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‘Modern-day slavery’: Kenyan domestic workers tell of abuse in Saudi Arabia | Domestic workers

When Joy Simiyu left Kenya for a new job as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia, she believed her life was about to take a turn for the better. While the 25-year-old had never envisioned herself making a living through housework, her dreams had grown distant after she dropped out of college due to financial pressure.

“I was desperate for a job,” said Simiyu, one of a growing number of Kenyans who travel to the Gulf to seek work, pushed out by the country’s high unemployment rates.

But within months, Simiyu was back in Kenya, with a harrowing but familiar tale of employer abuse, cautioning others against travelling to Saudi Arabia for work.

Saudi Arabia is known for its poor labour and human rights record, and is widely considered one of the most dangerous places to work in the world. Employers in the Gulf state have been dogged by allegations of physically, mentally and sexually abusing their migrant housekeepers for years; claims which continue to resurface.

In Kenya, reports of abuse sparked fresh outrage earlier this month when online photos of a young Saudi-based Kenyan worker, Diana Chepkemoi, looking frail went viral, along with claims that she was facing employer abuse and neglect. Under growing pressure from the public, the government repatriated her and a few other domestic workers facing a similar plight in the Gulf state, including Simiyu.

Diana Chepkemoi arriving in Kenya after being repatriated from Saudi Arabia following claims of abuse and neglect by her employer.
Diana Chepkemoi arriving in Kenya after being repatriated from Saudi Arabia following claims of abuse and neglect by her employer. Photograph: #BringBackDianaChepkemoi

Simiyu says that she faced a torrent of abuse while in Saudi Arabia – that she was forced to work in multiple homes, and deprived of food and rest. She also claims her employer would withhold her wages, claiming that she was “not doing enough work to demand pay”, or that she would be paid in due course since “she was not going nowhere”.

“It’s modern-day slavery,” said Fred Ojiro of Haki Africa, a Mombasa-based human rights organisation that advocates for the rights of workers across the continent.

Until just a few years ago, Saudi Arabia’s kafala system required housekeepers to gain permission from their employer if they wanted to change jobs or leave the country. Rights groups say this policy left them vulnerable to abuse.

This year alone, Haki Africa has received more than 51 complaints of abuse from Kenyan domestic workers based in Saudi Arabia, several videos of distressed women asking for help, and at least 10 new calls for help after reports of abuse resurfaced in September.

The Gulf is plagued by complaints of mistreatment of its domestic workforce, with estimates by the International Trade Union Confederation showing that more than 2.1 million women employed in households across the region are at risk of exploitation.

At the height of the abuse, Simiyu says she escaped the house she was working in and went to the agency that had recruited her, requesting to be transferred to another household. The agency promised to get her work in two days, but that stretched into weeks, and many other women had been waiting much longer.

She alleges that agency officials would lock them in a hostel, with only one meal a day, and hound them for sex in exchange for a new assignment. It was only after Simiyu and a few other women escaped the hostel and publicly resisted agency officials’ efforts at a forced return that the women were taken to the Kenyan embassy in Saudi Arabia, which facilitated their return.

Simiyu considers herself fortunate to have made it back home. At least 89 Kenyans, most of whom were domestic workers, died in Saudi Arabia between 2020 and 2021, according to a report by Kenya’s ministry of foreign affairs presented to the national assembly late last year. Saudi Arabia attributed these deaths to “cardiac arrest”.

Faced with these grim statistics, the foreign affairs ministry proposed a ban on the deployment of Kenyan domestic workers to Saudi Arabia until protection measures were taken. But Kenya’s cabinet secretary for labour, Simon Chelugui, rejected those calls, saying that hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were employed there under “favourable conditions”.

Countries like Uganda and the Philippines have previously halted deployment of their domestic workers to Saudi Arabia over widespread reports of abuse, but later lifted the bans. Like Kenya, both countries receive significant remittances from their citizens working in Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf is the third-largest source of diaspora remittances for Kenya, and payments have doubled over the last two years, making a sustained ban on the export of labour unlikely.

Across the Gulf region, more than 2.1 million women employed in households are at risk of exploitation.
Across the Gulf region, more than 2.1 million women employed in households are at risk of exploitation. Photograph: Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images

“The response of the government has been poor at best,” said Hussein Khalid, executive director of Haki Africa. “It’s not what you would expect from a government when its citizens are in distress.”

The government has taken some measures to mitigate the abuse, such as vetting domestic worker-recruitment agencies, listing the accredited ones on its website, and requiring them to pay a security bond that can be used to repatriate Kenyan workers facing distress.

Women who go to Saudi Arabia through unregistered agencies often face heightened risk of abuse and unethical practices, with rights groups reporting that some workers sign contracts in Arabic, with no understanding of the language. Ojiro likens the rogue agencies to human traffickers.

The government has also signed bilateral labour agreements with Saudi Arabia, and set up a distress reporting portal. But the content of the agreements is not public and at the time of publication, the portal could not be accessed.

