Thursday, February 26, 2009

Adios Pan Paper. Adios Pollution.

For those who have been following the story of Pan African Paper Mills, it’s closure comes as no surprise. For a long time it has been surviving on cash injections and other known and unknown favours from Treasury.

With a workforce of more than 2,000, Pan Paper is the economic engine of Webuye town. True there are other business ventures that the residents can engage in but many face imminent collapse with the fall of the giant paper manufacturer. We may very well be witnessing the death of the otherwise once vibrant town of Webuye.

Having said that, there is also the bright side to look at. Some residents feel that the closure is good riddance due to the high levels of pollution that the factory is known for. Webuye has the infamous distinction of being one of the most polluted places on the planet. For long term residents, chest and breathing problems are rife among children and adults alike. This is directly attributable to continual inhalation of highly corrosive hydrosulphuric acid and use of contaminated water from Nzoia River which the paper miller has equally polluted.

Pan paper is one company among many that should by now have been sued and made to pay millions in compensation for poor health among residents, poor crop output, sick livestock and the sheer stench that is the hallmark of the town and it’s environs. But then again this is Kenya and they could always talk to the mighty.

Take it from someone who has been there severally, even breathing is difficult in Webuye. The stench, akin to that of rotten eggs comes in sick wave after sick wave and you are constantly aware that every breath you take is laden with chemicals. The factory itself as far as I could see was always enveloped in a sinister plume of smoke. From my web travels for this article, I’ve learnt a few things I did not even know. For example, corrugated iron sheets on roofs are corroded within months. Snowstorms of foam droplets from Pan Paper’s waste ponds cloud the sky and burn the skin.

If ever the giant paper manufacturer re-opens, the first thing they should check is the high levels of pollution. Someone should reinforce the activists and advocates who have been trying to make a case for affected residents. Webuye needs Erin Brockovich.

And that is just one factory.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Not So Wonderful After All Super Food.

Soya. Touted as a super food, there’s been such a rush to market it until nothing seems nutritionally sound without soy listed among the ingredients. Milk, baby formula, beverages, ice cream, name it. And for good reason. Soy is indeed nutritious. But there is mounting concern and in some cases evidence that Soya has some very biologically active compounds that can affect negative changes in our bodies. Considering that it’s also mostly genetically modified, we should all probably be very afraid.

According to Nation nutrition columnist Sona Parmar, In the US where a quarter of the baby formulas contain soya, there are increasing reports of young children going through early sexual development. Early puberty may not necessarily be an issue if we were talking about a 10 or even nine year old. But the children in question are actually aged between five and six years. In Australia, signs of maturation (underarm order, breast development, body hair and even menses) have been reported in children as young as two, three and four years of age. The problem generally occurs in girls who have been given soy for nine months or more.

In boys, 12 months of soy feeding can lead to problems by the age of 11 or 12. Breasts can appear and testicles may fail to develop. Nature simply did not intend for children to be fed on hormones.

Not all soy fed babies develop problems. But is it worth taking the chance? When it comes to giving it to your children, is it not better to err on the side of caution?

Here are a few links where you can weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself whether or not to consume Soya.

One woman’s chilling Soya story.

Some Q & A on Soya.

What they didn’t tell us about Soya Based Products.

Friday, February 20, 2009

She’s a record holder for the world's longest nails. She’s been growing them since 1979. She recently lost the nails in a car crash.

I’m sure over the years, the good lady has adapted to living with her self imposed predicament but I still can’t help wondering how she gets through life from the very mundane tasks like eating to the more involving ones like combing her hair without the nails tripping all over themselves. She could easily delegate cooking, laundry and other household chores but how about tasks like cleaning, dressing and grooming herself? And getting intimate? Is there such a thing as hands off intimacy?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

John Githongo - Hero Or Traitor?

John Githongo has finally started serializing his book on his life as an anti corruption czar in the Daily Nation.

There’s an interesting mix of comments on the Nation Media site. To sample but a few, Ngocho says: All Githongo’s releases seem aimed to prove that he is clean and others are corrupt. He seems to have forgotten that his appointment was not about him but about Kenya. In spite of holding a position of unrestricted access, he was unable to gather evidence to convict Anglo-leasing architects or stop scams in future. Give us a break John, you have failed.

