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Every Life Matters, Point Blank with Asian Weekly, 1st December 2017

World Aids Day 2017

 

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and is a lentivirus (a subgroup of retrovirus) that causes HIV infection and over time acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

 

 

This year on the World AIDS Day the theme is “Right to Health” and the World Health Organization is pushing the agenda “Everybody Counts”.

Some quick facts from WHO include:

There were 36.7 million people living with HIV at the end of 2016.

As of 2016, 20.9 million people are receiving antiretroviral treatment worldwide.

Seven out of ten pregnant women living with HIV received antiretroviral treatment.

The WHO African Region is the most affected region, with 25.6 million people living with HIV in 2016. The African region also accounts for almost two thirds of the global total of new HIV infections.

In Africa AIDS is the leading cause of death and its transmission is widely because of unprotected sex. Unfortunately there are just six countries in the world where half of the 15 to 19-year-olds are living with HIV and one of them is Kenya.

From childhood to adulthood it is such a vulnerable time that with the increasing social pressures, there is early entry to sex. Also there is the lurking danger of younger people having sexual relationships with the older generations.

Children are getting knowledge from their parents, extended family members, and schoolmates and unfortunately from their tablets and mobile phones. They are browsing through porn sites and watching illicit music videos that are arousing their hormonal activity. We are living in a conservative Kenyan culture in both Asian and African families. Do not be fooled by the picnic trips and school adventures that happen out of town that there is no sexual activity going on. It can even happen during wedding functions or religious days. When teenagers have access to cars or even Uber trips, then their movement is lucid and anything is possible. This is not to through off alarm bells, but that impossible conversation has to happen.

Before the conversation can happen, all parents must have their two cents of education that should primarily come from the school or community. All schools both public and private need counselors who begin with a special course for the teachers and workers too, because sometimes a cleaner can spot unusual behavior for example in the toilets that teachers might miss out. Since 2013 the Ministry of Education in Kenya has worked actively introduce Sex Education in the schools, but if the teachers are shy or not confident with their own sexuality and the subject, they cannot set good examples or convey the message properly.

Community centres should have peer group outings and perhaps on a monthly basis discuss a topic. The topic can vary from entrepreneurship to AIDS. Children and teenagers are suffering silently because of domestic violence, financial difficulties, separated parents, unruly family members, drugs and the list goes on. Sometimes parents have an idea but are too embarrassed to consider counseling, thinking that this applies to mad kids. But mental health problems can lead to suicide or a rebel teenager who can end up using sex to get their relief.

The UNAIDS and African Union have included the access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) as part of their HIV response programs. However much needs to be done and Kenya being a very religious country it is important that these programs are implemented at Churches, Mosques and Temples too.

Kenya is one of the 12 countries using social media to spread this education.

However better access to Internet and cheaper smart phones will allow the children and teenagers to use it properly.

Both boys and girls are vulnerable to increased sexual activity. Thus, find better peer groups where their mind is on games, books or a charitable activity. Remind them what’s real and definitely teach them about condoms and contraception, because if anything a sexually transmitted disease can be life threatening for their future. Sometimes it helps to be honest with your children and tell them how it was for you so they know that you were once just like them in their place.

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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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How High Should Drinking Be? Point Blank with Asian Weekly 27th November, 2017

Under Age Drinking by Magarticles

Across the African continent the legal age for consumption and purchase of alcohol is 18 years old. This is generally the case worldwide too.

Kenya has been nicknamed “the drinking nation” and this is not a very cool reputation especially if alcohol is one of the leading causes of road accidents. According to the road safety report for financial year 2016/17 by the National Transport and Safety Authority, 91% of the traffic crashes were attributed to human related factors. They included; speeding, reckless driving, dangerous overtaking, drink driving, drink walking, drink riding, motorists using unfamiliar roads during weekends and lack of use of helmets.

Access to alcohol is fairly easy in Kenya. You can buy it in the supermarket, pop in to a roadside bar or enter a restaurant and drink up. While the age limits in all these places is strict, there remains pilferage. The situation remains grim too at the teenage level in the secondary schools. Over 40% of students in secondary schools are taking alcohol and drugs, according to a recent survey by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA).

