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Bars to close at 11pm, says CS Mutahi Kagwe

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe speaks at Afya House on October 21, 2021.
Bars and restaurants will now be expected to close at 11pm, Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has announced.
The move is effective next week, he added.
The directive comes amid confusion over whether the establishments could operate past 7pm after President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted the curfew on Wednesday.
However, CS Kagwe maintained that other Covid-19 protocols including handwashing and sanitisation at bars and restaurants are still in place.
He was speaking Thursday during a press conference at Afya House, where he urged Kenyans to continue following his Ministry’s rules on safeguarding against coronavirus spread.
On whether night travel will now be allowed, the CS said the Ministry of Transport will give direction on this.
He urged Kenyans to go for Covid-19 jabs, adding that Kenya will soon receive 500,000 J&J vaccines.
Vaccine distribution with food
Acting Director General for Health, Dr Patrick Amoth, noted that distribution of vaccines in arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya was a challenge because health facilities are few and far apart.
To this end, the government will now use food distribution networks to also give Covid-19 jabs to residents, Dr Amoth said.
“Use of mobile facilities is also part of the plan to ensure Asal regions are vaccinated. We will follow the pastoralists,” CS Kagwe said.
Despite declining Covid-19 infections, the Ministry says the fast-spreading Delta variant is still the main strain in Kenya.
“We are keenly looking out for sub-variants of Delta among others though genome sequencing,” Dr Amoth said.
The Ministry has also advised Kenyans to stick to same vaccine and not go for booster shots. – nation.africa

You have 14 days to appoint judges, High Court tells Uhuru

From left: Justices George Odunga, Joel Ngugi, Weldon Korir and Aggrey Muchelule.
The High Court has ordered President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint the six remaining judges, who he had earlier rejected, within 14 days.
The six are Justices George Odunga, Aggrey Muchelule, Joel Ngugi and Weldon Korir, together with Mombasa chief magistrate Evans Makori and High Court deputy registrar Judith Omange.
Upon lapse of the 14 days without Mr Kenyatta making the appointments, it will be presumed his power/authority on the issue is expired and the six nominees will be deemed as duly appointed to their respective offices, the High Court said.
Subsequently, Chief Justice Martha Koome and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will be at liberty to take all necessary steps in having the nominees sworn in and assigned duties.
Additionally, the High Court said the Presidency will bear costs of the petition that was filed by Katiba Institute to enforce declaratory orders made in February 2020 to the effect that President Kenyatta had violated the Constitution.
At the same time, Attorney-General Paul Kihara Kariuki survived an attempt to be declared unfit to continue holding the office of principal legal advisor of government, due to his advise to President Kenyatta on the judges’ appointment saga.
The judgment was delivered by a three-judge bench comprising Justices George Dulu, William Musyoka and James Wakiaga.
In June this year, President Kenyatta appointed 34 of the 40 judges who were recommended by the JSC.
No reasons were given at the time. Later, President Kenyatta said he snubbed their promotions in June this year on grounds that they are tainted and have integrity issues.
In his defence, the President said his decision to leave out the six was guided by the letter and spirit of the law, which he swore to defend, and the desire to serve Kenyans well.
“As long as I serve as President, I will choose the right over the convenient; I will choose the hard over the easy, and I am not doing this for myself, but for the people of Kenya and for posterity,” the President said at the time.

Bypass Uhuru

But in the judgment passed by the High Court Thursday, President Kenyatta appears to have been defeated in the standoff because the judges are set to start their new duties without his nod.
In making the decision to skirt the President should he again refuse to appoint the nominees, the court said the Constitution does not envisage a scenario of how to enforce execution of an obligation that an office holder has failed to perform.
When confronted by such a scenario, the judges said, the court was being urged by the petitioner to create innovative ways of enforcement.
“Because the President has failed to perform his duty since July 2019 (when JSC made the nominations of 41 judges), we are persuaded to find his power to appoint expired after 14 days. In advancement of the rule of law and to forestall further constitutional crisis and violation of the Constitution, we order that the nominees be deemed as appointed to their respective offices. This is the best way to unlock the Constitutional crisis created by President’s failure to obey the court orders,” said the court.
It was also held that there is no legislation that makes it mandatory for judges to be sworn in before the President, with the court noting that it is just a traditional practice that judges take oath of office in the presence of the President.
In absence of the law or a constitutional provision that requires the swearing in to be done before the President, the court said the lacuna leaves it open for the head of the Judiciary to perform the function.
In the long run, the court said, judges are sworn in by the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary and not the President.
“The President has no discretion to tinker with the list of nominees as forwarded by the JSC. The list is forwarded to him by JSC to make appointments without any subtraction,” said the bench.
It is not the first time President Kenyatta has cherry-picked judges for appointment. In 2014, he initially appointed 11 judges from a list of 25. He appointed the remaining 14 judges almost a year later in May 2015.

