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219 Girls Remain Missing; Nigerian Villages Beset by Boko Haram

Today, on AOL News, a report on the ravaging of two villages in Nigeria by Boko Haram, with satellite images showing the carnage and destruction as survivors tally more than 2,000 dead. The craven Nigerian Army claims the losses are more like 200.

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Meanwhile, of the almost 300 girls kidnapped a year ago by Boko Haram, 219 are still missing. Those who returned, returned by escaping. No one rescued them. The remainder are likely “married” to their captors, slaves to the household and many of them are probably pregnant. To be pregnant by a Boko Haram soldier creates a severe social problem if they are ever freed or rescued – the family cannot marry off an impure daughter. The children of these unions face a desolate future, wherever they are.

The world watches when terrorists wreak havoc in Paris, thousands crush the cretins who kill in the name of God, but no-one lifts a finger to help these small villages in Northeast Nigeria, beset by destructive vermin.

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Large areas of Nigerian towns attacked by Islamic extremists were razed to the ground in a widespread campaign of destruction, according to satellite images released Thursday by Amnesty International.
Amnesty International said the detailed images of Baga and Doron Baga, taken before and after the attack earlier this month, show that more than 3,700 structures were damaged or completely destroyed.

The images were taken Jan. 2 and Jan. 7, Amnesty International said. Boko Haram fighters seized a military base in Baga on Jan. 3 and, according to witnesses, killed hundreds of civilians in the ensuing days.

Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for the human rights group, said in a statement that the assault on the two towns was the largest and most destructive of all the Boko Haram assaults analyzed by Amnesty International.

The group said interviews with witnesses as well as local government officials and human rights activists suggest hundreds of civilians were shot; last week, the human rights group noted reports of as many as 2,000 dead. The Nigerian military has cited a figure of 150 dead, including slain militants.
Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram group drew international condemnation when its fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a boarding school in northeast Chibok town last year. Dozens escaped but 219 remain missing.

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You can find much more information in this article on BBC News/Africa.

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Bureaucracy, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Nigeria, Political Issues, Rants, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Saudi Blogger Flogged 50 Times For Criticizing Muttawa

This man, a father of three, had the nerve to criticize the arbitrary morality police in Saudi Arabia. He wasn’t criticizing Islam; he was criticizing the ignorance and irregular actions of the muttawa. When flogged, he did not make a peep. Another blow to freedom of speech.

From AP, via AOL News:

Witness: Convicted Saudi blogger flogged in public 50 times
AYA BATRAWYJan 9th 2015 2:08PM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – A Saudi blogger convicted of insulting Islam was brought after Friday prayers to a public square in the port city of Jiddah and flogged 50 times before hundreds of spectators, a witness to the lashing said.

The witness said Raif Badawi’s feet and hands were shackled during the flogging but his face was visible. He remained silent and did not cry out, said the witness, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity fearing government reprisal.

Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticized Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded. The blog has since been shut down. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals or about $266,600.

Rights activists say Saudi authorities are using Badawi’s case as a warning to others who think to criticize the kingdom’s powerful religious establishment from which the ruling family partly derives its authority.

London-based Amnesty International said he would receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks. Saudi Arabia’s close ally, the United States, had called on authorities to cancel the punishment.

Despite international pleas for his release, Badawi, a father of three, was brought from prison by bus to the public square on Friday and flogged on the back in front of a crowd that had just finished midday prayers at a nearby mosque. His face was visible and, throughout the flogging, he clenched his eyes and remained silent, said the witness.

The witness, who also has close knowledge of the case, said the lashing lasted about 15 minutes.

Badawi has been held since mid-2012 after he founded the Free Saudi Liberals blog. He used the blog to criticize the kingdom’s influential clerics who follow a strict and ultraconservative interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism, which originated in Saudi Arabia.

He was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in relation to the charges, but after an appeal, the judge stiffened the punishment. Following his arrest, his wife and children left the kingdom for Canada.

Rights groups argue that the case against Badawi is part of a wider crackdown on freedom of speech and dissent in Saudi Arabia since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Criticism of clerics is seen as a red line because of their prestige in the kingdom, as well as their influential role in supporting government policies.

According to Amnesty, the charges against Badawi mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website. He was also accused in court of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s morality police.

In a statement after the flogging, Amnesty called the flogging a “vicious act of cruelty” and said that Badawi’s “only ‘crime’ was to exercise his right to freedom of expression by setting up a website for public discussion.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has called the punishment an “inhumane” response to someone exercising his right to freedom of expression and religion.
In New York, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, told reporters on Friday that the U.N. human rights office was “very concerned about the flogging” and that it has previously raised concerns about harsh sentences in Saudi Arabia for human rights defenders.
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Associated Press writer Cara Anna contributed to this report from the United Nations.

