A Kenyan man is seeking damages for anguish sustained during a weeklong sex ban called by women's groups in a bid to force political leaders to put their rivalry aside to work for the common good.
James Kimondo is suing the leaders of G10, a coalition of women's groups that called for a national boycott to push the men into resolving the east African country's political woes.
"Since the women called for the sex boycott, my wife has denied me my conjugal rights. This has caused me anxiety and sleepless nights," Kimondo said.
"I have been suffering mental anguish, stress, backaches, lack of concentration," he told reporters outside the Nairobi High Court, where he lodged his petition for damages.
The group even urged prostitutes to join the strike.
The strike ended Wednesday with the organizers claiming it had been a success. They argued that the country's male leaders should not have time for matters of the flesh when the country is ensnared in economic and political trouble.
President Mwai Kibaki and his rival Raila Odinga were pressured into a power-sharing deal by international mediators following violence which accompanied December 2007 polls, but lingering tensions have crippled the coalition government and fuelled widespread discontent.
May 14, 2009
Switched at Birth, Women Find New Identity
By WILLIAM YARDLEY
PASCO, Wash. — They are calling themselves “twisters.” After all, the standard terms of family and relationships seem insufficient to describe the recently discovered connection between Kay Rene Qualls and DeeAnn Shafer.
Both women were born on May 3, 1953, the only births that day in tiny Pioneer Memorial Hospital in rural Heppner, Ore. Both grew up happily, got married, raised children and now have grandchildren.
Then, last summer, say friends and family members, an elderly woman who knew the families of both women long ago made a call to Mrs. Qualls’s brother. The woman, who has not been identified, had news she felt she had to share as her life neared its end and the younger women’s parents had already died.
“It’s shocking, totally shocking,” said Mrs. Shafer’s husband, Rick. “But both families have opened up their arms.”
The woman said that Kay Rene and DeeAnn were supposed to be vice versa. She said they had been switched at birth in the hospital, apparently accidentally, and taken home by the other’s mother. Floored and skeptical but also curious, Mrs. Qualls and Mrs. Shafer tracked each other down earlier this year and agreed to a DNA test. Then they went out to lunch.
Both shared stories of the rumors, long ago dismissed, that their mothers had brought home the wrong baby. That moment in the nursery in 1953 apparently had been the only time they had crossed paths.
When the DNA test came back, it confirmed what the elderly woman had said. With their identities upended, they cried and they laughed. They had a party, too.
“They had a birthday family reunion together, when they met all of each other’s siblings,” said Florene Robinson, Mrs. Qualls’s best friend and a colleague at the Bank of Eastern Oregon in Heppner.
The new extended family took pictures. There was Kay Rene standing beside DeeAnn’s sisters, her long-lost mirror images. There was DeeAnn alongside her biological family members, her blue eyes and blond hair suddenly making more sense.
Their story appeared in the East Oregonian newspaper this week and quickly shot across the Internet. Television producers tracked Mrs. Qualls to the ranch outside Heppner where she has long lived with her husband, Lyndale Qualls. They reached Mrs. Shafer here in Pasco, where she has just moved from Spokane, Wash., with her husband of 35 years, Rick, who helps run his brother’s used-car dealership.
“Good Morning America” is flying three generations of both families to New York for an appearance this week. Until then, both women said in brief telephone conversations, they are keeping more of their story to themselves. Already, they have tired of the news media’s inquiries, they said.
And then there are the questions they ask themselves.
“She has her highs and lows,” Mr. Shafer said of his wife. “One minute she’s happy, the next she’s sad because she never got to meet her real mom and dad, or her grandparents.”
“It eats at her,” Mr. Shafer said. “And I know it eats at Kay Rene, too. I mean, DeeAnn’s supposed to be Kay Rene.”
A man who tried to hire a prostitute to take his 14-year-old son's virginity as a present was spared jail by a British court on Friday.
The Polish national took the boy out in his car and allowed him to pick out the prostitute, who was standing at the side of the road in the red-light district of Nottingham, central England.
But the 42-year-old father was arrested because the teen had chosen an undercover police officer, Nottingham Crown Court heard.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was handed a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, after he admitted a charge of trying to solicit a woman to have sex with a child, the Press Association reported.