More on the report says:

“The students were also asked to mention the period when alcohol and drugs are most likely to be used in schools. Data shows that alcohol and drugs are more likely to be used during school holidays (48.5%) and on their way home (35.1%). Within the school environment, students are more likely to use drugs during weekends (30.4%). Other times mentioned include during inter-school meetings (27.8%), during school outings (27.3%), during entertainment in school (24.4%), during games (23.7%) and during school trips (21.8%).

The students were also asked to mention the possible sources of alcohol and drugs. The most commonly mentioned source of these substances of abuse is from friends (32.2%). The drugs and substances of abuse are also carried from home (29.3%), bought from other students (25.7%), bought from a bar near school (22%) or from a local brew den (19.1%). Other sources are kiosks or shops near school (16.9%), relatives (16.7%), supermarkets (11.3%), non-teaching school workers (7.4%), parents (5.3%), teachers (4.8%) and school canteen (3.9%).”

In the county of Kiambu, Governor Fred Waititu wants to change the legal age to 21 years old. It was on 21st May 2015 that President Uhuru Kenyatta signed The Alcoholic Drinks Control (Amendment) Act, 2015 and declared that alcoholism is a disease in Kenya. Meanwhile it still maintains:

  1. Drunken behaviour

(1) A licensee or an agent or employee of a licensee may refuse to admit to, and shall expel from, the premises to which his licence relates any person who is drunk and disorderly, violent, or quarrelsome, or whose presence would subject the licensee to a fine or penalty under this Act.

  1. Persons not eligible for a licence

(1) The District Committee shall not grant a new licence or transfer a licence to any person who—

(e) is under eighteen years of age;

  1. General penalty

Any person convicted of an offence under this Act for which no other penalty is provided shall be liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand shillings, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both.

Yes alcoholism is a disease. Raising the legal age is an important step into curbing the access to alcohol for the youth of Kenya. However there are several other initiatives that can be taken to help this situation. The youth are at their most vulnerable, with hormones raging, self esteem crisis and even circumstances at home can divert their mind. Thus, the problem is not that they are drinking alcohol, it is what is going on in their lives and how can they be productively distracted. The local schools need to have useful workshops that will allow them to be job ready and use their talents in competitions and accomplishments rather than idling and focusing on unhealthy activities.

Their schools need to be their creative and scholarly sanctuaries and not an arena for the hottest couple in town. Sports are a great way to keep them on track too. When the alcohol is commercially difficult to buy and consume, they will be discouraged but if frustrations persist in school and at home, they will still find a way to buy and use it.

The Kiambu Governor’s idea is a start and that a good one too.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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When Silence Can Cost You, Point Blank with Asian Weekly, 17th November, 2017

me-too.png

 

The entertainment industry worldwide has been shaken up to scandals and accusations of casting couches especially in Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein has attracted all the media attention for which he works. He founded the film production company Miramax and then after winning several Academy Awards he and his brother Bob set up the famous Weinstein Company. Harvey seems to have the Oscar Midas touch and the Academy Award winning films include Django Unchained, The Imitation Game and more.

But his life turned upside down in October last month when the New Yorker published a detailed article of how Harvey Weinstein had sexually abused and harassed women in the industry. As his wife who is a fashion designer and actress, Georgina Chapman walked out on their marriage, over 70 women came out with their story of what Harvey did to them. Soon the hashtag #MeToo which was created by activist Tarana Burke became famous when actress Alyssa Milano gave her voice to the subject. Alyssa is famous for the TV series Charmed.

The domino effect created by Harvey’s story coming out led to other celebrities being accused too. These include Ben Affleck, Dustin Hoffman, and more including Mariah Carey. Each of the accused is now defending or suffering whatever consequences are in store for them. For example Britain’s Conservative Party MP Sir Michael Fallon immediately resigned after it was brought up that he inappropriately touched a journalist’s knee implying that things went too far. The notion has always been that the entertainment industry, which includes the movies, advertising world, fashion, theatre or dance are all plagued with affairs, sexual harassment and different sexual orientations. This Hollywood shake up has resulted in a new hotline for legal aid assistance being prepared for such cases by the Oscar-winning producer Cathy Schulman, president of Women in Film.

But this inappropriate behavior has been in Hollywood since the days of Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland. Bollywood too is under these disgusting pressures and earlier this year the famous Bajirao, Ranveer Singh came out in the open with an incident where a top film industrialist propositioned him. He said that strugglers are succumbed to these low level tactics in order just to enter the industry or get bigger breaks.

