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New US ambassador Kyle McCarter speaks Kiswahili, opposes gay unions

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On Wednesday, the United States Senate approved the appointment of former Senator Kyle McCarter as the new Ambassador to Kenya.

McCarter comes to a familiar territory with a promise to support the handshake and engage the LGBT community despite his strong views against gay marriages.

Born on June 27, 1962, the Illinois politician is married to Victoria and live in Lebanon, Illinois, with their two children Zach and Austin. 

Their daughter Amber died in 2006 at the age of 21 from what was described as a heroin overdose.

The fluent Swahili-speaking McCarter and his wife Victoria, lived and worked in Kenya for Each1Feed1, a Christian ministry that gives care and education for orphans and widows, in 1987-1988 and built Faith Medical Clinic.

The charitable organisation to date has its offices in Mukothima, Tharaka Nithi County, where Carter is currently its international director and Victoria is the director.

 In May 2017, seven Republican congressmen from Illinois, including John Shimkus who beat McCarter in the 2016 primary, encouraged President Donald Trump to nominate McCarter as the next United States Ambassador to Kenya.

The delegation wrote that McCarter’s work in Kenya with Each1Feed1 has provided him “heightened insight into the governmental operations and other political, economic, and social realities of both Kenya and the larger region of East Africa.”

A few days later, President Trump announced he had nominated McCarter to the position.

Also Read:  Senator Kyle McCarter to replace Godec as US ambassador

Nine months later, on January 2, 2019, the Senate confirmed McCarter by voice vote.

At his confirmation hearing last year, the Democrats pointed questions about McCarter’s socially conservative religious views, expressed in his past votes against LGBT rights.

On the issues of same-sex marriages, McCarter has remained one of the vocal senators who has opposed such.

Despite the US having legalised same-sex marriages, McCarter has continuously tweeted opposing the laws.

During his grilling, he said he supported decriminalisation of homosexual acts.

Though the current Kenyan Constitution does not recognise same sex marriages, President Uhuru Kenyatta has also reiterated that Kenya would not bow down to pressure to legislate such unions as a condition to receive donor funding.

Read: We will not legalise same-sex marriage to get funding – Uhuru

McCarter said despite his personal views he is ready to help Kenya take on its challenges and promised to meet with the members of the LGBT community.

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“I will use my experiences in business, public service, and philanthropy to build on the already strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Kenya,” he told the committee.

He said he would use his expertise to demonstrate the goodwill and generosity of the American people to the republic of Kenya.

Asked about the Building Bridges Initiative and the handshake between Uhuru and opposition leader Raila Odinga, McCarter said ethnic divisions have been the biggest issue in the country.

He added that he was optimistic that through such partnership the country can overcome challenges.

“These things don’t get better overnight. Devolution may help reduce tensions and I am hopeful that new leadership will emerge at local levels through the initiative,” he said.

The senators also grilled McCarter about a post-election tweet suggesting that the former Secretary of State in Barack Obama’s administration Hillary Clinton be sent to prison.

After Trump’s shock win, McCarter had tweeted: “Hillary for prison. No, really.”

This was in reference to the ‘Lock her up’ chants popularised by Trump supporters against Hillary Clinton whom they wanted to be prosecuted over a highly controversial trove of emails

However, McCarter in his response told the senators admitted that the tweet was not his finest moment.

“There is hype in an election that was perhaps not called for. It was perhaps not the wisest of tweets…It is one of those tweets you’d like to reel in but can’t,” he stated.

The 56-year-old politician graduated from Oral Roberts University in 1984 with a degree in accounting.

The former senator was a member of the St Clair County board from 2000 until 2009, when he was appointed to the Illinois State Senate.

He has also served for six years on the O’Fallon Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, including two years as President and four years as Chairman of the Economic Development Committee.

McCarter is said to also own and operate Custom Product Innovations and Custom Coating Innovations in Lebanon, Illinois.

His companies outsource parts of their production to China.

McCarter was appointed in February 2009 as Illinois State senator after Republican State Senator Frank Watson resigned, shortly after suffering a stroke.

After the Senate redistricting, parts of the old 51st, 54th, and 58th districts were combined to create the new 54th Senate District.

Incumbent Republican, John O Jones, was also drawn into the 54th district but failed to adequately meet the petition filing requirements and did not appear on the ballot.

After Jones ruled out an independent bid, McCarter ran successfully for the 54th district.

He chose not to seek reelection in 2018 where he was succeeded in the Illinois Senate by Jason Plummer.

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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

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.

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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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