The court heard that the father, who came to Britain eight years ago, was arrested last July in an undercover operation by the vice squad. Prosecutor Adrian Harris said the man and his son approached the undercover officer whose code name was Sarah. He asked "Sarah" how much it would cost for her to have sex with his son and they agreed on $35. The man was arrested by plainclothes police officers.
Villagers, many straight from their farms, and armed with machetes, sticks and axes, are shouting and crowding round in a big group in Kenya's fertile Kisii district.
I can't see clearly what is going on, but heavy smoke is rising from the ground and a horrible stench fills the air.
More people are streaming up the hill, some of them with firewood and maize stalks.
Suddenly an old woman breaks from the crowd, screaming for mercy. Three or four people go after her, beat her and drag her back, pushing her onto - what I can now see - is a raging fire.
I was witnessing a horrific practice which appears to be on the increase in Kenya - the lynching of people accused of being witches.
I personally saw the burning alive of five elderly men and women in Itii village.
“ They point at me saying - that is a son of the witch ”
I had been visiting relatives in a nearby town, when I heard what was happening. I dashed to the scene, accompanied by a village elder.
He reacted as if what we were watching was quite normal, which was shocking for me.
As a stranger I felt I had no choice but to stand by and watch. My fear was that if I showed any sign of disapproval, or made any false move, the angry mob could turn on me.
Not one person was protesting or trying to stop the killing.
Hours later, the police came and removed the charred bodies.
Village youths who took part in the killings told me that the five victims had to die because they had bewitched a young boy.
"Of course some people have been burned. But there is proof of witchcraft," said one youth.
He said that a child had spent the night walking around and then was unable to talk the following morning - except to one of the so-called witches.
I asked the youths whether or not people involved in this supposed witchcraft should be punished.
"Yes, they must be punished, every one," said the first youth.
"We are very angry and that's why we end up punishing these people and even killing them."
His friend agreed: "In other communities, there are witches all round but in Kisii we have come up with a new method, we want to kill these people using our own hands."
I later discovered that the young boy who had supposedly been bewitched, was suffering from epilepsy.
His mother had panicked when he had had an attack.
All too common
The village elder was dismissive of my horror, saying that this kind of thing happens all the time in the western district of Kisii.
He told me about Joseph Ondieki, whose mother had been burned to death less than two months earlier.
I found Joseph and his wife Mary Nyaboke tending vegetables in their small shamba, or homestead.
“ If I visit my neighbours I fear they might poison my food ”
Mary told me that on the day her mother-in-law had been killed she had been visiting her own parents.
She had heard a noise and discovered the truth when she came home.
She said that in the 20 years she had been married, she had never had any reason to believe her husband's mother was a witch.
Joseph told me he has suffered a lot since his mother died.
"I was born here, but at this stage I feel as if this is not my home any more," he said.
"I cannot visit neighbours or relatives.
"Even when they see me standing by the road side, they point at me, saying: 'That is a son of the witch'.
"And when I go to town they also start wondering what has taken me there. Is it that I am going to give evidence against them?
"When I come back, they say I've been seen at the police station, but I've never been there. I've never reported the matter.
"If I visit the neighbours, I always fear that they might put poison in the food.
"So when I'm forced to visit, I make sure I don't eat anything.
"If I can't get my own food I just have a glass of water and sleep."
I set off with Joseph up the hill towards his house, which was far from the centre of the village.
On the way we passed his mother's house.
A neighbour was reluctant to talk to me and denied even knowing Joseph's mother.
"Here in Kisii, people are being burned on mere allegation and most of them are old," Joseph said.
"We now don't have any old people in the village to consult.
"Even me I'm now approaching 50 years old - I'm afraid that they'll come for me also."
I spent three days in Kisii trying to speak to the authorities, but nobody, neither the police nor the local government officials would talk to me.
As night drew in, and it was time for me to leave, Joseph walked with me from his village to where my car was parked.
When we arrived, he begged me to take him with me to Mombasa, where I am based.
It was very difficult for me to leave him behind.
As I drove away I passed signs pinned to trees, warning witches that they would be tracked down.