Every story needs its own lifeline and this time sexual harassment has gotten it. From studios to parliament to boardrooms, it is the talk of the topic on every desk in every part of the world possible. Women and men do not want to be bullied anymore and rightfully so. It is known that the male predators 90% of the time get away and justice is hardly served. Kindly note that abuse is also done verbally and nowadays with the use of social media especially through Whatsapp. But women too are not reporting the cases for fear of losing their jobs or social pressures but mostly because no action is taken against the male predator and sometimes the situation gets worse. Things are terrible if you go deeper and see that almost every year still in the world a relative or parent or guardian sexually abuses over 150 million girls and 73 million boys.

The whole moral compass has gone down the gutter. In the process the innocent are suffering. They no longer have a voice, they no longer know what is normal, and they no longer have a chance in not becoming what is happening to them.

The improved technology offers a lot of safeguarding, while you can record an incident, you can easily become the victim and be taped and be blackmailed. This viscous web needs a strong intervention. It does have to start right from family structures, cultural ties and most importantly in the school systems. Every system needs fairness and stability. This is an ideal wish but the beginning of better behavior. Discuss with your children what are the limitations to relationships even with their own relatives if required. Discuss with your children even when they enter the workplace of what is not appropriate. Discuss with your trusted partners or friends and if they still do not listen to you, or have the courage to be there for you, remember that there is always help out there, never give up. To the predators, your days are numbered.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Magic of Movies, Point Blank with Asian Weekly, 10th November, 2017

French Film

 

 

A long time ago a cinema was one that was an open-air ground with magic lanterns. The first film is Sortie de l’usine Lumière de Lyon and it was made in 1894 by the French Lumière brothers’ (Louis and Auguste Lumière). This was the beginning of the silent film era. The first film to have sound was The Jazz Singer released in 1927 and since then Hollywood has never looked back.

Bollywood started their movie making in 1913 with the film Raja Harishchandra by Dadsaheb Phalke.

 

 

 

When it comes to TV, the word “Television” was coined by Constantin Perskyi in 1900 and today TV remains the go to place for debates more than news and series. The world of digital media has changed the whole viewership concept. Once upon a time one black and white television was sufficient, then came colour, football and Ramayan. Then came a television in every room. Now it has all come down to a small screen in front of you anywhere you are, on a train, in the bathroom or on your bed.

A theatre or cinema is still prominent especially for opening nights. Over 75% of your movie ticket goes back to the Movie studio in Hollywood for their production and a big opening night is a major profit night for them.

Due to inflation the cost of movies has risen exponentially and especially so also because of the new digital effects and mega marketing budgets. Star power still draws the highest part of the business because of remuneration.

The man who created cinematic magic as far as big is beautiful is concerned is director Steven Spielberg. Ever since his JAWS movie and then E.T. the audience wanted more. They wanted to get closer to danger, to fly in the air and see new places. He can be indirectly called the father of 3D cinema which then achieved a new level with the James Cameron AVATAR. These visual effects can not be enjoyed on your iPad or laptop.

The Indian TV and Film industry provides for over 2 million jobs and while it earns the country about $10 billion it also takes a hit of 10% of that every year to piracy. 80% of Tamil films are downloaded so the rush to capture the digital market and secure the accessibility is important to India. Currently India is the 2nd largest online market and has over 400 million users. Bollywood actors have been going to the small screen to earn bigger bucks and fame. Well now they are considering web series and films to do the same. They want to keep up their star ratings and also experiment in this digital space of cinema.

An average person is still not able to buy a relatively large TV and surround sound and have the space in their house to convert into a mini-cinema. A die hard movie fan will remain a cinema goer no matter what. So while the everyday person catches their favourite TV show or movie on internet platforms like Netflix, they will still be a part of the piracy consumers because these platforms may still eat into their monthly budget which is used for school fees or otherwise. Piracy is the menace the cinema business can never get rid of. What they can do is to continue embracing the digital trend but still making the cinema going experience as interesting as possible. For example, imagine one day showing up for your favourite Marvel movie and Batman serves you popcorn. The infrastructure of a cinema should never be compromised and those who want to pay value for the ticket will do so.

