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Archive for March 14th, 2012

Kenyan doctorate student in TX launches an informational channel-One on One with Casper

Posted by Administrator on March 14, 2012

A Kenyan student at the University of Texas at Dallas has launched an informational youtube channel to provided various information pertaining to Kenyans as the country moves to a time of structural and institutional changes.

Casper Kamau who is currently working on his doctorate in Political Science launched his series of programs on Saturday, March 10th. The program-One on One with Casper is aimed at informing the Kenyan communities both at home and abroad on issues that concern them.

You can watch the first program below.

Diaspora Voting: A Modest Proposal

With the coming of the new constitution also comes the ability of Kenyans living abroad to vote.  Voting is a popular safeguard that allows the citizens to select the type of leaders they want in power.  While it may be allowed by laws of the land for Kenyans overseas to vote, the methodology to do so is yet to be announced and I would argue discovered.  It is important to first examine what the law says about voting and then examine what plausible ways are available for people overseas to vote. There are three propositions I raise on how to get Kenyans overseas voting.  The options are mobile stations, mail-in registration or online voting.

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Posted in Diaspora News | 5 Comments »

Foreign exchange students sexually abused by their US hosts

Posted by Administrator on March 14, 2012

Dozens of high school foreign exchange students have been raped, sexually abused, or harassed by American host parents in towns and cities across the country, an NBC News investigation has found.

In one of the most egregious cases, at least four exchange students were sexually abused over the course of two years by the same host father, even after the first victim sounded alarms.

“He said ‘this is American culture,’ and I should get used to it,” Christopher Herbon of Germany told NBC News in an exclusive interview to be broadcast Wednesday night on Rock Center.

The organization that placed them with the host father has been accused of orchestrating a cover-up to protect its reputation over the safety of the students.

Every year more than 25,000 teens from around the world come to America as part of a program overseen by the State Department that is hailed as an integral part of U.S. diplomacy.

Most of those teens have a great experience and cases of sexual abuse are rare. But NBC News’ investigation found two major flaws in the system.  A lack of oversight can allow sexual predators to take advantage of the program. And when sexual abuse does happen, there is evidence that the students are sent back to their home countries with little or no support from the exchange organizations or the State Department.


There are more than 80 organizations that pay a fee to get the State Department’s stamp of approval as a “designated sponsor organization.” That distinction allows the organizations to place the students with host families for one academic year.  Each organization in turn must follow regulations designed to protect the students from harm.

The host families do not receive any compensation, but the students’ parents can pay more than $10,000 for their child’s year abroad. The largest organizations for which there are records take in an average of seven million dollars each year, according to an NBC News review of their Internal Revenue Service filings.

The more students they place, the more revenues for the organizations, and critics say the financial incentives create an environment ripe for abuse.

“These sponsoring agencies make a lot of money for each of these kids.  The profit margin is very big, and they’re motivated to get them into some house, somewhere, without the proper vetting.  So it’s a perfect storm.  It’s sort of abuse waiting to happen,” said attorney Irwin Zalkin, who along with attorney Andrea Leavitt represented Herbon and three other exchange students sexually abused by a host father and local coordinator for one of the organizations.

GUILLAUME’S STORY

In August 2003, the year before Herbon came to the U.S. as an exchange student, 18-year-old Guillaume Le Mayeur of Belgium was excitedly packing for his American adventure.

Le Mayeur’s parents paid the equivalent of $10,200 for their son’s year abroad.  A Belgian agency, World Education program, made the arrangements with an American organization called Educational Resource Development Trust, ERDT.

Le Mayeur was hoping to live in New York or Los Angeles, but instead ERDT placed him in run-down trailer in rural Arkansas.  His host father was 34-year old Doyle Meyer.

Meyer, his then wife Gigi, and a former exchange student were sharing the cramped trailer when Le Mayeur moved in.

“When I first came there, I [had] a little bit of disappointment about the place … and I said to myself, ‘Well, you’re here now.  You just have to accommodate yourself and….make the best of it and take it,’” Le Mayeur said in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Rock Center.

