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Archive for December 28th, 2010

Kenyan woman killed in crash

Posted by Administrator on December 28, 2010

BELLEVUE (KPTM)- A Bellevue Woman died at the hospital late last night after crashing her car.

Sarpy County Sheriff Investigators say 35-year-old Teresia Mwangi lost control of her vehicle near Hwy 75 and Plattview Road. Her car crossed the median and hit a pick-up truck driven by Robert Schroeder of Omaha.

Schroeder and his passenger were treated at Creighton University Medical Center for minor injuries.

Lt. Russ Zeeb said slick roads are believed to have played a role in the crash. Alcohol is not suspected.

VIDEO ON THE STORY 

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Ngugi wa Thiongo endures travel nightmare in the hands of Virgin Atlantic

Posted by Administrator on December 28, 2010

By Ngugi wa Thiong’o

I did not know that a one day dream flight from Nairobi to Los Angeles would turn out to be a five-day nightmare.

I had pestered the hosts of the Kwani Literary Festival to ensure my seat on Virgin Atlantic Flight VS672 that left Jomo Kenyatta airport on December 18 for London to connect with another Virgin Flight VS007 to Los Angeles the following day.

My wife was scheduled to have surgery at the Douglas Hospital of the University of California, Irvine, on Tuesday, December 21. I would be back to my home at the University Hills, Irvine, by Sunday.

The festival, a conversation among generations of African writers, particularly those of the 1960s represented by Micere Mugo, Rebecca Njau, and Philip Ochieng’ and the current, represented by Binyavanga Wainaina and Billy Kahora, among others, had gone remarkably well.

My sunshine memory was rudely interrupted by the flight captain announcing that a snowstorm had taken over Heathrow, we were going to land in Lyon, France, and spend the night there.

Then it was announced that only Schengen and European Union passport holders would be allowed out of the terminal to spend Saturday night in a hotel courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.

Kenya passport holders were specifically singled out and isolated from the rest. Our bus was escorted by armed French police into a separate building at the airport into which we were locked. The three stewardesses in charge of us were ushered into a separate room, clearly not a paradise, but it had cushioned chairs for beds.

CEMENT FLOOR

The rest of us, all Kenyans, except for a Jamaican and a couple of British passport holders who stayed in solidarity with their Kenyan wives, were each given tiny low red plastic bedlets with aluminium foils for blankets.

The cement floor was cold and dreary. It was a winter night after all. The French authorities would not even make an exception for Imani, a one-year-old, who had to share the cement floor with her parents, Brenda and Colin.

We raised many questions: why were we, bonafide passengers, who had had no say in the decision to land in Lyon, treated as if we were terrorists and refugees about to take over France? The captain, our captain, had abandoned ship. Not a word from him. The stewardess tried their best to cope, care and calm nerves.

They seemed equally helpless. Ironically, it was Imani, with her smile and energy, who kept our spirits alive. She never once cried through the night and she shone her smile on all.

I witnessed an incredible display of unity and solidarity among the Kenyan Asians and Africans of all ethnic backgrounds and religions. Humour, stories, laughter, kept us going, under our aluminium sheets. I learnt more about Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity and the humanism they shared, from those stories than I had learnt from books. People offered support to each other.

BREAKING BARRIERS

Barriers of race and class and gender had broken. There were some touching stories, like that of the “just married”, Oliver Apunda from Ahero and Agnes Kahindi from Kikuyu, whose love had withstood the inter-ethnic tensions of the post-poll chaos.

Simon Onderi, a medical student at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York, acted as our unpaid doctor, attending to our different ailments. Somebody had the presence of mind to alert Kenyan embassy in Paris.

I don’t know if it was her intervention, or our near riot protests, but on Sunday, we were moved into a hotel to join the other passengers.

It was not until Monday evening that we eventually left Lyon for Heathrow where this time, those of us with connecting flights were allowed into a hotel.

My Virgin Atlantic flight would now leave for Los Angeles, on Tuesday.

