The Cure for Ebola is Accountability

first_imgThere was a tragic irony to the discussions in Washington last week between President Obama and African leaders. The meeting took place even as the Ebola virus was brutally exposing the lack of capacity, antiquated health systems, and dearth of governance in one corner of the continent. The outbreak is gathering pace. Over 1,000 people have now died in West Africa. Hospitals and health clinics are overflowing and anger is rising as dead bodies are being left to rot in the streets.The governments in the region and the international community are finally getting serious about a coordinated response to Ebola. Sadly, however, these measures only treat the symptoms and not the causes of the problem — which at their core are issues of corruption, mismanagement, and a lack of accountability of those in power to their people.   There are parts of Africa that have made incredible progress in the past two decades. Think of Mozambique, where poverty levels have been cut by almost 15 percent since 1996. Or Senegal, where equal numbers of girls and boys are now enrolled in primary school. In Liberia, one of the countries worst hit by Ebola, successful elections have been held twice and economic growth has averaged over 7 percent in the past 10 years.    The Ebola crisis is quickly exposing how rapidly progress can be undermined, however, when it is not grounded in a fair, inclusive social compact between governments and their citizens. It is no coincidence that, in the countries at the heart of the outbreak, large groups of people have been systematically excluded from power and decision-making at all levels for decades. This means many citizens are unwilling to believe that the government can serve their interests. The health system in Liberia is a case in point. Despite millions of dollars of investment in the decade before the Ebola outbreak, there were only 150 trained doctors in the entire country of 3.5 million people. As a result, access to services is inevitably exclusionary, lending itself to networks of corruption as patients do anything they can to receive care.   In recent years, kleptocratic and nepotistic behavior by the ruling elites have led to long civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone; deep ethnic tensions, a coup d’etat, and civil strife in Guinea; and a low-level insurgency and the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria. These are places where the social fabric has been ripped apart, and trust between those in power and ordinary people is almost absent.Sadly, by some measures governance in Africa is getting worse, not better. In 2009 there were 12 African states ranked in the lowest 30 countries of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index; last year this increased to 15 countries in the bottom 30 of the list. The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, awarded to democratic leaders of integrity in Africa at the end of their mandated terms, has only been awarded three times in seven years. The aid system has become part of the problem as African governments have often focused on international funding flows rather than efforts to generate the confidence of their own people.There is a clear link between this governance failure and the current health crisis. In places where governments are so rarely willing or able act in the interests of their citizens, we can begin to understand why the disease continues to spread. Health services, which barely exist in many places, are shunned because the unsanitary conditions of hospitals and health centers have made them hubs for the spread of the virus. Many hospital staff — already underpaid and ill-equipped — have become victims themselves. Foreign health workers sent to help are ignored and even chased away by scared locals. A group of Liberians explained to us recently that they think Ebola is a ploy by the government to steal even more money from Western donors.As a result, the Ebola challenges are now evolving into larger problems of instability in the region. Economic activity has ground to a standstill as borders have closed, movement is restricted, and flights are canceled.  This is happening in countries where up to 50 percent of the population already earns less than 50 cents a day. Mistrust, misunderstandings, and ill-will are growing as people continue to die. In Liberia, the president has declared a national emergency and the vice president has stated that Ebola is threatening the progress made since the end of the civil war. The use of riot police to put down a recent protest against the government’s failure to deal with the crisis does not bode well.Public outreach campaigns, infection control measures, and coordinated international technical support will control the virus in the short term. But in the longer term, we must empower the governments and people of the region to build mutual trust with each other and get to grips with the corruption, mismanagement, and capacity issues that prevent effective management of these types of crises.This requires support to ensure that laws against graft are enforced fairly and are matched with institutions mandated and resourced to do their jobs. The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), for example, has just two lawyers — something that makes prosecuting corrupt officials extremely difficult.Finding solutions also means encouraging administrative bodies to allow people to have a greater say in how they are governed. Decentralization — delegating decision-making to local governments — can help with this, as can processes like participatory budgeting where citizens can decide how public funds are spent. Finally, it requires a clear emphasis on funding for flexible, grassroots mechanisms for holding governments to account for the delivery of services.      These kinds of prescriptions are difficult and time-consuming, and they rarely generate front-page news. But they can allow for a process through which governments in West Africa can begin to build the trust that is essential in times of emergency. This is the real cure for Ebola.About the authors:Blair Glencorse is Executive Director of the Accountability Lab.  Brooks Marmon is an accountability architect for the iLab in Liberia. This article was originally published on on August 14, 2014.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

