opinion

Inside Aleppo’s fight for water and electricity

One local government in rebel-held Aleppo is trying – and struggling – to provide its people with basic services.

Russia has intensified its air strikes in an attempt to back up the Syrian government’s offensive in Syria’s Aleppo, killing scores of people, Al Jazeera has learnt.

The reports of deaths come amid another breakdown of peace talks in Geneva and a donor conference in London where world leaders have pledged $10bn to help Syrians.

At least 37 people have been killed, including three children, in suspected Russian air strikes on several neighbourhoods in Aleppo city, a local activist speaking on condition of anonymity told Al Jazeera on Thursday.

“Syrian and Russian air strikes have targeted al-Bab, Hmeimeh, Soran and several other neighbourhoods in Aleppo province. We can confirm that 37 people have been killed but we are expecting the death toll to rise,” he said.

he UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 21.

Russia launched its military operation in Syria in September 2015, and it says the campaign is against armed groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has seized territory in Iraq and Syria, and al-Nusra Front.

Against this backdrop of escalating political tensions, Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it was ready to participate in any ground operations in Syria if the US-led coalition decided to start such operations.

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia announces its readiness to participate with ground troops within the US-led coalition against ISIL,” Brigadier-General Ahmed Asseri, who is also the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen, told Al Jazeera.

The Syrian government launched a major offensive from the north of Aleppo and captured several strategically important towns on Monday.

Syrian forces and their allies broke a three-year rebel siege of the two Shia towns of Nubul and Zahraa in Aleppo province, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported on Wednesday, cutting off a main supply route to nearby Turkey.

The breakthrough comes after days of rapid military gains north of the major city of Aleppo, with Russian air strikes playing a key role in the advance.


Inside Aleppo’s fight for water and electricity


Nubul and Zahraa, with an estimated 60,000 population, are connected to the border by areas under the control of Kurdish armed groups that provided access.

The towns have been besieged by rebels since 2012, and reaching them had long been a goal of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which has also sought to sever vital rebel supply routes into Aleppo from Turkey.

In a separate development, two women have died due to malnutrition and the cold in the besieged town of Madaya, activists say.

Syrians wait for the arrival of an aid convoy on January 11 [AFP]

Abou Ammar, an aid worker in Madaya located west of Damascus, told Al Jazeera that the situation is becoming worse as supplies have began to run out.

“A 16-year old boy died before yesterday because of malnutrition. We told the MSF [Doctors Without Borders] charity that we have at least 64 new cases of people suffering from malnutrition. What was distributed last month is expected to last 30-35 days,” Abou Ammar said.

At least 19 people have died of malnutrition since three aid convoys entered the town on January 11.

“We were told to expect further humanitarian aid this week. The previous batch of aid did not include enough medical supplies or medication for diseases such as diabetes.

“Some people are in desperate need of urgent hospitalisation.

“The temperature drops to below zero at night and people are burning anything they can find to stay warm.

“In Syria, we are either bombed or starved to death.”

Madaya, which in controlled by opposition fighters, has been under siege by government forces and Hezbollah fighters since July.


Letter from Madaya: ‘Why doesn’t anyone care?’


Images of malnourished Madaya residents shocked the world in early January, showing wide-eyed babies without access to milk and elderly men with cavernous rib cages.

On Jan 31, MSF said that an estimated 320 people in Madaya were suffering from malnutrition, 33 of whom were “in danger of death if they do not receive prompt and effective treatment”. 

More than half of Syria’s displaced are children, UN says [Bassam Khabieh/Reuters]

Up to two million Syrians are trapped in sieges by the government or by opposition groups, MSF said last month.

Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict suffered a setback on Wednesday when Staffan de Mistura, the UN Syria special envoy, announced a temporary suspension of talks in Geneva between the opposition and the government.

Following a meeting with the opposition’s Higher Negotiations Committee (HNC) in the Swiss city, de Mistura fixed February 25 as the date for resuming talks.

Earlier on Wednesday, quoting information from the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), the opposition accused the Syrian government and Russia of killing at least 300 civilians since the launch of the so-called Geneva III conference on January 29.