"We know you by your names", someone had typed in bold.
To listen to the full broadcast of Kenya's Witch Lynchings , tune in to African Perspective on the BBC World Service. The program is first broadcast on Saturday 27 June at 1106 GMT. It will be available online from 2106 GMT, for one week.
July 14, 2009
Vocal Minority Insists It Was All Smoke and Mirrors
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
They walk among us, seemingly little different from you or me. Most of the time, you would never know of their true nature — except that occasionally, they feel compelled to speak up.
Take an example from Lens, this newspaper’s photography blog. A recent feature,“ Dateline: Space,” displayed stunning NASA photographs, including the iconic photo of Buzz Aldrin standing on the lunar surface.
The second comment on the feature stated flatly, “Man never got to the moon.”
The author of the post, Nicolas Marino, went on to say, “I think media should stop publicizing something that was a complete sham once and for all and start documenting how they lied blatantly to the whole world.”
Forty years after men first touched the lifeless dirt of the Moon — and they did. Really. Honest. — polling consistently suggests that some 6 percent of Americans believe the landings were faked and could not have happened. The series of landings, one of the greatest gambles of the human race, was an elaborate hoax developed to raise national pride, many among them insist.
They examine photos from the missions for signs of studio fakery, and claim to be able to tell that the American flag was waving in what was supposed to be the vacuum of space. They overstate the health risks of traveling through the radiation belts that girdle our planet; they understate the technological prowess of the American space program; and they cry murder behind every death in the program, linking them to an overall conspiracy.
And while there is no credible evidence to support such views, and the sheer unlikelihood of being able to pull off such an immense plot and keep it secret for four decades staggers the imagination, the deniers continue to amass accusations to this day. They are bolstered by films like a documentary shown on Fox television in 2001 and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon” by Bart Sibrel, a filmmaker in Nashville.
“There are smart, normal people who buy into these conspiracy theories,” said Philip Plait, an astronomer and author who counters the conspiracy theorists point by point and at excruciating length at his “Bad Astronomy” Web site. He is one of many people who have joined the fight to affirm that It Happened. A group effort, at www.clavius.org, debunks with gusto; its main author, Jay Windley, named the site for the Moon base in Arthur C. Clarke’s classic science fiction novel, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Even though the so-called evidence from the conspiracists can clearly be proved wrong, Mr. Plait said, understanding the proof can require a working knowledge of history and photography and of science and its methodology. “You’ve got to do the work; you’ve got to put the elbow grease to it,” he said, “and most people don’t do the work. So these things get traction.”
Mr. Marino, the author of the post on the Lens blog, is a 31-year-old architect born in Argentina. In an e-mail interview, he said that the political corruption during the years of dictatorship in his country shaped his thinking: “I started to realize how political corruption operates and how it is the interests of a few in power that really governs our world.”
As he traveled the world — he now lives and works in China — he picked up books contending that the landings were faked and saw documentaries including Mr. Sibrel’s, he said, which paints a dark portrait of political manipulation during the Nixon administration and somehow ties in the Vietnam War, the Titanic and the Tower of Babel before even getting to the supposed photographic evidence of lunar deception.
Mr. Sibrel, who sells his films online, has hounded Apollo astronauts with a Bible, insisting that they swear on camera they had walked on the Moon. He so annoyed Buzz Aldrin in 2002 — ambushing him with his Bible and calling him “a coward, and a liar, and a thief” — that Mr. Aldrin punched Mr. Sibrel in the face. Law enforcement officials refused to file charges against Mr. Aldrin, the second man on the Moon.
In an interview, Mr. Sibrel said that his efforts to prove that men never walked on the Moon has cost him dearly. “I have suffered only persecution and financial loss,” he said. “I’ve lost visitation with my son. I’ve been expelled from churches. All because I believe the Moon landings are fraudulent.”
Ted Goertzel, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University who has studied conspiracy theorists, said “there’s a similar kind of logic behind all of these groups, I think.” For the most part, he explained, “They don’t undertake to prove that their view is true” so much as to “find flaws in what the other side is saying.” And so, he said, argument is a matter of accumulation instead of persuasion. “They feel if they’ve got more facts than the other side, that proves they’re right.”