Le Mayeur said within a month of his arrival, Meyer started talking about sex, touching and hugging him, and unsuccessfully trying to get him to sleep in his bed with him.

“He would hug me, well, trying to hug me a lot.  He would take my hands and he would ask me to lie on his chest when he was watching TV,” he said.

He said Meyer bought alcohol and marijuana for other exchange students living nearby, showed them pornographic films, encouraged them to show him their genitals and once measured a male student’s anatomy with his bare hand.

On a trip to Washington, D.C. with ERDT students and coordinators, Le Mayeur said Meyer allowed students to videotape two teens having sex, and watched the tape with them.

The students slept two to a bed in a local motel, and Le Mayeur said he was assigned to sleep in the same bed as Meyer, who tried to massage his stomach and touch his genitals. Le Mayeur said he jumped out of the bed.

Once back in Arkansas, Le Mayeur said he tried to report the molestation and Meyer’s irresponsible behavior to his local coordinator, Pat Whitfield.  He said he set a time to meet with Whitfield, but she called Meyer and invited him to sit in on the meeting.

“So I couldn’t say anything I wanted [to say]. But they were like best friends and [Meyer] went to talk to her first,” said Le Mayeur.

Le Mayeur said Meyer became intent on having him expelled from the program in order to silence him. He said Meyer reported him to ERDT executives for driving a car (against the program’s rules) and smoking marijuana, both of which Le Mayeur admits.

ERDT did expel Le Mayeur.  Back home in Belgium, ashamed and shunned by his own family for being kicked out, he found the courage to write an email to ERDT staff detailing what happened to him and other students and warning them that something must be done to protect other students.

“I think that something must be done to stop that as fast as it is possible…because [one] day or another something bad is going to happen,” Le Mayeur wrote in the email.

After receiving the email, ERDT did not go to the police. Instead, the organization launched its own investigation led by staff who later admitted in a 2010 deposition that they had no experience with an investigation of alleged abuse.

“SWEPT UNDER THE RUG”

Plaintiff attorney Andrea Leavitt said ERDT circled the wagons, protecting the reputation of the organization over the safety of the students for whom the organization was responsible.

“There are no disclosures to parents for the children coming in. There are no disclosures to the kids.  There are no warnings.  Everything is swept under the rug, concealed.  Absolutely every parent’s nightmare,” Leavitt said. “They begin to circle the wagons.  And rather than protect the vulnerable kid, they start to protect themselves from liability and exposure,” she said.

ERDT executive Kelli Jones wrote to her staff asking for anything “positive” they knew about Doyle Meyer as she was preparing a report for the Belgian exchange company, WEP.

In August of 2004, two months after Le Mayeur sent his email, Jones wrote to her staff saying that Meyer should know that ERDT “went to a lot of work, time, and energy to clear his name and support his good reputation.”  She went on to disparage Le Mayeur, writing, “As far as I’m concerned it may not be over with yet. [Le Mayeur] may rear his ugly head again.”

ERDT decided Meyer should not be a host father the following year, but would remain working as a coordinator, whose job it is to supervise students.

According to fellow coordinator Theresa Benevides and host father David Krenn, Meyer was known as a “high placer,” meaning he was able to find an above-average number of families to host students.

“He placed almost 20 kids. He was very valuable to ERDT because he brought in so much money,” Benevides said.

A SECOND ROUND OF ABUSE

During the fall of 2004, Meyer served as 16-year old Christopher Herbon’s coordinator.   Herbon said he was unhappy living with an unfriendly elderly couple with no children, isolated in a remote area. He told this to Meyer, and in early 2005 Meyer arranged for the teenager to move in with him.  By this time, Meyer had separated from his wife and was living with another current exchange student on the outskirts of Little Rock.

Herbon said Meyer began to give him alcohol and Oxycontin shortly after he arrived.  He said Meyer would press him to show him his genitals once he was intoxicated, and even gave him male enhancement pills.

“I was afraid that if I wouldn’t make him happy, he would kick me out, and that I would be sent home.  I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. I was very afraid that he would send me home because my parents would be very disappointed,” he said.

