last one year. Overall monthly visits
(readers) increased by 46 per cent from 12.4 Million to 18.1
Million. There are many factors which have contributed to the growth
of blogs readership including the high increase of the number of
Kenyans who can access Internet through their phones. But more
importantly, blogs are seen by many Kenyans as authentic means to
get news and opinions which mainstream media would normally shy away
from. This could be described as Anti-Traditional Media Sentiment
and the blogs are increasingly filling the gap.

The growth in Kenya’s Internet penetration has seen the media and
entertainment economy significantly move online. The Communications
Authority of Kenya (CA) quarterly sector Statistics Report Fourth
Quarter for the Financial Year 2015-2016 (April-June 2016),
indicates that the Data/Internet market reached 26.8 million during
the quarter while the estimated number of Internet users grew to
37.7 million users during the period under review.

The report further records that Internet penetration declined from
87.2 per cent recorded last quarter to 85.3 per cent. This drop is
attributed to the revision of the base population figure used in the
computation of penetration from 43.0 million to 44.2 million in line
with the Economic Survey 2016.

According to the Kenyan Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2013-2017
(Outlook) report by audit firm PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC), Internet
access is a key driver of entertainment and media advertising and
content dispersion in most segments. The Internet market consists of
both consumer spending on Internet access and the revenues generated
from Internet advertising. PwC estimates that the total
entertainment and media expenditure in Kenya will exceed US$3
billion in 2017. Internet traffic in Kenya has increased due to the
reinforcement of international bandwidth capacity. Increased
capacity has benefitted both the fixed and mobile segments. The
report further asserts that Kenyan Internet advertising is set to
grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.9 per cent over
the forecast period, growing from a low base of only US$2 million in
2008. Search and mobile advertising will be the main growth-driving
segments over the forecast period.

Mobile Data and Smartphone Penetration

Kenya’s mobile penetration has increased from 89.2 per cent to 90
per cent according to the CA report. The report says that the
continued growth in mobile subscriptions has been driven by
proliferation of mobile data services such as m-commerce and m-
banking services as well as handset affordability.

According to the Consumer Barometer survey by Google, the percentage
of people who use a smartphone to access the Internet in Kenya has
increased from 27 per cent in 2014 to 44 per cent in 2016.

Notable platforms in Kenya

Facebook

According to Facebook, there are 6.1 million Kenyans on Facebook.

The visit by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and CEO, in
September 2016 was a validation of the growth of the platform in
Kenya and also the ICT sector. In his visit, he announced that he
wanted to learn from both the local developers and entrepreneur
community. He visited the iHub, Twiga Foods and Andela on his first
visit to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Twitter

According to a story published in the Economist in May 2014, it is
believed that Twitter’s co-founder, Evan Williams, sent the first
ever tweet from the lounge of the Mount Kenya Safari Club in August
2007.

According to Nendo, a digital research company, there are 2.2
million monthly active Kenyans on Twitter. 1 million of them use
Twitter every day.

WhatsApp

According to Nendo estimates, WhatsApp has 10 million users in
Kenya. It has become an important channel for person-to-person
communication and has become a driver of conversations on other
social media platforms as content shared on WhatsApp finds its way
on Twitter and Facebook.

Others

Nendo also estimates that there are 3 million Instagram users in
Kenya and 1.5 million LinkedIn users.

The role of blogs and Social Media

Blogging platforms and Social Media have become alternative news
sources for Kenyans. Time and again, even mainstream media has
either used the platforms to first air their news or rely on it to
gather news. The government has used it to communicate and respond
to critical issues.

As alternative, reliable and dependable sources of news, Jackson
Biko and Morris Kiruga have stood out in the past year for credibly
showing the world society’s ills and struggles.

Crowdfunding had yet to get an impetus as did when Jackson Biko
through his blog wrote about Mr. Emmanuel Otieno aka Jadudi who was
fighting cancer. He told the story of the then 22-year-old
university student from a humble background who had undergone three
brain surgeries, but still had a lot of fight in him and sought
financial help to go under the knife for the fourth time. As a
result of Biko’s piercing storytelling coupled with Zawadi Nyong’o’s
brilliant Social Media campaign, Ksh. 6.4 million was raised in 46
hours.

Mr. Kiruga, popularly known as Owaahh, has cut a niche for himself
as the best historical and research-focused blogger of our time.
While he has been blogging for over six years, it is his serialized
story on the corruption at Imperial Bank 17 in February 2016 that
put him on the national radar. He continues to consistently write
features that are well developed for online readers.

The industry has also grown to be an environment with legitimate
career paths which employ full-time writers. Platforms like
HapaKenya, Techweez, Tuko, Ghafla! and Soko Directory among others
continue to have full-time staff on their payroll. Most of these are
in the media industry, but a few of them are secondary offline
careers built around an online presence.

