Most people I know these days are trying to eat less meat. In the readings for today, we start the story of Daniel, a story every Christian child learns in Sunday School, but when you read as an adult, you see different things. This morning, doing the readings from the Lectionary, I smiled to see that Daniel and his companions wanted only vegetables; they were working very hard not to violate their food laws.
I also wonder if not eating meat was helpful in the den of lions; maybe they smelled less interesting as vegetarians? Then again, lions eat impalas, wildebeest, all sorts of vegetarians, so that probably was not a factor . . .
1In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar,* and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods.
3 Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility, 4young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. 6Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. 7The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. 9Now God allowed Daniel to receive favour and compassion from the palace master. 10The palace master said to Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your own age, you would endanger my head with the king.’
11Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 12‘Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.’ 14So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days. 15At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. 16So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. 17To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.
18 At the end of the time that the king had set for them to be brought in, the palace master brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, 19and the king spoke with them. And among them all, no one was found to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they were stationed in the king’s court. 20In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. 21And Daniel continued there until the first year of King Cyrus.
I found this article in the Weather Underground News this morning:
DOHA, Qatar — An amount of freshwater almost the size of the Dead Sea has been lost in parts of the Middle East due to poor management, increased demands for groundwater and the effects of a 2007 drought, according to a NASA study.
The study, to be published Friday in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, examined data over seven years from 2003 from a pair of gravity-measuring satellites which is part of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment or GRACE. Researchers found freshwater reserves in parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins had lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of its total stored freshwater, the second fastest loss of groundwater storage loss after India.
About 60 percent of the loss resulted from pumping underground reservoirs for ground water, including 1,000 wells in Iraq, and another fifth was due to impacts of the drought including declining snow packs and soil drying up. Loss of surface water from lakes and reservoirs accounted for about another fifth of the decline, the study found.
“This rate of water loss is among the largest liquid freshwater losses on the continents,” the authors wrote in the study, noting the declines were most obvious after a drought.
The study is the latest evidence of a worsening water crisis in the Middle East, where demands from growing populations, war and the worsening effects of climate change are raising the prospect that some countries could face sever water shortages in the decades to come. Some like impoverished Yemen blame their water woes on the semi-arid conditions and the grinding poverty while the oil-rich Gulf faces water shortages mostly due to the economic boom that has created glistening cities out of the desert.
In a report released during the U.N. climate talks in Qatar, the World Bank concluded among the most critical problems in the Middle East and North Africa will be worsening water shortages. The region already has the lowest amount of freshwater in the world. With climate change, droughts in the region are expected to turn more extreme, water runoff is expected to decline 10 percent by 2050 while demand for water is expected to increase 60 percent by 2045.
One of the biggest challenges to improving water conservation is often competing demands which has worsened the problem in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins.
Turkey controls the Tigris and Euphrates headwaters, as well as the reservoirs and infrastructure of Turkey’s Greater Anatolia Project, which dictates how much water flows downstream into Syria and Iraq, the researchers said. With no coordinated water management between the three countries, tensions have intensified since the 2007 drought because Turkey continues to divert water to irrigate farmland.
“That decline in stream flow put a lot of pressure on northern Iraq,” Kate Voss, lead author of the study and a water policy fellow with the University of California’s Center for Hydrological Modeling in Irvine, said. “Both the UN and anecdotal reports from area residents note that once stream flow declined, this northern region of Iraq had to switch to groundwater. In an already fragile social, economic and political environment, this did not help the situation.”
Jay Famiglietti, principle investigator of the new study and a hydrologist and UC Irvine professor of Earth System Science, plans to visit the region later this month, along with Voss and two other UC Irvine colleagues, to discuss their findings and raise awareness of the problem and the need for a regional approach to solve the problem.
“They just do not have that much water to begin with, and they’re in a part of the world that will be experiencing less rainfall with climate change,” Famiglietti said. “Those dry areas are getting dryer. They and everyone else in the world’s arid regions need to manage their available water resources as best they can.”