Fate of AG Kariuki

As for the Attorney-General, the bench declined a request by the petitioner to declare AG Kariuki unfit to hold office over his advise to the President in relation to the judges’ appointment saga.
But the court said Katiba Institute, through lawyer Dudley Ochiel, did not provide evidence on how the AG voted in the selection of the 41 judges and the kind of advise he gave the President on the matter.
The court, however, said the AG having participated in the recruitment and selection of the nominees as a JSC member, he was not the right person to respond to the complaints raised.
“Having taken part in the interviews, the AG was conflicted. If the Executive was of a contrary view, it should have been articulated by any other office not him,” ruled the court. – nation.africa

Bitcoin rallies to fresh peak above $67,000 after ETF launch

Bitcoin prices have gained 130 per cent in choppy trading since the start of the year
Bitcoin has rallied to a record high a day after a bitcoin exchange traded fund launched on Wall Street for the first time, garnering strong demand in a sign of the booming investor interest in the asset class.
The digital coin struck a high of $67,016, surpassing its April peak, following the debut on Tuesday of the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF on the New York Stock Exchange.
“The launch of the Bitcoin futures ETF marked an important milestone for the industry,” said Win Thin, global head of currency strategy at US bank Brown Brothers Harriman. “We see it as an undeniably positive step for the crypto industry, and the market seems to agree.”
The approval of the ProShares ETF, which holds futures tracking the price of bitcoin, opened the floodgates to other filings. Investment manager VanEck applied on Wednesday for a futures-based fund, while Grayscale, the largest digital asset manager with $38bn of bitcoin under management, filed to convert its holdings into an ETF backed by outright holdings of digital tokens.
Markets cheered the launch and subsequent applications because the new vehicles could draw in more investors. Andrea Filtri, co-head of European equity research at Italian investment bank Mediobanca, said that the fund would “allow for a much broader reach [for] the cryptocurrency as ETFs are regulated assets”, adding that financial advisers could now more easily add crypto exposure to client portfolios.
Since the start of the year, bitcoin prices have gained 130 per cent in choppy trading, during which the digital token hit a series of record highs in the first quarter before collapsing to about $28,000 in June. Some of the pullback in the summer was down to fears about more stringent regulation.
Cryptocurrency markets have grown significantly since March last year to reach $2tn in value, partly driven by professional investors jumping into the industry. The decision by the US Securities and Exchange Commission not to block the ProShares fund was also seen as a sign that major global regulators are becoming more comfortable with crypto-backed products, even if they remain cautious on the industry more widely.
Traders will also be able to wager on the price of the ProShares bitcoin ETF through derivatives known as options, which allow investors to build significant positions in the fund without holding it outright, the New York Stock Exchange said on Wednesday.
Still, many leading investors remain wary of cryptocurrencies given their intense volatility and the fact that typical valuation models for financial assets often do work in digital markets.
“While we see growth opportunities in the technology underlying digital assets, we view direct exposure in crypto coins and tokens as suitable only for highly risk-tolerant and speculative investors,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management. – ft.com

UK Petrol retailers warn of record prices at the pumps within days

A petrol station in East London, on Saturday.
UK petrol retailers have warned that prices at the pumps could hit record levels by the end of the month, adding to the cost of living squeeze.
Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, says that the previous records are “almost certain to be eclipsed before the end of October”.
Back in April 2012, petrol hit a record high of 142p per litre while diesel reached 148p per litre.
Prices are nearing that level, the PRA warns, with Experian Catalist UK averages hitting 141.35p per litre for petrol yesterday, and 144.84p per litre for diesel.
Madderson says this increase is being driven by higher oil prices. Brent crude hit a three-year high over $85 per barrel last week, up from around $51 at the start of the year.
The primary reason is the rise and rise of crude oil costs which recently hit $85 per barrel for Brent Crude.
This involves more than a 50% increase since January 2021 and has been caused by a cutback in production from OPEC countries and Russia at the same time as the global economies are staging a rapid economic turnround from the global pandemic. There is no immediate sign of a change to this position and some analysts have talked about further oil price rises to $100/barrel by Christmas.
The Opec+ group slashed production last year, and is sticking to its policy of gradually increasing production by 400,000 barrels per month – despite the White House urging them to pump faster.
Madderson adds that motorists haven’t seen the full impact of rising oil prices:
Current average pump prices across the UK are being softened by some of the largest retailers who typically benefit from a 3 or even 4-week lag to their delivered fuel prices.
Last week, AA data showed that petrol had hit 140p for the highest since the record levels in 2012 (on a nominal basis, not adjusted for inflation). – The Guardian, London

Bitcoin Price Breaks All-Time High to $66,415 Surpassing April’s $64.8K Peak

Bitcoin has broken its former all-time high and is now officially looking at price discovery. This comes on the back of serious developments in the industry – just today, the first-ever SEC-approved futures-backed Bitcoin ETF started trading.