HJ Public Relations Officer cops Miss Universe Guyana title

first_imgThe crowded ballroom at the Marriott HotelMiss Universe Guyana Soyini FraserIt was a night of elegance, charm, sophistication and intense competition as the curtains came down on the Miss Universe Guyana 2016, with Soyini Fraser walking away with the coveted title.The Hits and Jams Entertainment employee outshone the 13 other delegates when the finals of the highly anticipated event was held in the well illuminated and decorated grand ballroom of the Marriott Hotel.Fraser was undoubtedly one of the front runners from the inception; she however sealed the deal in the question and answer segment on Saturday evening.On point, pure perfection and intelligent are words to describe the 28-year-old as she answered the questions thrown at her. Her six years pageant experience definitely contributed to her confidence and the way she presented herself as a confident, beautiful young woman.The Miss Universe Guyana title has now been added to her long list of accolades and titles which also include, Miss Grand International, Miss Earth, Miss Jamzone International, and Miss United Nations.She will head to the Philippines to represent Guyana on the international stage with one goal in mind – to be crowned Miss Universe – when the competition is held on January 1, 2017.The pageant, though spectacular, started at least 90 minutes behind schedule with the Guyana Police Force steel orchestra performing the National Anthem.This was immediately followed by the introduction segment which was accompanied by thunderous applause as the audience rooted for their favourite delegate. Dressed in simple cream coloured gowns the delegates gracefully walked the stage and eloquently introduced themselves.The final ten was then announced by the emcees – deputy mayor of Georgetown, Sherrod Duncan and radio personality, Alana Bose.Making the top ten were Ashley John, Rafieya Husain, Ayana Whitehead, Soyini Fraser, Melissa DeFretias, Ariella Basdeo, Denisha Rogers, Iman Jaisingh, Odessa Grogan and Xamiera Kippens.As the night progressed, the top delegates then reappeared on stage for the swimsuit segment. For this, they were decked out in two-piece swimwear in three colors – blue, pink and red. It was this segment that provided the opportunity for the beauties to flaunt their curves and grooves.After an amazing display of grace, poise and physique, the top ten delegates went back to prepare for the highlight of the evening – the Evening Gown segment.This segment was classy and mesmerising.Although there was no award for best gown, the audience felt that Ashley John, Soyini Fraser and Melissa DeFretias wore it best. Although Husain’s was unique, it was not a popular style.After the evening gown segment, the judges took some time to tabulate their scores to be able to reveal the final five. After some time the names of five delegates were announced.They were Soyini Fraser, Rafieya Husain, Ashley John, Ariella Basdeo and Ayana Whitehead.After the disappointing response to the final questions by some of the delegates, it all boiled down to Fraser who wowed the judges and the audience with her intelligence and knowledge of current affairs.In addition to the crown, Fraser was given the prize for the best talent.Coming in as first runnerup was Rafieya Husain who would have also secured the award for best interview, while the second runnerup position went to Ariella Basdeo who copped the prize for beautiful heart.Ashley John who was awarded the prizes for elegance and popularity was adjudged the third runnerup and Ayana Whitehead was adjudged the fourth runnerup position.In addition, the Miss Congeniality prize went to Malika Russell, while the fitness model prize was won by Xamiera Kippens.The elegant event was graced with the presence of Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, Telecommunications Minister, Cathy Hughes, Mayor of Georgetown, Patricia Chase-Green and other dignitaries including the Diplomatic Corp.last_img read more

Snapchat And The Liability Conundrum

first_imgOn a recent night, scores of Snapchat users got a rude awakening: Hackers released at least 100,000 of their private and sometimes titillating photos and videos online in an event dubbed the “The Snappening.” The mobile messaging app has gained legions of fans by promising to destroy users’ content seconds after it is seen by the intended recipients. Instead, hackers got to it.Here’s where the story gets more complicated: The hackers didn’t get the messages from Snapchat’s servers. Rather, a third-party app called Snapsaved — which allows users to save photos and videos from Snapchat in an online storage locker — confirmed on its Facebook page that hackers had accessed its servers and leaked the stored content to the web. Many Snapchat members had been using Snapsaved to retain disappearing messages. More troubling is that the exposed content is thought to include images of minors; half of Snapchat’s 30 million users are 13 to 17 years of age, according to Digiday.Earlier this year, Snapchat’s own servers were attacked. In January, hackers exposed 4.6 million user names and phone numbers. Four months later, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said it settled charges that Snapchat “deceived consumers with promises about the disappearing nature of … messages sent through the service,” as well as how adequately the company guarded its data. Snapchat said on its blog that the company has corrected its communication with users to make it clearer that