Piracy costs jobs and lives but legitimate platforms like Netflix create jobs and awards. The digital space will not stop the cinema experience or kill the TV series fun. It is up to cinemas to be innovative like they have been, for example IMAX to give the audience unbeatable experiences.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Level of Education Should Not Define Your Success, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 3rd November, 2017

phd-survivor

 

 

 

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

John Dewey

 

 

 

 

 

Education is the most beautiful gift you can give anybody. There is no bigger joy than to see someone use the knowledge and create opportunities, inventions or solve problems. There is no doubt the world has so many unsolved issues, for example, what is dark matter or how to get an unlimited supply of water and so much more.

While it may be the jobs of the scientists, physicists, doctors and economists to really get to the bottom of the mystery, so are other professions crucial to this task. For example if you did not have an able tax man you would not be able to enjoy the profits you are at your business. If you did not have a capable maid/house help then you can not go to your regular work day free minded. Each person is important in this chain where the wheels of life are chugging along as smoothly as possible.

Education in life is two fold. There is your regular school then there is the school of life. There is major debate especially in the developed countries of how education needs a change, the syllabus needs a new look and children need a new way of teaching. They want to be more life skills and aspirational oriented such that the child is prepared for employment. One can argue that are we creating in direct robots to take over or get into the jobs market easily? Well maybe. Imagine if you are now 40 years old and still have not bought your house, but if your teacher when you were 12 years or even 16 years old told you what a mortgage is all about, wouldn’t you have done something about it as soon as you entered the job market?

The highest level of education to be achieved is a PhD. According to the Princeton Review, they say:

“Each year, some PhD candidates do not meet the requirements of their graduate programs and are asked to leave. Others choose to leave because they are burnt out, or their interests have changed. Some students who don’t complete the PhD leave with a master’s degree; others leave with no degree at all. You should be prepared for these scenarios by making a back-up plan.

Successful PhD students thrive in a highly intellectual environment, are willing to work very hard with only a possible payoff, love their field of study, and don’t mind forgoing impressive paychecks. If this sounds like you, forge ahead!”

Then the question is, will such a candidate be a great professor? It takes 9 years to get a PhD and according to the Commission for University Education (CUE) Kenya, the deadline for professors to get their PhD is early 2018.

This rush is causing panic and leak of fake doctorate degrees in the market. A great professor is not made by a PhD but by character and attitude. If the English mathematician G. H. Hardy at the University of Cambridge, England did not think of giving Srinivasa Ramanujan the chance to travel and appear at the English university, then Ramanujan’s work would never have been recognized. It is the personality of a teacher that can make or break a student. Yes we can not dismiss the teachers and professors who have studied and achieved much academically.

But when the teacher or professor can not improve the running of the institute, give better opportunities to the children, be fair to parents, regardless of race, not make Government changes where required to put children and their future first, then their education is useless.

If you as a PhD professor want the best for your child, then why is it different for other non-related children? Why the bias of being in an elite class? Why not also show your children what is the reality and tell them to support the better for the good of all children? Why the snooty behavior that only you know best? Why is your hard work more important than the taxi driver who is struggling to put food on the table for his family. If the attitude of the education institutes is to raise the standard of qualification, then they too must deliver excellence service at reasonable fees. The right of education should never depend on your financial status or the class of “elite education club” that you come from. Be fair.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Horror Days, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 20th October, 2017

Interview With The Vampire Courtesy of FanPop

Interview With The Vampire Courtesy of FanPop

 

In today’s times the horror films still continue and no matter what happens, we cannot ignore dark subjects.

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

(Lestat): “Drink from me. And live forever.”

 

 

There are vampires, zombies, ghosts and the list goes on for what could lie on the other side. While it intrigues some and sells box office tickets, for most it is scary and a place or things they would rather not see. I believe this is the reason why Friday the 13th was invented by the West to create fear and profits. Legend has it, according to Wikipedia:

The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: “triskaidekaphobia”; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”).

The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, “originating from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion” in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday. While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.

Thus, this is also where superstitions participate either through myths, religion or pure evidence. It is a matter of belief. Some of the leading superstitions include being born Manglik, black cat crossing your path, looking at a broken mirror is bad luck and so forth. The one that is the most interesting is that masturbation causes impotency and to know that the book of Kama Sutra came from the very nation itself! Actually this book is made up of 7 subjects but while it the chapter on sex was most interesting to the West, the other chapters are about general life, man and wife, their domestic life and what is the union all about especially with the world having courtesans and occult practices.