The Geneva negotiations are meant to develop a “road map” to end the nearly five-year conflict that has resulted in more than 250,000 Syrians being killed.

The conflict has also displaced millions more and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing as refugees to Europe.

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opinion

Veteran Somali journalist dies, aged 80

BY: Ali Haji :

Somali legend and  most celebrated veteran journalists has died suddenly at a hospital in the Somali capital Tuesday, family announced.

Abdi Haji Gobdon, a pioneering long-time journalist as well as a former government spokesman has died after a brief illness at Daru Shifa hospital, his brother Abukar Gobdon announced.

His work largely focused on patriotism and promoting peace in a desperate attempt to educate the seaside capital’s population, majority of them a young generation about peace.

Tributes have been paid to the prominent journalist whose family said had no history of illness apart from a long-running breath complications prior to his death.

Mr. Gobdon worked in both the print and broadcast media.  He was well-known for his radio programs in 1980s which he had started on early 1960s soon after the horn of Africa nation gained its independence.

His former colleagues note that Mr. Gobdon had a passion for broadcasting, a talent which has drawn the admiration of the Somalis for the journalist.

His fans included the former Somali president Mohamed Siad Barre who later appointed him as his spokesman, according to his former colleagues described him as a ‘towering’ and ‘talented’ journalist.

Many of his colleagues recalled his stature in the field of journalism.

His death has been met with touching tributes on the social media as thousands of Somalis paid their respects to the late journalist, saying that his death was an enormous loss in particular for the media
fraternity and the nation in general.

 

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opinion

People Who Curse And Swear May Actually Have Higher Verbal Intelligence

BY: Jordan wanjiku

 

Don’t you hate it when you miss your f—ing train, or when your friend acts like a complete a–hole at a party? How about when you lose your keys — ain’t that a b–ch? Hearing someone use swear words may bother you, or even suggest to you that they’re less verbally intelligent. If that’s the case, however, then you may be surprised by the results of a new study published in Language Sciences. According to the research, a lack of verbal fluency has nothing to do with how often people use profanity.

For the study, researchers recruited more than 200 college students aged 18 to 22 to take a Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT). The verbal fluency test is designed to measure spontaneous production of words belonging to the same category. And students completed both written and oral tests in three specific categories: general fluency (standard vocabulary); taboo word fluency (curse words like f–k, s–t, and a–hole); and animal word fluency (words like bird, bat, and tiger).

“Taboo or ‘swear word’ fluency is positively correlated with overall verbal fluency. The more words you generated in one category meant the more words you generated in another category, orally and verbally,” Dr. Timothy Jay, of the Department of Psychology at Massachusetts College Of Liberal Arts and author of the study, told Medical Daily.

The animal fluency portion of the COWAT test is a semantic category that produces more words than the swear word category. As an extra semantic category, it allowed researchers to compare fluencies and better identify a positive correlation between them.

Jay wanted to dispel the idea that people who swear do so because they have a bad vocabulary. He cited one study that found speakers who used profanity were rated lower in terms of socio-intellectual status than speakers who were more restrained. “It’s part of your emotional intelligence to know how and when to use these words. If you’re thinking about it from a moral perspective, you’re missing how common and normal it is. Everybody knows this language,” he said.

Taboo words, like the F-word, elicit emotional and connotative uses in many different ways. Swear words are grouped not only based on their meaning, but also based on their negative connotative valence — basically they’re intense emotional expressions that aren’t always well-received. A separate study Jay cited found college students frequently use taboo words; an interesting finding considering the verbal acumen of college students is reportedly higher than average.

In Jay’s study, however, being fluent in taboo words was positively correlated with other measures of verbal fluency, undermining this common myth about taboo words. Speakers who use taboo words understand their expressive nature and nuanced distinctions, implying the presence of more apt linguistic skill. Not to mention other studies have found swear words can double as a pain reliever.

“The research has gotten a lot of attention because it confronts the prejudice against offensive language that’s been around for 300 years. Kids swear, it’s normal for people to know how to swear,” Jay concluded.

Source: Jay T, Jay K. Taboo Word Fluency and Knowledge of Slurs and General Pejoratives: Deconstructing The Poverty-Of-Vocabulary Myth. Language Sciences. 2015.