January 9, 2015 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Character, Crime, ExPat Life, Free Speech, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues | , , , , | 2 Comments

Freedom of Speech: Je Suis Charlie

In our country, in the West, open discussion is a part of life. Your point of view may be ignorant, or repugnant to me, but I will defend to the death your right to express your opinion. One of the great weapons of freedom of speech is humor. It’s hard to maintain a dignified moral high-ground when one of the cartoonists piques with a cartoon showing the emperor has no clothes. Or at least the emperor has flaws, as do we all.

 

Pensacola is blessed with such an editorial cartoonist, Andy Marlette. Andy Marlette is controversial, and in a state with lax gun laws and pistol-packin-mamas, he risks his life daily, skewering the pomposity of us all. Occasionally, he is outrageous. Occasionally, he is offensive. That’s OK. If an editorial cartoonist isn’t skewering someone, or all of us at once, he isn’t doing his job. His job is to elicit discussion.

 

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I have lived for so long in Moslem world that I take a risk now, offending my Moslem friends, by printing the cartoon of Mohammed weeping. It’s the cartoon that touched me to the bone. I have listened and learned in the Moslem world, and I have never met with hatred. The Mohammed I have read about in the Qu’ran and in hadith, and heard about in legend and stories from my Moslem friends portrayed a prophet who, like Jesus, was all about loving and serving the one true God. He would weep at what has been done in his name, as Jesus weeps for us, when we kill others in his service.

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January 8, 2015 Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Faith, Free Speech, Humor, Interconnected, Kuwait, Language, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Values | , , , | 2 Comments

Where is Lafia, Nigeria?

Today the church prays for Lafia, Nigeria, which is near Abuja, in the part of Nigeria where Boko Haram runs rampant, and where over 250 girls were kidnapped from their school in 2014. Some few escaped, most were married off to poor young Boko Haram soldiers into hardship and near-slavery. Boko Haram does not believe in educating women. The Nigerian government at one point announced that Boko Haram had agreed to return the girls, but nothing happened. The Nigerian military and police do nothing to get them back.

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January 2, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Nigeria, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | 2 Comments

A Prayer for the Innocents

Today the church remembers King Herod’s slaughter of all infant boys in his territory to put to rest these rumors of a newborn king of the Jews. The prayer for today is for all innocents killed by those who seek their ends through violence and oppression.

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

December 29, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Faith, Interconnected, Leadership, Lectionary Readings | , | Leave a comment

Middle East Map of Deadliest Infectious Diseases

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This is from AOL News/Upworthy, where you can view the deadliest infectious diseases in all parts of the world.

*A note from GlobalPost on how these maps are set up: The numbers in black boxes show how many thousands of people died from the dominant infectious disease in that country in 2012. Keep in mind that these are absolute numbers, so they’re not scaled to account for a country’s population. They also don’t convey the total number of deaths from all infectious diseases in each country, just the number of deaths from the deadliest disease. You’ll also notice that many countries in the maps are grayed out (like the USA). That indicates the deadliest infectious disease wasn’t among the ones monitored by the WHO.

December 13, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Middle East, Quality of Life Issues | | Leave a comment

Confuse, Confound, Devastate and Dissipate ISIS

When I was a kid, I did not like reading the Old Testament, all those old-timey people, and it all seemed very confusing to me. As I grew older, I find I like the Old Testament part of our readings very much, the people come alive in all their faults and bad decisions, and God’s mercy shines through as we continue to rebel against him and follow too much our own devices and desires of our hearts.

I love Genesis 11, where mankind, in all our pride, decides to build a tower, and it must have been pretty good because it got God’s attention and he didn’t like it. He didn’t like it so much that he created confusion among all the languages spoken, but I bet it was also confusion and dissension among the decision makers, too, to scatter the mighty population.

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As the wandering descendants of Abraham began to settle, they often went up against armies and peoples much larger than they were, and God always told them not to worry, he would confuse the armies. He put fear in their hearts, in the confusion, mighty armies collapsed and scattered.

And why am I bringing this up, you might wonder?

This ISIS Army, it seems to me, is already cobbled together. I hear people people talking, people who know, they say ISIS is smart, fights smart. I believe they have some smart leaders, but I am willing to bet that they have some fatal flaws, also. They have overstretched. They are trying to enforce their will by violence and killing off the opposition, which might encourage the appearance of cooperation, but in reality breeds legions of those who will turn on them in a heartbeat.

Yes, we mistakenly dropped weapons which they were able to access. Mistakes happen in war zones all the time, with modern communication we just hear about it a lot sooner, not like 40 years from now when it is declassified and someone writes a book about it. Frankly, it’s not that big a deal.

What I believe is a big deal is their lack of cohesion. Lacking any strategic direct line to important decision makers, I am praying, and what I am praying is this, words from Psalms:

Confuse, O Lord, confound their speech

Disintegrate ISIS from the inside.