Social Media has also claimed its stake as a force to reckon with
its never ending fierce critiquing, highlighting and pushing policy
makers to take actions on issues. Mark Kaigwa, in an academic
article titled; From Cyber Café to Smartphone: Kenya’s Social Media
Lens Zooms In on the Country and Out to the World asserts that
journalists now consider Twitter a part of their beat, using it as a
core part of their job.

Kaigwa says it has become common to see news broken on Twitter by a
blogger – whether a hobbyist, informed industry insider, or cyber-
roving reporter pouncing on a story—legitimizing it (at times,
plagiarizing it outright!). Kenyan media outlets routinely source
and quote tweets and other comments from Social Media for their news
stories.

Nanjira Sambuli argues that going by the last decade of growth and
contribution to public policy directly and indirectly, Social Media
cannot be taken for granted. What is casually referred to as
“hashtag activism” has considerable successes in bringing duty
bearers to shame and account.

Freedom of expression and the media in Kenya

The last year and a half has been difficult for media freedoms in
Kenya. Journalists and bloggers have felt the wrath of power and
influence when doing their job in a manner that is striking similar
to the old, dark days of Kenya. When Kenya promulgated the
Constitution on August 27th 2010, with robust provisions for
journalism practitioners, it was never imagined that these
provisions will remain just on paper.

Article 19 East Africa, last year documented that that each month
from January to September 2015 had cases of intimidation. Over 60
journalists and bloggers were silenced, intimidated, harassed and
some even killed in a spate of violence against freedom of
expression, freedom of the media and access to information. The
cases of threats against journalists and bloggers have been all over
the country, with the fewest incidences being in the northern part
of Kenya. Isiolo, Meru, Embu, Kiambu, Kitui, Mombasa, Kwale,
Kajiado, Nairobi, Narok, Bomet, Kisii, Kisumu, Bungoma, Uasin Gishu
and TransNzoia counties all recorded threats to freedom of
expression. The Police, state officials, politicians and other
individuals have contributed to the silencing and intimidation of
journalists. In the period this report covers, at least two
journalists or bloggers were threatened every month.

Kenyans online have also not been spared the wrath of excessive
force and impunity. The use of ‘improper use of licensed
telecommunication gadget’ under Section 29 of the Information and
Communications Act was rampant. It criminalized publishing
information online which is deemed unlawful by the authorities. The
section has since been declared unconstitutional.

Others were charged with “undermining authority of a public
officer,” for criticizing government officials on Social Media, a
charge under section 132 of the penal code (Chapter 63 Laws of
Kenya) which was enacted in 1948 during the colonial rule. Robert
Alai, when charged under this section, filed a counter suit
challenging its constitutionality. The case is ongoing.

[extensive set of additional cases discussed in full report]

Bloggers and Social Media concerns for 2017

In August 2016 after President Uhuru Kenyatta met Governors, they
agreed to take stern actions against media houses and Social Media
users who propagate hate. They argued that the reason for coming
down heavily on incitement and hate speech was to maintain peace and
a stable united country before and
after the elections.

The concerns are however, that these leaders will take advantage of
the agreement to arrest, intimidate and prosecute their critics
without any link to hate speech. The previous actions with how
Governors have been against journalists and their critiques online
who call them to order and journalists who highlight
maladministration and corruption worry. For instance, West Pokot
Governor, Simon Kachapin and Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua are
some examples of how they have reacted to journalists who report on
corruption. Governor Mbugua was also accused of using the police to
silence critics.

Another concern bloggers have is the possibility of the Internet
being shut down during the 2017 General Election. This action has
been an emerging trend by various African countries during elections
and has cast doubts of the Kenyan government maintaining the
Internet since they have closely associated themselves with these
countries including Gabon, Uganda and Ethiopia. Additionally, Kenya
was one of the countries that voted against the landmark UN
resolution condemning Internet shutdowns.

Mr. Walubengo, a lecturer at the Multimedia University of Kenya,
Faculty of Computing and IT argues 66 that Kenya, having a more
sophisticated leadership, can encroach on Internet freedoms in more
subtle ways than many other African countries can. It is unlikely to
orchestrate a countrywide Internet shutdown like what typically
happens in Uganda or Zimbabwe. However, they can achieve the same
effect by shutting down selected zones of the country as and when
they deem it necessary.

He says that, “mobile-based technologies are inherently geo-location
based. It is therefore easy to propagate congestion or otherwise
take down GSM base-stations in one or two targeted counties without
affecting the rest. This could be done to contain perceived sources
of “unrest” – be they of political, social or economic nature.
Citizens within those zones would be without access for as long as
it is considered necessary for government authorities to get on top
of a situation.”

In addition, the executive has been critical of critics of its
regime, especially its policies, sending alarm to whether they will
accept criticism of election mistakes and mishaps if
they were to happen. It has equally resented peaceful assembly and
demonstration on political issues.