Mark Fenster, a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law who has written extensively on conspiracy theories, said he sees similarities between people who argue that the Moon landings never happened and those who insist that the 9/11 attacks were planned by the government and that President Obama’s birth certificate is fake: at the core, he said, is a polarization so profound that people end up with an unshakable belief that those in power “simply can’t be trusted.”
The emergence of the Internet as a communications medium, he noted, makes it possible for once-scattered believers to find one another. “It allows the theory to continue to exist, to continue to be available — it’s not just some old dusty books on the half-price shelf.”
Adam Savage, the co-star of the television show “MythBusters,” spent an episode last year taking apart Moon hoax theories bit by bit, entertainingly and convincingly. The theorists, he noted, never give up. “They’ll say you have to keep an open mind,” he said, “but they reject every single piece of evidence that doesn’t adhere to their thesis.”
For those who actually went — and have I mentioned that we did land astronauts on the Moon? Six times? — the conspiracy theories are simply galling.
Harrison Schmitt, the pilot of the lunar lander during the last Apollo mission and later a United States senator, said in an interview that the poor state of the nation’s schools has had predictable results. “If people decide they’re going to deny the facts of history and the facts of science and technology, there’s not much you can do with them,” he said.
“For most of them, I just feel sorry that we failed in their education.”
An earlier version of this article misstated who was in a Moon photograph on the Lens blog.
A family in Saudi Arabia has filed suit in a religious court against an unnamed genie, or jinn, who sounds most unpleasant: It steals cellphones, whispers threats and occasionally flings stones.
“We began to hear strange sounds,” a family member who requested anonymity told the Saudi daily Al Watan. “At first we did not take it seriously, but then stranger things started to happen, and the children got particularly scared when the genie started throwing stones.”
The genie -- or genies -- had demands: “A woman spoke to me first, and then a man. They said we should get out of the house,” said the family member, adding that his clan fled their home near the city of Medina.
Jinns and genies are spirits born out of fire that have supernatural powers. They appear in the Koran and Arab mythology, creatures living between humanity and the elements. One of their most famous incarnations lived in Aladdin’s lamp.
Sheikh Amr Al Salmi, head of the local Sharia court, said he will investigate the family’s claims that it has been harassed for two years: “We have to look into this case and verify its truthfulness despite the difficulty of
its consideration,” he told the Saudi daily. “What is interesting is that the complaint has come from every member of the family, and not just one.”
-- Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo
Photo: A mural showing the genie from "One Thousand and One Arabian Nights" is featured on the ceiling of the Aladdin Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Credit Laura Rauch / Associated Press
A British teenager is "back from the dead" after surviving 12 nights in Australia's unforgiving wilderness by eating seeds and sleeping under his jacket, his father said on Wednesday.
An exhausted and dehydrated Jamie Neale, 19, was discovered by chance by two hikers in the rugged Blue Mountains west of Sydney, ending an ordeal, which began when he set off for a lone trek on July 3.TVpictures showed Neale sporting a beard and looking bewildered as he arrived at Katoomba Hospital in the Blue Mountains.
Neale's father, Richard Cass, who flew out from Britain, had given up the search and was about to board his flight home when he was told the news.
"I had my little closure ceremony in the park. I carved his name, lit a candle, buried a red rose for England--and he's come back from the dead!"
But while hugely relieved, Cass also had some choice words about the ordeal that Neale had put his family and rescue workers through.
"When I've seen the mistake after mistake he's made -- I can't say I'd kill him because it would just spoil the point of him being back," Cass said.
The Briton had set off from a Katoomba hostel for the Ruined Castle rock formation, where he was last sighted. A major search party had been scouring the remote Jamison Valley using helicopters and dogs, as well as police, firefighters, park rangers and emergency service volunteers.
The harsh terrain is popular with bush walkers, but can be deadly. A 17-year-old hiker died after becoming lost in 2006.
A police spokesman said it was a "miracle" that Neale, who was on his first bush walk, had survived.
Neale's mother Jean said she never gave up hope for her son, whom she described as emotional when they spoke by telephone Wednesday.
"He just said, 'Hello, mom.' He was nearly in tears."