I would not be able to accompany Njeeri for the surgery, the very purpose of my having to leave Kenya on Saturday, but at least I would be with her in the evening.

I went to terminal three, Heathrow, three hours before my scheduled flight. Alas, all Virgin Atlantic flights to Los Angeles had been cancelled. Heathrow was a mass of endless chaos.

I looked for a Virgin Atlantic office, to see about my options. I found none.

I approached Virgin Atlantic ground crew attending the long queues the few flights to other destinations. No help. No information about the Los Angeles route. After dragging my luggage around through the muddy snow, I eventually bumped into a frantic Virgin Atlantic official, who thrust some papers in my hands but would not otherwise answer questions.

When I raised my voice in protest, he threatened to call police, with implied but unmistakable hints that he would not hesitate to brand me a terrorist menace. I dared him to go ahead. He vanished in the crowd.

Dispirited, I returned to the Holiday Inn where I had spent the night but now under my own care.

Fortunately I found some of my fellow Kenyans still there, awaiting later flights, among them Simon Onderi, who had acted as our unofficial doctor through out our plight. I was freezing.

My asthma was back. I was wheezing. Dr Onderi took over and eventually got through to a switchboard and spoke to a human voice representing Virgin Atlantic.

The next possible flight would be on December 28.

Alternative flight

And even then, it was not certain for sure. He pleaded with them to offer me an alternative flight.

He told them about my wife in hospital, my own condition, asthma, high blood pressure, to no avail.

Dr Onderi had to rush for his flight. For me it was another night at the Holiday Inn.

My wife was in hospital, my two teenagers in the house. My asthma acted up.

I had undergone severe attacks of asthma in the past, once in Senegal in 1969, and again, years later in New Zealand in 1984.

And in both cases, I actually had to be rushed to hospital in the middle of the night. I feared the same.

It was then that I called Barbara Caldwell, my research assistant at the University of California, Irvine. She was on a Christmas break.

But within a couple of hours, from her home in far away South California in the US, she did what the Virgin Atlantic could not.

She got me a seat on a British Airways flight to Los Angeles for the following Day, Wednesday.

It was a one-way ticket but with the price tag of a return business class.

I flew back to California on Wednesday, December 23, five days after I left Nairobi, to take Njeeri home from the Douglas Hospital.

Dr Karen Noblett and her team had successfully carried out the four-hour surgery on my wife.

She was in much pain, but at least, we would have a Christmas reunion with our children. 

Posted in Kenya | 14 Comments »

Kenyan in Dallas faces frustration over his Wylie slaughterhouse

Posted by Administrator on December 28, 2010

Alex Macharia owner of ANM's farm in Wylie, Texas fights to save his slaughterhouse. Photo courtesy of Alex Macharia

Alex Macharia owner of ANM's farm in Wylie, Texas fights to save his slaughterhouse. Photo courtesy of Alex Macharia

More than 50 goats chomp on hay and mill around at ANM’s Farm, a small slaughterhouse near Wylie.

In a 1,200-square-foot metal building, owner Alex Macharia kills three to five animals a day and sells the fresh meat to customers. He opened six months ago next to a used car lot on State Highway 78.

“This is my American dream,” said Macharia, 34, a native of Kenya. “I’m trying to feed my family.”

His dream, however, has become something of a nightmare for Collin County officials, who fear his rural meat processing plant could pose health and environmental dangers. No one has documented any problems, but some wonder if he is handling meat safely and containing runoff from the slaughtering process.

County officials acknowledge that they have no authority to shut down Macharia’s operation. The state, not the county, governs meat processing plants, and Macharia’s meets Texas Department of State Health Services standards. So does a similar slaughterhouse outside Farmersville.

“We’re powerless to do anything,” County Commissioner Jerry Hoagland said.

State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, has filed a bill in the legislative session that begins next month that would let counties block slaughterhouses. Cities can keep them out through zoning, but counties have no broad zoning authority in unincorporated areas.