The previous all-time high of Bitcoin’s price was set on April 14th, 2021 and it was at $64,895 trading on Bitstamp exchange – exactly 6 months and 6 days ago. As of writing these lines and shortly after breaking the ATH level, Bitcoin quickly reached a record high of $66,415.

Deadly snake discovered in shipment of rocks sent to Essex from India

Deadly snake discovered in shipment of rocks sent to Essex from India

The saw-scaled viper was discovered in a shipment of rocks sent to Essex from India
A stonemason in Essex discovered more than just rocks in a recent shipment when he was faced with one of the world’s deadliest snakes.

The container of rocks, that had been sent from India, was also home to a saw-scaled viper that had managed to hole up inside for the journey.

The stowaway serpent is usually found in the Middle East and central and southern Asia, and is responsible for a high proportion of snakebite deaths due to it living close to areas inhabited by humans.

South Essex Wildlife Hospital (SEWH) were called to the scene and the viper – that is extremely venomous – was locked in a box in a sealed room while the team waited for an expert to collect it.

The charity said the snake was “very agitated and aggressive” and could have killed someone had it not been locked away.

Sue Schwar, SEWH’s co-founder, told the BBC that the people who opened the crate where the snake was found were “very lucky to be alive”.

She added: ”Having dealt with [a saw-scaled viper] before, we understood fully the gravity of just how dangerous these reptiles are – they are way up there in the top few most-deadly snakes.”

It is thought the snake was less active as it had been travelling in cold temperatures.

After collection the snake was “hissing and spitting” on its way to a hospital in Grays.

Schwar said that arrangements were being made for the snake to be looked after by a “responsible owner” who understood the dangers of the species.

Saw-scaled vipers can reach lengths of up to 80cm and are quick to bite if they feel threatened.

Due to the availability of anti-venom, bites from this particular species do not always causes deaths but victims can suffer from haemorrhaging, resulting in them bleeding to death.

Google eyes TaskMate global launch after Kenya rollout

Googleplex – Google Headquarters with Android figure
Nairobi, October 18, 2021
Google has today launched TaskMate in Kenya, a crowdsourcing app that lets people use smartphones to do tasks and get paid, tapping the growing gig economy. The tech giant said it has rolled out the beta version after a year-long experiment in the East African country and is preparing to introduce it to other countries across the continent. The app is available in India too, where it’s also in the pilot stage.
TaskMate mobile app users fulfill skilled and unskilled tasks such as translation or photography for businesses — that are approved by Google to post on the platform.
TaskMate joins a growing list of apps and services launched by Google that offer people payment for services carried out. They include a rewards app that lets people get paid for filling out surveys and local services ads that link businesses, at a fee, with clients within their vicinity.
“Today we have launched TaskMate, and it’s the first time we have opened it in Africa and across the world,” said TaskMate product manager, Mike Knapp.
The pilot started in Kenya late last year and users were able to carry out different tasks including taking photos of plants for a research project carried out by Penn State University. The app’s gigs are defined as either sitting or field tasks.
“We went to a pilot phase where we had 1,000 people use the app, and they gave very positive feedback. And so now we’ve moved to the beta phase. And we’re really experimenting at a bigger level at this point,” said Knapp.
“And we’re looking for businesses and startups to come and experiment with us on the platform, to see how this can help them solve the difficult problems that they’re working on,” he said.
Businesses posting tasks on the platform have the option of making it available to a select group of people or can invite specific people to carry it out. TaskMate users in Kenya withdraw the money earned through mobile-money payment platform M-Pesa, run by Safaricom, the biggest telecommunication company in the East Africa region.
“This is a crowdsourcing platform that simplifies the distribution and accomplishments of tasks from business, for businesses and organizations. It is also an app that provides opportunities to Kenyans, whether it’s community building or earning extra income. This is Google’s commitment to build for and with Africa, in its digital transformation journey” he said.
The launch happened as Google announced that it had disbursed $10 million in loans to help small businesses across Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa make economic recovery brought about by the COVID pandemic. Google is disbursing the loans through Kiva, a San-Francisco based nonprofit lending organization. The funding is part of the $1 billion it said a fortnight ago it will invest in Africa.
Google’s investment will include a subsea cable, which will cut across South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St Helena, connecting Africa and Europe. It will offer faster internet and create about 1.7 million jobs in Nigeria and South Africa by 2025 as the digital economy grows, they said.
Africa’s digital economy is expected to grow as integration continues, offering newer growth opportunities as more people get connected. In sub-Saharan Africa, about 303 million, 28% of the population, are currently connected to the mobile internet according to the 2021 GSMA mobile economy report. This number is expected to grow to about 40% by 2025, offering a bigger market to internet-based businesses and services such as TaskMate that are tapping internet connectivity and Africa’s youthful population.

