Hundreds of readers donate copies of depression memoir after Caroline Flack’s death | Books | The Guardian

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An independent bookseller has been deluged with thousands of requests after offering to send anyone who feels they need one a copy of Matt Haig’s memoir about depression, Reasons to Stay Alive, in an initiative the author called “such a positive thing on what was a pretty bleak weekend”.

Simon Key, who runs online retailer the Big Green Bookshop, was contacted by a reader, Emma, offering to buy a couple of copies of Haig’s book for people in the wake of TV presenter Caroline Flack’s death. Haig’s book details his own descent into depression, and his climb back out of it.

Key, who already runs a weekly “buy a stranger a book” club, told his Twitter followers about her offer, and said he’d “try to cover any others that are requested”. As thousands of requests poured in, readers were also quick to support him with donations.

“People have been very generous – some have given a pound or two; others more than £100,” Key said. Donations now stand at around £6,000 and are still coming in, with Key having sent out more than 600 books. He is still making his way through the requests he’s received – “I’m posting about one a minute,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday – shortly before he leaves for a half-term holiday.

“I’m getting thousands of DMs from people who need the book, and who are telling me why,” Key said on Monday. “This book has made a difference – lots of people have said it saved their lives. And this is not just about people getting the book, it’s about how they’re getting it. They’ve been brave enough to ask for it, and that’s a step forward.”

Blackwell’s in Oxford has also been giving away copies of the book to those who have asked for it, also funded by readers. Deputy manager Charlie Bush said the shop now had 40 books donated by readers, with the retailer discounting the price for donors and covering the postage costs.

“We really believe that books have the power to be life-changing and we also know that lots of people are going through tough times for all sorts of reasons. So we hope that people can gain some comfort and inspiration from Matt’s book. We tip our hats to Big Green Books for getting the ball rolling and offer huge thanks to customers who are making this possible with donations,” said Bush.

Flack had described Haig’s book as “honest and beautiful” on Twitter in 2015 and in the aftermath of her death, the author said that “when I had a bout of Twitter-fuelled depression just as Reasons to Stay Alive came out, this was the tweet that first lifted my spirits. We need more kindness.”

On Monday, Haig told the Guardian that the giveaways were “amazing … such a positive thing on what was a pretty bleak weekend. The response was phenomenal, and the generosity of so many people who volunteered to give copies to other people – online strangers – was, well, there are no words. It was just very touching and shows that the internet, and life in general, are a lot better when we try to look after each other. I am also pleased that this book, which I wrote over five years ago, is still able to help people in some small way.”

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

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Mookie Betts, David Price introduced by Dodgers | Los Angeles Dodgers

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Mookie Betts and David Price returned to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday for the first time since defeating Los Angeles in the 2018 World Series as members of the Red Sox.

But as the Dodgers’ new duo was officially introduced in center field — not far from where they celebrated the final out of that World Series victory — Betts said he’s hoping to end the 2020 season in similar fashion.

“I’d like to celebrate here again in this jersey,” Betts said, moments after putting on his No. 50 Dodgers uniform for the first time.

The Dodgers are hoping for a similar outcome following Monday’s blockbuster deal that brought Betts and Price to Los Angeles in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo (L.A.’s top prospect — and MLB’s No. 35 — a year ago), shortstop Jeter Downs (their third-highest ranked prospect on the 2020 Top 100 list, at No. 44) and catcher Connor Wong (No. 28 on the Dodgers’ 2019 year-end list).

Los Angeles has won seven straight division titles, but remains without a World Series championship since 1988. The Dodgers watched the Astros and Red Sox celebrate titles on their home field in 2017 and ’18, respectively, then won a franchise record 106 games in ’19, only to be eliminated in the National League Division Series — once again in their own ballpark.

“To be able to jump onto a team like the Dodgers, a team that has had the amount of success they’ve had the last couple years, and then add a player like Mookie Betts,” Price said, “and to then be able to add myself to that mix as well, that’s something special to be a part of, and we’re both very excited about it.”

They’ve arrived. pic.twitter.com/UAcvATulxe

— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers)

Manager Dave Roberts shared his excitement as well, as he is eager to pencil Betts into the NL’s highest-scoring lineup from 2019.

“As a coach, you just want to get going and what we do is compete, that’s what we love to do,” Roberts said. “I couldn’t be more excited.”

It’s hard to blame the skipper, who will have the luxury of rolling out the 2018 AL Most Valuable Player in right field alongside ’19 NL MVP winner Cody Bellinger in center field.

“We’ve kind of talked through passing at the All-Star Game and as we played here,” Betts said of his relationship with Bellinger. “It’s going to be pretty special. He won the MVP last year, so he’s definitely going to put on a show, and I’ll do my best to keep up with him.”

The Dodgers took on Betts’ entire $27 million salary for 2020. The 27-year-old outfielder is set to become a free agent following this season, and he has previously expressed his desire to test the market next winter.

Now that he’s arrived in Los Angeles, might Betts consider signing a long-term extension with the Dodgers?

“Right now, I just got here — still trying to find a house and those kinds of things,” Betts said. “I’m not even really thinking about that. I’m just focused on staying with 2020 and going from there.”

Along with the pair of MVPs in the outfield, the Dodgers will have multiple Cy Young Award winners in their starting rotation. Price, who won the 2012 AL Cy Young Award with the Rays, joins three-time NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.

Price has plenty of history with Dodgers general manager Andrew Friedman, who selected Price with Tampa Bay’s No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft. The Red Sox and the Dodgers will split the remaining $96 million owed to Price over the next three years.