Jini42 says: Kenyans are quick to criticize and judge Githongo for his actions. Regardless of his ethnic background, I think highlighting corruption is the right thing to do (even from a cowering position behind the British). Although I would like to see him come up with solutions to the problem after he finishes tell us who the culprits are.

If the total comments on the daily nation site were to be a gauge, then it seems majority of Kenyans fail to see Githongo as a hero, with some going as far as branding him a traitor. Well, he may not have anything new to say. We have a pretty good idea of the scandals and the culprits. But it will be good to have his story on the record even though the scoundrels he exposes will not be going to cool their heels in Kamiti Prison any time soon. All in all the serialization is an easy read.

It’s not fair to judge him before the whole story is out but so far he’s coming across as a person who feels he failed somewhere and therefore needs to redeem himself. However things will probably get more detailed as the plot unfolds. I’m also hoping that this time he will spill all.

It was interesting to learn that Dr. Gikonyo was sent along with Kimunya as an emissary to travel to London to see Githongo. Who sends a cardiologist on a corruption cover-up mission?

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Days Of Our Lives

Mother, father and daughter picture Courtesy of People Daily Online.

It seems teenage sex is one thing that will never go away no matter how much the world tries. Many countries are grappling with this problem but Britain which has the dubious reputation of being the teenage sex capital of Europe has produced yet another shocker. Schoolboy Alfie Patten is a father at 13. That means he was just 12 when the baby was conceived.

Pictures of the young family are shocking to say the least. But in the spirit of celebrating new life, congratulations to the young couple and may they make good parents. The baby’s mother Chantelle is 15. Asked what he would do to support the child financially, Alfie asks in a small, high-pitched voice, "What's financially?"

Teenage parents aside, it’s sad that there are still so many myths and misconceptions being peddled about sex especially by uninformed kids. Sample this:

  • You can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex.
  • You can’t get pregnant if you’re standing up during sex.
  • If you love someone you must have sex with them otherwise it’s not love.
  • It’s unhealthy for a boy to get an erection and then not have sex.
  • You can get pregnant from oral sex.
  • You can tell if a person has an STI by just looking at them.
  • If a boy pulls out during sex you can’t get pregnant.
  • If you use tampons you’re no longer a virgin.
  • You can reuse a condom if you wash it properly

Last year we debated here about whether or not to accept teenage sex as a modern development or to retain the hard stance society has taken while kids continue to sex away. Something needs to be done. It’s time parents talked some more.

Friday, February 13, 2009

New Soft Drink Coming Soon From India

Does your Pepsi lack pep? Is your Coke not the real thing? India's Hindu nationalist movement apparently has the answer: a new soft drink made from cow urine.

The bovine brew is in the final stages of development by the Cow Protection Department of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India's biggest and oldest Hindu nationalist group, according to the man who makes it.

Om Prakash, the head of the department, said the drink – called "gau jal", or "cow water" – in Sanskrit was undergoing laboratory tests and would be launched "very soon, maybe by the end of this year".

"Don't worry, it won't smell like urine and will be tasty too," he told The Times from his headquarters in Hardwar, one of four holy cities on the River Ganges. "Its USP will be that it's going to be very healthy. It won't be like carbonated drinks and would be devoid of any toxins."

Mr Prakash said his drink, by contrast, was made mainly of cow urine, mixed with a few medicinal and ayurvedic herbs. He said it would be "cheap", but declined to give further details about its price or ingredients until it was officially launched.

He insisted, however, that it would be able to compete with the American cola brands, even with their enormous advertising budgets. "We're going to give them good competition as our drink is good for mankind," he said. "We may also think of exporting it."

Times Online has the full story.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Valentine Be Mine.

Valentine is with us again.

Despite its pagan origins, St. Valentines day has now been embraced the world over as a modern tradition. With the rush that is every day life, it’s difficult to make every single day extra special. Love and love well all year round but if February 14 makes you and your partner happy then by all means take it to celebrate and define what you have. But if you don’t already show love and appreciation to your dear one all year long, then being overly romantic on Valentine’s Day will not suddenly open doors.

  • Love can be red, like the intense heat of a passionate kiss.
  • Love can be yellow, bright and warm like the morning sun.
  • Love can be green, peaceful and serene I can hear your heart beats.
  • Love can be orange, the loudness of it can drive you up a wall.
  • Love can be purple, the courage we need to love bravely and unselfishly.

