Chamber of Commerce slams Buhari’s economic policies over losses

Muhammadu-Buhari-NigeriaPresident

 

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has expressed reservations over the Federal Government’s economic policies.

The chamber lamented that the   private sector has lost about N1.46tn as a result of the foreign exchange constraints being experienced in the country over the last six months.

These revelations were made in a statement  by  the Chamber’s  Director-General,  Mr. Muda Yusuf.

“The private operators across several sectors (fast-moving consumer goods, steel, furniture, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing) lost about N1.46tn in stalled business activities resulting from paucity of forex over the last six months.”

Citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics, he noted that the country’s real Gross Domestic Product fell to 2.84 per cent in the third quarter of 2015, compared to 6.23 per cent in the same period in 2014.

Sectors such as manufacturing and the services slipped into recession after recording successive declines over the last three quarters in 2015, the LCCI said.

The group noted that the CBN had, in response to dwindling receipts from oil export, adopted several measures such as the closure of Retail Dutch Auction System window, restriction of cash payment into domiciliary accounts and prohibition of 41 items from accessing the interbank foreign exchange market.

It expressed concern about the state of the economy and the effects of the CBN’s policies on the operations of manufacturing firms and other private businesses.

It said, “The CBN’s administrative allocation of foreign exchange signposted much deeper challenges for investors and the economy. As of December 18, 2015, premium at the parallel market reached a record level of 35 per cent against the official exchange rate as the naira crashed further to 270/$ in the parallel market.

“The LCCI and the business community are very concerned about the current state of the economy and the consequences of the CBN’s approach to the management of foreign exchange market over the last few months. We have previously engaged the CBN and other authorities through several forums to draw attention to the implications of forex policies on businesses and the economy.”

This is coming just as the Federal Inland Revenue Service has hinted the citizens will pay higher taxes from next year as a means of shoring up the nation’s revenue.
The LCCI, in its 2015 economic review, said its third quarter 2015 business environment survey showed that a forex restriction by the Central Bank of Nigeria was one of the costliest policies in Nigeria in recent years.

Curiously, the Federal Inland Revenue Service has hinted that Nigerians will pay higher taxes from next year as a means of shoring up the nation’s revenue.

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‘The only country ISIS fears in the Middle East is Israel’

 

A German journalist who spent 10 days with Islamic State says that the radical jihadist group that has captured wide swaths of Syria and Iraq is deterred by only one Middle Eastern country – Israel.

In an interview with the British Jewish News, Jurgen Todenhofer recalls his brief time behind enemy lines during which he spoke with ISIS fighters.

“The only country ISIS fears is Israel,” Todenhofer, a former member of the German parliament, told Jewish News. “They told me they know the Israeli army is too strong for them.”

The writer said that ISIS wants to lure British and American forces into Syria and Iraq, areas where it thinks it has an advantage.

“They think they can defeat US and UK ground troops, who they say they have no experience in city guerrilla or terrorist strategies,” he told Jewish News. “But they know the Israelis are very tough as far as fighting against guerrillas and terrorists.”

Todenhofer said that ISIS was “preparing the largest religious cleansing in history” and that he was “pessimistic” that the threat it poses could be neutralized. He added that the Paris attacks was just the first of “a storm” that is coming to Western cities.

“They are not scared of the British and the Americans, they are scared of the Israelis and told me the Israeli army is the real danger. We can’t defeat them with our current strategy. These people [the IDF] can fight a guerrilla war.”

“In Mosul there are 10,000 fighters living among 1.5 million people in 2,000 apartments, not in one place – so it would be difficult [for western soldiers] to fight them. ISIS fighters are ready to die in a war against a western soldiers.”

Todenhofer said that ISIS plans to topple local governments while at the same time carry out terrorist atrocities abroad.

“They are a very strong danger for Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Libya, while the West will be subjected to big acts of terrorism instead of a full blown ISIS war because they say they don’t want too many battles at the same time,” he said.

The Islamic State released a taped message on Saturday with a purported speech by it’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which he threatened the Jewish state.

“We are getting closer to you day by day,” said the message. “Do not think that we have forgotten about you.”

“God caused the Jews of the world to gather in Israel, and the war against them has become easy. It is the obligation of every Muslim to carry out Jihad,”

“Jews, you will not enjoy in Palestine. God has gathered you in Palestine so that the Mujahadeen can reach you soon and you will hide by the rock and the tree. Palestine will be your graveyard,” he said.

The audio message said air strikes by Russia and by a US-led coalition had failed to weaken the group.

“Be confident that God will grant victory to those who worship him, and hear the good news that our state is doing well. The more intense the war against it, the purer it becomes and the tougher it gets,” Baghdadi added.

The authenticity of the message, posted on Saturday on Twitter accounts that have published Islamic State statements in the past, could not be verified.

It slammed Saudi Arabia’s efforts to set up a coalition of Muslim nations to fight his group.

“If it was an Islamic coalition, it would have declared itself free from its Jewish and Crusader lords and made the killing the Jews and the liberation of Palestine its goal,” the message said.

Source : Jerusalem Post

Kenya: Mandera Governor Wants KDF Probed Over Killings

Nairobi — Mandera Governor Ali Roba has demanded an investigation into an incident in which two people were killed and another seriously wounded after a vehicle they were travelling in allegedly exploded in the town.

While locals accuse the military of shooting at the vehicle after blocking their convoy, Kenya Defence Forces Spokesman Col David Obonyo said “The vehicle had passed three of our (KDF) vehicles when it suddenly exploded,” he told Capital FM News on telephone, “it was not shot at as claimed.”

The governor however, dismissed the claim, saying he did not see any sign of explosion when he visited the scene.

“I personally visited the scene in the company of several officials and found the car and nearby buildings riddled with bullets. There was no sign of an explosion,” he said, and demanded a thorough investigation and possible prosecution of officers involved.

The incident that occurred on Monday afternoon sparked off protests by residents who accused the Kenya Defence Forces of killing ‘innocent people.’

Police have not said if any of those killed or injured is a criminal or has links with criminals.

Kenyan security forces have been on high alert since last week when the Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet warned of “real terror threats” in the country after Al Shabaab militants split into two groups–supporting Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS).