President Kenyatta on warpath with estranged DP

President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to kick out corrupt leaders from his government before the end of his term next year, escalating a raging war of words with his deputy.
The President’s statements made on Monday in his Mt Kenya backyard came just a day after his Deputy President William Ruto publicly complained that he had been branded “a thief” despite having campaigned for his boss and won the presidency.
Speaking in Gikuyu, the Head of State, while addressing crowds in Karatina, Nyeri and Rukenya said he will act decisively.

Other legal means

“And I’ve said it before, that I’m not seeking votes again and will, therefore, ensure I’ve purged all fraudsters. Isn’t it? Do we agree on that? I don’t fear anybody and nobody should blame me for that. It’s time to work,” he declared.
The President cannot sack his deputy, but he can use other legal means such as impeachment to remove him.
DP Ruto has, since falling out with his boss, avoided direct references to President Kenyatta while on his campaign trail, but on Sunday, he accused the President of political “conmanship” for branding him a thief.
“Now they’re calling me names, branding me a thief. When I supported Raila Odinga, they said I was dependable; when I supported Uhuru Kenyatta I was dependable. Today when I opt to make the jobless prosper, they label me a fraud. Are these not cons? To hell,” said the DP.
The bitter exchange sets the stage for an uneasy Mashujaa Day fete tomorrow should the DP decide to attend the celebrations to be held in Kirinyaga County.
The President warned central Kenya residents to be wary of whom they want to elect in next year’s General Election. He appealed to them to shun sustained campaigns targeting his administration.
At Rukenya, in Kirinyaga County, after inspecting the Sh8.5 billion Thiba dam, the President accused his deputy of going round the country hurling insults at him and offering empty promises to Kenyans.
“When some leaders achieve their political ambitions, you will not see them again when you are in need. Be watchful. Use your brains well lest you suffer forever if you make a mistake of choosing a wrong leader.
“Kenyans should go slow because the country is not going anywhere,” he said in a veiled reference to his estranged deputy.
He caused laughter when he told supporters to receive handouts from his deputy “but choose wisely when time comes to elect a leader,” he said.
Accusing some leaders in his government of frustrating his efforts to rally them behind his development agenda, the President said he won’t stop pursuing peace and unity of all Kenyans.
He urged his political base to focus on the work his government was doing. He cited the recently reduced fuel costs and said Kenyans should soon expect lower electricity bills.
“I don’t speak much but even God is my witness that I’m working. And you’ll see more, very soon,” he said in Karatina.
The President said he will return to the region and tell the residents the political direction to take.
“This is not time for politics. We’re now working, but when time comes, I’ll play politics,” he added.
The President said the Thiba dam will double rice production and supply clean water to residents once complete.
“We’re determined to ensure the project which will improve the living standards of the residents is completed,” he said. The dam is scheduled to be completed this year and is expected to increase water supply to farmers in the expansive Mwea Irrigation Scheme.
The President said the government will also build a hospital within the dam site.
“The residents from this village agreed to give out their farms to pave the way for the construction of the dam, and we’ve reciprocated by building a hospital for them,” he said.
President Kenyatta also inspected road and water projects at Kagio area.
Earlier, the president urged Kirinyaga leaders, led by Governor Anne Waiguru, to unite and work together as a team so as to achieve faster development and prosperity for their county.