“I’ve watched him grow and continue to evolve on the mound — and obviously the success he’s had is evident and everybody knows about that — but he was as good of a teammate as I’ve ever seen,” Friedman said. “The impact he has in the clubhouse was as significant as I’ve seen. … What he does on the mound every fifth day is obvious and evident to everybody that follows, but as we look to continue to supplement and add to this core group, what David brings goes beyond what he does every fifth day.”

Though the trade process had its hiccups and took nearly a week to complete after reports of a deal initially surfaced, Price and Betts said they were both thrilled to be in Los Angeles on Wednesday and eager to report to Glendale, Ariz., next week.

“Once we found out we were both coming, we were excited,” Price said. “We shared some text messages and phone calls, and we’re excited to be here.”

Paul Casella is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.

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‘Watch out Tesla believers’: Critics are piling on to warn the 300% stock rally will crash and burn

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  • Tesla shares have soared 300% in six months, hitting an all-time high of over $900 on Tuesday.
  • Investors, analysts, and politicians are warning investors the rally won’t last.
  • “I have no doubt it will end in tears for many people,” one investor said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Tesla shares have surged about 300% in the past six months, hitting an all-time high of over $900 on Tuesday. Traders, analysts, and politicians are lining up to warn investors that the run up won’t last.

“This is obviously a computer-generated rally, it’s not a reflection on the company, or on valuation. It’s just a trade,” Andrew Left, the activist short seller behind Citron Research, told MarketWatch this week.

“Yes, I’m shorting it … whoever bought it at these prices has to flush it out, and when it flushes, it’s going to flush hard,” he added.

Left’s comments came after Citron blasted the stock rally as unsustainable.

“We believe even Elon would short the stock here if he was a fund manager,” the equity-research publisher tweeted on Tuesday. “This is no longer about the technology, it has become the new Wall St casino.”

Others have warned Tesla’s rally will hurt those left holding the stock when the music stops.

“This is an incredibly dangerous place to be buying the stock and I have no doubt it will end in tears for many people,” trader and analyst Jani Ziedins wrote in a recent post on his Cracked Market blog.

“Owning a stock that’s tripled over the last few months is great, but don’t mistake serendipity for skill,” he continued. “While the fools are spending all of their time daydreaming about what they will buy when the stock breaks $1,200, smart money is selling their stock to those greedy dreamers.”

Matt Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak, echoed those sentiments in a CNBC interview this week.

“This is taking Tesla well above a level that would be supported by its current fundamentals,” he said. “The stock is going to get absolutely clobbered at some point before long.”

Even former presidential candidate Ralph Nader sounded the alarm, warning Tesla could take down the entire stock market.

“When the stock market bubble implodes, it will have been started by the surge in Tesla shares beyond speculative zeal,” he tweeted.

“Watch out Tesla believers,” he added in a follow-up tweet.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: A big-money investor in juggernauts like Facebook and Netflix breaks down the ‘3rd wave’ firms that are leading the next round of tech disruption

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Fox’s MacCallum Gives Rand Paul Safe Space For Impeachment Trial Sabotage – NewsHounds

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After rejection by Chief Justice John Roberts and some of his own colleagues for trying to out the whistleblower in an impeachment trial question, Sen. Rand Paul ran to his safe space on Fox News. There, he freely sabotaged Trump’s impeachment with disinformation that was validated by “straight news” anchor Martha MacCallum.

Yesterday, Paul deliberately flouted Justice John Roberts’ impeachment trial rules by re-submitting a previously-denied question outing the Ukraine whistleblower. When it was refused again, Paul stalked out of the trial and publicly aired his question (and the alleged name of the whistleblower) to reporters and on Twitter.

MacCallum helped reveal the whistleblower’s name without actually doing so by suggesting viewers read Paul’s tweet: “Anybody who wants to hear the whole text of that question and the names that you included, it’s on your Twitter feed and you talked about it today and I would direct them there but I’d ask you not to say them here,” she said.

She continued by asking “why you feel it’s so important to focus on the origins of this investigation and to bring that point home.” Nice way to ignore the actual findings of the investigation, Martha!

MacCallum did not mention that Roberts had signaled he would not allow whistleblower outing before the question period began, nor did she mention that top Republicans were in accord.

Instead, MacCallum cocked her head with a look of intent listening, messaging that Paul’s comments were to be taken seriously – unlike the serious impeachment accusations against Donald Trump which she conveniently ignored.

Paul claimed his question did not name the whistleblower, thus contradicting Chief Justice Roberts. Politico explains that while Paul may not have technically outed the whistleblower, he “named a person referred to in conservative media as the purported whistleblower.” But MacCallum didn’t challenge Paul’s disingenuousness.

So, we got a stream of Democratic demonization, unquestioned. Paul claimed his question discussed “two Obama partisans who worked in the National Security Council” one of whom now supposedly works for Rep. Adam Schiff and “one of them is someone who is involved in the origins of the impeachment inquiry.”

MacCallum nodded in agreement.

Paul persisted with his claim that “there are stories and reports now that they, a few years ago, were heard saying, you know what? We’ve got to do everything we can to bring down the president, to take down the president.”

You may recall that Fox described MacCallum as the embodiment of “ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism” when it pleaded with the DNC to hold a debate on the network. But “ultimate professional” MacCallum never bothered to ask Paul his source for that smear. Nor did she note that even if true, that does not disprove any of the evidence uncovered during the House impeachment investigation. No, Fox’s “ultimate professional” continued nodding as Paul promoted his unsubstantiated, pro-Trump propaganda deflection and whataboutism.