Those now loyal to IS operate in the Mandera region, while the Al-Qaeda force is based in the southeastern Boni Forest district, police said.

The attack on Sunday is in a similar area to an ambush last Monday, when Al Shabaab gunmen opened fire on a bus, killing two people at Elwak.

On Saturday, police said a suspected Al Shabaab fighter was killed nearby when a homemade roadside bomb he was planting exploded.

Source : Capital FM

Hard Times In 2016 : Govt. Should Not Toy With The Intelligence of Nigerians-Prof. Olagoke

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The Minister For State of Health, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu recently made an ambiguous statement, that the pump price of Petroleum Motor Spirit(PMS) might be reviewed upwardly or down wardly, this has made Nigerians to continue to express divergent views over the sincerity of the present administration. In this interview with Federationews2day, Founder of Shafaudeen Worldwide, Professor Sabitu Olagoke advises the Federal Government not to toy with the intelligence of Nigerians. Excerpts :
The Federal Government has advised Nigerians to brace up for hard times in the New year. How would you assess this advice ?
Personally, I believe that the advice is been given this time around to psyche the intelligence of Nigerians and to prompt our reactions in case of such eventuality. Suffice it now to say that the same government is telling us that though subsidy removal might be carried out, the pump price of PMS will remain N87.00, if they could stick to this there won’t be hard times for anybody. But instead of giving us another earthquake of fear for the coming new year, I think it is better for government to heed the voice of wisdom coming from the people of Nigeria, that in a nation where the minimum wage of N18,000 is difficult for many state governments to pay and the head of Parastatals, Ministries and some Agencies earn as much as N1.2 million to N2 million per month. And we patronize the same market for our survival. A sincere government would prefer to appeal to the elite and cut down their wages to a reasonable minimum level, as Mr. President and his wife did recently. This would have cushioned the effect of the expected austerity or the additional hardships on the masses. If we therefore follow this cause, part of the problem of unemployment would have been solved. Starting wage sacrifices from the top, will not only salvage us from economy dichotomy, but make it easier for government to pay workers’ salaries, as and when due, as well as having the opportunities to create employment for many, if we can go into a downward review of our salary structure, that is , moving from a lopsided parameter to that of distributive parameter. Oil subsidy itself, is a political poly to hit on the people of Nigeria, because they have never been able to tell us how it varies with the dwindling profile of the barrel of crude oil, at the international market, for example in 2010, it was $110 per barrel and it has now fallen to $40 per barrel. Expectedly, the subsidy is supposed to decrease, according to the downward trend of the crude oil. Unfortunately, the only thing government will tell you, is that we are paying so, so, so trillions, so, so billions. Nigerians are resilient people, who are ready to bear with any government, that you give them, in as much as there is sincerity of purpose and transparency, in the ways the affairs of the country are been run. Keeping the masses in the lounge to yearn for information, will not only throw them into a state of distrust for government, but tense them up to an unbearable condition against the tolerance needed from them by government. Flow of information with accurate data and figures, matters so much in running a good government. If removal of subsidy will not lead to the increase in the pump price of petrol. the idea would be very much welcome by Nigerians. But if it is otherwise, with the low purchasing power of the Naira and delay in salaries’ payment, the people may not have an alternative, than fighting back against the policy. The situation which we must not allow to be a repeat of what happened during the period of the ex-President Jonathan, because the change expected from this government is supposed to be from hardships to a burden relief point.

Are you satisfied with the anti-corruption war of the present administration in Nigeria , so far ?

Government has to thread softly, with all caution, in order not to have corruption fighting back, to have nay effect on them. The level of effectiveness of how best to curb corruption is however too low, too slow, against the backdrop of the rapid change, the people are expecting. Till date the people have not been able to enjoy the dividends of Democracy, most especially in the area of infrastructural development. Except promises and observations from the top echelon, which if not matched with practical results may reduce government into another orgy of theatre. However, for the anit-corruption crusade to be effective, sensitization must be down to earth. And it must be carried to the door step of all House of God, that are already fraught with fraud, crime and sins. You could remember how religious leaders were sharing huge sums of money brought from the political class during the campaign period., which political pundits believe to be a way of mortgaging our potential to have a break through in the sustainable development goal. Most of the ill gotten money, most especially those looted from various treasuries, are either kept with the religious leaders or having part of it released as tithes or as money meant for project development in religious houses. If the Independent, Corrupt Practices and Related Offenses Commission, ACTU, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC),SERVICOM, are able to give sensitization programmes in a way to train religious leaders, who have the best contacts, with people high and low, from various places of work, the fight against corruption would have been total and not limited to the secular society alone. All Nigerians must see corruption as a potential destroyer of the future of our children, hence, all of us must be stakeholders in exterminating corruption from Nigeria, just as Polio was exterminated.

Kenya: Corruption the Biggest Threat to Kenya’s Economic Growth, Says Study

A new study has warned that corruption remains the biggest hindrance to Kenya’s economic progress.

The survey released this week says while the country has made commendable progress on many fronts in society, graft in public and private sector is holding back the nation from achieving its full potential.

“While Kenya has a growing entrepreneurial middle class, faster growth and poverty reduction is hampered by corruption and by reliance upon several primary goods whose prices have remained low,” said the study by Forbes Magazine.

The survey assessed key business indicators in 144 countries of the world.

The study’s findings on the debilitating effects of corruption to the economy come on the back drop of renewed efforts by the government to fight the vice.

Late this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta enlisted the help of the private sector in curbing corruption by among other measures, ordering companies to sign approved code of conduct to transact business with the government.

BUSINESS INDICATORS

The study ranked Kenya at position 108 out of 144 as the best country for doing business in the world in 2015.

Regionally, the survey, which assessed key business indicators in each country, placed Kenya at position 15 in Africa.

However, the country trailed Mauritius at position 37, South Africa at position 47, Cape Verde (71), Rwanda (72), Ghana (79), Senegal (80) and Tunisia (82).

It also notes that inadequate infrastructure threatens Kenya’s long-term position as the largest East African economy, although President Kenyatta’s administration has prioritised its development.

