Appeals court holds the FBI is allowed to kidnap and torture Americans outside US borders


The DC Appeals Court has just ruled against Amir Meshal, a US citizen who was arrested in Kenya by a joint US-Kenyan-Ethiopian law enforcement operation, held for months, tortured with FBI agents present and threatened with his secret murder, then released without any charges. Read the rest

Kenya's Parliament erupts into chaos as government rams through brutal "anti-terrorism" law

MPs shredded their papers and threw them, and got into fistfights with one another over the new law, which allows the government to imprison suspects for 360 days without charge, and to fine press outlets millions for publishing articles "likely to cause fear or alarm" (this term is not defined in the statute). Read the rest

Giving no-strings-attached money to the world's poorest produces remarkably good results

The Economist details outcomes from Give Directly, an organization that analyzes satellite photos to identify the poorest places in the world and then hands over no-strings-attached cash grants to the people who live there. It's a contrast to other programs, where donations are funneled into school construction or funding planned-out businesses. Give Directly has produced remarkably good results: "In randomly selected poor households in 63 villages that have received the windfalls, they say, the number of children going without food for a day has fallen by over a third and livestock holdings have risen by half. A year after the scheme began, incomes have gone up by a quarter and recipients seem less stressed, according to tests of their cortisol levels." Read the rest

Goths of Kenya

Middle-class Kenyan teens are inventing a local version of goth subculture, and are at the center of a moral panic about kids-gone-wild -- according to an article in Think Africa Press. The article is shy on details or photographic evidence, but I hope its true about the subculture (and not about the moral panic). Anyone have more evidence of this?

The negative public image of the goth scene also extends beyond the general public and is apparent in the attitudes of local authorities, at times with dramatic consequences. David used to have long hair, another way to stand out in a country where men tend to wear it very short. A couple of weeks before I met him, he was walking in town at dusk, waiting for the bus back to Nakuru, when a police car pulled over in front of him. The police approached him and asked to see his passport, which he was not carrying, before they accused him of looking like ‘an al-Shabaab’ – a Somali militant Islamist group responsible for several terrorist attacks in the region.

David denied this, stating that he was a Kenyan. The police then challenged him as to why he had untidy hair and facial piercings, preposterously claiming that these are hallmarks of Somali terrorists. They put him in their car and drove him to a nearby barber where they forced him to shave his head. They said that this would "stop confusing them", and they told him to "dress like a decent person" in future.

Read the rest

The Google-Kenya ripoff

Mocality is an African startup that has a Kenya-wide business directory. There is no Kenyan yellow pages, so the directory was crowdsourced, paying thousands of Kenyans to help create and validate its database.

When the businesses in Mocality's database started asking them about the premium service they were offering with Google, Mocality was puzzled. They had no joint venture with Google, and they had never charged any business for inclusion in their database. When they examined their server logs, they saw a large number of hits to the records for the businesses that had been cold-called from the same IP range.

So Mocality laid a trap: when that IP range next visited the Mocality site, they fed it fake phone numbers that went to Mocality's own call center, where a Mocality operator pretended to be a business-owner and recorded the conversation. In that conversation, the caller identified himself as a Google employee, calling about a joint Google-Mocality venture, and asking the business to pay Google for a Kenya Business Online website with its own domain on that basis. This was, of course, absolutely fraudulent. There was and is no Google-Mocality joint venture.

Shortly after, that IP range stopped visiting Mocality's servers, but another range, this one registered to Google's Mountain View headquarters [edit: this address has previously been used to conduct official Google business in India], began to query its database. Again, Mocality served a fake result with its own call-center number, and an hour later, they received a call from someone identifying herself as working on Google's behalf, asking for money for a joint Google-Mocality product. Read the rest

Men and Motorcycles, Nairobi, Kenya (photo)

"Nairobi, Kenya," a photo from Boing Boing reader Biketripper shared in the BB Flickr Pool. On the bikeflaps of one rider, "A Strong Enemy Is Better Than a Weak Friend." Read the rest

‪Market Bargaining in Nairobi‬‏: Joe Sabia (video)

‪Market Bargaining in Nairobi. The bargainer in question is Joe Sabia, who collaborates with me on Boing Boing Video projects. He was in Kenya working on some interesting new things. Read the rest

Junk helicopter

Joseph Omwoyo, a 17 year old student in rural Kenya, started building this junk helicopter after visiting an airport; he hopes to be an aviation engineer some day. He should hook up with the Kenyan IT guy who's building a junk airplane.

17 year old's flying dream (via Afrigadget) Read the rest

Semi-functional homebrew Kenyan junk-plane

Gabriel Nderitu is a Kenyan IT worker who devotes his off-hours to attempts to build an airworthy airplane out of junk. Here's his latest attempt: a small plane (with detachable wings), powered by a Toyota engine.

The strutted wing and ailerons are skinned with aluminum sheet. The engine itself turns up to 4,000 rpm, driving a 74-inch wooden propeller through a simple reduction belt drive. Nderitu says "a bit of it was a bit of reinventing the wheel ... not really looking and trying to copy." The aircraft is not yet finished and there is no guarantee Nderitu's craft will ever be licensed, or allowed to fly, or that it is even capable of flight (which seems unlikely). But that may not be the point.
Gabriel Nderitu, Kenyan Homebuilt Aircraft Manufacturer (via Neatorama) Afrigadgets: homemade model airplane from Kenya Kenyan bike-mechanic's homemade tools Kenyan blacksmiths make bellows from cement sacks Kids in Uganda improvise a junk-radio Pietenpol's DIY airplane: "a common man's airplane" Read the rest