The African School on Internet Governance
(AfriSIG) in Durban, October 2016 made a statement as an outcome of
a multi- stakeholder practicum regarding the practice of Internet
shutdowns on the continent. The statement highlighted that shutdowns
violate individual rights, companies and media organizations with
content online. These institutions and individuals lose credibility,
revenue, and audience when the Internet is shutdown while
individuals can lose jobs. In their recommendations, they affirm
that multi- stakeholder forums within countries should help
determine when in extreme cases the Internet could be shutdown.

A report by the Brookings Institute published in October 2016,
affirmed that Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion
last year. The report arising from 19 countries highlights reasons
for ordering these disruptions as safeguarding government authority,
reducing public dissidence, fighting terrorism, maintaining national
security, or protecting local businesses. While they acknowledge
that the economic loss is a conservative figure, the report
underlines that Internet disruptions are creating significant
detrimental impacts on economic activity in a number of nations
around the world.

******************************************************

Azuri Technologies offers solar 24 inch TV to Kenyan rural
households and sees “real opportunities” in the other 12 countries
it operates in

25 January 2017

Balancing Act: Telecoms, Internet and Broadcast in Africa

http://www.balancingact-africa.com/news/broadcast-en/39503

Kenyans in rural areas are increasingly looking to buy solar TVs.
Rising expectations mean that they want something similar to a
Kenyan living in the city, not a downscaled product with less
content and a smaller screen. Azuri Technologies is seeking to meet
this need with an alliance with pay TV provider Zuku. Russell
Southwood spoke to its CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth about its
ambitions.

Azuri Technologies’ Bransfield-Garth has seen a major shift in the
rural areas of Kenya:”We went to Kenya in 2011 and everybody was
buying a little solar light. That was the big thing they wanted.
Things have now moved way beyond that. They now want a reasonable
approximation to mains electricity. It’s moved to a need phone
charging and wanting a TV.”

“It’s a bit like PC buying in the 1980s in the UK. You had to put
everything together. It’s the same for a solar powered TV. You can
get the TV but you’re not sure what channels you can get. What we
wanted to offer was an integrated solution and we’ve done that
through a partnership with Zuku.”

The integrated solution includes a satellite dish, a decoder and
solar power plus a content package. The Zuku Smart+ entertainment
package gives the user 48 TV and 21 radio channels:”It’s got all the
national channels plus a bunch of international channels including
BBC World. There are Zuku specific channels including Zuku Sports,
Zuku Swahili, Zuku Kids, Zuku Life Glam and Zuku Nolly:” The TV is
something that would not look out of place in the developed world
and we’re offering it on a Pay-As-You-Go basis.”

Priced at Kshs 149 ($1.50) per day, users can get a complete home
power package including a 24-inch television (designed to work on
low power and made in China) with built in Satellite TV service
providing up to 5 hours of normal viewing per day, four room lights,
mobile phone charging and a rechargeable portable radio:”We’re
bringing TV to people who’ve never had it before. It’s a future
market.”

Users make payment using mobile money. Once payment has been made to
Azuri Technologies, the user gets a text message to his or her
mobile phone. This gives them a code number that they type into the
unit and this provides them with the amount of credit they’ve paid
for. When the system runs out of credit, it locks the user out.
Payment can be made for as little as a week.

Only launched in December last year, it has so far – not
surprisingly – only sold in the hundreds:”There are 12 million
household and only 5 million have TVs. Most of them in rural and
peri-urban areas don’t have a TV. Our traditional markets are in
rural areas and the Government is keen to get TV-take-up.

Although there is no data yet, Bransfield-Garth estimates that there
are between 0.5 million and 1 million households have solar lighting
systems. Solar TVs of this sort will probably be smaller in number
but around the hundreds of thousands.

This package is the first of what is designed to become a family of
products with different content and partnerships and even larger
TVs:”We wanted to set a baseline and to offer a product that’s not
at the bottom of the range. It’s not a case of ‘it’s better than
nothing’.” This is fighting talk and obviously aimed at the much
smaller screen m-Kopa product that we covered last year:

Azuri Technologies sells its other solar products in 12 countries
including Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone,
Togo, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Angola:”There’s potential to roll-out in
the balance of countries we operate in. We need to find the right
content partnerships.”

What do you think the most promising out of these countries will
be?:”There are real opportunities in all of them”

Zuku Satellite TV CEO Jay Chudasama said: “This is a very exciting
opportunity we are giving our customers and viewers to have more
choices and enjoy the experience to watch over 40 Zuku TV channels
that offers high-quality and affordable family entertainment with
emphasis on the local content”.

Customers can enjoy local free-to-air channels, international
channels and Zuku branded channels including Zuku Sports, Zuku
Swahili, Zuku Kids, Zuku Life Glam and Zuku Nolly.