Terrorism and insecurity in the surrounding region is also cited as a huge threat to Kenya’s important tourism industry.

On the trade freedom indicator, Kenya ranked lowly at position 128, while the monetary freedom indicator saw it earn position 103.

The technology indicator put Kenya at position 94, while red tape (120), investor protection (99), corruption (129), property rights (82) and innovation position 41.

On other indicators such as the tax burden, Kenya was put at position 80 while market performance rated it at position 84.

TOP, BOTTOM NATIONS

The ranking has Denmark with a population of 5.6 million at number one, with 1.1 per cent GDP growth, $44,600 GDP per capita and trade balance to GDP of 6.3 per cent.

At the bottom of the ranking is Chad. Having a population of 11. 6 million, the country has a GDP growth of 6.9 per cent, a GDP per capita of $2,600 and trade balance to GDP of -7.8 per cent.

With a population of 1.3 million, Mauritius is the number one country in Africa on the ranking.

It has a GDP per capita of $18, 700, a trade balance to GDP of -5.5 per cent and GDP growth of 3.6 per cent. The ranking covers 40 countries in Africa.

Source : Daily Nation

Ethiopia: A No-Nonsense Agency Works to Remove Bottlenecks

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Early this year Masimba Tafirenyika travelled to Ethiopia to see how much has changed since the infamous famine of the mid-1980s.

A charity song, “We Are the World,” written by US award-winning singers Lionel Richie and the late Michael Jackson, raised more than $60 million in 1985 for victims of the worst famine to hit the Horn of Africa in a century. Today, 30 years later, Ethiopia is again faced with a crisis — a crop failure triggered by erratic rainfall. The drought could pose the same threat to the livelihoods of about eight million Ethiopians.

But conditions are now vastly different from the dark days of the 1980s: the government has transformed the economy into one of the fastest-growing in the world (9.9% in 2014) and made agriculture the centrepiece of an economic policy designed to ensure that the severity of future famines will not be measured by the number of people starving to death but by the seriousness of other less life-threatening factors like malnutrition.

Today the story of Ethiopia’s agriculture–the nucleus of its fast-growing economy–paints a landscape hugely different from how it was barely a decade ago. The World Bank reckons that in 2014 the sector accounted for slightly less than half of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product, 84% of exports and 80% of total employment. What has created the turn-around?

First, as part of a policy to turn millions of poor farmers into surplus producers for local and export markets, the government has been setting aside a sizable portion of its national budget — 17% in 2015 — to agriculture. This is more than the 10% that African governments committed to apportion to agriculture under the Maputo Declaration of 2003. Second, it created institutions and enacted policies to identify and fix the bottlenecks that have crippled agricultural production for decades. The result: crop yields have shot up, growth in agriculture has averaged 7% per year over the past decade and millions of farmers have been lifted out of poverty.

Cultivating effective institutions

Ethiopia’s overhaul of its agriculture takes a leaf from the successful models applied by Asian nations like Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. The models feature two key elements: first, a clear set of priorities to fix critical bottlenecks (skills, resources, funding and coordination) in specific areas of the sector; and second, a dedicated body to advise key players in agriculture on how to remove these bottlenecks. The government gave the troubleshooting job to the Agriculture Transformation Agency (ATA), a semi-autonomous, donor-sponsored state agency that punches above its weight.

“We are a problem-solving organization,” said ATA’s CEO, Khalid Bomba, a former employee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a one-time investment banker with J.P. Morgan & Co. “Our job is to identify bottlenecks in agriculture and remove them,” he told Africa Renewal in an interview in his office in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Since its birth in 2011 as the secretariat to a board chaired by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and made up of heads of key agricultural institutions, the ATA has doggedly focused on accomplishing specific goals, or what it calls “deliverables.” Its latest progress report lists 84 such deliverables. Among them is a nationwide digital soil mapping scheme that has transformed the use of fertilizer in Ethiopia, and a hotline that dispenses free advice to farmers.

The mapping scheme — known as the Ethiopian Soil Information System (EthioSIS) — is one of the ATA’s most successful projects and the first of its kind in Africa. Its job is to collect and analyze the nutrient needs of specific soils found in Ethiopia. Launched in 2012, EthioSIS uses remote sensing satellite technology and soil sampling to produce digital soil maps for each region. As a result experts have generated a national soil fertility atlas, giving the agency the ability to recommend the specific type of fertilizer to be used in each region. A farmer simply has to provide a sample of soil from his land and EthioSIS workers advise on the exact brand of fertilizer to use.

Before the system was developed, farmers had access to only two brands of fertilizer, regardless of the type of soil they were working with.

EthioSIS workers have come up with 12 new types of fertilizers after analyses of assorted soil samples. They expect to complete the project and release local soil atlases for the whole country by June 2016.

Thanks to the ATA, today millions of farmers have access to fertilizer matched to their specific soil. Such is the success of EthioSIS that it now serves as a model for other African countries, with Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania starting similar schemes.

Free agricultural hotline

The ATA has extended its innovation to take advantage of mobile phone technology. One initiative popular with farmers is a free automated agricultural hotline. Ethiopia boasts Africa’s largest network of agricultural extension workers. But even this is not enough to get messages out to millions of farmers in a country of 94 million people, the second largest on the continent after Nigeria. Worse still, there is always the risk that the message from extension workers could be distorted, lost in translation or misinterpreted as it cascades down the chain. In February 2014, ATA teamed up with the agriculture ministry, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and Ethiopian Telecom to pilot-test the country’s first automated agricultural hotline.

Formally launched in July 2014, the system offers free, real-time agricultural advice to farmers on how to prepare land, plant crops and apply fertiliser; it operates in Ethiopia’s three main languages — Amharic, Oromiffa and Tigrigna. The hotline also uses crop, geography and demographic data from registered farmers to “push” tailored information when, for example, there is a drought or an outbreak of pests or diseases. It boasts more than a million registered callers, the majority of whom are smallholder farmers, who have made 7.3 million phone calls a year since it launched.

