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Letters to the Editor 

Week of Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Unbalanced and Unfair

Where was your critical judgment?: Bernice Yeung's atrocious story, "Enslavement in Palo Alto," which quoted me, is an example of one-sided journalism at its worst [Feb. 18]. The reporter has taken a single lawsuit based upon unproved allegations by a Kenyan housekeeper against her Kenyan employer and morphed it into a broad-brush story about human trafficking in America. Just to add some spice to a story about an unfortunate private labor dispute, the article includes a few gratuitous references to sex slaves, though sexual or physical abuse is not alleged in this case. What rubbish. How intellectually dishonest can you get?

While liberally sprinkling the report with disparaging references to Wanja Njuguna-Githinji, the reporter accepts unquestioningly the allegations of "Alice B.," the nanny who accompanied Ms. Njuguna-Githinji from Kenya during Ms. Njuguna-Githinji's fellowship year at Stanford. The story never questions the accuser's motivation for seeking asylum seven months after she left her job and was free from her alleged enslavement. Why would the accuser, who says she has a child in Kenya, want to remain in America? Is it possible that the accuser, after experiencing the richness of life in California, needed a more powerful story to support an asylum claim rather than a simple economic motive? We don't know if those questions were ever asked.

Yeung's uncritical acceptance of the sensational story put forth by the accuser's advocates is underscored by her apparent acquiescence not to use "Alice B."'s full name, even though it is a matter of public record and can be easily obtained in a quick Google search -- see the Dec. 17 story in the San Jose Mercury News for a different take on this case. In 0.48 seconds, Google tells me that the accuser, before she filed her asylum claim, was apparently employed as a freelance housekeeper after she left Ms. Njuguna-Githinji -- a San Jose mother recommends her services to her neighbors ( Does the accuser's visa permit her to do such work? In the hands of another journalist, this might be evidence that the accuser is working illegally, taking food from the mouths of properly documented workers. But that would not fit in with SF Weekly's predetermined story line, so we don't read about that.

The lesson here is that you can spin a story any way you want, which is what lawyers do, but not responsible journalists.

Andrew Maykuth
Foreign Correspondent-at-Large
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia, Penn.

Get the rope: People like Njuguna-Githinji need to be punished to the letter. What a mendacious act! She has obviously used her power to enslave Alice B., whom she considered uneducated and naive. I would love to see people like Njuguna-Githinji pay dearly for ill-treating Alice B. on humanitarian rights.

Name withheld by request

Open Arse, Insert Head

Your music columnist is a nitwit: Why does Garrett Kamps think Train is so bad [OK Then, Feb. 18]? He hasn't even actually listened to their music. All he did at the S.F. shows was observe the fans, which he did a very poor job of.

All of us Trainiacs are polite AND dedicated. Has he ever been to the Train message boards? Everyone there is amazingly nice. But at concerts, of course, there's always going to be some rude people. That happens all the time at every concert. And since when is liking all of Train's songs NOT being dedicated? And just like Amanda, on Saturday night I got to go onstage and Pat kissed me on the cheek and sang to me. And you know what? That was the best night of my life! And I WILL grow up and tell my kids about it.

Kamps is just jealous that he hasn't had the chance to have something great happen to him, and he's mad that he's stuck writing shitty articles for a newspaper for a living. And Train does have true dedicated fans. I waited outside that cafe since 10:30 that morning so I could get front row. And it was worth it.

The whole night when I was in the front, I wasn't pushed ONCE. So Kamps is calling that rude? Not being pushed? And Train's just another "bag of sand"? Well, then how come they won a Grammy? And were nominated for two others? Huh? 'Cause maybe they're more than just another "sandbag."

And of course they're not as great as Elvis. Very few artists and bands are. But Kamps wouldn't know that with his head being so far up his ass.

Sara Gauthier, 15


In the story "Neo Con Artist" [Feb. 25], the position of congressional candidate Rohit Khanna on the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries was mischaracterized; he does not "favor" outsourcing. At a recent event, Khanna said: "I do think that there will be certain jobs that inevitably will be outsourced, but one of the things that we can do, as a country, is to say, Silicon Valley and other places in the tech industry -- since you mentioned Oracle -- has always been the innovators of the world. All the cutting-edge technology and the science, a lot of it happens here. So if we're outsourcing jobs and investing in education and science and technology and retraining our workforce so that they're prepared to be innovators in the new industry, in the next industry that's coming up, then we'll be able to create new jobs. This is what happened after the manufacturing industry lost jobs: We thought, 'Well, what's going to happen to the American economy?' And the American economy reinvented itself with investment in new technology and in new areas, and I'm very confident that Silicon Valley will reinvent itself with new technology in new areas. And my concern is, what's going to happen to people before the reinvention, I mean, the people who are actually being displaced? I think there's a real human cost there, and that's where we need to provide short-term incentives for companies to hire workers who've been displaced and to provide them with health-care benefits, to provide them with longer-term unemployment insurance while they look for jobs, and provide them with retraining. But you know, there's no stopping -- I agree with you, you can't just stop outsourcing -- there are economic forces, and the question is how can we best manage to retain jobs and add the highest-paying jobs, given that there's this phenomenon."

The same story contained incorrect quotations from a coffee thrown by a Khanna supporter. The full exchange was:

Question: "You are 27 and don't have experience with the federal government. What can you say to let us know that you will have a clue what to do when you're out there [in Congress]?"

Khanna's reply: "That's a very good question. So, I do have experience in working for people in our government. I worked for Jack Quinn, who was the chief of staff to Al Gore; I worked for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who was the lieutenant governor of Maryland; I worked for Bill Bradley; I worked at the Carter Center for Ambassador Gordon Streeb on development issues in Guyana, international development issues. So I have been active in politics and active in the Democratic Party, and I've spent a lifetime thinking about policy issues. So, do I have the experience that Tom Lantos does? No. But I think I bring new ideas, I think I bring enough experience that I will be effective, and I know I'm capable of doing the job."

The story also incorrectly reported that the San Francisco Examiner criticized Khanna's opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, as a political coward for refusing to debate opponents until late in the campaign. Actually, other publications made that criticism.

In a recent letter to the Weekly, Khanna also disputes the story's characterizations of his positions on several other issues; we believe the characterizations to involve primarily matters of interpretation and analysis. Mr. Khanna's letter can be found by clicking on the "Previous Issue" button on our Web site (

SF Weekly regrets the errors.


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