Paul went on with his conspiracy theory (and MacCallum continued nodding in agreement) about “six people who were Obama partisans who worked for the National Security Council who all are transmitting stuff back and forth and my question is, did they have discussions predating the official impeachment inquiry?” We also heard about House Manager Adam Schiff’s supposed dishonesty in the process but none about Trump’s dishonesty – and it’s Trump’s behavior that is on trial.

But MacCallum responded to Paul by saying that questions about the origin of the Ukraine investigation, just like those about the origin of the Russia investigation, “are certainly valid questions.” She called it “frustrating” that there’s no cross examination. But she wasn’t promoting the calling of any witnesses, oh no. She meant Paul had no opportunity to see Schiff “try to answer” Paul’s questions. She later “asked,” on behalf of “anybody at home who says, yeah, I’d like to know the answer to these questions, why doesn’t the Senate Judiciary Committee or the DOJ, someone, start to look into this, just as we saw happen with the origins of the Russia investigation? Is that gonna happen?”

“Maybe eventually,” Paul replied. He quickly segued to promoting himself as “a big defender of whistleblowers.” He claimed that the whistleblower is only protected from being fired so he or she should come forward (and death threats are A-OK).

And Rand Paul wouldn’t be a Republican if he didn’t play the victim. “I never identified anybody as a whistleblower,” he disingenuously reiterated. “That’s why it’s unfair to exclude my question.”

Finally, in the last minute of the 7:15 interview, MacCallum asked if Paul saw “anything wrong” with Trump’s Ukraine phone call and whether he saw it as “a request for a political favor?”

Paul falsely claimed that there was a lot of corruption and that Trump “would actually be going against the law if he didn’t investigate the Bidens” (i.e. hold up aid to Ukraine) and that Trump’s actions were “completely within compliance with the law.”

FACT CHECK: The Pentagon sent a letter to four congressional committees last May certifying that Ukraine had taken sufficient anti-corruption measures to warrant the release of aid. The Department of Defense announced in mid-June that it would release $250 million but the White House blocked that assistance in July.

FACT CHECK: Furthermore, the Government Accountability Office found that Trump violated the law by withholding the aid.

But “ultimate professional” MacCallum never mentioned any of that to her viewers.

You can watch MacCallum enable Paul’s gaslighting propaganda below, from the January 30, 2020 The Story.

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Details of Facebook, NCC meeting emerges – Daily Post Nigeria

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Top Management staff of Facebook paid a visit to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), on Thursday, to explore opportunities for collaboration and partnership for infrastructure deployment to strengthen connectivity, enhance businesses and bolster citizens’ embrace of digital culture.

Ibrahima Ba, Network Investment Lead at Facebook Office in the United States, who led the delegation to NCC, stated that robust infrastructure was the bedrock of the massive connectivity that signposts Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

Facebook had successfully undertaken two connectivity projects in Edo and Ogun involving a total of 800 kilometres of fibre connecting institutions and operators towers.

He said that considering the connectivity gap that still exists in the country, there was a need for further expansion of infrastructure as increased penetration of services will require further deployment of infrastructure.

Ba, who declared that Nigeria was important to Facebook being Africa’s most populous country, emphasised that his company looked forward to seeing opportunities for partnerships manifest to ensure infrastructure expansion in fibre connectivity.

Ba advised the NCC to facilitate additional liberalisation of partnership and collaboration processes with stakeholders, a proposition Jerry Ugwu, Deputy Director Legal and Regulatory Services at NCC, assured that the NCC will explore.

Edoyemi Ogoh, Deputy Director Technical Standards and Network Integrity at NCC, who led the team that received the Facebook delegation on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive (EVC/CE) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, commended the group’s interest in the Nigerian market.

He affirmed that NCC was aware of the importance of central infrastructure to the expansion of telecom services, and added that the realisation explained NCC’s adoption of the Open Access Model (OAM) and the licensing of infrastructure companies (Infracos) to cascade fibre to the hinterland of Nigeria.

Ogoh noted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent re-designation of NCC’s supervising ministry as Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy was a conformation of Federal Government’s commitment to encouraging more citizens to embrace digital culture.

Stressing that the NCC is central to these processes, the official added that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has continued to demonstrate his commitment to tackling bottlenecks to infrastructure expansion.

He cited the recent meetings between the Minister, the EVC and Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) which focused on streamlining and standardization Right of Way (RoW) charges.

Ogoh disclosed that the Commission was finalising processes to institute the ‘Dig Once Policy’ that will encourage operators and other key players in infrastructure segment to have greater strategic collaboration in the laying of fibre especially in the context of the upcoming National Broadband Plan 2020-2025.

On Ba’s delegation were Erik Schmidt, Network Strategy Manager, Facebook Infrastructure; Adaora Ikenze, Head West Africa (Public Policy); Imran Abass, Partner Manager, Sub Saharan Africa; and Fargani Tambeayuk, Africa Public Policy Manager (Connectivity).

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Hull business woman Georgia Allenby has big, personal plans for old Ceruttis restaurant – Hull Live

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Property firm design manager Georgia Allenby’s next project is creating a new home for herself at one of Hull’s best-known former restaurants.

Famous for its fish dishes, Ceruttis closed its doors last April after 45 years.

Its closure came after brother and sister Tony and Tina Cerutti announced plans to concentrate on their other restaurant in Beverley while expanding an existing external catering business.