While millions of farmers now have free access to critical information, access to the hotline is still limited because mobile phone penetration in Ethiopia is a measly 21%. “We accept a certain amount of failure from our partners,” noted Mr. Bomba, “but the overall success of the project has been phenomenal given that it’s been going on for only a year.”

Buyers meet sellers

Many other innovative agricultural projects are being tried in Ethiopia outside the ATA. Thanks to the government’s progressive policies, backed by huge investments, agricultural production has surged. Farmers now produce more crops, with surpluses sent to local and export markets. But for buyers and sellers to transact business, they need assurances of reasonable prices for their crops, reliable delivery and a trouble-free payment system. Enter the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) — another first in Africa. The seven-year-old exchange, which is state-owned but privately run, provides a reliable interface whereby traders are offered guarantees of quality, delivery and payment.

“It can’t just be about producing more — sure, producing more is important but we’ve got to figure out how to distribute it,” Eleni Gabre-Madhin, the founder and former CEO of ECX, told the UK-based daily The Guardian. “We’ve got to figure out how to make an efficient market work for everybody — for the farmers, for the buyers, because otherwise we’re always going to be in this cycle” of surpluses in some parts of the country and deficits in others. The ECX founder has since moved on and is now helping other African countries to set up similar exchanges.

ECX guarantees next-day payment for crops. “We do not provide a full range covering all commodities,” said Ermias Eshetu, the exchange’s current CEO. “But for what we have on the table at the moment, we have been able to normalize and stabilize prices for the buyer and the seller. And I think that’s key,” he told Africa Renewal in an interview held in his modest office, which sits a few floors atop the exchange’s trading floor.

Members of the exchange bring their commodities to ECX-run warehouses, where they are graded, certified, weighed and stored. “We’ve brought in a degree of security of supply because we also control the warehouses,” said Mr. Eshetu.

Coffee is one of Ethiopia’s major exports; it and sesame account for more than 90% of crops traded on the exchange. The ECX’s central coffee laboratory was the first in Africa to be certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, a trade organization for the coffee industry. According to Bloomberg Business, a US magazine, ECX plans to expand the range of crops it trades and to introduce stocks and bonds under a five-year expansion plan.

Agriculture in Ethiopia has come a long way. If all goes as planned, the country will be food secure within the next 10 years. To achieve that, Ethiopia must cover more ground. But so far the scorecard is inspiring, officials are committed to seeing results and millions of smallholder farmers are seeing their lives improve. This year’s looming drought is likely to test the systems created to make Ethiopia’s agriculture resilient to erratic rainfalls. It is a test the country hardly wants to flunk; it certainly does not expect a replay of the 1985 charity song.

Source : Africa Renewal

At Yale, a fiery debate over who’s being silenced

By Danny Funt, CJR

All photos courtesy Philipp Arndt Photography           Alive Skin + Hair

“This kind of racism in disguise—where a false debate about ‘free speech’ is used to question people of color’s humanity—needs to stop,” declared Yale sophomore Elizabeth Spenst in a piece she wrote during campus protests for racial justice last month. From a distance, that statement reinforces the dominant narrative about student activism at Yale and across the country: that protesters demand exemption from the rules of open discourse.

Spenst, who is black, titled the piece “This Is Not an Op-ed” because she considers her perspective on Yale’s culture of racism to be a matter of fact. If that’s not stipulated, protesters contend, then they are the ones being denied free speech. Their voices can’t be equal in a system skewed to denigrate them.

The piece appeared in Down, an online campus magazine for students of color that Spenst co-founded last spring and for which she serves as editor in chief. I met her recently in a café adjoining Yale’s Bass Library, with a game of ultimate Frisbee underway nearby. Nothing was visibly upended after the protests made national news, but nerves across the New Haven campus were frayed. That weariness, commentators on the right and left conclude, comes from childish oversensitivity, especially toward diverging viewpoints.

To the aggrieved, that’s absurd. “It’s not a matter of having an intelligent conversation about this over and over again,” Spenst told me. “It’s a matter of, you’re really not getting this very important block of information that you need to understand in order for us to even have that conversation that you want to have. I can’t build that block every single time.”

This block represents the minority experience—at Yale, but often just as an American college student. Some at Yale are exhausted by the burden of being racial spokespeople. Of 5,400 undergraduates, about 10 percent are black, 10 percent are Latino, and 20 percent are Asian. There have been flashpoints of racial controversy on campus, like when the son of New York Times columnist Charles Blow, a black third-year student, was mistakenly held at gunpoint by police in January, along with brewing tension over issues like faculty diversity. “What’s it like being a minority here?” is a demanding prompt. Lately, that question gets asked relentlessly.

 

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More than 1,000 people joined in the “March of Resilience” on November 9. (Philipp Arndt Photography)

 

After alleged discrimination at a frat party and a convoluted debate about Halloween costumes and free expression, protests erupted at Yale, attracting national attention. Students I spoke with were severely disappointed that news coverage has fixated on concerns over speech suppression. The issue for those actually on the ground, they stressed, is solely institutional racism.

They’re misguided to consider racism and speech as competing issues. Racism seeks to suppress minority voices, on campus as much as anywhere. And, where speech issues arise, journalism challenges follow.

For debates about free speech, political correctness, and the roadblocks to racial understanding, the media outlets on campus are an essential part of the story. Their staff diversity, slant, and editorial decisionmaking during the ongoing protests offer a window into understanding the tumult at schools like Yale.

These publications are remarkably abundant, from the Yale Daily News, one of the most acclaimed college newspapers in the country, to Down (as in, “down for the cause”), which was created partly in response to perceived hostility toward minorities from the YDN. “It’s glorious how influential campus media is,” says Mark Oppenheimer, a Yale professor and New York Times columnist. “The Yale Daily News and some other campus publications have a reach and significance in their community that The New York Times and other publications would kill to have.”

Campus media have faced controversy on matters of race nationwide this year; along with Yale, the most visible threats to free speech surfaced at the University of Missouri, where a student journalist was wrongfully blocked from photographing demonstrators. (It’s no coincidence that Yale and Mizzou produced viral video snippets.) Second-guessing the activists can come off as bigoted. Where does that leave journalists, especially student reporters, who are sympathetic peers but also trained skeptics and free speech defenders?

