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Job Growth Gets Stuck on the Subway – Opinion –





NEW YORK — The animosity directed at Amazon and the legislators who have opened the velvet rope to the city has been fomenting for weeks, but on Wednesday it reached peak rage.

It was then that Amazon executives faced members of the City Council, a body that was locked out of the process of wooing the company here, as well as protesters whose numbers were large enough that the council chamber could not accommodate all of them.

Both officials and civilians wanted to know why Amazon needed billions of dollars in subsidies when it had so much money, why it was getting a helipad, and how it imagined it could be considered a good neighbor when the city’s public land use process had been bypassed.

Ever since the announcement was made last month that Amazon had chosen Queens for its second headquarters over Detroit or Pittsburgh or anywhere else that would have welcomed it with far less ambivalence, the move has served as a projection screen for a wide and emotionally charged set of apprehensions about corporate tyranny, displacement, inequality, democracy, unfairness, loss.

How much of the anger at Amazon and its enablers is justified? Those in favor of the deal have repeatedly argued that 25,000 new jobs in New York make all the compromises worth it. Even if unemployment in the metropolitan area is low, and the city has added tens of thousands of jobs in the technology sector in recent years, civic leaders, like hypochondriacs in perfectly good health, live in perpetual fear that those sorts of gains could easily evaporate.

Since the beginning of time, it would seem, Republicans have played out that fear in rhetoric about tax policy, insisting that unless local tax rates were kept low, companies and jobs would flee to other states and cities. In New York, that has not proven to be true. But deteriorating infrastructure could emerge as the real threat to job growth and retention.

These concerns are hardly irrational. In May, Alliance Bernstein, the prominent investment house, announced that it was moving its headquarters to Nashville, Tennessee. Although the firm would retain a presence in Manhattan, close to 1,000 jobs would be lost to a place that has evolved in the past decade as a nexus of urban cool. Like so many revitalized cities around the country, Nashville has great food, great design, great style.

When Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, the business advocacy group founded in part by David Rockefeller in the 1970s, heard what was happening, she organized a meeting with the company and a group of political figures to try and better understand what had motivated Alliance Bernstein to relocate.

Although there were several factors at play, the first grievance mentioned by the firm’s representatives, Wylde said, was that New York had gotten tough to live in: a company survey revealed that average commuting times for employees were reaching the 90-minute mark. “Then,” she said, “they listed all the other reasons.”

Last year, as it happened, the Partnership set out to study the dozens of foreign companies in its membership, talking to them about the attractions and obstacles of operating in New York. The resulting report noted that “in every interview conducted,” the condition of airports, subways, roads and trains was cited as a major challenge.


“The number one reason companies chose not to expand in New York,” Wylde told me, “was the condition of transportation infrastructure.” This is not a small thing. Foreign companies currently employ close to 300,000 New Yorkers and contribute 11 percent of the city’s total $761 billion economic output.

In the mind of the chief executive, inconvenience is vanished profit. The delays stemming from the failures of the R train or the incapacitations of suburban rail lines is money gone to the winds.

Two years ago, in anticipation of a New Jersey Transit strike, the Partnership calculated what lost time actually costs. Looking at all the data, it discovered that for every hour commuters are delayed, New York City employers would lose $5.9 million. The impact of catastrophic weather on ailing infrastructure amplifies these losses. Two years ago, Deanna Mulligan, chief executive of Guardian Life Insurance, noted that the shutdown of the tunnels connecting New Jersey to the West Side of Manhattan for five days during Hurricane Sandy cost the company $40,000 an hour in lost wages and productivity.

So when does New York, with its cramped spaces and soaring housing prices that force people farther and farther away from Manhattan, making them even more beholden to unreliable means of getting to work, stop being worth it? When do certain businesses say, Enough, and invest in the idea that talent is mobile, that good pizza, in the 21st century, can be found anywhere? Amazon’s move to New York is a vote for the belief that the city, despite how generic it has come to seem in so many places, really is unlike anywhere else. Can that optimism survive?

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Ginia Bellafante © 2018 The New York Times


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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard




Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.


However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard




President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health




Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.


Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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