The property in Nelson Street was previously used by British Rail in conjunction with the operation of the nearby Humber ferry.

Now Ms Allenby is planning to turn the clock back even further by converting the building into a three-bedroom residential dwelling after buying it. It was originally built in 1813 as a family home.

Allenby

She has submitted a planning application to Hull City Council seeking permission to change its use from commercial to residential.

In a design and access statement accompanying the application, she said: “The property was originally built for residential use in 1813.

“The reason for me purchasing the property is to convert it back into a three-bedroom house, which I will occupy myself.

“The property is rich in heritage and any original or historic features, which still exist in the interior and exterior, will be kept and preserved.”

Watch: When do you need planning permission?

Play now

Ms Allenby is the design and marketing manager at Hull-based family firm Allenby Commercial, which has acquired and refurbished a series of high profile properties in the city centre in recent years.

They include Paragon Arcade, Danish Buildings and Bayles House in High Street, the former Europa House office block at the junction of Ferensway and Anlaby Road and the multi-use Works business and leisure complex in Beverley Road.

Ms Allenby is also a director of the Hideout Hotel in North Church Side, another of the company’s recent city centre conversion schemes.

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Death, Diarrhea and Late Night Sackings: The Inside Story of an Unfolding Staff Nightmare at UBA and Dangote

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Last November, thousands of Lagosians including hundreds of UBA Bank employees attended what was billed as the ‘party of the year’ at the Lekki Special Events Centre on Admiralty Way.

The UBA RedTV Rave had everyone from Wizkid to Olamide to Jidenna to Burna Boy thrilling the festive crowd as UBA chairman Tony Elumelu and CEO Kennedy Uzoka mingled with the artists and guests.

On the surface, this was the best of times, as a bank that was clearly in rude health celebrated a successful year with thousands of employees, friends and family. The bank had also recently concluded a recruitment exercise that would add nearly 4,000 new employees to its staff strength, so the year ahead looked to be a promising one for most employees present. 

Unknown to them, while senior executives danced with Wizkid in the VIP area, one of the most brutal staff layoffs in Nigerian banking history was just around the corner. They partied well into the night and then showed up for work the following week as usual. A week went by. Two weeks. Four weeks. Then right at the start of the new year – a shocker.

Closed at 5.30PM, Terminated at 10.30PM

Ifunanya (name has been changed) was asked to wait behind at work on Friday January 3. As a 12-year UBA veteran including a long stint in her role as a Branch Operations Manager at a branch in Ojodu, Lagos, this was not an unusual request to receive. She was even used to working weekends so that the ATMs could remain functional and she could troubleshoot other onsite customer-facing issues. This time however, was different. 

Along with other staff members at the branch, she was asked to wait for a board meeting. By 10.30PM, the assembled staff were informed that their services were no longer required. They were then told verbally to write out their resignation letters on the spot and leave voluntarily or be forced out. At this point, her security pass was taken, and along with the other affected staff, her profile was unceremoniously deactivated from the bank’s internal system. She was reminded to drop her work ID on the way out, and thus ended a 12-year association with the bank.

When a relative of hers reached out to tell the story, he was keen to make the point that she was not an agency employee, but a full UBA employee on a monthly salary of N153,000. He could not understand why the bank would treat her that way. I heard similar stories from two other sources who insisted that they were coerced into resigning after being told that their services were no longer required right at the start of the new year.

Shocking and callous as these stories may have sounded, one of the first things you are taught in any professional journalism program is to always balance the story. So I sought an alternate account of what transpired, with the goal of putting the picture together to tell a complete story. There were conflicting accounts of the events of January 3 flying around, with some accounts describing a recruitment and promotion exercise without mentioning any firings, while others reported a purported “restructuring” at UBA, which is a well-known euphemism for “mass sack.”

I managed to establish contact with a current senior employee at UBA who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak about such matters. This was his account of what happened at UBA bank at the start of this year:

“Usually when anyone joins UBA with a Bachelor’s degree, they are put on a GT1 level (N80,000). After one year, they are promoted to GT2 (N100,000), then after another year ET1 (N140,000) which is where a lot of people get stuck on. If you are lucky, you get to ET2 (N165,000). So what UBA did was to meld those 4 levels into one (ET) so any one who was on GT1 and GT2 gets automatically promoted to ET2. Those that were on ET1 and ET2 got promoted to SET (Senior Executive Trainee). 

So it was a promotion of sorts, but honestly it was long overdue because compared to other banks, N80,000 for entry level staff is quite low. About the layoffs: I only know 4 people personally who got affected. The people affected were on manager grades and worked at the head office, they all reportedly got 6 months arrears.”

According to this source, he was not personally aware of the fate of any branch staff or what he termed ‘OND staff.’ He did however say that in his opinion, the bank handled the situation poorly and that Nigeria does need stronger labour laws to protect young graduates fresh out of school from exploitation for cheap labor at the hands of corporates like UBA. He also mentioned that he knows current UBA staff have not had a salary increase in ten years – a remarkable situation for workers in a country whose currency has declined 195 percent over the same period.

As it later emerged, more than 2,000 staff were affected by the shocking late-night cull at UBA. It also became increasingly clear that the firings had nothing to do with a harsh operating environment or decreased profitability. The bank which had brought together Nigeria’s most expensive music stars to perform at its end of year shindig was anything but struggling – it actually hired more people than if fired. What the sackings did though, was clear out a number of people in roles that the bank considered obsolete, particularly within branch operations.