Engaget publishes the information that Iran intends to isolate Iranians in Iran from the global ‘net. Makes sense to me . . . if I am running a country where I don’t want my people exposed to what is happening in the rest of the world, when I want to create my own perceptions of reality, if I don’t want people adopting ways contrary to my own beliefs AND I have the power to enforce it . . . But does anyone in the world truly have the power to isolate a population?
It seems to me that the quickest way to encourage people to find a new way to do something is to try to make it impossible for them to do it. Forbidding access incites clever minds to find work-arounds . . .
So what kind of “Spring” happens in a country where strict fundamentalists have already taken over . . . ?
Iran announces plans to create isolated local internet system, fate of global access unknown
By Sean Buckley posted Sep 23rd 2012 6:07PM
Iranians have been having trouble accessing YouTube, Gmail and other Google services for some time now, but their digital world may be growing even smaller — Iran announced today that it plans to shuffle citizens onto its own domestic version of the web. Reuters reports that officials plan to connect citizens to the national information network that’s currently in use at government agencies. Iran hopes to complete the transition by March of next year, and is already taking steps to isolate its population from certain international services. “Google and Gmail will be filtered throughout the country until further notice,” an Iranian official added, noting that the ban would commence in “a few hours.”
Some locals, such as the Iranian Students’ News Agency, are attributing the ban to recent protests sparked by a trailer for an anti-Islamic film on YouTube called Innocence of Muslims, but the government has made no official comment on the reason behind the ban. The state isn’t clear on the fate of the global internet in Iran, either — although it has talked about creating an isolated national network before. Here’s hoping the new network will be a compliment to the Persian web, and not a substitute.
I used to get such great comments from Iranian viewers, and now I get no visiters from Iran at all. Fahad told me my blog is banned in Iran. (Should I feel flattered?) You can check to see if your blog is banned in Iran at this website:
I always thought coffee shops started in that part of the world – oh wait, right, those were just for men.
LOL, found this on AOL, from Huffpost, from a Reuters report:
DUBAI, July 15 (Reuters) – Iranian police shut down dozens of restaurants and coffee shops over the weekend, Iranian media reported, in a renewed crackdown on what the state sees as immoral and un-Islamic behaviour.
Regular officers and members of the “morality police” raided 87 cafes and restaurants in a single district of the capital Tehran on Saturday and arrested women for flouting the Islamic dress code, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA).
“These places were shut for not following Islamic values, providing hookah to women, and lacking proper licenses,” said Tehran police official Alireza Mehrabi, according to ISNA. Women are not allowed to smoke hookah, water pipes, in public.
Mehrabi said the raid came as part of a plan to provide “neighbourhood-oriented” security, and would continue in other parts of Tehran.
Coffee shop culture has flourished in Iran in recent years, offering wireless Internet, snacks, hot drinks, and a place to hang out for Iranian youth in a country where there are no bars or Western chain restaurants or cafes.
But that trend has been criticised by conservative Iranians who consider it a cultural imposition from the West and incompatible with Islamic values. The government periodically cracks down on behaviour it considers un-Islamic, including mingling between the sexes outside of marriage.
In 2007, Tehran police closed down 24 Internet cafes and other coffee shops in as many hours, detaining 23 people. (Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
Thank you, John Mueller
Supporters demonstrate in January for the release of Saeed Malekpour in Montreal, Quebec.
(CNN) — A computer programmer from Canada faces imminent execution in Iran for the actions of another person, which he had no control over, a human rights group says.
Saeed Malekpour wrote a program to upload photos to the Internet, an accomplishment that could cost him his life, Amnesty International reported Friday. Authorities in the Islamic Republic claimed his program was used by someone else to upload pornography and charged him with “insulting and desecrating Islam.”
Malekpour, who is a Toronto resident, was arrested in October 2008 while visiting relatives in Iran. He was convicted in a short trial and was sentenced to death in October 2011, according to Amnesty International.
Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed the sentence on January 17. Malekpour’s lawyers have been unable to ascertain the whereabouts of his court files since Tuesday and fear this could be an indicator that an executioner could carry out the sentence soon, Amnesty said. A court official suggested to the lawyers that the file had been sent to the Office for the Implementation of Sentences, according to Amnesty.