Create, Great and Merciful Father, miscommunications, misunderstandings, competing agendas and internal strife among the ISIS force.

All Mighty, All Powerful God, create a massive collapse, let their foot-soldiers drift away, drift home to their mothers and fathers and their families, and leave the Iraqi villages and the Syrian villages in peace.

Dry up the wealth of the Gulf, funneled through corrupt money changers in Kuwait, let it be mishandled, go missing, be stolen, be diverted and find its way to true charitable organizations providing a means of survival to those thousands of refugees who have been displaced.

Oh God! Collapse this abomination, the Islamic State of the Levant and Syria, collapse it utterly from within, strip it of all its power, devastate it like a virulent plague from within!

Oh God, bring good out of this downfall. Teach the remnants who return to their homes to live together in peace, to form peaceful and stable communities and then nations whose lives honor you!

All this is possible for the God who can do all things. Confound their speech, Lord, confuse them utterly, devastate and collapse them utterly from within. You are the one true God, there is no other God.

We are not without resources. We have the mighty fist of prayer.

November 2, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Doha, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Baton Rouge Strangeness

Baton Rouge was a city we really wanted to like, and there are so many things about Baton Rouge we DO like. While we were there, however, every single day, we experienced a little bit of bad JuJu, a little bit of strangeness. By the grace of God, it was ameliorated by the goodness and kindness of others, but it was just strange.

First, I have to tell you I am not a huge fan of shopping, but every now and then when I find the right thing, I know it and I buy it. When I found Trader Joe’s, I knew just what to buy, quality products we love. Then, I headed out to Macy’s, a store we do not have in Pensacola.

The Mall is huge, but it was early in the morning, I got a great parking spot, and although I had ended up far from Macy’s, I enjoyed the stroll. This is the first thing I saw, and it delighted my heart.

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What is not to love about this menagerie of zoo animals for little children to ride through the mall? Children HATE mall shopping, but this is a game changer :-)

I actually didn’t find anything I loved at Macy’s, but I did find two very classic T-shirts I knew I could use, nicely made, so I went to buy them and the cashier asked if I wanted to use my Macy’s card. I said “sure” but it turns out because I hadn’t used it in a while, I had to re-instate it, and when you do that, you get 20% off all day and the next day, plus a WOW card that gives you more discounts, plus another 20% off when they bill you. Holy mole, sign me up! But even though I looked, I really didn’t see anything else I wanted.

Back at the hotel, I told AdventureMan about this hot deal and talked him into going back to Macy’s with me. He looked, but he also didn’t find anything he liked, and then I found the children’s section, ummmm, errrrr . . . .. grandchildren’s section, and there were all kinds of things I liked a lot, and Christmas is coming, so lets get a little dollar-cost-averaging going. (AdvntureMan is rolling his eyes.)

When I went to pay, the patient salesgirl rang everything up, and then had to call some number because my total was high, and then asked me to show my driver’s license. I knew I had it, because I had it earlier when I re-instated my card. So I dug. It wasn’t there. I dug some more, I looked and looked, but no card. I was so embarrassed. The patient clerk held all the grandchildren clothes while I went downstairs where I had shown my card earlier, and sure enough, there it was. Thank God! What if we hadn’t gone back to the Mall? Months go by where I never show that card, and months from now I wouldn’t have known where to find it. I felt like my guardian angel was sitting on my shoulder. And it still felt like strangeness.

When I went back upstairs to the cashier, I showed the drivers license, and she called the security number again, and he asked me all kinds of questions, places I lived years ago, what cars are associated with my accounts, it was totally strange, and AdventureMan is looking bullish, steam coming out of his nostrils, stamping and huffing and puffing (he is hungry). Finally, he tells the cashier I am OK, and she rings me up, very apologetic. I told her it is just the times we live in, and honestly, I want security to be tough on people who might pretend to be me, so it was just a minor inconvenience. But just another little piece of Baton Rouge strangeness, little things that could eat away at happiness and well being if you let them . . . .

October 27, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Customer Service, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Scams, Shopping, Technical Issue, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Every Monkey Gets His Turn in the Barrel

Sometimes there is no one to blame, not even a way to blame yourself and things just go off track. We had such an experience coming to Baton Rouge, a sweet drive on a beautiful day.

We had called the day before to tell them we would not be arriving that day, but we had already paid for the room and we asked them to hold it, that we would arrive the next day. After five hours on the road, we were eager for a chance to settle in and relax before AdventureMan headed off to his afternoon sessions.

The room wasn’t ready. The room we had paid for, and expected to be held, was not held. We were on the “wait list”, the snippy, disrespectful girl at the executive desk told AdventureMan as I circled the crowded parking lot, desperately seeking a spot. I curse you, big ass trucks who park over the line! I curse you, arrogant drivers who take two spaces when you park!