In addition to Herbon, Meyer was sexually abusing other exchange students that academic year.  When one of them finally told Benevides, she alerted the police and Meyer was arrested in May, 2005.

“KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT”

When word got out about the arrest, Benevides said ERDT executives flew to Arkansas and told the local coordinators not to speak about the abuse.  She said at a meeting convened in Arkansas, Jones told her, “Keep your mouth shut.”

Meyer pleaded guilty to first degree sexual assault and served four of a six year sentence. When NBC News reached him by phone at his mother’s Arkansas chicken farm, he refused to comment on this story, saying that his parole was almost up and he wanted to move on with his life.

In a statement to NBC News, ERDT’s lawyer, Michael Sidley said the organization “never engaged in a cover-up of any sort…it was the conduct of ERDT which led to the arrest of Mr. Meyer.”

In 2010, attorneys Zalkin and Leavitt filed a civil suit against ERDT on behalf of Le Mayeur, Herbon, and two other students. ERDT settled the case for an undisclosed amount without admitting liability.

Kelli Jones, who has since been promoted to President of ERDT, declined to comment on this story.   But in a 2010 deposition, she told Leavitt that she did not consider Le Mayeur’s account of Meyer’s behavior to be sexual abuse, but rather  “immature idiotic boy behavior.”

The ERDT regional coordinator who handled the investigation is still in the same job. Whitfield, who was Meyer’s friend and fellow coordinator, was fired.  She is now working for another exchange organization hosting and placing students in Arkansas. Whitfield  declined to comment on this story.

STATE DEPARTMENT DEFENDS THE PROGRAM

When asked why ERDT is still operational after a case like this, State Department spokesperson Toria Nuland said that ERDT was one of the organizations that helped the Department draft new regulations in recent years to better protect exchange students from abuse.

“They have been complying as we’ve strengthened the regulations with the improved standards, which is why we’ve kept them on our rolls.  They themselves were horrified and victimized by this situation,” Nuland said.

In 2009 the State Department asked the Inspector General to investigate Youth Exchange Programs following a series of reports of mistreatment of exchange students.

The Inspector General’s scathing report found “insufficient oversight of the youth exchange programs at all levels.” It said communication among staff “borders on unprofessional,” there was a “lack of human and financial resources” in the office running the programs, and an “erroneous assumption” that the exchange organizations monitor themselves.

Nuland said that as a result, the Department increased staff overseeing the program, dropped a number of organizations from the list of designated sponsors, and implemented new regulations to more thoroughly check out host families.

In addition, Nuland said that before exchange students come to America, they now receive a package of information about their rights, and what they should do if they encounter any problems in the U.S. or problems with the host family.

“We are strengthening the checks on the front end, staying with the kids so intensely during the program,” she said.

The State Department did not have a central log of complaints until the 2009-2010 school year, but issued NBC News its data from the 2010-2011 year that showed sexual abuse or harassment was reported by less than one percent of the total number of high school students who spend a year at an American high school. They said that percentage includes any and all harassment, even if it did not involve a host parent.

“The vast majority of high school foreign exchange students have an enormously gratifying, rich, fantastic American experience that lasts with them for a lifetime,” Nuland said.

But problems in the program persist, and ERDT is not the only organization involved.  Rock Center’s investigation found fourteen different organizations where students had alleged being sexually abused or harassed by a host parent.  Several of the organizations have faced lawsuits for placing students in harm’s way.

Wednesday’s broadcast will include an interview with a student who says he was sexually abused by his host father this past Christmas.

Nuland said that from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s point of view even one child abused under these programs is one child too many.

“Our standard has to be zero tolerance.  So to the degree that which we still have cases reported we are not there yet.  Are the reforms that we’ve put in place sufficient?  I think we need to watch that over the next couple of months and see where it goes.  But we are absolutely committed to continuing to tighten these regulations and improve this program until we get to zero.”

Source: http://rockcenter.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/13/10669162-foreign-exchange-students-sexually-abused-in-program-overseen-by-state-department

Posted in US News | 1 Comment »

Kenyan boy wins Spelling Bee, to represent West Michigan at national event in DC

Posted by Administrator on March 14, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS – Mwangi WaMaina earned the right Tuesday to represent West Michigan at the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. in May.