while their messages are deleted on company servers, other users can take steps to save them. Snapchat did not admit violation of any law.Snapchat’s case illustrates the complexities of assigning liability on the Internet when apps, networks and servers are increasingly interconnected. The FTC went after the company when the breach occurred on its computers. But in the case of a leak caused by a third-party app getting hacked, the issue of Snapchat’s liability is less clear. The legal dilemma posed by Snapchat and Snapsaved is particularly relevant at a time when Google, Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies routinely share some of their code, programs and data with outside developers to encourage the creation of apps that drive traffic back to their sites.What makes it worse is that while tech companies do take steps to rein in the access of third-party developers by putting restrictions in their terms of service agreements — including how long the third party apps can store users’ data on their servers — many do not enforce those policies. “It’s important to be aware of how that data is being collected and used by third parties,” notes Shawndra Hill, Wharton professor of operations and information management. “I see people violate terms of service agreements all the time.”Unless companies keep all the data on their own servers and grant access only to users — and barring any kind of hacking — preserving privacy will be difficult, Hill says. Consumers must be realistic about how private they can be online. “Always assume your data can show up somewhere ,” she adds. Some people naively believe they are not interesting enough to be hacked, Hill notes, but most can come up with one or two people, such as a scorned former flame, who might want to use an embarrassing photo or other personal information against them.Even if users take steps to protect their privacy, the security leak could come from friends who will post the information somewhere. “Even if you don’t share your personal data, there are other people sharing data about you,” Hill says. You can do it to your friends as well, if you use an app that gathers data from your phone contacts. “Sometimes when you sign on to these apps, they may not only collect your information but also link to all of your friends,” she points out. LinkedIn is one example of a service that can access all your contacts.That is why companies with “significant” online operations have to keep data security in mind at every stage, especially for apps such as Snapchat that depend on the degree of trust users have in its ability to keep information private, notes Kevin Werbach, Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics. “If technically the vulnerability comes from a third party application, and legally Snapchat is protected by its terms of service, it [still] has to be careful about gaining a reputation as an insecure service.”But even if a company’s protections against hacking are “completely sound,” which they rarely are, human error could compromise that security, Werbach adds. “So companies like Snapchat need to think about robustness rather than just security: What plans and systems do they have in place to minimize the damage caused by hacks, and to respond quickly and effectively when they happen?” While companies have “too much” power to hide behind their terms of service to disclaim liability, “that alone isn’t necessarily enough protection against the fallout if something goes wrong,” he says.Hacking and the LawIn the most recent breach, Snapchat has sidestepped responsibility since it was another company’s servers that were hacked. “Any application that isn’t ours but claims to offer Snapchat services violates our Terms of Use and can’t be trusted,” Snapchat said in a blog post. “When you give your login credentials to a third-party application, you’re allowing a developer, and possibly a criminal, to access your account information and send information on your behalf.”While Snapchat keeps its application programming interface, or API, private, many other companies have public APIs, Hill says. If public, these APIs, which comprise a set of programming standards and specifications, give outside developers a certain amount of access to a database and programs. For example, the creator of a travel app who wants to add mapping functionality to its service could access the public API of Google Maps. Some tech companies ask third-party developers to pay in order to access their APIs, Hill notes. Snapchat only lets its internal developers access its API so unauthorized outside apps like Snapsaved have to reverse engineer the app to get it. Snapchat said in a blog post that it is asking Apple and Google to remove third-party programs for the messaging service from their respective app stores following the latest data leak.Christopher Yoo, a professor of law, communication and computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, points to similarities between the Snapchat-Snapsaved situation and the Target hacking attack, one of the largest data breaches on record affecting 40 million credit and debit card numbers. Both cases involved third-party breaches. Hackers gained access to the retailer’s systems by stealing log-in credentials of an outside vendor, not from Target directly. The retailer is being sued by scores of banks, consumers and shareholders.On the government’s side, the lack of clarity in federal standards around data security is a problem for law-abiding companies. “There’s a great deal of uncertainty here,” Yoo points out. Even one of the FTC’s administrative law judges has said that the government needs to provide clearer direction on its data security rules, he notes. Thus far, the FTC has brought several actions based on charges of “unfair trade practices,” but people complain that this category is too vague. Such legal uncertainties could motivate companies to write indemnification clauses into contracts for protection