It can definitely be argued that such restructuring is inevitable in the face of rapidly changing technology, which is hardly a terrible thing. What is also true however, is that the bank that paid huge sums of money to bring Burna Boy and Jidenna to an annual vanity event that adds nothing to its bottom line could also afford to retrain its redundant staff to fit into new roles –  instead of just sacking them and instantly bringing in thousands of readymade replacements.

Yet again, the actions of a Nigerian corporate made the point that Nigerian labour law, in addition to be being poorly enforced is also woefully inadequate and unfit for purpose. If after 12 years of useful service to a bank, Ifunanya could be dumped out onto the street without even a few hours of notice – and no regulatory action was forthcoming – then clearly, Nigerian employees working for Nigerian companies have a problem on their hands.

As much as the UBA situation made that point, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to unearth about another Nigerian corporate behemoth.

Diarrhea in India, Death in Ibeju-Lekki: The Unbelievable Story of Dangote Refinery

While senior executives at UBA House were going over the finer points of their plan to log 2,000 employees out of their work systems and force them to resign on the spot, a different level of labour exploitation was entering its fourth year about 73KM east of the Marina. There, at the site of the Dangote Refinery at the Free Trade Zone in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, the refinery was taking delivery of the world’s largest crude oil refining tower.

While this was predictably being celebrated across local and foreign media as the start of a glorious new chapter in Nigeria’s industrial history, I was speaking to a whistleblower with close and detailed knowledge of the project. What he had to say about the refinery project, the Indian project managers, the company’s internal culture and its much-publicised trainee program left me absolutely floored. Naturally I reached out to Dangote Group for a comment, but at press time I have received no response or acknowledgment.

My source, whom I shall call “Mukhtar” worked in and around the refinery project between 2016 and 2018, and what I found most distressing amidst everything he said was the revelation that deaths due to onsite accidents are not just known to happen at the refinery site, but are effectively covered up by Dangote. This he said, is because the people who die are mostly site labourers who are hired through staffing agencies instead of directly. When they die, it becomes the staffing company’s problem and the Dangote brand distances itself from it – even though the site owner is legally responsible for all safety-related incidents onsite.

Something else that struck me was that he implied that – contrary to all its public posturing – the company actually has no intention of using Nigerian engineers to run the refinery anytime soon. The trainee program that sent dozens of Engineering graduates for a one-year training program in India? “Strictly PR,” he said.

Accidents
The first batch of Dangote Refinery trainees head off to India in March 2016

For full effect, I have decided to reproduce the full and unredacted transcript of our conversation instead of using quotes and reported speech. Here is the conversation below:

ME: When we started this conversation, you mentioned that Dangote Refinery is exempt from Nigerian labour laws. What were you referencing?

Mukhtar: Because the refinery is in the FTZ, it is not subject to certain laws like local content laws. As such, even mundane jobs are given to non-Nigerian companies. Even the refinery’s fence wall was handled by a Chinese company. This didn’t stop long stretches of the fence from collapsing sometime in 2017. The FTZ affects Labour laws too. The company is not really under any obligation to employ Nigerians. They do so mostly for PR. All key decision makers are Indians (say 98%).

ME: There have been several horror stories about Indian-run businesses in Nigeria. Was this one of them?

Mukhtar: Yes, the Indians are quite racist. Some even demand to be referred to as “master”. To be fair, when this is reported, the HR unit makes a show of cautioning them. But I dont think anyone has ever been dismissed for it or seriously punished. Most of workers who meet their death on site are labourers. So their names might be known to many staff. I’ll see what I can get. It happens. It’s kept under wraps but it happens.

ME: Now you mentioned onsite deaths earlier. I want to know all about this. Why haven’t we heard anything about this?

Mukhtar: The refinery site is not really the best place to work. Mortality rate on site is quite high. People falling from heights or getting crushed by heavy vehicles/machines is quite common. These numbers are not reported because most staff are contract staff (or outsourced) so the company gets to wash its hands off such cases. But safety on site is the ultimate responsibility of the owner of the project. The construction site has a board that is supposed to display the safety statistics but it is never displays the truth. According to that board, there has never been a fatality on site. But in reality, I think 2018 had about 5 fatalities between January and March. If I were to guess, I’d say there have been over 25 fatalities since construction started in 2016/17.

ME: Now you said earlier that the trainee program was a washout and a disappointment. Fill me in on that.

Mukhtar: I was one of the first batch of engineers sent to India for training in 2016. In my opinion, the whole scheme was either poorly thought out or the company was somehow compelled to do it, and did so for PR. Our salaries were being paid into our accounts in Nigeria, so we were using our debit cards to access our Nigerian accounts for expenses over there) Around July 2016 when the naira went from around 160 per dollar to nearly double that number, our spending power was effectively halved.

ME: I also remember that there was a forex shortage crisis in 2016 and Nigerian bank cards stopped working outside the country.

Mukhtar: So when the banks eventually stopped all cards from functioning abroad, we were stranded. The company resorted to selling us dollars or rupees at the black market rate.They deducted the money from our salaries. We had accommodation (two adults per room) and feeding (Indian food which many of us did not like). Some of had to buy intercontinental dishes regularly, because Indian food is really not nice if you’re not into many smelly spices. It was crazy. Meanwhile we were told categorically that we would have Nigerian food and Nigerian cooks. It was a blatant lie by the Indian HR director.