The 13-year-old eighth-grader at Kentwood’s Crestwood Middle School beat out 21 of the best spellers in a six-county area during Tuesday’s 34th annual Greater Grand Rapids Spelling Bee.  The competition ultimately boiled down to Mwangi and Lauren Pham, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Caledonia’s Kraft Meadows Middle School, whose only misfire was in the final round when she mistakenly replaced the two “D’s” in the word trodden with “T’s.”

That left Mwangi to spell the final winning word, syllabus, which he rattled off confidently.  He later confessed things were getting a little hot under his collar after pronouncer Esther Yff-Prins went off the official word list after only 10 rounds with 10 spellers still in the competition.

“Once they went off the list, I kind of got nervous,” Mwangi said.  “I was hoping they wouldn’t go with the tricky words.”

Things got off to a slow start Tuesday with several appeals and a couple of miscues by officials, but heated up again after the bee got rolling.  This year’s group of students also showed extreme patience with many taking advantage of all the clues due them, asking Yff-Prins to use words in a sentence, word origin and alternate pronunciations.

“Is there anything I haven’t asked you?” Harrison Witt, a student at East Rockford Middle School queried of Yff-Prins at one point.

Mwangi, the son of Reuben and Ruth WaMaina, of Rockford, now heads off to the nation’s capital May 27 – June 1 where the stakes get even higher.  Top prizes at the national event, the final round of which is scheduled to be televised at 8-10 p.m. May 31 on ESPN, include $30,000 cash, a $5,000 scholarship and $2,500 U.S. savings bond for the winner.

Mwangi said he’ll likely ramp up his preparation for the national bee. He said he expects the competition will be stiffer and officials may test participants’ knowledge of words not on the usual spelling guides much sooner than during the school and regional events he won to earn his spot at Tuesday’s contest.

“I think I’ll use the dictionary a lot more,” he said.  “I want to be prepared for that.”

Source: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2012/03/kentwood_13-year-old_wins_spel.html

Posted in Diaspora News | 2 Comments »

CNN told to apologise over blasts gaffe

Posted by Administrator on March 14, 2012

Kenya has demanded an apology from media network CNN over the recent gaffe that violence had erupted in the country.

This was after the grenade attack in Nairobi last Saturday  which CNN portrayed as an eruption of violence.

The attack left seven people dead and more than 60 others injured. Al-Shabaab are the chief suspects but they have denied responsibility.

Kenya’s ambassador to the United States, Mr Elkanah Odembo, has written to CNN in Atlanta, Georgia, demanding a formal apology.

Scorching flag

He said it was unfortunate that CNN would use a banner with a burning Kenyan flag which was in no way was related to the events of the Saturday’ grenade explosion.

“Surely, CNN can do better than that,” he wrote.

Mr Odembo said he expected CNN to take full responsibility for misinforming its viewers at a time when Kenya was recovering a dented image after the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

He said the casual apology by Nairobi-based reporter was not enough. “The least we can expect is a written explanation accompanied by a formal apology,”  he said.

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/CNN+told+to+apologise+over+blasts+gaffe+/-/1056/1366624/-/rfqyrrz/-/

Posted in Kenya | 2 Comments »

First ever Kenyan Diaspora music label releases hit single-Chuki Za Nini

Posted by Administrator on March 14, 2012

By Harrison Maina, AjabuAfrica.com

WORCESTER, Mass,_A new, first ever music label by a Kenyan living in the Diaspora, Jobless Corner, is set to release a new hit single, Chuki Za Nini(Why the Animosity), that  officially drops in the market tomorrow, Saturday, March 10, 2012.

However, even before the official launch,  Chuki Za Nini is already making waves in several clubs and radio stations in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, France, China, Australia  and the US.

The new single was referred to by the Buzzed Magazine as an “incredibly addictive Genge-Bongo tune.”