The scenes from Yale were filed away as evidence to some that today’s college activists approach discourse like self-righteous, sophomoric bullies. Protesters seem to expect something antithetical to journalism: to be taken at their word.

A closer look suggests otherwise. People are understandably resentful of rebuttals if they weren’t allowed to make their case in the first place.

 

Even where to begin is contentious. Students of color take issue with a synopsis of the protests that cites Halloween as the lone catalyst. They are right. The buildup of racial tension at Yale has been years in the making, but outside media caught on after a frat party on Friday, October 30.

The next day, a Yale student wrote in a Facebook post that her friend was turned away from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon party after being told the event was “white girls only.” The woman who wrote the post, which went on to get more than 1,600 likes, said she encountered a similar experience herself at an SAE party last year.

An initial YDN story featured the headline “SAE denies charges of racism.” That treatment incensed some students, who felt it made the denial too prominent and reduced allegations to a he said, she said stalemate.

Here and elsewhere, charges of racism follow a similar path. Accusers feel betrayed by doubters. It’s considered biased to weigh allegations and denials side by side. Victims who describe affronts are mocked as melodramatic. Dialogue is fraught, and reporters have to navigate that minefield.

For all the publications at Yale, only the YDN provides consistent news reporting. Its staff of 200 works in a three-floor office that’s the object of nationwide envy. YDN print editions are omnipresent at dining hall breakfast tables and steer campus conversation, not long after a 3am press time.

Fallout from the “denies charges” story would dog YDN coverage of protests over the next month. Steven Brill, a reporter, entrepreneur, and founder of the Yale Journalism Initiative, which offers training and career guidance for aspiring journalists, says the handling of SAE’s denial followed “Journalism 101.” However, he’s emphatic that the frat incident “should have generated the most obvious form of journalism imaginable, which is, Was that party segregated?”

YDN editors, Brill says, are anxious about appearing insensitive to either side, mainly the protesters. His advice? “Ignore it and just do journalism. Report the facts. You can’t walk on eggshells when you’re doing any type of story.”

 

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Adriana Miele, bottom left, is the only minority YDN staff columnist. (Philipp Arndt Photography)

 

Stephanie Addenbrooke, a junior who took over as YDN editor in chief in September, met me in her office and said their editorial team decided collectively against speaking with CJR.

She wrote in a statement, “We encourage anyone on campus to work for us, to write for us, and to share their stories with us. Yet, we know that doesn’t always mean that people will want to, or feel comfortable doing so. We find, though, that most students who come and spend time with us discover that we have a strong commitment to community.”

The YDN does considerable serious reporting on issues such as race. Its magazine supplement featured an impressive report on the lack of faculty diversity, and its opinion pages offer a wide range of guest commentary, including some that oppose recent protests (for which the paper receives undue criticism).

Still, the YDN’s strained relationship with some students isn’t new. “A lot of women of color on campus feel very uncomfortable engaging with the YDN,” says Adriana Miele, the only YDN minority staff columnist. “Most of the editorial staff tend to be people of white, wealthy backgrounds. And I think that there’s sort of a disconnect between their understandings [and] the experiences of women of color here.”

YDN staffers aren’t paid. Senior editing roles at a college newspaper, especially a daily, can exceed 40-hour weeks. That’s prohibitively time-consuming for those who must keep part-time jobs. As a result, YDN staffers are known for coming from privileged backgrounds. However, one-third of current editorial leadership is women of color. The paper said it doesn’t track the racial makeup of its full staff.

Amid the protests, Miele, a senior, wrote a column urging minority students to cooperate with media. It’s a tough sell. At a meeting for Next Yale, as the campaign for race-based reform is called, Miele informed the others that she was affiliated with the YDN, “and everyone literally just gasped,” she said.

On the same night as the SAE party, students received a peculiar email from Erika Christakis, the wife of an administrator, or “master,” of one of Yale’s 12 residential colleges. That email and its surrounding circumstances have since been picked apart like Bible passages. In sum, Christakis responded to an email from a university Intercultural Affairs Committee, which cautioned against distasteful Halloween outfits. Christakis objected to the “exercise of implied control over college students,” who should be given room to discover whether costumes that included “feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing ‘war paint’ or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface” cross over into offensive caricatures.

Junior David Rossler was wrapping production in the Yale Herald newsroom when he received the Christakis email. “My first reaction was that it was sort of stupid, honestly,” says Rossler, who is editor in chief of the weekly paper. “I think there are obvious ways in which it’s an irrational response to the email it responded to.”

“But I wasn’t offended,” he adds, “and I certainly didn’t anticipate what a big deal it would be. A lot of that is because I’m coming at it from a white male perspective, and none of the things that really resonated with some people resonated with me.”

Much of the country soon became aware. Six days later, two significant confrontations took place. Hundreds of students gathered in a courtyard with Jonathan Holloway, the first black dean of Yale College, insisting that he take action against the frat party and the Christakis email.

That afternoon, a four-minute walk from the Holloway encounter, Erika Christakis’ husband, Nicholas, approached students writing messages of support for minority women in chalk on the ground. Reports differ on what ensued. Here’s how Down described the encounter:

Christakis made it clear to the students that his intentions were never benign. Students accused him of addressing them in a condescending manner, reportedly making statements such as: “I’m so glad you’re exercising your right to free speech!” and “What is all this [chalking] for?” and “This is what happens when you read the Constitution.” As he talked at students, Christakis bent over and placed his hands on his knees, similar to a dog owner regarding his pet.

A crowd formed around Christakis and debated his wife’s email for over an hour, several minutes of which were captured on video. At the climax of those clips, a student screams, “Who the fuck hired you? You should step down!”

Concern over the temperament of young people long precedes recent activism. A September cover story in The Atlantic on “The Coddling of the American Mind” was co-authored by Greg Lukianoff, who also happened to video the Christakis courtyard standoff on his cell phone. Also that month, New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait expounded on his idea of political correctness. “The term has been terribly abused over the years by conservatives,” he explains, “who have used it to describe pretty much any form of liberalism or often just common decency to others.” Rather, Chait believes PC culture describes how the left on university campuses “has grown deeply intolerant of opposing viewpoints.”