Friday the 13th is all up to you. If you want to have a party with the theme being witches and vampires, by all means go ahead and enjoy. There is no real proof that if a black cat crosses the road something bad will happen to you. This is all about belief, if motivational speakers can tell you that positivity can kill your cancer, why should you want to belief in negative items around you. Why would you want to invite harm to yourself?

Maybe this interesting conversation will help you, this happened between Yudhisthir and Dharmaraj in the Mahabharta:

The Yaksha asked,

Who is truly happy?

What is most wonderful?

What is the path?

And what is the news?

Yudhishthira answered,

O amphibious creature, a man who cooketh in his own house, on the fifth or the sixth part of the day, with scanty vegetables, but who is not in debt and who stirreth not from home, is truly happy.

Day after day countless creatures are going to the abode of Yama, yet those that remain behind believe themselves to be immortal. What can be more wonderful than this?

Argument leads to no certain conclusion, the Srutis are different from one another; there is not even one Rishi whose opinion can be accepted by all; the truth about dharma and duty is hid in caves: therefore, that alone is the path along which the great have trod.

This world full of ignorance is like a pan. The sun is fire, the days and nights are fuel. The months and the seasons constitute the wooden ladle. Time is the cook that is cooking all creatures in that pan with such aids; this is the news.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Much Ado About Diwali Holiday, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 13th October, 2017

indian festival diwali

Diwali is a mega celebration around the world now. From the former US President Barack Obama wishing the American Hindus, it has caught the attention of the Kenyan government too. Being the 44th Tribe, the Asians are participating in the arena of rights and requesting that Diwali be declared an Official Holiday.

Other countries apart from India where Diwali is an official holiday include Nepal, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Malaysia, Mauritius, Guyana, Myanmar, Trinidad and Tobago and Pakistan’s Sindh Province.

Diwali is especially significant because it is the festival of lights, the celebration of the battle of good versus evil and of course the Hindu New Year. All these combinations that usually are kicked off with the 9 nights of dancing of Navratri mean this is like a big month full of special days which are of religious significance and they culminate at Diwali date.

This mega event has become popular around the world because of its decorative cultural aspects. Just like Christmas, Diwali is a massive opportunity for many service providers and suppliers to make their gold. For example the leading example being fireworks, which in the countries where it is especially an official holiday are sold in large numbers. The impact of fireworks to the environment is under debate. While their main ingredient which is black powder has not been replaced in the last 1,000 years, fireworks are known to cause harm including give hearing loss, scare pets and disturb the chemical balance on water bodies. In fact India learning from these toxic lessons, has banned the fireworks in Delhi according to a latest Supreme Court ruling delivered on 10th October 2017.

The non-pollutant items include fashion wear that is made up of various clothing styles and especially jewellery. This is the time when most update their traditional wear wardrobe and bring in new items of jewelry of gold, diamonds and more. This is the time to also redecorate a house, room or even office space. It is the time to splash a new layer of paint or get that new car you want. The sale on almost all usual lifestyle items is endless. Also the most popular is the food, where you get a large variety of Indian sweets, lunches, dinner parties and lots more. All this shopping sounds exhausting but alas it must be enjoyed like Boxing Day, so why not over an official holiday?

If each tribe had their own official holiday that is almost one and a half month gone in a productive year. The Employer can be sensitive to the list of significant days that his team can have and this information can come from the Human Resources Department. You may say then why allow Eid? Well the number of Muslims outweighs the rest. Islam usually follows Christianity in most countries and Eid is still not a holiday even in the United Kingdom.

The employer can allow the day off without deducting it as part of the leave, for example Vaisakhi is the Sikh New Year and the Sikhs can take their day off. However there might be a question of dividing up faiths. But then again, Christmas is part of the Roman calendar, which we are all following to maintain our calendar dates. Remember that Christians remained the largest religious group in the world in 2015, making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people. Until such time there is a major shift can holidays change.

For now Diwali should not be an official holiday in Kenya. Our population is not that of 1 million that if we closed our businesses for that one day there will be a disruption in the economy so why put the entire country off?

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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