Rescued British hiker admits being 'a total idiot'
Canwest News ServiceJuly 20, 2009
A British backpacker who spent 12 days lost in the Australian wilderness feared he would starve to death if the rescue helicopters he saw overhead failed to find him.
Jamie Neale, 19, broke his silence over his ordeal in the Blue Mountains, telling an Australian current affairs show that he was horrified at the thought of dying slowly of starvation.
He ate seeds and berries and even searched for worms and insects as he struggled through the rugged expanse of forest and mountain.
"I thought I would starve to death, which is something I really didn't want to happen," he told 60 Minutes, which is reported to have paid up to $200,000 for an exclusive interview. "I didn't want a long and drawn-out thing and that terrified me."
Neale admitted being "a total idiot" for setting off without proper preparation or supplies from a youth hostel at Katoomba on July 3 on what was supposed to be a 10-hour bush walk.
"In Britain, you walk for a day and you end up at a pub. Out here, you can get lost so easily," he said.
"I was overconfident and I didn't respect the seriousness of the situation and I made mistakes."
The Briton rejected suggestions that he contrived his story to win a lucrative interview deal.
"I know what's happened and I know the people who were searching for me know that it happened and that's enough for me," he said.
The Spanish woman who became the world's oldest mother when she gave birth to twins days before turning 67 has died, leaving her sons orphaned before their third birthday.
Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara was diagnosed with cancer within a year of the birth of her twins, Christian and Pau.
She died on Saturday, aged 69, at a hospital near her home in Cadiz. One of her brothers confirmed that she had died on Saturday, but he refused to discuss who would care for the two-year-old twins.
The former shop worker, who was single, provoked great controversy. Her own family called her "selfish and irresponsible."
She admitted lying about her age to doctors to receive fertility treatment at a private clinic in Los Angeles, for which she paid a reported $49,300 US.
Shortly after the birth of her sons on Dec. 29, 2006, Bousada de Lara claimed to be feeling healthier than ever. Within months, however, she was diagnosed with cancer, believed to be breast cancer, and told that the powerful drugs used during her fertility treatment could have helped the disease to spread.
On Wednesday, Josephine Quintavalle, the head of the Comment on Reproductive Ethics campaign group, described women who had children in their 60s as selfish. "This is horrifying, it's such a sad story," she said of Bousada de Lara's death.
After braving more than a year of mechanical failures, rough seas and even a pirate scare, Zac Sunderland was welcomed home Thursday by his mother and sister at Marina Del Rey, Calif.
Photograph by: Gabriel Bouys, AFP-Getty Images, Reuters
A17-year-old U. S. mariner piloted his battered sailboat into a southern California harbour on Thursday to complete a gruelling 13-month voyage and become the youngest person to sail around the world alone.
Sandy-haired teenager Zac Sunderland arrived in Marina Del Rey aboard his 11-metre sloop Intrepid at about 10 a. m. local time. During his nearly 52,000-kilometre journey, Sunderland braved storms, equipment failures, close calls with freighters and a run-in with suspected pirates.
"It's awesome to be back" Sunderland, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., said after he was welcomed home by a flotilla of well-wishers.
Fewer than 250 people have sailed solo around the globe, with three times that many scaling the top of Mount Everest, according to the American Sailing Association, which certified Sunderland's feat.
He left Marina Del Rey, just south of Los Angeles, on June 14,2008, and celebrated his 17th birthday at sea while off Africa's Cape of Good Hope.
His return was delayed near the end of his voyage when his single-masted boat sustained a broken bulkhead in rough seas off Mexico, forcing him to stop at Puerto Vallarta long enough for his father to fly in to make repairs.
Another tense moment occurred in the Indian Ocean off Indonesia, where the Intrepid was approached by a suspected pirate boat.
The intruders fled after a plane flew overhead and Sunderland climbed onto his deck with a gun to ward them off, said Charlie Nobles, executive director of the association.
Sunderland, who remained in satellite phone contact with his father during the voyage, dumped the gun before entering Mexican waters, where it is illegal to carry firearms.
