President Trump, long-chided for failing to address a surge in hate crimes, began his first address to Congress by invoking Black History Month, and condemning recent threats against Jewish institutions and the shooting of Indian men in Kansas City.
Despite President Trump’s threat of a “Muslim ban” during the 2016 campaign, Hadil Mansoor Al-Mowafak, a 20-year-old international affairs student at Stanford University, was taken aback when he banned travel from seven Muslim countries, including Yemen, where her husband lives.
“I didn’t think it was even possible,” Al-Mowafak said. “I thought he just used the Muslim ban during his campaign, and once he took power he’d face reality.”
Uzhunnalil claims that his captors have made repeated attempts to negotiate with the Indian government and Catholic officials, but he says nothing has happened. “I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard.
“If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously by authorities, and people and would have got me released,” Uzhunnalil continued. “I am from India and perhaps am not considered of as much value. I am sad about this.”
President George W. Bush let innumerable attacks on his decisions, intelligence, and character roll off his back while he was in office. But facing the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan took a heavy emotional toll on his presidency.
Bush wrote more than 4,000 letters to these families. He also met with many of them, behind closed doors and away from cameras and reporters. The dramatic scenes, according to first lady Laura Bush, were “incredibly emotional.”
A chilling, eyewitness account of a deadly attack on a Catholic nursing home in Yemen has detailed how four nuns were sought out by gunmen who then executed them before destroying the Christian symbols in the residence’s chapel. According to the lone surviving nun, the attackers, allegedly Islamic extremists, entered the complex in Aden at around 8:30 a.m. on March 4 and first killed a guard and driver
Pope Francis said four nuns executed by gunmen in Yemen at a home where they cared for elderly and disabled residents are “today’s martyrs.” His remarks on March 6 about the brutal killings in the increasingly lawless country on the Arabian Peninsula came a day after he decried the “diabolical violence” that claimed the lives of a dozen others at the Catholic-run facility in the Red Sea port of Aden.
Four nuns from the order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta are reportedly among 16 killed by gunmen who attacked a church-run retirement home in Yemen, the latest attack on Christians in the increasingly lawless country.
The women religious, members of the Missionaries of Charity congregation, were killed when four armed men attacked the convent and home for the elderly in the southern city of Aden on March 4, the Catholic news agency Fides reported.
As Saudi Arabia and Egypt say they’re prepared to send in ground troops, here’s a look at how Yemen got to this point.
2. God and Jeb
“[Jeb] Bush wants Christian conservatives to pay attention to what he's done, not just to what he says. But in a Republican presidential primary, can actions — much less actions more than a decade in the past — actually speak louder than words? Can quiet faith, and quiet support from some religious leaders, carry the day against a field full of outspoken Christian warriors?”
“Jesus says ‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.’ Jesus does not say, ‘If another member of the church sins against millions, and hundreds of thousands begin to follow his lead on the issue, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.’”
And it might not be the barriers you would think. “Only about one-in-five say women’s family responsibilities are a major reason there aren’t more females in top leadership positions in business and politics. Instead, topping the list of reasons, about four-in-ten Americans point to a double standard for women seeking to climb to the highest levels of either politics or business, where they have to do more than their male counterparts to prove themselves. Similar shares say the electorate and corporate America are just not ready to put more women in top leadership positions.”
"Within one day, tens of thousands of [Graham’s] faithful followers liked and shared his short, patronizing post that called ‘Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else’ to ‘Listen up’ and tune in to his take on why so many black people have died at the hands of police officers recently. According to Graham, the problem is “simple.” It can be reduced to their lack of obedience and bad parenting. … Thankfully, we have a response: We invite you to join with us in signing on to an open letter to Rev. Graham calling him back to the Gospel's ministry of reconciliation. Sign on now."
Space.com offers this gallery of images from this early morning’s lunar eclipse (not visible from the United States). In addition to coinciding with the vernal equinox — kicking off Spring, as snow fell across the Northeast — the eclipse also overlapped with the supermoon. ...And astronomers across the world geeked out.