National media pounced on the video of the protest as prime evidence of this illiberal streak: Christakis, a model of polite intellectual disagreement; students, a zealous, belligerent mob. Of that avalanche of analysis, the two pieces I heard Yale students object to most often were Conor Friedersdorf’s “The New Intolerance of Student Activism” in The Atlantic and Chait’s “Can We Start Taking Political Correctness Seriously Now?

Friedersdorf writes that good-hearted but hypersensitive students at Yale prefer to stamp out opposition rather than engage with it. “In their view, one respects students by validating their subjective feelings,” he explains. “[P]erhaps it is no surprise that the students behave like bullies even as they see themselves as victims.” Chait says the ideology of campus liberals “prioritizes class justice over individual rights and makes no allowance for legitimate disagreement.” This perversion of liberal ideals will be protesters’ undoing, he forecasts.

 

Before there was proper coverage of the bare-bones facts, there was already conversation about free speech.

 

In truth, students say, it’s these sort of writers who are disengaged. Four days after the Christakis confrontation, when more than 1,000 people joined in a “March of Resilience,” TV crews descended on New Haven. Throughout that month’s protests, though, students don’t remember encountering many reporters.

“Even before there was proper coverage of the bare-bones facts of what was going on, there was already conversation about free speech,” says Maya Averbuch, co-editor of the Yale New Journal, a monthly print magazine. “I’m a news consumer, but I suppose I hadn’t quite realized beforehand how quickly the bulk of coverage would end up being opinionated.”

Why did Yale receive more attention than other protesting campuses? “Media elites have an unhealthy obsession with the Ivy League,” Oppenheimer says. There’s a related reason: Who could be more privileged than Yalies? Their school has an endowment nearing $24 billion. New Haven may be a tough city, but a few blocks from the Dollar Tree and Family Dollar are J. Crew and Barbour, nestled next to a world-class school. Stories there of racism-related trauma, critics suggest, must be overstated.

 

“The shrieking girl” became internet shorthand for the student who cursed at Christakis. A Daily Caller article reported her name, her family’s business, the location of their house, and its estimated cost. Facing a barrage of hostility, the student deleted her social media accounts. A Facebook page still exists titled “Don’t hire [Her Name].” Friends say she’s received death threats.

All this for the poster child of speech suppression.

Associate Dean Risë Nelson confirmed that multiple students and faculty members have received death threats online, which the university is investigating.

As an example of liberal touchiness, Friedersdorf cites an Op-ed in the Yale Herald in which the author states, “I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.”

David Rossler defended the piece in a letter from the editor, elaborating to me, “When your job is to be a community leader and somebody says, I’m hurting, you can’t really defend saying, You’re wrong. The correct response to that is to try to understand why, even if you don’t agree.”

After a master, which Yale advertises as a sort of surrogate parent, rushes to debate, that rubs students as more stubborn than supportive. Christakis declined to comment.

 

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“Blackout” demonstrations, like this one at Yale, took place at colleges across the country on November 12 to show solidarity with Mizzou protesters. (Philipp Arndt Photography)

 

The Op-ed’s author was harassed on Twitter, and one editor appealed to Rossler to remove the piece from the Herald website. Rossler refused, but relented after the author appealed for her piece to be taken down.

Though Rossler never saw the Twitter messages in question, he says, “I assumed they resembled the comments on the back end of the Herald website, some of which used the n-word or suggested that the author kill herself. It seemed likely that the direct messages could be even coarser or more numerous.”

Most campus dialogue doesn’t occur on campus, of course, but in places like “Overheard at Yale,” a Facebook group that’s restricted to those with a Yale email address. From what I was told, discussions start testy, then get nasty and fade out. Still, many students would rather post their thoughts online than go through a mainstream campus reporter. Accordingly, first-person essays became the method of choice to cover Next Yale protests. Down published “voices from the movement.” The New Journal released a collection of essays on being “Black at Yale.” A feminist magazine, Broad Recognition, published literary reflections on the activism.

Other forms of campus media, at Yale and elsewhere, have found themselves entangled in racial flare-ups. Reporters visiting Smith College in Massachusetts last month were asked to “articulate their solidarity with black students and students of color” before covering protests. At Wesleyan, about 25 miles north of Yale, a student newspaper was initially defunded by the university after publishing an Op-ed that questioned tactics in the Black Lives Matter movement. Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post wrote that the Wesleyan decision “teaches [students] they might be too fragile to tolerate words that make them uncomfortable; rather than rebut, they should instead shut down, defund, shred, disinvite.”

It’s interesting to hear campus publications such as the Herald and Daily News be referred to as “mainstream media.” Because the YDN is “establishmentarian,” Oppenheimer explains, “it will probably always receive criticism from all areas of the community.”

Sebastian Medina-Tayac is managing editor at the alternative outlet Down. When we first spoke over the phone, he was hardly exhausted. Invigorated, if anything.

The 21-year-old senior co-founded Down in the spring with Elizabeth Spenst and Eshe Sherley. Down was originally intended for minority women, but Medina-Tayac, whose father is Latino and mother is Native American, was invited because of his journalism experience. He worked as a staff reporter for the YDN last year, and has freelanced for the New Haven Independent, a local daily. Many on Down’s 10-person staff, including Medina-Tayac, are also activists.

“There are people who view themselves as unbiased, objective reporters who aren’t doing a good job,” he says. “One of the things we’ve been going for is that the truth is different from listing facts.” For example, he cites the YDN’s article on a campus rally in March, “Some students call for unity, while others question it.” The piece, which quotes Medina-Tayac as an organizer and representative of the Native American Cultural Council, frames 150 attendees and 10 counter-protesters as equal adversaries.

“I find the YDN to be an extremely hostile environment,” he told me, citing the “elitism and arrogance” of the newsroom and its coverage.

Brea Baker, president of the NAACP campus chapter, argued against racial bias at Yale long before Halloween. The 21-year-old has been a lead organizer of the protest movement and was invited on ABC’s “The View” last month to speak for the demonstrators.

The show began by discussing the courtyard video. Then, co-host Paula Ferris asked, “We know there have been a series of events. We know you’re a senior. So what have you personally experienced on campus, Brea?”