Customers pay the top-up rate via mobile money, allowing customers
to use the system as much as they want for the credit period. After
as little as 2 years of payments, customers will own the equipment
and continue to pay only for the satellite service. The service is
initially available in selected regions of Central Kenya and will be
rolled out progressively nationwide in 2017.

*****************************************************

Balancing Act: Telecoms, Internet and Broadcast in Africa

http://www.balancingact-africa.com/news/telecoms-en/39325

Mobile Money helped 2 percent of households in Kenya rise out of
poverty
6 January 2017

Being able to send and receive money by cell phone has helped lift
194,000 households in Kenya out of poverty, according to a study
published Thursday in the journal Science. Women especially have
benefitted from the spread of mobile money, which has helped many
move from farming into business, economists say.

With mobile money, people can transfer funds back and forth over
text. By the end of last year, these services had reached 93
countries; in Kenya, they are now used by 96 percent of households.
Kenya’s dominant mobile money service, M-PESA (“M” stands for
mobile, and “pesa” is Swahili for money), launched in 2007.

There are only 2,700 ATMs in Kenya, but 96 percent of households use
a cell phone. M-PESA is appealing, particularly in rural areas,
because you don’t need a bank account or internet connection to use
it.

Kenya now hosts more than 110,000 mobile money agents—people who can
help users deposit cash into their accounts or pick up payments
others have sent them. “You can think of them as simply human ATMs,”
says coauthor William Jack, a professor of economics at Georgetown
University.

The service is cheap (although not free), and can be used to
purchase goods or send money to friends and family. “It’s not
integrated with another financial product like a credit card,” Jack
says. “There’s only one institution involved, the cell phone
company.”

Mobile money is also useful because many families in Kenya are
dispersed across the country. “There will be a brother or son who
works in Nairobi and sends money home to his mom, there’ll be a
husband who works in Mombasa an sends money up country for school
fees,” Jack says.

Before the rise of mobile money, it was time-consuming and costly
for these families to share funds. “There was no easy way to do that
electronically; people would literally take two or three days off
work and catch a bus 1,000 kilometers to deliver 30 or 40 dollars
and then come back,” Jack says. “Mobile money allowed that process
to happen literally at the press of a button, and at relatively low
costs.”

To find out how these services have helped people over time, Jack
and his colleague, Tavneet Suri of MIT, surveyed households around
the country between 2008 and 2014. The team examined how financial
wellbeing changed as mobile money agents became more plentiful in
certain areas.

“It’s kind of like saying, if you can get better access to an agent,
how is your life different?” Jack says. “On average, they’re a bit
richer.”

Jack and Suri estimate that access to mobile money has helped bring
2 percent of Kenya’s households out of poverty, with the most marked
benefits seen in families headed by women. They believe that access
to M-PESA has helped 185,000 women save more and start businesses.

“Mobile money might have been more convenient, it might be safer, it
might be more private,” Jack says.

Mobile money is also beginning to offer more sophisticated financial
services like M-Shwari, a bank account that people can operate
through M-PESA. “It has been integrated with a couple banks to
provide a credit service and a savings service,” Jack says. “People
have talked about insurance being provided over the phone.”

Being able to use mobile money hasn’t made people rich. “It’s not
clear how far above the poverty line they went,” Jack says. But
fewer homes are surviving on less than $2 a day.

M-PESA gives people a way to safely store and manage money, and this
directly improves their financial wellbeing, he and Suri concluded.

Source: POPSCI

*****************************************************

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
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Winnipeg, Thur Feb 2: The path to peace and sovereignty in Syria [Please forward widely]
| January 29, 2017 | 7:09 pm | Canada, Struggle for Peace, Syria | No comments

Dear Friends

You are invited to hear Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett’s talk about the devastating conflict in Syria, the myths and realities.

Thurs, Feb. 2, 7:00 p.m.
Millennium Library, Carol Shields room

Please attend and invite your friends (forward this email or invite people via facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/events/456145108108286/ )

We are glad to have Eva in Winnipeg, who has worked as an independent journalist in Syria over several years. She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement.

The mainstream U.S. and Canadian media present only half the facts about this war-torn country, and too often it is the half that is wrong.

This is a chance to assess the truth about Syria and the West’s role in the conflict, hear why most armed groups are now negotiating a path to peace, and to discuss the prospects for Syria to maintain its sovereignty in the face of Western threats of regime change and massive bombing campaigns.

Eva covered the war in Syria on six occasions since 2014, including two months in summer 2016 and one month at the end of 2016 in Aleppo. She writes for different media and maintains a blog In Gaza since living three years in the occupied territory.

For information, reply by email or phone (204) 792-3371.

Yours truly,
Darrell Rankin
For the Manitoba Peace Council

Sponsored by: Manitoba Peace Council, CKUW and Canadian Dimension magazine.