“It’s a regulatory loophole they’re slipping through,” said Laubenberg, whose district includes both processing plants. “It looks like the eastern part of Collin County has become a dumping ground for these under-the-radar operations.”

Her bill would not force existing slaughterhouses to close. Macharia said he has invested $85,000 in his building and equipment, including hooks, knives and band saws. He said he chose his 3-acre location in a commercial area to avoid upsetting residents.

“I’m here legally, and I have a right to make a living,” Macharia said.

Customers come from throughout Collin County and from as far as Mansfield, more than an hour away, he said. He said the county’s growth and cultural diversification helped persuade him to open the plant.

For Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday last month, he slaughtered 82 goats over three days, he said. He sells slaughtered goats for $140 to $170, depending on size, he said.

Besides goats, he slaughters chickens and cattle. On a recent evening, a 1,000-pound cow carcass was suspended from a hook, waiting to be cut up.

Macharia said he taught himself to slaughter animals by visiting processing plants and reading. He willingly gave a reporter a tour of his business.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said.

‘I like all my neighbors’

Macharia said he knows his competitor, Alan Wali, who began a similar slaughterhouse on County Road 656 northeast of Farmersville four months ago.

Wali’s business, called Ryan’s Farm, has homes on all sides. The lots are large, and the closest home is more than 100 yards away.

A neighbor complained to county officials soon after the slaughterhouse opened. Tomie Herod wrote that she and others had “witnessed numerous offensive tactics.”

In an interview, she said she had seen goats being dragged into the building for slaughter.

“My daughter told her two children not to look over there,” Herod said.

Wali said residents normally can’t see goats being taken into the slaughterhouse on his 18-acre site. He installed metal siding on a wire fence to block the view.

“If anybody has any issue, I can talk with them,” said Wali, a Bangladesh native. “I like all my neighbors.”

State oversight

The Department of State Health Services periodically makes unannounced inspections of slaughterhouses for code compliance, said Dr. Butch Johnson, director of the agency’s Meat Safety Assurance Unit.

“If we see a band saw that isn’t clean, we’ll hang a tag on it,” he said. “That means they can’t use that particular piece of equipment until they get it cleaned up.”

Another state agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, licenses retention ponds outside the processing areas. When operators hose down floors after a slaughter, the water goes into underground tanks. After being filtered, it flows into an evaporation pond.

Slaughterhouse owners must submit plans for the ponds to the environmental agency, said Chris Linendoll, wastewater permitting section manager. Once the plans are approved, the state does no onsite inspections, he said.

“We would inspect it if we got a complaint,” Linendoll said.

Third facility in works

A third person, Tien Vo, intends to open a slaughterhouse about eight miles south of Wali’s plant, according to paperwork filed with the county. He plans to slaughter goats, chickens and quails, records show.

County Commissioner Joe Jaynes said he worries that runoff from the slaughterhouses might contaminate nearby Lavon Lake, a drinking water source for North Texas.

He said he hopes Laubenberg’s bill passes and prevents any more operations from opening.

“It’s a health issue and a quality-of-life issue,” he said. “People move to the country to experience country life, not to live near a slaughterhouse.”

Source: Dallas Morning News

To visit Macharia’s slaughterhouse website, click here

Posted in Diaspora News | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Airline Tickets Scam Persists as another Kenyan duped

Posted by Administrator on December 28, 2010

Too good to be true

A Sammamish man called police Dec. 17 to report that he had been duped into buying fake plane tickets by a 46-year-old Issaquah man who was acting as a travel agent.

The victim was trying to fly a family member from Kenya to Seattle and could only find tickets online for upwards of $2100.

Friends suggested he talk to the suspect, who allegedly promised to find a ticket for around $1100.

The victim then transferred money into the man’s bank account, according to the police report. When the victim double checked the status of the flight they discovered that the booking didn’t exist. The case remains under investigation.

Posted in Diaspora News | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

 
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