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Getting Cross

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE


You may have seen a news item this week from Kentucky in the United States where Kim Davis, a Clerk in the Rowan County Courthouse, refused to issue marriage licences to gay couples, claiming that it was against her religion and defying a landmark ruling in June this year by the Supreme Court, declaring gay marriage legal in all 52 states.

On Tuesday, lawyers representing same-sex couples asked Judge David L. Bunning of the Federal District Court to hold her in contempt and fine her, and a hearing on that motion was set for Thursday in District Court in Ashland. The lawyers did not ask for jail time but that was the punishment imposed by the judge who told her she would stay in jail till she agreed to issue the licences.


In a counter-argument, Ms. Davis said in a statement released by her lawyers that she had received death threats, but that she would neither resign nor relent.


“To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience,” she said. She added: “I have no animosity toward anyone and harbour no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s word.”


Following the Supreme Court ruling Ms. Davis has steadfastly refused to issue licences and took her own case to court claiming that she should be excused on the basis of her Apostolic Faith.  Her claim was rejected, and although she had earlier been granted a temporary stay that expired this week and legal experts say that Ms. Davis has very little chance of succeeding in any further pursuance of her case.


Now you might wonder why she has simply not been sacked but in the USA the position of County Clerk is an elected one and so they are not easy to remove.  In fact Ms. Davis only succeeded to the role in January of this year, taking over from her mother who served for 37 years.

Opinions in this very conservative state are sharply divided on the stance she is taking, some saying that she is only defending her First Amendment Rights, others that her views are out of step with modern thinking.  She is also not alone in her stance, with another Clerk also holding fast against the issuing of same-sex marriage licences and another complying but under duress.


Ms. Davis is not the first worker in the world to come into conflict with her employers over a religious belief.  In 2013, for example, a British Airways employee, Nadia Ewelda, won a case against her employers which she had taken all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, after BA had told her in 2006 not to wear a cross around her neck at work in case it caused offence to non-Christians. 

The company changed its policy in 2007 but was still ordered to pay Ms. Ewelda compensation in the ECHR ruling.  However Ms. Davis’s case is particularly interesting in that in the USA there is some confusion where religious beliefs begin and end and how they conflict with jobs in the state and federal sectors. 

There is the oft-quoted clear separation of State and God but then again the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ appeared on US coins  from following appeals from Christian leaders in the country after the American Civil War.  Almost a hundred years later, in 1956, President Dwight D Eisenhower, went one step further, declaring the phrase the official national motto and enshrining it into the Pledge of Allegiance.  It subsequently began to appear on some US banknotes as well as coins. 

Since then it has been the subject of debate since it appears to be in direct conflict with the concept of separation of state and religion but it has remained enshrined in patriotic pledges and as a national motto, in much the same way that American courthouses always insisted on witnesses placing their hand on a Bible and affirming that they ‘swear by Almighty God that the evidence they are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help them, God’, though nowadays concessions are made towards other faiths and holy books.


The problem, of course, only arises in countries of multi-faith. It is hard to imagine any such conflict in Israel, for example, where the vast majority of the population is of the Jewish faith.  Similarly in France, Spain and Italy, most of the citizens remain resolutely Catholic and take their instructions from the Pope first and the President second!  But in the US some seriously whacky religions exist and are officially registered and recognised, so drawing a line between belief and the workplace norm becomes almost impossible. 

Here are just some, all official faiths:

Scientology – its followers believe in a 75million year-old deity called Xenu who dropped frozen aliens into volcanoes in earth to save her planetary empire from over-population.  The aliens were then blown up with hydrogen bombs but their souls were not destroyed and hang about inhabiting the bodies of people today.  It’s most famous follower is of course movie star and crazy person Tom Cruise.


Jediism – May the Force Be With You!  This religion is founded on the Star Wars cinema franchise.  I will say no more than that.


Woodism – A religion founded by followers of former leader and film director Edward Wood Jr. who use his films to inject spirituality and imbue happiness into the world.  At gatherings Woodites always dress up as the opposite gender since Ed Wood loved transvestites and often featured them in his films.


Apatheism – Apatheists are the counter to believers, atheists and agnostics.  They claim they couldn’t care less whether God exists or not and they meet annually to pop wrapping bubbles to demonstrate their total lack of interest in all things Godly.


Pastafarianism, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – followers worship pirates who they view as saviours of the world.  Their official dress includes the wearing of a colander on the head.


All of which puts a whole new take on the expression ‘religious nutter’.  On the positive side, it’s hard to see a Pasta, an Apatheist, a Jediist or a Woodist taking an extreme stand on marriage licences or religious jewellery.  Not sure about the Scientologists, though – what say you, Mr. Cruise?


STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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