“Everyone needs to take personal responsibility for what they write, and [for] not allowing this misinterpretation and shaming culture on social media to persist,” Judd said. “And by the way, I’m pressing charges.”
According to the U.N., 200,000 people have been killed. More than half of the country’s 21 million residents have fled their homes. Life expectancy has fallen by 20 years. It has becomes the world’s deadliest country for reporters. BuzzFeed interviews three Syrians to get a feel for life in the war-torn country.
From The Atlantic: “Mennonites are wrestling with the same questions faced by other churches across the country, made all the more complicated by their heritage: How should the faithful balance tradition and modern life? How should scripture inform people's understandings of same-sex relationships? And when members of a denomination disagree, how should they find their way forward?”
“In recent weeks, members of Congress have held closed-door meetings with U.S. military officials to press for an accounting of the arms and equipment. Pentagon officials have said that they have little information to go on and that there is little they can do at this point to prevent the weapons and gear from falling into the wrong hands.”
According to Jarrid Wilson, author of Jesus Swagger: Break Free from Poser Christianity, cosmetic Christianity is an epidemic. Jonathan Merritt interviews the author to find out more.
“United Nations personnel were accused in nearly 80 cases of rape, sexual assault and sex trafficking in 2014 alone, with the bulk of the cases involving peacekeepers deployed to some of the most troubled parts of the world.”
Wondering whether your favorite conference or event has its equal share of men and women at the podium? There’s an app for that. The Gender Avenger Tally (soon available on mobile) lets people calculate via event hashtag the levels of gender representation.
Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass — innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,
The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.
Is the U.S. scapegoating Al Qaeda? It’s an odd question, I know, but it reared its ugly head as I read about the new reports from Amnesty International and Humans Rights Watch on U.S. drone strikes. The scapegoating mechanism is a very precise instrument that accrues enormous benefits to the scapegoater. By accusing their scapegoat of wrongdoing, a scapegoater ingeniously hides from the reality of their own guilt. Now here’s the weird thing: a scapegoat does not have to be innocent to function as a scapegoat. Scapegoats can be evil, nasty, ruthless, amoral sons-of-bitches and still function perfectly well as a scapegoat. Which is why I ask the question: Is the U.S. scapegoating Al Qaeda to hide from its own guilt?
With that in mind, I invite you to read these few excerpts that raised the question for me, with key phrases in boldface:
[continued at jump]
Last Saturday Muslims throughout the world celebrated Laylat ul-Qadr, usually translated in English as the Night of Power. It is part of the month of Ramadan and commemorates the night when Allah came to Muhammad with the first revelation of the Qur’an. The Night of Power is based on chapter 97 of Islam’s Holy Book. The Qur’an has 114 chapters, which are generally ordered from longest to shortest. So, chapter 97 is short enough to quote in full here:
In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy,
We sent it down on the Night of Power. What will explain to you what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months; on that night the angels and the Spirit descend again and again with their Lord’s permission on every task; [there is] peace that night until the break of dawn.
The most recent reported drone strike in Yemen, said to be five missiles fired at an SUV, killed at least six people. Reports from local tribal leaders in Yemen say that five were suspected Al Qaeda members, including a local leader. But one of those killed was a 10-year-old boy, brother of the AQ leader. Adam Baron of McClatchy News reports from Yemen:
“If an apparent U.S. drone strike this month in the village of Mahashama had killed only its intended targets – an al Qaida chief and some of his men – locals might’ve grumbled about a violation of Yemen’s national sovereignty and gone on with their lives.
“But the strike also killed a 10-year-old named Abdulaziz, the younger brother of the targeted militant, Saleh Hassan Huraydan, according to local tribal leaders and Yemenis with close ties to the al Qaida branch here. And that set off a firestorm of complaints that underscores how American airstrikes can so outrage a community that even though al Qaida loses some foot soldiers, it gains dozens of sympathizers.