Faced with growing pressure, Saudi Arabia also implemented some measures to protect domestic workers, including reforms to the kafala system and the introduction of a wage protection programme. In a statement to the Guardian, Chelugui said that the government was satisfied with the measures taken by Saudi Arabia to protect Kenya’s workers.

But as claims of pay abuse and the forcible detainment of Kenyan domestic workers in the Gulf state persist, rights groups say that much more needs to be done.

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Chemistry Problems & Quantum Computing

The researchers compared the results of a conventional and quantum computer to minimise error calculations, which could eventually be scaled up to solve more complicated problems.

Scientists in Sweden have successfully managed to use a quantum computer to solve simple chemistry problems, as a proof-of-concept for more advanced calculations.

Currently, conventional supercomputers are used in quantum chemistry to help scientists learn more about chemical reactions, which materials can be developed and the characteristics they have.

But these conventional computers have a limit to the calculations they can handle. It is believed quantum computers will eventually be able to handle extremely complicated simulations, which could lead to new pharmaceutical discoveries or the creation of new materials.

However, these quantum machines are so sensitive that their calculations suffer from errors. Imperfect control signals, interference from the environment and unwanted interactions between quantum bits – qubits – can lead to “noise” that disrupts calculations.

The risk of errors grows as more qubits are added to a quantum computer, which complicates attempts to create more powerful machines or solve more complicated problems.

Comparing conventional and quantum results

In the new study by Chalmers University, scientists aimed to resolve this noise issue through a method called reference-state error mitigation.

This method involves finding a “reference state” by describing and solving the same problem on both a conventional and a quantum computer.

The reference state is a simpler description of a molecule that can be solved by a normal computer. By comparing the results from both computers, the scientists were able to estimate the scale of error the quantum computer had in its calculation.

The difference between the two computers’ results for the simpler reference problem was then applied to correct the quantum computer’s solution for the original, more complex problem.

This method allowed the scientists to calculate the intrinsic energy of small example molecules such as hydrogen on the university’s quantum computer.

Associate professor Martin Rahm – who led the study – believes the result is an important step forward that can be used to improve future quantum-chemical calculations.

“We see good possibilities for further development of the method to allow calculations of larger and more complex molecules, when the next generation of quantum computers are ready,” Rahm said.

Research is happening around the world to fix the problems limiting the development of more advanced quantum computers.

Earlier this month, Tyndall’s Prof Peter O’Brien told about his group’s work in addressing a key challenge in quantum technology and how quantum communications will make eavesdropping ‘impossible’.

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A Chilling Resurgence Of The “Vampire Fish” In The Great Lakes

The notorious sea lamprey, a creepy parasitic fish, resurges in the Great Lakes, wreaking havoc on native species.

The Creepy Invader Emerges

In the eerie waters of the Great Lakes, a parasitic fish has emerged from the depths, thriving on a bloodsucking mission. Meet the sea lamprey, a creature with a haunting circular row of teeth, a serrated tongue, and an eel-like shape. Native to the northern and western Atlantic Ocean, this nightmarish creature invaded the Great Lakes in the early 19th century through the Welland Canal, which links Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Once it infiltrated the pristine waters, the lamprey set about its insidious predation on commercially important fish, including trout, whitefish, perch, and sturgeon. The consequences were catastrophic.

A Century of Devastation

Within a mere decade, the sea lamprey gained access to all five Great Lakes, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Its unchecked proliferation led to the collapse of the once-thriving trout fishery within a century. By the 1960s, the lamprey had inflicted such damage that the annual commercial catch of lake trout in the upper Great Lakes plummeted from around 15 million pounds to a meager half a million pounds.

A Battle Against the Vampire Fish

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, alongside the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, took up arms against this highly invasive species. With ardent determination, they sought to manage and reduce the sea lamprey population, and their efforts yielded significant success. The fishery commission proudly boasts on its website that sea lamprey populations have been diminished by a staggering 90 percent in most areas of the Great Lakes.

The “vampire fish” sea lamprey makes a chilling comeback, threatening the delicate balance of the Great Lakes’ aquatic life.

The Pandemic’s Interruption

However, as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the agencies’ crucial operations to control the lamprey’s resurgence suffered a chilling interruption. With travel restrictions in place and resources stretched thin, fishery managers faced daunting challenges. The pandemic’s insidious impact reached the heart of the Great Lakes, allowing the parasitic fish to take advantage of the hiatus.

The Reemergence

As restrictions eased and operations resumed, a grim revelation awaited the fishery managers. The parasitic fish had cunningly exploited the opportunity, and their population began to creep back across the Great Lakes. Reports from the Wall Street Journal indicated that the sea lamprey population had resurged, sending shivers down the spines of those who witnessed its wrath in the past.

