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Republicans push for US Supreme Court vote

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Republicans are pushing to vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee for the US Supreme Court on Friday, after hearing dramatic testimony from him and a woman accusing him of sexual assault.

Brett Kavanaugh, at times emotional and angry, denied assaulting Christine Blasey Ford when they were teenagers.

Dr Ford, close to tears, described the incident in detail saying it had “drastically” affected her life.

Mr Trump has urged the Senate – where Republicans have a majority – to vote.

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This is expected next week, although the outcome is far from certain with a number of senators on both sides undecided.

The American Bar Association has called for a delay of the vote to allow the FBI to investigate the claims by Dr Ford and other women.

The Supreme Court plays a vital role in US political life – appointed for life, its nine members have the final say on US law.

This includes highly contentious social issues, such as abortion, and challenges to government policy.

Mr Kavanaugh’s appointment would tilt the balance in favour of conservatives for years to come.

For this reason, Republicans accuse the Democrats of seeking to delay the confirmation until after the mid-term elections in November when they hope to win enough seats to stop it altogether.

What did Christine Blasey Ford say?

The hearing, which lasted for nine hours, brought an outpouring of support for Dr Ford – a university professor – from the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault.

Prior to Thursday, no-one had heard from the 51-year-old publicly since the allegations arose.

After addresses by the leading Republican and Democrat senators, Dr Ford delivered her statement, at times close to tears.

“I am here today not because I want to be,” she said. “I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”

She alleged Mr Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge had locked her in a bedroom during a small gathering at a house in a Washington DC suburb in the summer of 1982, when she was 15 and Mr Kavanaugh was 17.

She said Mr Kavanaugh had tried to remove her clothing, pinned her to a bed and groped her. Both men were “drunkenly laughing”, she said.

She added: “Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details.”

Under questioning by a Democratic senator, she said her most vivid memory was “the laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense… They were laughing with each other – two friends having a really good time with one another”.

In an answer to a question from another Democrat about claims of mistaken identity, Dr Ford said she was “100%” certain that Mr Kavanaugh had assaulted her.

Many of the 10 Democrats in the 21-person committee praised Dr Ford for coming forward – and supported her call for an FBI investigation into her allegations.

The 11 Republicans, all men, deferred most of their questions to a lawyer, Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell.

How did Brett Kavanaugh respond?

The 53-year-old federal judge took a combative approach but occasionally became emotional.

“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he told the committee.

“The constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.

“Since my nomination in July there has been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation.”

He insisted he would not be “intimidated” into withdrawing from the process.

“You may defeat me in the final vote but you’ll never get me to quit. Never.”

Mr Kavanaugh said he did not doubt that Dr Ford had been assaulted, but insisted: “I’ve never sexually assaulted Dr Ford – or anyone.”

He admitted he had drunk beer while at high school and under-age, but said he had never got so drunk as to forget events.

He added that his calendars for 1982 – which he had kept – showed he had not attended a party at the location Dr Ford had described.

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And his friend, Mark Judge, has sent two letters to the committee saying he has no recollection of the events described by Dr Ford and adding that he had never seen Mr Kavanaugh behave in the way alleged.

What has been the reaction?

The Democratic senators on the committee have called on President Trump to “immediately withdraw” Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Moments after the hearing ended, however, President Trump stood by his nominee and said he found Mr Kavanaugh’s testimony “powerful, honest and riveting”.

Mr Trump has repeatedly defended the judge’s character, saying he is “one of the highest quality people” he has ever met.

Thousands of protesters against the nomination took to the streets on Thursday and 59 people were arrested near the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

Are there other allegations against Mr Kavanaugh?

Julie Swetnick in an image provided by her lawyer Michael Avenatti
Julie Swetnick in an image provided by her lawyer Michael Avenatti: MICHAEL AVENATTI

Yes, and new ones appeared as the hearing loomed. At present they are:

  • Deborah Ramirez. The former Yale University classmate has said that Mr Kavanaugh once exposed himself to her at a dormitory party in the 1980s. She alleges the incident occurred during a drinking game and remembers Mr Kavanaugh standing to her right and laughing
  • Julie Swetnick. A Washington DC resident. In a sworn affidavit she alleges Mr Kavanaugh was involved in the drugging and sexual assault of girls at house parties in the 1980s. She says she was the victim of a gang rape in 1982 at a party attended by Mr Kavanaugh
  • AnonymousA woman sent a letter to a Colorado senator alleging her daughter had witnessed Mr Kavanaugh pushing a woman he was dating “very aggressively and sexually” against a wall in 1998

Mr Kavanaugh denies these allegations, and on Thursday called Ms Swetnick’s allegation “a joke” and “a farce”.

What happens next?

The Senate Judiciary Committee must vote on Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The vote could result in a recommendation that the candidate should be confirmed or rejected, or in no recommendation at all. This is expected to happen on Friday.

After the committee vote, the full Senate debates the nomination and votes on it. This might happen in the middle of next week.

Republicans want their nominee in place before mid-term elections next month, when they could lose their 51-49 control of the Senate. A simple majority of those present is needed for the confirmation. If there is a tie, the vice-president, who presides over the Senate, casts the deciding vote.

A number of Republican senators remain undecided, including Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Jeff Flake, as well as one Democrat, Joe Manchin.

However, in a letter after Thursday’s hearing, Robert Carlson, head of the American Bar Association – the body gathering US lawyers and students of law – urged a delay of the vote to enable the FBI to check the allegations against Mr Kavanaugh.

The association has previously supported Mr Kavanaugh for the role.

Dr Ford has also called for an FBI investigation. Under hostile questioning from Democratic senators on Thursday, Mr Kavanaugh said he did not see the need for such an investigation.



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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.

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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.

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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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