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OWINO: A look at some odd cases of the year





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This is the time of the year when people reflect on the year that is past. In so doing, there are thoughts of highlights of different kinds. Some media outlets even name their supposed person of the year. I join this charade by trying to recount the cases that defined the year for me by their absurdity or sheer value from a humour point of view.

One case of interest that was decided this year has been that between People Against Ethical treatment of Animals (PETA) and a professional photographer known as David Slater. In 2011, Mr Salter went on an assignment in Indonesia. While there, a monkey by the name Naruto took selfies of itself using the photographer’s camera. On his return to the USA, Mr Slater used the photos taken by the monkey in a book he published.

In 2015, PETA sued Mr Salter on behalf of the monkey. PETA alleged that the publication of the monkey’s photos in the book infringed on the Monkey’s copyright as the one who took the photos. In 2016, a district judge dismissed PETA’s claim and the matter went on appeal. Sometime this year, the ninth circuit of the US Court of Appeals again dismissed the case. The Appeal court held that the monkey could not have a right to property in the photographs. In short, they held that only humans had a right to copyright under the US copyright law.

But animals were not always losers in the law this year. Journalists often say that it is no news when a dog bites a man. But the converse is the more newsworthy story. In January, a man was charged with assaulting a dog. The assault charge was based on the fact that the accused bit a police dog while trying to resist arrest. The dog bit back more ferociously before the man was tasered and arrested. The journalists must have found their perfect story in the incident which occurred in the town of Boscawen in New Hampshire. The head of the police department in that town put it thus: “If you get into a biting competition with a police dog, you will not win. I am watching the case to see whether the accused will win the case of the dog-bite after losing the dogfight!”

Remaining on the issue of animals, a poacher in Missouri got more than he could handle or watch. Mr David Berry Junior, his father and two brothers were charged with the offence of poaching deer. Upon conviction, the men were fined a total of $51,000. But in the case of Mr David Berry Jr., that was not enough: The judge sentenced him to a prison term of 12 months. In addition, he was to watch a pro-wildlife conservation movie by the title Bambi at least once a month for the duration of his prison sentence. The court further ordered that the first viewing must be conducted by December 23, 2018. While most people consider watching movies a recreational activity, David Berry Jr. will find it a correctional obligation rather than recreational discretion.

Another man who may soon find himself in a correctional facility and free boarding is one Jonathan Crenshaw. Mr Crenshaw is homeless and without arms but somehow found himself charged with the offence of stabbing a person with a pair of scissors using his legs. Despite being a person with disability, the accused is very capable in the use of his legs for artful and hurtful purposes. It was said that Mr Crenshaw is well-known in Florida as a street artist who uses his feet to paint — and other things obviously. Police records reveal that despite being without arms, Mr Crenshaw keeps his legs busy. He has had frequent run-ins with the Police and was last convicted and jailed in 2014 for battery of a police officer. This previous stint in prison might explain why he prefers being in the streets than enjoying free board in prison and was granted bond of $7,500, to go back to the streets!

Another case of disability is that of Donald Nixon, who is legally blind. In November, he filed a case against the renowned Playboy magazine alleging it violating his right to information. The claimant’s contention is that the magazine’s website does not integrate with his screen reading software which allows him to read the text with a speech synthesizer or Braille display for person with a visionary disability like himself. His claim is based on a law in the USA known as the American with Disabilities Act which requires that publishers endeavour to make their publications accessible to person with different kinds of disabilities so as not to discriminate against them. Mr Nixon claims that he cannot enjoy the centrefolds of the magazine because of the lack of a text equivalent of a non — text element in the publications. The question on most people’s mind would be how Braille would be applied to some of the prurient nude photographs for which the magazine was previously known. One of the issues in this case will be that Mr Nixon seems to be an indefatigable litigant in light of reports that he has previously filed over forty law suits against other organisations for violations of the said law.


While the courts have held in the case of Naruto that animals do not have intellectual property rights, humans continue to exert them in interesting ways. Alfonso Ribiero, an actor in the famous television comedy programme Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and one Russell Horning (known as Backpack Kid) have sued a video game producer Fortnite for breach of copyright of their dancing styles. In the game which may be downloaded online, players may buy a dance move known as ‘Emote’ or win it as a reward while playing the game.

In the case of Alfonso Ribiero, the claim is that while acting in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air television programme, he invented a dance with some specific moves known as ‘Carlton Dance’ which featured swinging arms and hips from side to side in a funny distinct manner. His claim is that in 2018, Fortnite released a game called ‘fresh Emote’ in which had a character similar to Mr Ribiero’s likeness and performing the Carlton dance which infringed on his copyright in the dance.

Russell Horning, aged 16, has brought a similar suit in respect of a dance he performed in the ‘Saturday Night Live’ show in 2016 and which came to be known as ‘The Floss’ and is associated with him. He said that an image performing the flossing dance has also been included in the game without his permission or credit to him.

As funny as this might be, the cases cannot be said to be threadbare: US copyright law protects dancing if the dancing is original and is recorded in the copyright claimer in video form. While the cases have not been decided, it might appear that the dancing styles may be a new professional realm for creatives.

Then there are the purely absurd. One of them is the case of a man who sued the police in Virginia, USA, for rescuing him from drowning while he tried to commit suicide by drowning himself. In a lawsuit filed in Virginia earlier this year, the claimant said that the police left him underwater for about two minutes after he had submerged himself in the pool and wants the police officers who were present at the time of the mishap to pay the medical bills he incurred as a result of the self-harming attempt. In his court papers, the claimant says that the police are trained to help people in distress and should have acted immediately to prevent him from jumping into the pool, having tried to jump in twice before. The issue for the court in the lawsuit will be whether the police should be held liable for not acting quickly enough to save the life of someone who put himself in mortal danger.

While we await judgment on the matter of putting oneself at peril and then expecting others to save you, one man in the Netherlands got a quick answer to a vexatious law suit. Mr Emile Ratelband is an entrepreneur aged 69. He filed a law suit seeking an order to change his age form 69 years to 49 years. His reason for this was that his doctor had informed him that he had the body of a 45-year-old and that the age was a limitation to his changes in a dating app, Tinder, following his realisation that possible mates preferred younger persons.

It is said that men rarely tell the truth about their wage. But Mr Ratelband was so serious about changing his age that he offered to forfeit his wage in the form of a pension just so that he could lawfully get to change his age. While confirming that Mr Ratelband is at liberty to feel younger than his real age, the court ruled that amending his age in law would result in several undesirable legal and societal implications which the court could not countenance.

The court seemed to be saying, age is not just a number.


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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.

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.


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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