Entries tagged with “United States”.


Over the holiday weekend, Christy’s sister came to visit us.  Her style of visiting family isn’t going out to see a ton of sights.  She enjoyed just hanging out together – sitting on the front porch swing as opposed to driving frenetically around to see lots of places.  Last year when the rest of her family came, we hit up a bunch of places from this list.

So with Sarah we visited the

Franklin Street Bakery an awesome neighborhood bakery with $1 stimulus bread,

Maria’s Cafe a neighborhood Colombian Restaurant with great pancakes,

an Oromo Wedding luncheon/adventure which included a stop at Holy Land Deli where we all got to see lamb heart, goat feet, and many other “delicacies”,

the Mall of America the symbol of American consumerism,

Ikea the symbol of high quality low cost furniture and accessories,

Seward Church and their Memorial Day cook-out,

Famous Dave’s BBQ a great place for all-types of barbecue and excellent service,

Minnehaha Falls pretty every time of year and always something new,

Downtown Riverfront walking the Heritage Trail – including Stone Arch Bridge, the Guthrie, and St Anthony Main,

Tuggs Tavern great burgers – mine had a fried egg on it and Sarah’s had hashbrowns bigger than her burger patty,

Midtown Global Market another neighborhood gem with great food and stores,

watched me race the Brian Kraft 5k,

hung out at the Landscape Arboretum lots of flowers and trees, especially iris and lilacs,

a relaxing walk on the Midtown Greenway yet another neighborhood treat,

lots of Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot (thanks Hoovers for introducing this great game to us),

and much more!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

This past weekend we went camping with our good friends the Johnson’s.  You may recall that we did this last year as well and it might become an annual tradition.  I don’t quite have the time to make collages like I did from last year’s pictures (1 2 3 4, but it is really hard to choose only a few pictures to post from just over 300 that I took.

We had a good time exploring some new parts of Gooseberry and also just re-experiencing some of the old, including Split Rock Lighthouse.  The waterfall is such an amazing thing to see, all the power and glory of the rushing water.  It is also amazing to watch Lake Superior.  This year it was cool and misty for most of Saturday with a little splurt of flurries for a bit.  This makes for a dark and wavy lake.  On Sunday it was sunny and calm which brings out a whole new set of colors and experiences on the lake.  See if you can see the contrast in the pictures!

Our only real mishap this year was that our camping stove had a gas leak in the valve which  made for a slow cooking process and an interesting torch experience!  We are now more equipped for “cool” camping and enjoyed the warmth of our zero degree sleeping bags!

Now for some of the pictures:

We had a great time.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Here are a few recent news articles about Sudan and Somalia.  I don’t want to turn into a spammy blog, just reposting news stories, so these reflect my passions and highlight two major crises in today’s world.  These stories are no joke.

The Star-Tribune reports (from an AP wire story) that with Sudan kicking out aid groups over 1 million will lose access to food:

The U.N.-Sudanese assessment team toured Darfur from March 11-19 after the groups were expelled.

About 1.1 million people now dependent on food aid will not receive their rations starting in May if the aid gaps aren’t filled, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Ameerah Haq, said on behalf of the team.

She warned that money will run out within four weeks for spare parts and fuel needed to provide drinking water for 850,000 people.

And more than 600,000 people are in danger of not getting materials needed to build shelters before the upcoming rainy season, Haq said.

We allow this to continue in the name of national soverignty – even though international laws have been broken.

Change.org’s genocide section has a great article about the politics involved and Obama’s quandaries:

According to Gerson, the U.S. and the international community thus “faces a decision”: Do we take a soft-line with Bashir in hopes that aid groups are readmitted, or do we accept the short-term consequences likely to come from increased pressure on Sudan, but that also has the potential to break Bashir’s death grip on the region?

It’s a messy political calculus, any way you shake it— either caving to Bashir’s tactics in Darfur, which hold innocent lives hostage in a no-holds-barred international power struggle, and thus nearly guarantee that this upper-hand will be used again in the future, and to the detriment of millions, or (if you’re President Obama, in particular) taking the risks that come with stepping into the ring.