“Killing al Qaida is one thing, but the death of an innocent person is a crime that we cannot accept,” said a sheikh from the area…”
Read more here.
In an effort to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, President Barack Obama has called to action one of Washington’s most resourceful lawyers, Clifford Sloan. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are confident in their decision to employ Sloan as the State Department's envoy for Guantanamo's closure. The Huffington Post reports:
"It will not be easy, but if anyone can effectively navigate the space between agencies and branches of government, it's Cliff," Kerry said. "He's someone respected by people as ideologically different as Kenneth Starr and Justice Stevens, and that's the kind of bridge-builder we need to finish this job."
Read more here.
After nearly a month’s lull, two drone strikes were carried out in Yemen over the weekend, killing at least six suspected militants. Reuters reports:
Two suspected al Qaeda militants were killed on Monday in a drone strike on their vehicle south of the capital Sanaa, tribal and government sources said. The strike follows another on Saturday in which at least four militants were killed in Abyan governorate, in southernYemen.
Read more here.
The month-long break in drone strikes appears to have ended.
On Wednesday, a strike on a training camp in Pakistan killed at least five people. According to Al Jazeera:
“A US drone has fired two missiles into a Taliban training camp in Pakistan, destroying the compound and killing at least five people, local officials have said.“Wednesday's strike took place in the Baber Ghar area of the South Waziristan tribal district on the Afghan border, a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud where the faction runs several camps.”
Also on Wednesday, two separate strikes in Yemen killed five. The Associated Press reported:
“Two U.S. drone strikes Wednesday killed at least five suspected al-Qaida militants and destroyed the house of one of them in a mountainous area south of the capital, Sanaa, a Yemeni security official and witnesses said.
“The four were killed in the first strike while riding a vehicle in the desert area of Oussab al-Ali, about 140 kilometers (90 miles) south of Sanaa, the official said. The second strike killed a fifth suspected jihadi, Hamed Radman. A drone bombed his house, the official said.”
While Washington, D.C., reveled in the ceremonies and parties surrounding Inauguration Day, U.S. drones were busy in Yemen. According to Reuters, four attacks in four days, from Saturday to Tuesday, killed at least 14 people. The attacks led to a protest blockade by angry tribesmen:
“On Sunday armed tribesman, angry at what they said was a drone attack on an area inhabited by civilians, blocked the main road linking Maarib with Sanaa. Earlier this month, dozens of armed tribesmen also took to the streets in southern Yemen to protest against drone strikes that they said had killed innocent civilians and fuelled anger against the United States.”
In another protest, Reuters reported a rare criticism of drone strikes by a member of the Yemeni cabinet. Human rights minister Hooria Mashhou, who was formerly a top activist in the movement that ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh a year ago, said during a U.N. Yemen humanitarian appeal meeting in Dubai:
"I am in favour of changing the anti-terrorism strategy. I think there are more effective strategies. We're committed to fighting terrorism but we're calling for changing the means and strategies. These means and strategies can be applied on the ground without harming civilians and without leading to human rights violations."
For a number of months, I’ve reported and commented on news of drone strikes, the drone program, and legal and political challenges to it. But with the administration’s refusal to officially acknowledge the program, there’s a a lot we don’t know. Cora Currier at Pro Publica has an informative summary of what we know and what we don’t know about drone strikes.
Drone strikes are being escalated in Yemen with the fifth attack in the past ten days occurring on Thursday. Reuters reports:
“At least three suspected al Qaeda militants including a local commander were killed on Thursday in Yemen by a strike from an unmanned aircraft, residents and a local official said.”
Today, in response, Yemeni tribesmen organized a protest in front of a government administration building. According to Reuters:
“Dozens of armed tribesmen took to the streets in southern Yemen on Friday to protest against drone strikes that they say have killed innocent civilians and increased anger against the United States. …
“One tribesman participating in a sit-in in front of the government administration building in Redaa told Reuters by telephone that at least seven innocent civilians were killed in the recent raids.”
Unlike Pakistan, the Yemeni government openly supports the U.S. strikes.