Lampreys belong to the superclass Cyclostomata and represent the most ancient group of vertebrates. Existing for over 360 million years, they are known as living fossils due to their many evolutionally conserved features

A Fragile Balance

Exact figures of the resurgence remain uncertain, but the implications are undeniably ominous. According to a 2022 report by Undark Magazine, crews responsible for population control were only able to treat about 25 percent of the target streams in 2020, leaving the lamprey unchecked. The following year saw a partial recovery, as the teams reached 75% of their targets. Nevertheless, the challenge remains enormous, and the careful application of pesticides called lampricides is essential to reduce the lamprey population.

After pandemic disruptions, the sea lamprey population surges, posing a formidable challenge for conservationists in the Great Lakes.

The Cost of Confrontation

The battle against the lamprey is not merely a spooky tale—it comes with a substantial price tag. Controlling this aquatic menace is estimated to cost around $15 to $20 million annually, reflecting the magnitude of the threat it poses to the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Joining the Fight

As the resurgence of the “vampire fish” casts a shadow over the Great Lakes, the need for decisive action becomes evident. Stakeholders must unite in their mission to protect the delicate balance of this vital ecosystem. The battle against the sea lamprey requires collective effort and resources, with innovative approaches to safeguarding the region’s rich biodiversity.

A Race Against Time

With the sinister sea lamprey gaining ground, time is of the essence. As this dark chapter unfolds, the eyes of the world are on the Great Lakes, waiting to witness the outcome of this gripping struggle. The clock is ticking, and the stakes have never been higher.

Seizing the Opportunity

For environmental advocates, researchers, and those invested in the well-being of the Great Lakes, the resurgence of the “vampire fish” serves as a chilling reminder of the fragility of our ecosystems.

Embracing sustainable practices, collaborative efforts, and innovative solutions, there is hope that the Great Lakes can once again emerge victorious against this formidable foe.

A Battle for the Ages

As the lamprey saga continues, it will be a tale of resilience, perseverance, and the relentless pursuit of balance. The world holds its breath, awaiting the final chapter in this eerie narrative—a chapter that will determine the fate of one of North America’s most treasured aquatic ecosystems.

Contact us now to learn how you can support the battle against the “vampire fish” and join the ranks of those committed to preserving the Great Lakes for generations to come. Let your voice be heard in this harrowing tale of nature’s tenacity and mankind’s dedication.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

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The Implications Of Controlling High-Level Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)

Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)

By Clint Bailey | ‘The Voice of EU’

The notion of artificial intelligence surpassing humanity has long been a topic of discussion, and recent advancements in programs have reignited concerns. But can we truly control super-intelligence? A closer examination by scientists reveals that the answer is highly unlikely.

Unraveling The Challenge:

Controlling a super-intelligence that surpasses human comprehension necessitates the ability to simulate and analyze its behavior. However, if we are unable to comprehend it, creating such a simulation becomes an impossible task. This lack of understanding hinders our ability to establish rules, such as “cause no harm to humans,” as we cannot anticipate the scenarios that an AI might generate.

The Complexity Of Super-Intelligence:

Super-intelligence presents a distinct challenge compared to conventional robot ethics. Its multifaceted nature allows it to mobilize diverse resources, potentially pursuing objectives that are incomprehensible and uncontrollable to humans. This fundamental disparity further complicates the task of governing and setting limits on super-intelligent systems.

Drawing Insights From The Halting Problem:

Alan Turing’s halting problem, introduced in 1936, provides insights into the limitations of predicting program outcomes. While we can determine halting behavior for specific programs, there is no universal method capable of evaluating every potential program ever written. In the realm of artificial super-intelligence, which could theoretically store all possible computer programs in its memory simultaneously, the challenge of containment intensifies.

The Uncontainable Dilemma:

When attempting to prevent super-intelligence from causing harm, the unpredictability of outcomes poses a significant challenge. Determining whether a program will reach a conclusion or continue indefinitely becomes mathematically impossible for all scenarios. This renders traditional containment algorithms unusable and raises concerns about the reliability of teaching AI ethics to prevent catastrophic consequences.

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The Limitation Conundrum:

An alternative approach suggested by some is to limit the capabilities of super-intelligence, such as restricting its access to certain parts of the internet or networks. However, this raises questions about the purpose of creating super-intelligence if its potential is artificially curtailed. The argument arises: if we do not intend to use it to tackle challenges beyond human capabilities, why create it in the first place?


Urgent Reflection – The Direction Of Artificial Intelligence:

As we push forward with artificial intelligence, we must confront the possibility of a super-intelligence beyond our control. Its incomprehensibility makes it difficult to discern its arrival, emphasizing the need for critical introspection regarding the path we are treading. Prominent figures in the tech industry, such as Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak, have even called for a pause in AI experiments to evaluate safety and potential risks to society.

The potential consequences of controlling high-level artificial super-intelligence are far-reaching and demand meticulous consideration. As we strive for progress, we must strike a balance between pushing the boundaries of technology and ensuring responsible development. Only through thorough exploration and understanding can we ensure that AI systems benefit humanity while effectively managing their risks.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

By Clint Bailey, Team ‘THE VOICE OF EU

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