If one thing is clear, it’s that any attempt to deal with Bashir will not succeed with one foot in, and one out. The full “diplomatic toolkit” must be on the table, including the credible threat of military force. It’s not a simple question of black-and-white moral certitude: Consequences on the ground in Darfur will be grave (though, they already are), and on the international political scene, Obama has to weigh the cost of further angering the Arab world at a time when his agendas in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel/Palestine also hang in the lurch.

It’s not a one-off — it’s a diplomatic package deal. So the decision comes down to: Are the lives of the millions current subjected to the whims of Bashir’s genocidal regime worth not only the political cost of action, but the on-the-ground consequences as well?

Gerson concludes:

“Not every global humanitarian crisis justifies this kind of commitment, or else America would be endlessly overextended. But if genocide does not justify such action, it will never be justified. And we would lose the right to say, ‘Never again.'”

I’d argue that we’ve already lost the right to say “Never Again,” but that does not lift our responsibility to answer the question, “What will we do, right here, right now?”

I’d agree.

Somalia is a strongly Muslim country where people are killed for being Christians or even just non-Muslim.  The 30 Days website offers some insight into life in Somalia.

God’s forgiveness filled him with hope! Libaan’s relatives heard that Libaan had become a Gal (Somali word for a pagan). Most Somalis can’t imagine that Christians may also be people who fear God, because they assume that Christians live a very worldly lifestyle (including drunkenness and immorality). Returning to see his family Libaan insisted that he not be called a Gal. In his view he was submitted to God, the Almighty. While his family received him well at first, later they rejected him. This experience broke his heart. Somali believers are few in number. They experience loneliness and rejection even from their most beloved family members. Only encouragement and comfort from God helps them to overcome.

Be sure to read the comments on that post.

Finally, Oxfam recent released a report on condition along the Kenyan-Somali border in the refugee camps.

According to inter-agency projections5 the most likely scenario given the continuing crisis inside Somalia is that an additional 9,000-10,000 new refugees will continue to arrive in Dadaab each month throughout 2009, even if the border remains closed and despite registration delays and shortage of adequate services. In a worst-case scenario, up to 200,000 people could arrive in a very short time period. In the current situation of extreme congestion none of these new arrivals will be allocated plots or materials to construct their own shelter, and will not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. They are likely to experience delays in obtaining access to food rations and health services. Competition over water resources will increase. Cholera is already present, and a serious outbreak remains a real risk in Dadaab. The ever-increasing overcrowding and poor sanitation and waste disposal facilities, as well as the lack of investment in hygiene promotion, are only exacerbating this risk. In short, a humanitarian emergency will unfold in 2009 in Dadaab unless at least 36,000 of the existing population are immediately served in a decongestion
site near to the existing camps and new camps are constructed to receive the 120,000 new arrivals projected for 2009.

Learn more and take action.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Is it possible to have both peace and justice at the same time? Yes, but not always.

We have some great historical examples of where peace reigned and justice prevailed. Tragically, there are probably more examples of when this didn’t occur.

The most recent and relevant is related to Sudan and the ongoing extermination of the Darfuri people.

What are Peace & Justice?

PeaceFor our purposes, peace is a freedom from civil disturbance a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom or a state or period of mutual concord between governments as in a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity. (Webster)

Justiceis the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, fairness and equity. (Wikipedia)

So in the case of Darfur, peace would be the absence of conflict, improved security and safety around refugee camps, and a return of the refugees to their original homes without a fear of violence.  Justice would be the prosecution and imprisonment of individuals involved in illegal activities, such as rape, murder, pillaging, arson, and other similar atrocities.

Advocates around the world have been actively seeking a combination of the two to occur in the Texas sized province of Darfur in Western Sudan.  However, at times their actions and advocacy have not always aligned with the best interests of the refugees and aid workers.  I am just as guilty as the next advocate in this instance.  We have been advocating for peace since 2003 and haven’t had any real success in that regard.