Also, no arrangement was made for our medical care. Those who fell ill had to treat themselves from their pockets. During the currency crisis, those who fell ill had to rely on the rest of us to put together our spare change to pay for their treatment. The company promised to refund medical expenses, but this shouldn’t have been the situation in the first place.

ME: Tell me about the training program. What was the course content and the experience like? Was it what you were expecting?

Mukhtar: The training itself was a mess too. We were supposed to be trained to operate the refinery (at the time, it was said that it will be completed by mid 2017), but we were sent to a design company. These (designing a refinery and operating it) are two very, very different things. The trainers did not want us there in the first place. It was not a part of their initial contract with Dangote. Plus, they didn’t know what to teach us because designers are not operators. They were confused, several times, they asked us what we wanted to learn. But we could not know what we wanted to learn cos we knew nothing about the entire business. In the end, they reluctantly settled for teaching us design (skills we were/are unlikely to use cos the refinery was already 90% designed). 

ME: If you say that the refinery was “already 90% designed,” and you were learning design in India, that sounds like your presence was superfluous. Was the company really serious about sending you to learn skills to run a refinery?

Mukhtar: Indians will run the refinery. It will take many many many years before that refinery will be populated by just Nigerians. It was strictly PR. Anyways, the training with that design company was suddenly terminated on December 31st. Apparently, Dangote had not paid them a dime for all the months were were being taught design. They didn’t want to send us back to Nigeria so they moved us to the Dangote office in India. The office housed the Indian engineers (around 150 – 200 in number) who were supervising the design work being done by the design company. Now, it is interesting that these guys were working and earning as expatriates within their own country.

But realising that the “training” was a blunder, the company sent back some engineers to train in an actual refinery. So what was supposed to be a 1 year training became 2 years.

ME: Since returning to Nigeria, is there anything else you have noticed about the project that worries or disturbs you?

Mukhtar: Yes. So we have only the refinery at the FTZ, but the company gets to import things meant for other branches of the company duty-free. As a matter of fact, with the Dangote jetty in place and a customs office right there, the company no longer needs to clear stuff at Apapa. Dangote empire effectively has its own customs and port, because we cannot assume that the custom officers stationed at Dangote’s jetty/FTZ are extremely meticulous in checking what comes in and goes out. Personally, I find this disturbing. No non-military entity should be able to import stuff that easily into any country. This is bigger than just skipping custom duty payment.

–Ends–

Between bank staff being fired at 10.30PM and refinery site labourers being killed by workplace accidents without accountability, the sheer grimness of the picture facing Nigerian workers comes into stark relief. It is afterall, an employer’s market, with several thousand qualified people jostling for every job opening, which creates the possibility and incentive to treat staff like battery animals.

Whether the Labour Ministry is willing or able to do anything about such blatant labour exploitation is anybody’s guess. Nigeria’s government is increasingly weak and unable to impose its will on the country even territorially. In the event that the government did take interest, there is a valid fear that it would go to the other extreme and adopt a lazy anti-business Hugo Chavez approach, as it so often does. The real solution if there is to be one, must come from Nigerian labour having a stronger bargaining position through an improved economy. Anything else as it stands, is little more than a sticking plaster.

As Mukhtar mentioned, even inside the ridiculous situation of being financially stranded in a foreign country at the behest of an irresponsible and insincere Nigerian corporate, the vast majority of the group chose to suffer in silence. They did so because spending a year abroad learning useless information, suffering deprivation and experiencing diarrhea after being forced to eat unfamiliar food was still preferable to whatever alternative was at home.

Ultimately, that is the biggest problem facing Nigerian labour. 

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KCC offers free manufacturing training for Battle Creek residents

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KCC program offers free manufacturing training available for Battle Creek residents


Elena Durnbaugh


Battle Creek Enquirer
Published 6:00 AM EST Dec 6, 2019

Kellogg Community College wants to help Battle Creek residents launch a career in skilled trades by offering a free manufacturing training program for those who meet income requirements. 

The Kellogg Advanced Manufacturing Assembly training program focuses on providing students the technical skills required to get a job in manufacturing and the professional skills needed to succeed.

“We have companies that are coming up and are like, ‘Hey, we need people,'” Workforce Solutions Career Coach Cherise Buchanan said. “They want people who are going to be committed and are going to stay there, and I think having these students come through our program and saying, ‘Hey, I can make it through this six-week program, and I can be there on time, and I can be there every day.’ You’re going to have a better opportunity.” 

Students at Kellogg Community Regional Manufacturing Technology Center campus experience what it’s like to work on a factory floor.
Elena Durnbaugh

The program will start in January at KCC’s Regional Manufacturing Technology Center campus. Courses cover foundational skills in technical training in manufacturing, Occupational Safety and Health Administration industry training, writing and computer classes and basic math for manufacturing.

Students also get experience working on a production line. 

“It’s changing the whole concept of what it means to go to college.” Kellogg Community College Chief Communications Officer Eric Greene said. “So many people… think going to college means I’ve got to be there for two to four years or longer. There’s going to be homework. It’s going to be all lecture based. But this is college. These are college credits they’re earning toward an actual degree, but it doesn’t feel like a traditional college experience.” 

‘What do you need to be successful?’

Students will earn 8.74 college credits, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-Hour General Industry Certification and the WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate. 

Throughout their training, students learn industry standards for efficiency, quality control and safety so that, upon completion of the program, they’re ready for work in an entry-level position. 

“They’re actually learning these and putting them into practice,” Program Manager Lisa Larson said. “They’re debriefing at the end of each session. They’re doing several different production runs and then they’re talking about what defect they found and how they can do better.” 