AdventureMan calls me; you do not want a call from AdventureMan when things haven’t gone his way and he cannot make his will dominate the situation. We decide the best strategy is to go to lunch.

(see entry for Ninfa’s Mexican restaurant)

After lunch, we try again, softly talking with the desk clerk, Scott, who is helpful. He takes pity on us, and finds us a room which is ready, and accommodates us. He soothes us. AdventureMan heads off for his garden talk and I head off on a reconnaissance mission – I have seen there is a huge mall nearby with a Macy’s. I find it, and some other wonderful places for the next day’s adventures, and then, on my way home, I get another call from AdventureMan.

He is fuming. I hadn’t answered his call because I was driving, no matter, he kept calling and texting “call me!” until I could find a red light and call him.

He heard loud chords of a band starting up. Very loud. He went to the band and casually asked them how long they would be playing, and was told from six to ten. He went to the desk and asked for a room change, and was told the hotel was full. (He also mentioned that he was SO glad to have been helped earlier, as there was a huge line waiting for rooms at 4.)

“We need to change hotels!” he started and told me the whole story.

“I’m almost there!” I responded, but it took me another ten minutes to find a parking place.

By the time I got to the room, he had calmed down – a little – and had found a wonderful place to go for dinner. We heard a few chords – actually not bad – and headed out for a wonderful dinner at Al Basha’s, and it was a total mood changer :-)

When we got back, the band was blasting, and we are one of the nearest rooms to the band, and the hotel is full of people around our age, but the truth is, the band was pretty good, and we had some shows we like on cable, and they really did quit at ten, well before we turned out the lights.

When things go not-quite-right – and that happens to everyone – I just sigh and say “every monkey gets his turn in the barrel;” I guess it’s sort of karmic, but bad things happen, they happen to everyone. This was not earth-shaking bad, just annoying, not going smoothly bad. We will never stay in this hotel again, even if the conference is held here again; there are lovely hotels nearby in Baton Rouge.

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Customer Service, Gardens, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 6 Comments

Inequality: No Respect For Our First Nation Citizens (Blog Action Day)

I grew up in a small town, Juneau, Alaska, and not even in the main town, but on Douglas Island, across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau. My neighbors were fishermen, hunters, pilots, entrepreneurs and hard-working people struggling to make a living.

It was an upside down world. In most places, those who live there the longest are the leaders of society. In Southeast Alaska, those who lived there the longest were at the bottom of the heap, the Native Americans, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. I went to school with them. Yes, the boys carried knives. No, they were not dirty, and none of my little friends in elementary school were drunks. We were kids, we played together, we were all in the same classes all through elementary school – it was a small school.

Many of them did have family problems. There were problems of alcoholism, unemployment, domestic violence and hunger. They weren’t the only ones. The big problem was no respect. Although there were a few pieces of Native Art in the city museum, Native culture and Native craft were given little value. The Native way of life, living off the land, hunting and fishing, had greatly diminished as lands were apportioned off and hunting and fishing activities regulated.

In 1971 a huge lawsuit was settled and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act provided some restoration for the damaged peoples. Alaska Natives now have regional corporations to administer and grow funds to support the culture, to provide education for the children, to provide health clinics and hospitals. SEALASKA began to organize a biennial Celebration, a gathering of all the Alaska natives to share their stories, to celebrate their culture, to dance and to transmit culture to their children. It’s a great opportunity for people you might see every day in their western life to remember where they come from and to be proud of who they are. This Celebration is held every two years and includes Alaska Natives from all over Alaska who want to participate. It is a very inclusive Celebration. The next Celebration will be June 8 – 11, in 2016. You can read a little more about Celebration 2014 here.

They learn the legends of their clans – the Eagles, The Ravens, the Beavers, the Bears and a number of other clans. They spend the time between celebrations stitching together elaborate costumes for their parade and dance exhibitions, hollowing out canoes from trees, making elaborate hats and masks.

We first learned of the Celebration gathering in 2012, when we already had tickets to go back to Zambia at the exact time the Celebration was taking place, but my sweet husband promised we could go back for the 2014 Celebration. As we researched, we discovered just how much of Alaska we wanted to see, and did a reconnaissance trip in 2013. We loved our time there, and we were delighted to be able to return this last year for Celebration 2014.

It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life, to see the gathering, to see the old women cry as canoes came into sight full of young Alaskan natives, and say “I never thought I would see this again in my life”, to watch the exhilaration of the dancers, to feel the energy of the parade and especially – to see the children. To see the pride in marching, in dancing, to see the joy in being able to express who they are and to share that with others. I was moved beyond my ability to express in words; it was a feeling that in one small way, a train of events that had gone very off track had moved incrementally back in the right direction.

Here are some photos from the joyous Celebration of 2014:

 

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October 16, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Generational, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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