Governments around the world took action… but failed the people of Darfur with their token responses.  We send peacekeepers without proper equipment, underfund them, and understaff them – setting them up for failure yet again.  What is the purpose of documenting atrocities instead of preventing them?  Yes, you must document a crime to prosecute it… but how many must die in the process?

In the past few weeks the International Criminal Court issued an indictment for the President of Sudan.  The first time such an indictment has been issued for a sitting head of state.  It may also be the first time that it is clearly a head of state allowing crimes against humanity and war crimes to occur.  Read more at the ICC’s Darfur Page.

This indictment was a clear step toward justice and holding an individual accountable for the actions they knowingly allowed to occur.  The debate in many circles is… was that a wise move?

I don’t know claim to know everything but there definitely are some problems related to this.  Everyone knew that after the indictment all the humanitarian aid workers would be either kicked out or harrased and that came to pass.  Everyone also knew that the indictment is almost impossible to enforce – Sudan and many of its closest allies are not signators (nor is the US) on the charter of the ICC.  This means that we and they have no responsibility to act on its warrants.  The president is fairly safe to travel around within those countries without risking arrest.  It is almost impossible to arrest him in Sudan because he has popular support within the capital and much of north Sudan.

So why go after justice knowing that it will be hard to serve and create everything but peace? I agree it should give Darfuri people hope that ultimately justice will be served and their death and suffering will be vindicated.  I can’t imagine that will mean much as they continue to suffer each day.

Jim Wallis gives a clear account of what has happened since the ICC indictment:

Over the past few weeks, 13 international humanitarian organizations have been expelled from Sudan at the dictate of Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan. These actions came soon after the International Criminal Court handed down an indictment of al-Bashir and issued a warrant for his arrest for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur. As a result, 1.1 million Darfuris are without food, 1.5 million without health care, and more than 1 million without access to clean drinking water. If there was any doubt as to whether or not he was truly acting in the best interest of his people, his use of food and water as weapons of war show that he just does not care about the people of Darfur.

and continues

With the expulsion of these humanitarian organizations, al-Bashir has shown that he has no interest in the well-being of the people of Darfur or in bringing piece. These actions show that once again there comes a time when a political leader has so violated standards of international law and morality that he should no longer be treated as a sovereign, even in his own country, but as a criminal. Actions like this show that he should no longer be president, but prosecuted and brought to justice like the international fugitive of the law he now is. If he was serious about peace and progress, the first thing he should do is welcome the aid organizations back into his country, and without that he has ensured that this warrant will be pursued.

There is no doubt that if we continue to watch there will be neither peace nor justice.  We must act for both. Hoping and praying that somewhere along the way somebody with power will stand up and say ENOUGH and take immediate action that will end the pain and suffering of millions of innocent children, women, and men.

Other good reads include

ICC Not as stupid as the cynics may have thought

If Not Peace, Then Justice

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A friend commented that Not For Sale was available for free as an audiobook so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to “read” this compelling book I had heard about before.  So I downloaded it and put off my normal podcast material for the 8 hours it took to listen.  I am glad I did.

Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade–and How We Can Fight It shares some powerful stories about getting children, women, and even men who get caught up in forced labor – as laborers, prostitutes, child soldiers, and other gruesome situations.    The book tells stories from around the world (including the United States) of both the slaves and the abolitionists who are working to free slaves and prevent future slavery.

Sadly, most people think slavery ended in the 1800’s but some researchers suggest that there are actually more slaves today than at any point during the African slave trade.  As you can tell this is a cause that I care deeply about so I was a little biased by the book.  I think it is a short and relatively easy read and could change the way you look at the world and those “foreigners” at your local restaurant.

I appreciated that the book wasn’t just tales of sorrow and misery but that each chapter also shared the hope and beauty of freedom.   There are a lot of organizations working to end human trafficking and this book shares some of their stories.  It is a “Christian” book but it doesn’t shove Christianity down your throat – just stories.

The biggest thing that I didn’t like about the book was how the stories were interwoven.  You would be reading about one person then pause for a little bit about another and then back and forth.  This was a little confusing in the audio format, but probably made more sense in the written text.