Enhance mobility

He cautioned the leaders against politics of deceit and empty rhetoric. Good leadership, he said, emphasises peace, cohesion and unity of the people as enablers of development.
He met the county leadership at Sagana State Lodge in Nyeri County ahead of the Mashujaa Day celebrations at Wang’uru Stadium in Mwea.
Governor Waiguru, who read a memoranda by the leaders, thanked the President for his leadership, which, she said, had helped transform the lives of Kirinyaga residents through various development projects implemented by the government.
She said the ongoing dualling of the Kenol-Sagana-Marua highway, and construction of Kutus-Kianyaga-Kiamutugu-Githure and Karima-Kianjege-Mukangu roads as well as Nyamindi bridge will enhance mobility in the region. – nation.africa.

Crypto-fund assets explode to all-time high as first-ever ETF launched

THE PRICE of bitcoin is set to surge to an all-time high after the world’s first exchange-traded fund (ETF) was announced on Friday.
Bitcoin now stands at $62,000 dollars, just $2000 away from the $64,0000 record it hit in April.
The overall crypto market hit $2.5trillion on Monday evening and analysts predict that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will beat their previous records in the coming months.
The ProShares Bitcoin Futures ETF, which was approved by the ETF on Friday, will begin trading on the New York stock exchange on Tuesday.
This will make the most widely traded cryptocurrency available to most investors who have a brokerage account.
According to the digital assets management company CoinShares, the ETF approval: “Could prompt further significant inflows in the coming weeks as U.S. investors begin to add positions.”
Prominent bitcoin analyst PlanB predicts the cryptocurrency will reach six figures within the next two months.

Repackaging cryptocurrencies through ETF

won’t automatically reduce risks

Repackaging cryptocurrencies through an ETF won’t automatically reduce the risks involved, said Andrey Dobrynin, Co-Founder and Managing Director of ETF specialist investment platform InvestEngine.
“As with all investments – investors should invest at a level or knowledge and risk that they are comfortable with,” he told the Express.
“Whilst ETFs traditionally provide excellent diversification and convenient access to markets – there are always things to consider such as the track record of product providers, replication methods and, in this case, the performance of the underlying futures contracts.
“Without forgetting the fact that Bitcoin remains largely an unregulated asset class which is still establishing itself on its use.”

UK daily cases near 50,000 – as Downing St admits winter looking ‘challenging’

Coronavirus latest as UK daily cases near 50,000 and are the highest since mid-July, as Downing Street admits winter is looking “challenging” but there is currently “no plan” to reimpose restrictions.
The British public has been warned that the coming months will be “challenging” as coronavirus cases reached almost 50,000, the highest daily level since July 17.
Downing Street said an increase in coronavirus cases had been expected over the winter and the government would keep a “close watch” on the situation.
Epidemiologist and government adviser Prof Andrew Hayward said the situation was “concerning” and there was “huge potential for the NHS to come under a lot of pressure”.
Government data up to Monday shows there have been another 49,156 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.
Another 45 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 138,629.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics on Friday showed coronavirus infection levels in England are getting close to the peak of the second wave and are mostly being driven by rates among schoolchildren.
“We obviously keep very close watch on the latest statistics,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said. “We always knew the coming months would be challenging.
“What we are seeing is case rates, hospitalisations and deaths still broadly in line with the modelling as set out a few months back now.
“The vaccination programme will continue to be our first line of defence, along with new treatments, testing and public health advice. But we will obviously keep a close watch on cases.
“But it is thanks to our vaccination programme that we are able to substantially break the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths.”
The spokesman said the success of the vaccines meant “we are able to be one of the most open economies in Europe, which is benefitting the public and indeed businesses as well”.
A medical worker prepares an injection of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine in Baitul Futuh Mosque, London, in March. Photo: Reuters
“I think it’s concerning that we’ve got very high rates of infection and higher rates of hospitalisation and mortality than many of our European counterparts,” Prof Hayward, a member of the Sage scientific advisory panel, told BBC Radio 4.
He said waning immunity was “probably part of” the reason infections were high.
Prof Hayward said that there was “some evidence” that protection against infection was beginning to wear off, and “probably some evidence” that protection against severe disease was waning to a lesser extent.
“We shouldn’t be complacent because there is still huge potential for the NHS to come under a lot of pressure and for there to be a lot of unnecessary deaths,” he said.
“So we need to get the vaccination rates up and we need to be prepared potentially to think about other measures if things do get out of control.”
“Different countries are potentially at different stages of their vaccination programmes and have different measures in place, so it’s difficult to compare and contrast,” Downing Street said.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “What’s important is we strike the right balance between protecting lives and livelihoods.”
The government’s autumn and winter plan suggested that some measures including the mandatory use of vaccine passports and face coverings could be required in England if cases were putting unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
But Downing Street insisted: “There is absolutely no plan to introduce Plan B currently.” – skynews.

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