He becomes the first person under 18 to circumnavigate the globe by sea alone, and the youngest to date. The previous record-holder was David Dicks of Australia, who completed his voyage in November 1996 at age 18.
Briton, 82, completes 100 modes of transport challenge
LONDON - An 82-year-old Briton was celebrating Friday after completing his bid to travel on 100 different types of transport within a year.
Edwin Shackleton, a retired aircraft engineer from Bristol in sowthwest England, started off his odyssey with a ride in his car on New Year's Day. Seven months on, the bowel cancer survivor travelled by his 100th mode of transport by taking a ride in a hot-air balloon.
He travelled in a sledge, a fire engine, a rubbish truck, a rickshaw, a police car, a chairlift, a quad bike and a microlight plane.
World's oldest man, veteran of Great War dies at age 113
Canwest News ServiceJuly 19, 2009 7:52 AM
Henry Allingham, the world's oldest man and First World War veteran who put his longevity down to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women," died Saturday at the age of 113.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Gordon Brown led the tributes to Allingham, who symbolized the stoicism of the last generation of servicemen who saw the horrors of the Great War.
The veteran spoke of his experiences in the 1914-1918 conflict to remember fallen comrades shorn of the chance to live as long has he did and hoped there would be "no more wars."
In moving scenes last November, the frail, wheelchair-bound Allingham tried for minutes to lay his wreath himself as he led the country in marking the 90th anniversary of the armistice.
Allingham spent his 113th birthday on June 6 at a party hosted by the Royal Navy. He become the world's oldest man on June 17, Guinness World Records confirmed, when the previous holder, Tomoji Tanabe of Japan, died at 113.
The world's oldest man now is a 112-year-old American, Walter Breuning, born on Sept. 21, 1896. The world's oldest woman is Gertrude Baines, a 115-year-old American.
Reuters, Agence France-presse
A German whose arms were severed by a combine harvester said Wednesday he expected soon to be able to raise a glass of Bavarian beer to toast the success of his world-first transplant operation.
Karl Merk, 55, a dairy farmer from the southern German city of Munich, showed off his new dexterity in front of the cameras one year after doctors grafted new limbs onto his body in a landmark surgical procedure.
Waving his arms around and scratching his head, a delighted Merk said he had been able to fulfil a long-held dream to ride a bike again and hug his family.
Asked if he was able to drink a glass of beer in typical Bavarian fashion, Merk said: "Well, yeah, at the moment I'm drinking from a straw;otherwise it would be a bit dangerous, but it should happen soon."
However, he said his life was "basically back to normal" after the 15-hour surgery carried out by around 40 doctors, surgeons and nurses on July 25 and 26 last year.
"My biggest dream is to be able to move my fingers a bit and basically do everything independently for myself," Merk said.
Aussie survives 20 minutes buried by avalanche
Agence France-presseJuly 26, 2009 7:40 AM
An Australian man pulled unconscious and blue from metres of snow after a deadly avalanche that killed his skiing partner in New Zealand spoke Saturday of the "frightening peace" of his brush with death.
John Castran, a multimillionaire from Melbourne, was heli-skiing with his son Angus when they were hit by tonnes of snow on mountains west of Christchurch, on the South Island, late Friday.
"I was skiing down and all of a sudden the whole side of the mountain just let go," he told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
Buried under almost two metres of snow, Castran, 53, said he was still able to move his arms and legs, until a second wave of powder rolled over him and he was completely paralyzed.
"You choke with the snow, you can't breathe, you're suffocating, it's like being poured into plaster of Paris," he said.
"The only thing I could move was my tongue to push the snow away from in front of my mouth. I thought 'I've only got a little bit of air here, I've just got to use all the air very, very carefully,' so I just shut down totally."
It became "frighteningly peaceful" as the air ran out, Castran said.
His son, 23, managed to dig himself out of snow that had buried him to his waist, and located Castran using a search and rescue beacon that was pinned to his chest.
For 20 minutes he dug into the snow, finally pulling his father free, blue in the face and with his eyes rolled back in his head. He and a guide managed to revive Castran with CPR.
Just moments before the thundering avalanche, Castran said the third man in their skiing party, who died before he could be rescued, turned to him and said: "You don't get much closer to heaven than this."
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