and winnow out partners they do not trust, Yoo says, adding that doing so could slow down investment.As for an app’s terms of service — the agreement most people hurriedly click through without reading when signing up for a new account — it does not necessarily protect the company. “There are times when the law will look past that,” Yoo says. For example, a retailer can include a clause in its contract with delivery drivers that they are banned from getting into vehicular accidents. “But it’s foreseeable that accidents are inevitable,” Yoo points out. “So the contract cannot protect the company from saying it’s the driver’s fault.”Chip Becker, a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, adds that the doctrine of “unconscionability” could supplant a company’s terms of service agreement with users. If the agreement is supremely unjust or grossly one-sided, a court could throw out parts of it — or the whole thing. But Becker, who also is a partner at the law firm of Kline & Specter, says unconscionability is a “very high” standard to reach and goes far beyond a firm simply “being unfair.”How a company presents its terms of service to users also affects the enforceability of its policies, Becker notes. If the company requires users to click through it page by page, then the firm can make a stronger case that people should be reasonably aware of its terms. In contrast, a “pop-up” agreement might not hold up as strongly in court, he adds.A close look at Snapchat’s terms of service shows to what extent the company wants to restrict its liability. For instance, users who agree to the terms must arbitrate any claims instead of going to court. But if the matter does end up in court, the case must be filed in Los Angeles County and is bound by the laws of the state of California. The terms also say that if Snapchat was found liable, its liability cannot exceed $1. Becker says the company added a “hold harmless” clause as well, meaning it is not responsible for anything that happens in the use of its service.Expense vs. EmbarrassmentConsumers whose data were compromised could try to sue the tech company they hold liable, but users traditionally have not prevailed in court. However, “that may be changing,” Yoo says. Snapchat users could try to claim breach of contract, since the company did not come through with its promise of privacy, but then its own servers were not affected. As such, Snapchat has a “pretty fair argument that if users didn’t use Snapsaved, this would not have happened,” Becker notes.According to Becker, it is unclear whether individuals will prevail even if they do risk a lawsuit. If photos were leaked, it has to be determined how the breach harmed users financially. “The harm suffered by a person will depend on what has been exposed and the degree to which the image has been distributed,” he says. Celebrities could have an easier case claiming damages if their reputation is tarnished by a leaked photo that led to the loss of acting roles and thus income. Indeed, Google is being sued for more than $100 million by an attorney representing more than a dozen actresses whose personal photos were stolen and posted online.“It may not be worth it for people who aren’t in the public eye to pursue legal action, or for lawyers to take on such cases,” Becker says. “It’s very embarrassing; it’s very painful, but it’s also very expensive to file a lawsuit.” One could file a class-action lawsuit, but certification is quite difficult to get, he adds.In the meantime, case law on data security will continue to develop and eventually catch up. “The law proceeds incrementally, case by case, story by story, decision by decision,” Becker says. “Over time, our legal doctrines will evolve to incorporate and provide a structure for answering these questions.” Related Itemslast_img read more

Budgeting Basics: How to Save on Inconsistent Income

first_imgThe views and opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or view of Intuit Inc, Mint or any affiliated organization. This blog post does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation. If you aren’t able to automate your savings based on percentage, commit to doing it manually. For instance, at the end of each month I’ll sock away a percentage of all the income that came in for estimated taxes. I’ll divvy up the remainder for my savings goals—retirement, a “fun” fund, an art fund (to buy art and for my own personal projects), emergency fund, and a fund for gifts (holiday spending stress is no joke).   Research says “set and forget” money management is the best way to achieve your financial goals. However, it’s tough when your income fluctuates wildly. One easy way to avoid this is to set up an automatic saving withdrawal for the times when you do have extra money. For instance, auto transfer when you get paid, suggests Kristen Berman, co-founder and principal of Common Cents Lab.“It’s even better to withdraw a percentage of your paycheck versus a fixed amount,” says Berman. “This means that that money will only be taken  if you have money, and leave the rest for you to spend.” For instance, instead of committing to $500 each paycheck, set up an auto transfer of 10 percent of each paycheck. Apps such as Qapital have the “Freelancers Rule,” where you can set up a percentage of each paycheck to go toward your savings.   If you work a bunch of side hustles and get paid every Friday or every other Friday, there are two months of the year where you get an “extra paycheck.” While tempting, avoid spending this money on today’s wants, suggests Berman. Instead, spend it on tomorrow’s needs.” Put the extra money toward paying off your credit card, going to the dentist or into your car repair rainy day fund,” says Berman.  You’ll want to make sure it’s going toward something intentional that will help you in the long run. One thing I’ve tried to do as a freelancer is to “get ahead by one month.” So by the end of November, I’ll have enough cash in the bank to cover my living expenses for the following month. So guess what you can do with those two extra paychecks each year? That’s right, it can go toward your “get ahead” fund.   