Valentine or no valentine, Love is delicious. It’s well worth it. Happy Lovers Day.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Kenya We Want

When I first heard of The Kenya We Want conference long before it started, I thought that was a brilliant idea. But that was because I imagined it would be a forum by the people for the people. A place where all and sundry could go and air their views and frustrations but mostly frustrations. Our views are already well known albeit ignored.

Then I realized it was staged by the same old same old from the ruling elite. I was disheartened to see the usual suspects gracing the high table and reading boring speeches. Surely, whatever new ideas do these senior citizens have for Kenya that they’ve not implemented all these years? Where did their pre-election manifestos go anyway? Wouldn’t it be wise to take a peek into those first and see how far they’re following them?

Kenyans want an end to corruption and blatant theft Mr. President. An end to hunger, poverty and impunity. They want an improved judiciary so that the real culprits can leave their mansions and go to Kamiti. Do we really need to spend so much money on conferences to get these messages across? Let me guess how this will go. Reports and PDFs will be produced and stored somewhere to gather dust. Then life shall go on. That’s as pessimistic as can be but what’s there not to be pessimistic about in present Kenya?

Kenyans are a hard working and enterprising people. Provide an enabling environment and we’re good to go. Someone said that The Kenya We Want is all summarized in the words of the National Anthem.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Beauty/Fallacy Of Hiking In Birthday Suit.

A local Swiss government plans to take action against a sudden and apparently unwelcome phenomenon – naked hikers.

I cannot for the life of me imagine why someone would hit the trails naked. Ok there’s all that talk on naturalism and all but all the same thank God for small liberties. Many naked hikers in the West get friendly reactions from the people they meet. In these parts of the world, roaming the forests in the nude would most certainly be considered madness of the worst kind.

However, naked hiking is all about fun, health and fitness like any other activity but strictly for people who can deal with the human body as it was created. Among those who practice it, it is hailed as the ultimate experience of freedom – you’re one on one with the environment. A nude hiker would want to know why there’s such debate about nudity in movement and yet the world does not seem to be equally bothered about static nudity in books, magazines, films and even some newspapers.

For those who can, good for you. You get to save on hiking gear and let all body parts grace and appreciate nature without discrimination. The web has more than enough guides for this kind of adventure.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Look Just How Much We Know!

From the Standard today in regard to the Nakumat and Salgaa fires.

  • In most towns, oil tankers are often parked on the roadside, a danger to passersby, shoppers, and other motorists. Children are often the most exposed to danger as they play a few meters from the tankers.

  • In Mombasa residents have complained that most fuel tankers are packed in residential areas either for washing or siphoning of fuel.

  • It has become the norm for people to rush for free fuel whenever a tanker is involved in an accident, oblivious of the risks involved, says Internal Security Minister George Saitoti.

  • The country has no laws restricting/regulating the movement of oil tankers and trucks, transport industry players say.

  • In 2006, a local trailer maker introduced tankers which enhanced safety features that do not allow fuel spills in case of accidents. Called the Safety Plus, the tankers are fitted with valves underneath that snap off in case of an accident and trap the fuel inside the container.

  • Driver fatigue is to blame for most accidents involving trucks.

  • Accident disaster scenes should be cordoned off.

  • We should reduce the amount of Fuel transported by road.

  • In March, 2006, a draft proposal called ‘Fire Safety Management Policy of Kenya’ was to be discussed and adopted by the Cabinet. The document still remains a draft to date.

  • Most public service vehicles do not have emergency exit doors.

  • Kenyans are ill-prepared to deal with fire emergencies, experts say.

  • The Physical planning Act is stringent but building managers alter plans once they’re issued with building certificates. Years later, managers alter the buildings later to suit their businesses. In the Nakumat fire, government head of operations at the site said the supermarket’s exit doors were permanently blocked.

So we actually know all that?

Other than the fires, condolences to the family of Madaraka Karisa who lost his wife and 4 children in a road accident at Makindu on January 19th. They were laid to rest on Saturday.

And let’s not forget the corruption scandals currently rocking the country. The perpetrators might be taking advantage to cover their tracks now that the nation’s attention is turned to the fire disasters.