The student described a scene from sophomore year, when she and a group of friends were on the street and “an older white woman approached us and said, Since when did they start letting so many black kids into this school?

Baker was on a talk show, so it’s understandable to ask about her anecdotal experience with racism. For other students, it can be imposing to be sought as a racial spokesperson. A clichéd classroom example is when a race issue comes up and everyone looks to the minority students for comment.

The same applies to the media. Many Next Yale supporters stopped participating in interviews with the YDN. Adriana Miele, who’s Latina, used her column to try to talk them back into cooperating, but she understands their reluctance. “You have to provide substantial evidence about why you feel the way that you do,” she says, “and that is an exhausting, emotionally turbulent process.”

The day of the Holloway and Christakis standoffs, Greg Lukianoff spoke at a Yale conference on free speech. “Looking at the reaction to Erika Christakis’ email, you would have thought someone wiped out an entire Indian village,” he quipped. A student stood up to object to Lukianoff’s remarks. People accumulated outside to protest, and when the event ended, several attendees were spat on by demonstrators as they left, the YDN reported.

Adriana Miele and two Native American friends were among those who drifted over to the conference after word spread of the “Indian village” remark. As Miele remembers, “These old alumni came outside and told us that we were proving racism right, and that we were radicals. One man started yelling ‘trigger warning!’ at me.”

The Christakis encounter left equally divided impressions. It began with students writing messages of solidarity in chalk on the ground. A few days later, a Yale junior took a wet mop to some of the messages during the night and was confronted on camera.

“Do you know there are Silliman freshmen who are afraid of sleeping in their own beds?” asks a woman off camera, referring to the residential college under Christakis’ oversight.

“I think that’s completely undocumented,” he replies.

“You’re a white male of privilege, so you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be a woman of color on this campus,” she says.

While continuing to mop, he says, “This is the exact thing that takes away from any sort of dialogue.”

“How are you wiping in the middle of the night … ,” the woman responds before restarting. “How is this dialogue?”

 

Around 400 people attended an evening teach-in two weeks later on “How Yale’s spending policies institutionalize racism and inequality—and what we can do about it.” When Next Yale was mentioned, the auditorium joined in a thunderous slow clap. “This isn’t over!” they cheered. A day earlier, University President Peter Salovey announced significant changes in response to protest demands, including an initiative to expand faculty diversity and race-focused curriculum.

Several labor leaders who spoke received the loudest applause, including Brian Wingate of Local 35, which represents blue-collar Yale employees. “I was a little nervous at first,” Wingate said. “This feels good.”

Another speaker was Next Yale organizer Cathleen Calderon. When I emailed her about the PC concerns raised by national press, she responded, “Thanks for reaching out, but I do not want to talk at all about free speech. I have not engaged with that conversation as I have been organizing around the issues of the historical institutional racism that exists at Yale.”

That sentiment explains why students I interviewed praised The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb for “Race and the Free Speech Diversion,” in which he writes, “The freedom to offend the powerful is not equivalent to the freedom to bully the relatively disempowered.”

What amounts to bullying? In response to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ best-seller Between the World and Me, David Brooks of The New York Times wrote a column this summer headlined “Listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates While White.” He challenges the book’s “excessive realism,” then asks, “Am I displaying my privilege if I disagree? Is my job just to respect your experience and accept your conclusions? Does a white person have standing to respond?”

Yes, yes, and yes, says Scott Stern, essentially. Stern, who is white, graduated this spring after four years as a YDN staff columnist and deferred admission to Yale Law School until next fall. He was compelled to submit a guest YDN column last month on “The real speech crisis,” which rejects the PC narrative.

“I think there’s this weird thing going on where people think free speech means either consequence-free speech or freedom from criticism,” he explained to me. “I don’t know where primarily political conservatives got this idea that if they want to say anything, they have the right for no one to get vocally upset.”

Stern called for an “empathy leap,” which he described using a scene from the hit Netflix series “Master of None.” In one episode, Aziz Ansari and some friends are greeted by a guy who only shakes hands with the men at the table. The female friends later cite it as an example of subtle misogyny. Ansari’s character questions whether their interpretation is fair, then realizes it’s his impulse to doubt them that’s prejudiced.

Whether people should embrace that leap or exercise their “standing to respond,” as Brooks suggests, is central to the journalism conflicts at places like Yale. It may be possible, however, to meet somewhere in the middle.

 

On December 9, Dean Holloway announced the results of a university investigation into the SAE party and the free speech conference.

“SAE created a chaotic environment,” Holloway wrote, and “members at times behaved disrespectfully and aggressively toward students seeking admission.” However, the fraternity was already on probation, and this incident did not violate those terms. He also reported finding no direct accounts of people being spat on at the conference.

Yale has calmed down since Thanksgiving, and protesters intend to push through the new year. Still on their agenda is getting Yale’s Calhoun College, which honors the South Carolina slavery advocate, renamed. That’s a priority of many college activists, including at Princeton, where students staged a 32-hour sit-in to protest Woodrow Wilson’s immortalization around campus.

Universities like Yale are steeped in tradition, and students of color say a history of racism permeates their experience. “We’re the movie critics who have actually watched the movie,” Medina-Tayac explains, defending the necessity of journalism by minority voices. Many students of color involved in campus media see advocacy and journalism at Yale as mutually reinforcing: both aim to fill a knowledge gap. Can that be achieved with an empathy leap? Does a white voice belong in the discussion?

Video clips like the “shrieking girl” scene are jarring, but they hardly tell the whole story. The PC narrative picks out examples of student misconduct to define and dismiss a national campus movement. Much of that analysis is skewed and cynical, which helps explain why many students distrust news media.

Yes, some students are anxious about being interviewed by mainstream press. So are most people. Considering the onslaught of internet harassment that often ensues from speaking on the record, they have good reason to be. Dean Nelson says some students left campus after being overwhelmed by the number of hate messages they received online. Those young people aren’t “coddled” if they’re distressed by relentless racial slurs and messages saying “kill yourself.” With the possibility of such vicious reactions, it’s reasonable to be concerned about being quoted accurately and in context, especially by reporters who lack personal familiarity with their plight.