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opinion

A New study shows kenyan youth prefer in self employed

Kenyan youth are deeply troubled over rising levels of unemployment and are rooting for opportunities to access capital, set up businesses and engage in productive ventures, a new survey indicates.

Unlike in the past, the current generation of youth have put their faith in business, with 48 per cent preferring to venture into entrepreneurship and just 26 per cent keen on employment and careers.

Unlike before, most youth are highly educated and skilled. They are optimistic that despite corruption and scandals, the future is bright as the society will seek to reward merit and hard work rather than mediocrity and sleaze.

Notably, the youth demonstrate a disdain for ethnic identity and bigotry, with the majority seeking to be identified by their nationality.

They have little regard for politicians, generally regarded as unreliable.you

 

KENYA YOUTH SURVEY REPORT

 

These findings are contained in a study entitled: “The Kenya Youth Survey Report” commissioned by the Aga Khan University’s East African Institute.

It was conducted in October and November last year and involved 1,854 respondents aged between 18-35 years and will be launched online next week.

East African Institute director Dr Alex Awiti said the findings will be shared among key stakeholders, including government, private sector, youth, civil society and faith leaders to stimulate debate and generate practical policies and action plans to prepare the youth for the future.

The study focused on nine thematic areas, namely, identity, integrity, political participation, values, aspirations, education, employment, youth and government, and the future.

youth

Overall, 63 per cent of the respondents expressed worries over the high unemployment rate, which gravely affected those without secondary and tertiary education.

On average, it emerged that 55 per cent of the youth are unemployed, with females bearing the brunt at 62 per cent and worse among rural women at 68 per cent.

Contrastingly, the majority of those with university education are employed; just one out of five graduates is not engaged productively, an indication that university graduates are not any better in terms of job placement.

 

CONTRADICTIONS

 

Strikingly, the report captures contradictions in the minds of the youth.

For example, although they are optimistic about the future where merit counts, they are equally distressed at declining levels of integrity.

Whereas in some questions the respondents expressed their abhorrence of corruption, when the matter was asked directly, some of them seemed unperturbed and were willing to partake in it.

On integrity, half of most respondents indicated that it does not matter what one does to get money and wealth so long as one is not caught.

Further, 47 per cent expressed admiration for those who have acquired money and wealth through dubious means, while 30 per cent think corruption is a profitable venture.

Not surprisingly, 35 per cent were categorical they would easily give or take bribe if a situation presents itself.

The inference is that since corruption has become so entrenched in society with the perpetrators hardly getting punished, the youth are increasingly getting convinced that it is not a desecration after all; and that one can easily give or receive bribe and thrive on it without feeling guilty since it does not attract any penalty, anyway.

When asked on the issue of values, 85 per cent of the youth put faith at the top, 60 per cent ranked family while 45 per cent voted for work.

Even so, the study captures another 62 per cent that appear to be vulnerable to political manipulation.

In particular, 40 per cent of the youth blatantly declared that they would only vote to a candidate who pays them.

POLITICS

Contrary to common perception that the youth are apolitical, the survey shows that majority of them are seriously attuned to events in the political arena and profess their desire for democracy and good governance.

“Compared to their urban counterparts, rural males were twice as likely to vote for the candidate who bribed them; similarly, 40 per cent more rural women, compared to urban women, would vote for the candidate who bribed them.”

From the responses, it can be deduced that because of high levels of unemployment, many youngsters are vulnerable to bribery by politicians, especially in rural areas, and that in itself, is a threat to democracy that embodies free choice.

Despite the low points, the youth see a brighter future, with 77 per cent indicating that the country will be richer, offer job opportunities and promote meritocracy.

In view of the findings, the study concludes that the country has a chance to eliminate ethnicity, build a strong education system that leads to a knowledge-based economy.

However, unemployment remains a threat as more youngsters graduate from the education system.

Also, the country continues to face integrity challenge as the youngsters themselves are ready to partake in corruption, evade taxes and engage in other questionable deals.

Moreover, few of them are ready stand for what is right for fear of retribution.

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