Malekpour sent a letter from prison detailing beatings and other mistreatment at the hands of Iranian prison officials to obtain a confession, said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“A large portion of my confession was extracted under pressure, physical and psychological torture, threats to myself and my family, and false promises of immediate release upon giving a false confession to whatever the interrogators dictated,” the letter says.
Malekpour’s supporters have created Facebook pages and websites in his support dating to at least 2009.
Amnesty International has requested on its website that concerned individuals write Iranian authorities inside and outside the country to demand that Malekpour not be executed.
I love this story. I found it on AOL News / Huffington Post; it’s an Associated Press Story.:
WASHINGTON — The political tensions between the U.S. and Iran over transit in and around the Persian Gulf gave way Friday to photos of rescued Iranian fisherman happily wearing American Navy ball caps.
The fishermen were rescued by a U.S. Navy destroyer Thursday, more than 40 days after their boat was commandeered by suspected Somali pirates in the northern Arabian Sea. The rescue came just days after Tehran warned the U.S. to keep its warships out of the Persian Gulf – an irony not lost on U.S. officials who trumpeted the news on Friday.
“We think it’s very doubtful that the Iranians or the pirates were aware of recent events of the last couple days,” Rear Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of the U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group involved in the rescue, told reporters by phone Friday. “Once we released them (the fishermen) today they went on their way very happily, I might add, waving to us wearing USS Kidd Navy ball caps.”
Faller, speaking from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in the Arabian Sea, said the fishermen, who had been living off the fish they could catch, expressed their thanks and are believed to be headed back to their homeport in Iran.
The rescue was carried out by American forces flying off the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd, after crew on the Iranian fishing vessel, the Al Molai, made it clear they were in trouble.
The USS Kidd, part of the Stennis carrier group, was sailing in the Arabian Sea, after leaving the Persian Gulf, when it came to the sailors’ aid. It was alerted to the hostage situation when the captain of the fishing boat spoke by radio to the Americans in Urdu – a Pakistani dialect that he hoped the pirates near him would not understand – and managed to convey that he needed help.
A U.S. Navy team helicoptered to the ship, boarded it without any resistance, and detained 15 suspected Somali pirates. They had been holding the 13-member Iranian crew hostage and were using the boat as a “mother ship” for pirating operations in the Persian Gulf.
“They were scared,” U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jennifer L. Ellinger, commander of the USS Kidd, said of the Iranians. “They pleaded with us to come over and board their vessel, invited us to come over. And we reassured them that we would be on our way.”
Amid escalating tensions with Tehran, the Obama administration reveled in delivering the news.
“This is an incredible story. This is a great story,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, explaining that the very same American ships the Islamic republic protested for recently traveling through the Strait of Hormuz were responsible for the Iranian vessel’s recovery.
“They were obviously very grateful to be rescued from these pirates,” Nuland said.
The episode occurred after a week of hostile rhetoric from Iranian leaders, including a statement by Iran’s Army chief that American vessels are no longer welcome in the Gulf. Iran also warned it could block the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic waterway that carries to market much of the oil pumped in the Middle East.
The Iranian threats, which were brushed aside by the Obama administration, were in response to strong economic sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear enrichment program. Last week, President Barack Obama signed into law new sanctions targeting Iran’s Central Bank and its ability to sell petroleum abroad.
According to Faller and Ellinger, the incident began Thursday morning when the Navy got a distress call from a Bahamian-flagged ship, and saw six individuals in a small boat next to it, throwing what appeared to be weapons into the water. They checked but found no evidence of piracy, so they released the small boat, but followed it by helicopter.
The small boat headed back to the Iranian-flagged ship, where U.S. Navy officials said it looked like there were both Middle Eastern and Somali on board.
The radio conversation with the Iranian captain made it clear his crew was under duress, so the USS Kidd launched a Navy search and seizure team. The suspected pirates hid on the ship, but the Iranian crew told the team where they were, Ellinger said, adding that the pirates surrendered quickly.