Contribute Annually   Save for Estimated Taxes   Saved Based on Percentage  If you’re having a hard time making contributions regularly, try to do so every few months or once a year, recommends Pamela Capalad. “If you don’t make more than your minimum expenses are a given month, don’t feel pressure to save,” says Capalad. “If you try to save in a low earning month, you may end up putting expenses on a credit card or trying to catch up on expenses in a high-earning month instead of saving it.”  Contribute to savings, retirement and other long-term goals on your flush months. Or opt to contribute to a retirement account once a year instead of every month so you know exactly how much you can afford to contribute, says Capalad.  While budgeting on inconsistent income will forever remain a challenge, keeping these pointers in mind will help you live within your means, and have some money saved up for the future.   Post navigation Save When You Get Paid   Map out your projected income for the year and do a 12-month cash flow to see what your actual peaks and valleys in income are, suggests Pamela Capalad, a certified financial planner and founder of Brunch & Budget. “Often freelancers live month to month because income feels ‘unpredictable,’ but you’ve been freelancing for a while, you will have seasons of income, explains Capalad. “Being aware of when those are will give you an idea of how to plan for the low- and high-income months.”  To drum up a budget, try to calculate what earn yearly, suggests Berman. Research conducted by Common Cents reveals that looking at your income on an annual basis will help you make decisions for your future. “For example, instead of thinking about yourself as making $15 an hour, think about yourself as making $30,000 a year,” says Berman. “This annualized number makes saving a little bit for retirement feel more in reach.”  To figure this out, track how much you’ve made on average in the last three months, or the last six months. If you’ve been freelancing for more than a year, you can base your yearly income from last year’s. I know it’s not a perfect science, but it gives you something to work off of.  center_img Anchor Yourself on Your Lowest Paycheck  While an emergency fund is an essential part of any budget, how much should you save when you experience variable income? The general rule of thumb is three to six months of living expenses. When you have to deal with peaks and valleys in your cash flow, you’ll want to keep a robust rainy day fund as possible. I aim to have at least six months of living expenses, more if I can swing it.  Besides an emergency fund, having a buffer fund to get you through any gaps in income will help you pay your bills on time. I aim to keep about one month of living expenses in my savings account. That way I can transfer money directly to my checking and access money if possible. While the freelance life commonly touts flexibility and greater earning potential—cue the Instagram photos typing away on a laptop in an exotic locale—there are also financial downsides. A major one? Struggling with variable income. For freelancers, artists, and other members of the gig economy, it’s awesome sauce when you experience a spike in your income one month, but pretty terrible when your income drops the next. And as a lot of common budgeting advice is based on the assumption that one gets a steady paycheck, how can you come up with a spending plan? One that helps you not only stay afloat but where you can make steady progress on your savings goals?  Here are some tips on how you can budget when you deal with inconsistent income:  First things first. Here are parts of a budget that day-jobbers don’t normally worry about:   When your income fluctuates from paycheck to paycheck, depending on how many sources of income you have, try basing your budget on your lowest paycheck. For instance, if you are a rideshare driver and rake in about $800 a week, but also work part-time as a virtual assistant and make $250 a week, create a budget based on the $800 a week as a driver.  “It may be tempting to tell yourself you make $600 a week, but if you’re only making that every other week, you’ll end up overspending,” says Berman. “When you anchor yourself on your lowest paycheck, you’ll feel better. Plus, all the additional money that comes in on good weeks will feel like a bonus!”  Because I don’t have much of a regular income, I personally give myself a minimum income goal each month, and base my budget off of that. And if I surpass that goal, the rest technically can go toward my savings goals. Plus, I learn to keep my expenses low, so I don’t struggle with financial stress when I have a lull, which is inevitable.   Make the Most of “Extra Paychecks”   Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) RelatedHow to Make a Budget Using the 50/20/30 Budgeting RuleJuly 20, 2016In “Saving”Freelancer Money Woes: How to Beat ThemApril 24, 2019In “Early Career”Budgeting 101: How to Create a BudgetAugust 19, 2019In “Budgeting” Total Up Your Income  Keep a Robust Rainy Day Fund   One of the many joys of freelancing (not) is to pay Uncle Sam every quarter for estimated taxes. If you’re not saving consistently, this could blindside you. In turn, you may be left owning a lump sum at the end of the tax year, or incur late penalties. Instead, you’ll want to sock away each paycheck toward estimated taxes. I know, it hurts to see a portion of your income get devoured each month by the government. But not doing so will just lead to panic down the line.  I get it. All these extra financial considerations is a tall order, especially when you’re just trying to get your rent and bills paid on time each month. Here are a few tips and tricks for budgeting on inconsistent income:  last_img read more