I encourage you to read the book and take action.  The book has an excellent and helpful companion website for the Not For Sale Campaign.  The site offers relevant news, actions to take, and other was to get involved including following their blog.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Ski group

We spent many hours this past weekend enjoying the beautiful weather (record-tying warmth) on the last day of January.  We almost made it the entire month without a day above freezing!  On Saturday it was in the 40’s and excellent conditions to stand outside on frozen lakes enjoying the winter festivities.  What are the festivities – City of Lakes Loppet

What is a Loppet? According to Cross-Country Canada:

It is a great gathering of skiers who ski on a specifically groomed trail either classic (diagonal stride) or free (skating technique) of various distances.

Basically a big party with skiing at the center! This was our first time enjoying it.  We saw skijoring, kids cross-country skiing, sprint skiing, 33k freestyle skiing, and an ice bike race.

Skijoring is when you have a dog pulling you along.  The best teams looked really cool and some of the later ones looked like a lot of work (when the dog didn’t want to help!).  I obviously took a lot of pictures, some events were easier/ more enjoyable to watch.

Ice Bike Spiral

The Ice Bike Race was pretty sweet.  They plowed about a 3 foot wide trail on the lagoon between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles.  The race was criterium style – riding for 30 minutes with one last lap thrown in at the end.  It was not an easy course, with plenty of tight turns including a hair-pin and a “spiral of death.” Basically you spiral in and then have to spiral back out.  It was intense to watch them manuevar and their amazing handling skills all on ice.  They rode mountain bikes and I didn’t really see anyone fall down.  One guy pretty much led the entire 30 minutes but during the last lap – right before the spiral of death about 50 meters to the finish, his rear tire got a flat and he ended up finished third.

All of this is so new to us, which made it pretty fun to experience.  Got to make the most out of what you are given!

You can see more pictures here.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

I think we all now that at some level our new President is going to sign some type of  economic stimulus package.  We may disagree on the need or scope of the package, but we all would agree that if you are going to do it, it needs to be done right with accountability and ensuring that we get the post bang for our buck.

Unlike some of the first “bailout” money which helped line corporate coffers and plush resorts, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan has some real potential to impact real people, with real issues.

Obama’s original plan included:

  • Doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years.
  • Modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.
  • Making the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized.
  • Equipping tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries.
  • Expanding broadband across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
  • Investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries.

A version of this bill has already passed through the House of Representatives.  I received an action alert from a hunger related organization in Minnesota with some encouraging news that current bill included:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance: $20 billion to provide nutrition assistance to modest-income families and to lift restrictions that limit the amount of time individuals can receive food stamps.
  • Senior Nutrition Programs: $200 million for formula grants to states for elderly nutrition services including Meals on Wheels and Congregate Meals.
  • Afterschool Meals: $726 million to increase the number of states that provide free dinners to children and to encourage participation by new institutions by increasing snack reimbursement rates.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Program Information Systems: $100 million to improve state management information systems for the WIC program.

Obviously alleviating hunger is an important part of ending poverty and ensuring everyone has a chance to be successful, especially during a recession. Food is often cut from family budgets so that they can continue to live in a warm house.  Obviously conservatives are against government handouts, even in the form of food aid, but that is sad.  Two of these hunger related items will have a lasting long-term impact on the economy.  Improving the management of WIC programs is an investment in the future of the important program which assists mothers and new born babies – ensuring proper nutrition.  Another is the after-school meals.  For many students the only food they recieve is at school and for many more, the only hot meal they recieve is at school.  Again this is an investment in the education of our future generations.

Call your Senator today and say:

Food insecurity impacts nearly 10% of our population.

The most effective response to hunger in this economic crunch is to improve low income (your state)’s  access to and participation in federal domestic nutrition assistance programs.

Food assistance also helps unemployed citizens make the transition back to self-sufficiency.

Increased participation in these programs also brings millions of additional federal dollars into the state’s economy.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]