As part of Kellogg Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Assembly Program, student learn what it’s like to work on an assembly line by building an industrial strength cart from these parts
Elena Durnbaugh

The program also teaches students the soft skills needed to get a job.

Through a partnership with Michigan Works and Goodwill Industries, students in the manufacturing program receive resume building and mock interview training, as well as financial literacy instruction. They also get assistance with job placement.

Students also receive support services to help them overcome other barriers such as transportation or having enough to eat.

“Anything our students need, we all kind of work together to make sure they get what they need,” Buchanan said. “I like to say, ‘Look at the total person…What do you need to be successful?'” 

DENSO, Trillium among employers

Companies including DENSO Manufacturing, Trillium Manufacturing and Advanced Special Tools Incorporated have hired people from the program, and more companies are taking interest.

“Sometimes when we go on company tours, we have past KAMA students from four or five years ago giving the tours,” Larson said. 

In some cases, Larson said, students who go through the manufacturing program will return to Kellogg Community College for more specialized training.

Greene said the program typically has high placement rates and job advancement rates.

“They come through our program, and they get a job, and then a short time after that, they get a raise or a promotion,” he said. 

Even if students can’t find a job right a way, they can enroll in a paid work experience in manufacturing through Goodwill.

“Everybody can leave doing something if they chose,” Buchanan said. 

The program is part of Kellogg Community College’s Innovative Accelerated Credentialed Training, known as iACT. The programs, which include manufacturing and nurse assistant training, are designed to quickly prepare people with workforce skills. 

“There’s just a lot of progress toward our local workforce becoming more reliable, more vital, just to the overall production that goes on in this community,” Greene said.

Paid for by W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Both iACT programs are made possible through three-year a $2.8 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Next year will be the final year of the grant. 

Larson said Workforce Solutions would like to expand the program.

“We’re hoping to just keep continuing this because it is a very popular program. The employers recognize it. They value it, and we want to keep it going,” she said. 

To be eligible for the program, those interested must be 18 years of age and a Battle Creek resident. They must also meet income eligibility guidelines determined by household size. For example, an individual must make less than $24,280 to apply.

Twenty slots are available in each session, and the deadline to apply for the January advanced manufacturing training program is Dec.16. Classes begin January 27. 

Contact Elena Durnbaugh at (269) 243-5938 or edurnbaugh@battlecreekenquirer.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ElenaDurnbaugh. 

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Pirates Inbox: Chris Archer, Chad Kuhl | Pittsburgh Pirates

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PITTSBURGH — The holiday break is over and the new year is upon us, which means it’s time to kick the Hot Stove talk to another level. While the Pirates finalize their roster with an eye on Opening Day, we’ll answer some of the questions you’ve sent to the Pirates Inbox.

The Pirates are short on great starting options, so the chance of this is small. But, say they trade or acquire a starter and Mitch Keller and Chad Kuhl look good. Any chance they could try Chris Archer as a late-inning reliever, possibly a closer if they trade Keone Kela? He seems to be his best as a two-pitch pitcher and he’s an emotional guy. It seems like he could be a great reliever.
–Jason D.

It’s an interesting question, and it may not take an additional starter to bump somebody out of the rotation on Opening Day. Take a look at their top options heading into the new year, and you can easily come up with six pitchers worth taking a long look at: Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams, Archer, Keller, Steven Brault and Kuhl.

I think you’re on the right track with moving somebody to the bullpen, but I don’t think it’d be Archer. He’s 31 years old and hasn’t made a relief appearance since the 2013 American League Division Series. His value, when he’s right, is as a durable starter — and it would make sense for the Pirates to try to maximize that value while they can.

That’s true, by the way, whether he’s on the team or a potential trade candidate. If he’s with the Pirates, you’re hoping that a new pitching coach will help him get back to his 2013-17 form. If you’re Pirates management and you’re also viewing him as a trade asset down the line, you could probably get more out of him as the starter he used to be rather than as an experimental reliever.

I definitely agree with your point that Archer, as primarily a two-pitch guy who tends to play with more emotion than your average starter, might be an interesting back-end reliever at some point. That said, his biggest issues last year were walks and homers; being prone to either would immediately spell trouble for him out of the bullpen, and there’s no guarantee that moving to a relief role would fix those problems.

But I do think you’re on the right track with moving somebody to the bullpen. I’d be really curious to see if Kuhl could work his way into a late-inning role. When he spoke near the end of the season, for what it’s worth, he said he was preparing to come back as a starter.

But I’ve heard from more than one player who thinks Kuhl has closer stuff — a high-90s fastball with a bunch of offspeed offerings that he could sharpen, refine and use more selectively when he doesn’t have to turn over a lineup three times. It’d be interesting to see, at least.

The risk there is pretty obvious: Kuhl is coming off of Tommy John surgery, and he’s been a starter his entire life. How would his arm respond to throwing multiple days in a row? How careful would the Pirates have to be with a potentially important arm in their bullpen? Do they really want to risk sending him to the mound 50 times or more when he hasn’t pitched in a Major League game since June 2018?

On the other hand, moving Kuhl to the bullpen would naturally restrict his workload in terms of innings and pitches thrown. There would be no expectation that he’d have to throw more than 70 or so innings out of the bullpen, probably even fewer than that.

Outside of a few pitchers, the Pirates’ bullpen was a disaster last season. But it might be an interesting group with Kela, a healthy Edgar Santana and Nick Burdi, a bounce-back year from Kyle Crick, a more consistent Richard Rodriguez, a still-developing Michael Feliz and Clay Holmes, a long man like Chris Stratton and the potential addition of Kuhl.