“The Al Molai had been taken over by pirates for roughly the last 40-45 days,” said Josh Schminsky, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent aboard the Kidd. “They were held hostage, with limited rations, and we believe were forced against their will to assist the pirates with other piracy operations.”
Schminsky said the Iranian boat’s captain thanked the U.S. for assistance. “He was afraid that without our help, they could have been there for months,” Schminsky said in a prepared release.
The U.S. team gave the crew food, water and medical care, and on Friday morning they moved the captured pirates to the Stennis. They will remain there while the U.S. considers options for prosecution and consults with other nations that have joined forces against piracy.
“Sadly, this is not a new thing,” Nuland told reporters, citing more than 1,000 pirates picked up at sea who are under prosecution in some 20 countries. “So this is always a question of where to send them and who will do the prosecution.”
Asked if the rescue mission could provide a chance for a thaw in relations with Iran, Nuland declined to comment. She said the Navy had made a “humanitarian gesture” to take the Iranians onboard, feed them and ensure they were in good health before setting them off. She said the U.S. and Iranian governments have had no direct contact over the incident.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Faller on Friday to congratulate him on the rescue, adding that, “When we get a distress signal, we’re going to respond. That’s the nature of what our country is all about.”
Islamic Solidarity Games cancelled over Gulf dispute
From BBC News
The first Islamic Solidarity Games were held in Jeddah in 2005
The Islamic Solidarity Games, due to be held in Iran in April, have been called off because of a dispute with Arab countries over what to call the Gulf.
The games federation in Saudi Arabia said the Iranian organisers had failed to address its concerns, particularly about the planned logo and medals.
These bear the words “Persian Gulf”, but Arab countries, who call it the Arabian Gulf, reject the term.
The games had been postponed in October in the hope of striking a deal.
The Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF) in Riyadh said, after an emergency board meeting, Iran’s local organising committee “unilaterally took some decisions without asking the federation by writing some slogans on the medals and pamphlets of the games”.
Iran “did not abide by the rules of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation” and “did not follow the decisions taken by the general assembly of the federation at a previous meeting in Riyadh”, it said in a statement.
But Iran’s committee for the games disputed the decision.
“In spite of convincing arguments made to the ISSF executive committee, regrettably and without presenting any logical reasons, the ISSF committee decided not to hold the games with Iran as the host,” it said.
The games – which are meant to strengthen ties among Islamic countries – were first held in the Saudi city of Jeddah in 2005.
Iran has campaigned to ensure the body of water between Iran and the Arabian peninsula is known as the Persian, not the Arabian, Gulf.
Our priest at the Church of the Epiphany has been instructing the children on how the church year differs from the marketing year. While “Christmas” may start in October – or even July! – to merchants eager to sell their wares, for church-going Christians, Christmas starts on Christmas Eve – and is celebrated, each and every day, until the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the Three Wise Men traveling to find the Christ Child in Bethlehem.
“I know what I want for Christmas this year,” I said to my startled friend, “I want you to fix my camel. I have all the things, or most of them, but I haven’t a clue where to start.”
My friend is a very busy woman. She has so much on her plate. But there was not a sign of reluctance on her face. “I LOVE doing camels!” she exclaimed!
“I want it to look like a camel coming with the Wise Men to bring gifts to the Christ Child,” I told her, and she got it without any explanation – yep, gold, frankincense, myrrh . . .
The camel is everything I had dreamed of – and more. She made little bags, she created a treasure chest of gifts, she even included my sewing machine and a coffee grinder!
I have three little Wise Men following the camel, bringing gifts. The Qatteri Cat has inflicted some damage; one is missing a foot and I can’t find it anywhere. I was able to glue a head back on, and a feather on another . . . The Qatteri Cat does not get Epiphany.
A lawyer from Texas A&M did a wonderful film, sent to me by my sweet daughter-in-law’s dear aunt, called The Star in which he presents the result of his research to find scientific evidence that a Star might have stood still over the little city of Bethlehem at the the time pinpointed for the birth of The Christ. It’s an amazing and insightful video, the life work of a devoted man.