Sometimes fear of being a named source in news articles is unfounded. In this case, there’s a Facebook group whose sole purpose is campaigning against one student’s future employment prospects. That type of backlash can’t possibly be evaluated as healthy civil discourse.

Some cases of political correctness warrant ridicule, but stereotyping a generation and all of its political actions is not good journalism. Skepticism in open dialogue is complemented by open-mindedness, and the same goes for reporting. Before arguing, people of color first want to be heard. Students at Yale generally don’t lack reverence for free speech. They just appreciate that it operates under certain rules.

After all, in a college seminar, the most unpopular student is the one who’s aggressively argumentative despite blowing off the reading.

Source : CJR Editors

Abbas says PA to start issuing ‘State of Palestine’ passports in 2016

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in Athens on Monday that his national authority was going to issue State of Palestine passports within 2016.

“Regarding the issue of a passport under the name Palestine State, we are about to proceed to the passport replacement and the issuance of a new passport within one year or even less. We have already changed all documents issued by ministries and public services and they now bear the name ‘State of Palestine’. We no longer accept from anybody to use the name Palestinian Authority,” Abbas told a joint news conference after meeting with Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras.

Abbas is on a two-day official visit in Athens during which the Greek parliament is set to recognize the “state of Palestine” in a non-binding parliamentary vote planned for Tuesday.

However, the recognition will not be by the Greek state, in order “not to disturb good relations with Israel,” according to a statement released by the Greek foreign ministry.

“We must underline the imperative need to begin a substantial, a credible peace process but with a clear political target. A process that will give again hope to the Palestinian people, but also to the Israeli people, for a better future, for a peaceful coexistence of two peoples in the same region,” the Greek premier said.

The two-state solution of an independent Palestinian state existing side-by-side with Israel has been the broad objective of negotiations since the mid-1970s and the overriding focus of US-led diplomacy for the past 20 years.

However a survey released in September by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, showed that nearly 54 percent of Palestinians oppose a two-state solution and 60% of those polled support an armed intifada.

Kenya: Muslims Shield Christians in Shabaab Terror Attack

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A Mandera-bound bus came under attack between Kotulo in Wajir county and Daba Siti in Mandera county just before on  Tuesday.

The bus had stopped over at Kotulo for the night, as there is a ban on night travel in Mandera.

“After stopping the bus, the heavily-armed men separated us to our face value and asked the non-locals their religions,” a passenger told the Star yesterday.

“They told the locals of Somali origin and Muslim faithful to board the bus, remaining with Christians.”

The Muslim and local passengers refused to board the bus and stayed beside the non-locals, daring the attackers to either kill them all or leave them alone.

This forced the attackers to leave in a hurry fearing retaliation by residents from nearby villages after sporadically shooting at the bus and a lorry as they sped off, killing two and wounding three.

“The locals showed a sense of patriotism and belonging to each other by insisting that the al Shabaab should kill them together or leave them all,” Mandera Governor Ali Roba said.

Mandera Township MCA Feisal Abdinoor said locals are ready to protect the non-locals even if it will cost them their lives.

Last November 22, another bus was attacked in Mandera county and 28 non-Muslims were killed.

On December 2 last year, 36 non-local quarry workers were killed.

These attacks resulted in a mass exodus from Northeastern of non-local teachers, medics and other state employees.

Source : The Star

Since President Buhari Came In, We Have Never Received Our Salaries As And When Due-NASU

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Workers in Nigeria are not happy that they would not receive their December salaries for the Christmas celebrations. Most of them are confused, helpless and downcast. In this interview with Federationews2day, the Chairman of Non Academic Staff Union(NASU)Oyo state chapter, Comrade Fatoki Olusola-Cole says that the action of the present administration is not part of the change it promised before it was elected. Excerpts :

The Federal Government from all indications might not be able to pay salaries before the Christmas holidays. What is your reaction ?

It would be unfortunate, if government cannot fulfill the payment of salaries at this crucial time, that workers need the money for the Christmas and New year. All hopes have been on the salaries for December to celebrate. In fact, workers are expecting that there would be additional one month to make it 13th month, that is to tell you that they have high expectations for the payment of December salaries to celebrate. Be that as it may, if government is saying that or nursing doubt that salaries may not be paid to allow workers to celebrate both Christmas and New year, then it would be unfortunate. And government should come out and tell us why, categorically, they are unable to pay or that they would be unable to pay. They should not keep us in the dark, we should know why is going on. We have been having problems in the delay in the receiving of salaries for the past three months. And I don’t think this is the part of the change, this administration is planning, because in fairness to the past government, although towards the tail end of their tenure, salaries started delaying. But I could say that since when this government has come in, we have not received our salaries as and when due. And no reason was given to us. Now all expectations is on government to pay December salaries. Even, we have been expecting that on the 18th, we would have been receiving alert, for the December salaries. And thinking that government would put us into consideration, that these workers needed the money, this time around badly, for the celebration of Christmas and New year. Our children, our wives, our families and those people that are expecting that, at least we are going to extend love to the for Christmas and New year, then all hopes would be dashed. It would be unfortunate, we never expected that it would be like this, because we never prepared for it. I want to believe that President Buhari would find a way round, in making sure that salaries for December are paid and to allow the workers, the Federal Government workers to have nice celebrations. What is due for them, is due for them, it is their wages, it is their right.

The Federal Government has asked Nigerians to brace up for difficult times in the new year. What do you have to say to this ?
We have been passing through difficult times, since 16 years ago. Every successive government has been saying we should brace up and the people they asked to brace up, are the masses, they themselves, don’t brace up, they will go there, take the money that is meant for the poor ones and take it away and put the masses under poverty. It is not a new thing, it is not coming as a surprise.Brace up for hard times, brace up for difficult times, we have been bracing,we are still bracing. And if they ask us to brace up for 2016, already we are bracing up or let me say we have braced up, because it is from one year to another. There is no year that government has ever told us that don’t worry, relax your belt. They have never told us that. I want to believe that our government knows what it is doing I want to believe that we have a responsible government in place now.