Having opened for acts like Bamboo, Nameless and Nonini, Jobless Corner has made its mark as a headliner among the recently rising music labels in East Africa.
The new title track off their debut album, Job Application (Oxygen Media/iTunes), Chuki Za Nini is a Love themed song about a couple that is being separated.
The edgy, upbeat song is getting play among the top Kenyan/Swahili radio and mix show adds across the U.S. and just broke into the Reverbnation Bongo Billboard Chart.

The video (Jobless Corner Visuals) has a creative immigration theme that has never been done before. Chuki Za Nini will also be featured as a soundtrack on a new TV show based on the lives of Kenyans living in the Diaspora.
Chuki za nini represents a solid debut effort for Jobless Corner. It is infused with catchy tunes, clever lyrics and irresistible beats.
The song was produced by multi-talented producer/writer Sir Keggah , a young Kenyan who has worked on singles for other established acts such as Jimwat, Bamboo, Nyota Ndogo, lyrical Erico and J Ellah from the Joint ya Chava crew.

Mdabu “Mtu Wa Watu” front, and Abu Cnear in a cover picture for their new blazing dance hit single, Chuki Za Nini produced by Jobless corner. /Ajabu Africa

Mdabu “Mtu Wa Watu” front, and Abu Cnear in a cover picture for their new blazing dance hit single, Chuki Za Nini produced by Jobless corner. /Ajabu Africa

The lead artistes in Chuki za nini are Abu Cnear, a Tanzanian and MdabuMtu Wa Watu” (“Man of the people”) from Kenya.
Both were discovered by Keggah while they opened for Nonini during a recent visit to the US and were signed into the label with Chuki za nini being their first Single.
Abu is also an Artist and has sold hundreds of paintings some of which don the walls of Safari Cafe, a Kenyan ethnic food restaurant in Worcester, and Simba lounge, a popular dance spot for Kenyans in Lowell.
Abu Cnear and Mdabu have cleary established themselves as seasoned artists bringing a breath of fresh talent into the music scene.

“We are all very excited about the new single.The artists we are promoting are very talented and are happy with the outcome of Chuki Za Nini,” said the producer, Keggah who also owns the label during a telephone interview with Ajabu Africa News on the eve of the eagerly awaited release.
Abu and Mdabu have already earned ardent supporters such as celebrity blogger, Leo Faya.
The song is already a favorite Dj pick among major established DJs and the song premiered on several radio stations in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the US.
Jobless corner is the first record label in the US to produce fresh talent and create major waves both in the Diaspora and East Africa. iHeart Radio’s 254 Channel has pegged Jobless Corner as “the ones to watch out for.”
Clearly, fans have been paying attention.
Keggah stated that the group hopes the new single will provide top notch entertainment to their fans everywhere and inspire other talented artists out there in the Diaspora who have no support to produce their songs to come out and join Jobless corner in their quest to produce more music.
“What we have, mostly in the Diaspora, is many music production studios but no record labels at all owned by our people that can go the extra mile to develop and market an artist.
But now, any aspiring artist can contact us and we will work with them to develop their talent, market them, finance them, promote them  and help them help others in the process,” said Keggah. However, in a departure from the common trend among many of the artists in Kenya who try to emulate the western culture and infuse pop and techno into their music, the success of Chuki Za Nini shows sticking to your roots and the beautiful African culture will always score big with the fans.
The music video for Chuki Za Nini will be released on March 10, 2012 to the public. Listeners can sample the captivating video on you tube. Jobless corner also plans to make various appearances to entertain Kenyans and other Africans in the Diaspora.
The group is also providing free ring tone downloads to the public for a brief period of time.   Text Chuki to  +15087628393 for the free Ring tone to be sent directly to your phone Limited time offer ends March 15th,2012.

TO WATCH THE OFFICIAL VIDEO FOR CHUKI ZA NINI BY ABU CNEAR FT MDABU CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW http://youtu.be/kRvkNT8fuaw

Email: joblessmusic@gmail.com

Source: http://www.ajabuafrica.com/Entertainment-First%20ever%20Kenyan%20Diaspora%20music%20label%20releases%20hit%20single-Chuki%20Za%20Nini.html

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