Who was the player to be named later that the Pirates got from Philadelphia for Corey Dickerson?
–Bob K.

Turns out, there wasn’t one. The Trade Deadline deal was initially announced as Dickerson for $250,000 in international slot space and a player to be named later, but there was no player sent back to the Pirates.

The way the whole thing played out was strange. Every report out of Philadelphia at the time of the trade indicated there would be no player coming back, and everything I heard also signaled that the deal was just for additional international spending capacity. But for whatever reason, when the move went down, the announcement included a player to be named later … who was never named, even five months later.

After we talked at the Winter Meetings out in San Diego, my MLB.com colleague Todd Zolecki and I made one more push for information and only heard back that, “It was a cash deal.” It wouldn’t necessarily be unusual if that meant the Phillies sent the Pirates cash instead of a minor prospect; some trades allow for the final piece to be a PTBNL or cash. But that wasn’t mentioned in the initial announcement of the Dickerson deal, and there was no clarification as to whether that meant additional cash or just the international slot we already knew about.

It’s not like the Pirates gave away Dickerson for nothing — teams can turn $250,000 of international spending space into a good prospect or prospects — but I hope nobody was getting their hopes up about that PTBNL.

With a first-time manager, shouldn’t the Pirates have hired a more experienced bench coach to help with strategy? I love Donnie Kelly, but just wondering if it’s too much, too soon.
–Terry L., Pittsburgh

That’s usually how teams support a first-time manager, but I don’t know if it was necessary for Derek Shelton. For one, he’s a first-time manager, but he’s managed in the Minors, coached for more than a decade and spent two years as a very involved bench coach. It’s not like he’s jumping into the dugout with no relevant experience.

Second, Kelly spent the last year working closely with Astros manager AJ Hinch and bench coach Joe Espada. He was essentially training to be a bench coach, whether it was here, Houston or elsewhere. And in terms of in-game strategy, he spent most of his playing career thinking along with the manager. He’s prepared.

There is also experience elsewhere on the coaching staff, primarily in the form of third-base coach Joey Cora. He served as a Minor League manager as well as a big league bench coach and interim manager in the Majors before joining Pittsburgh’s staff. You’ll just about always find Cora on the top step of the dugout, closely following the game. He’ll help, too.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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BUK Emerges Top in Global Digital Challenge, Gets Facebook Honorable Mention – PRNigeria News

BUK Emerges Top in Global Digital Challenge, Gets Facebook Honorable Mention

Bayero University Kano (BUK) has emerged top four among world Universities in the just concluded Fall 2019 Peer-to-Peer: Facebook Global Digital Challenge.

The University emerged runner up after Masaryk University — (Czech Republic) – FakeScape, Middle East Technical University — (Turkey) – Kiz Basina, Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan (Philippines) – I AM MINDANAO, thereby defeating Haigazian University Lebenon, Lithuania Christian College International University, ABTI American University of Nigeria (AUN) and Lagos State University Nigeria, most of whom were defending champions.

This season, the top three teams will be presenting their campaigns at the end of March 2020 in Brussels, Belgium to a panel of senior leaders, policymakers and guests.

In an email to participating teams, the Programs Project Manager, Paige M. Blair stated that, “The variety, insight, and creativity of the campaigns this term were beyond impressive and made judging quite difficult. All schools are commended for the innovative ways they positively impacted their local communities.”

BUK’s campaign was themed “HeartUmight,” and it focused on ethnic based hate speeches as a bane on our collective unity and source of other divisive tendencies with a view to inspiring at risk youths and the silent majority into countering such narratives online.

As runner up to the finalists, BUK’s HeartUmight got a honorable mention from Facebook and a $500 Facebook Ad Credit to continue scaling their work online.

Speaking, the Faculty Coordinator of the program, Dr. Nura Ibrahim, who is also the Head of the Department of Information and Media Studies said, “We are glad we made impact and got recognized for the impact we made. Our long term aims were clearly mapped out from the outset and our vision is to create an online inclusive society where culture and diversity is unified.”

Also speaking, Dr. Muhammad Danja the Staff Adviser for the campaign and also a lecturer with the Department expressed enthusiasm about future of the campaign. “As a build up on our previous effort, we were able to look inwards and design ba campaign that will make impact, stand firm and scale up in line with the overall goal of the challenge, that was why we were able to defeat Haigazian and ABTI American University who were actually defending champions this term so I am optimistic we shall emerge finalist in our next outing.”

On his part, the team lead, Muhammad Dahiru Lawal a 300Level Student of the Department of Information and Media Studies explains that, “In planning our strategy for the Campaign, we discovered that apart from religious based hate speeches, ethnic based hate speech are basically the most dominant in our online trails as indicated by our research, hence we decided to design a campaign that is unifying.”

He further said that, “we had hoped to make the finalist but at least we made a difference by winning in our own way. This is not the end of the road.”
Facebook Global Digital Challenge, is geared towards making a social impact on internet behaviour especially as it involves posts and comments considered violent, debasing and inflammatory by the receiving party.

The P2P Challenge is sponsored by Facebook and managed by EdVenture Partners (EVP).

As at the end of the Fall 2018 term, the P2P Challenge has been implemented over 695 times at over 400 universities in 75 countries and 40 U.S. states. P2P has generated over 200 million combined online and offline impressions since its inception in spring 2015.

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