Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How Much of the Brain Can A Person Do Without?

September 23, 2014



This month a 24-year-old woman in China's Shandong Province walked into a hospital complaining of nausea and dizziness, and walked out having learned that she was missing a huge portion of her brain. A CAT scan showed that her entire cerebellum, a vital chunk of brain in charge of motor control, never developed. The void where it should have been was nothing but a swamp of cerebrospinal fluid. 

How could a person live a full life not knowing so much of her brain was gone? Her doctors believe that her cortex (a nearby area of the brain) took over most of the load as her incomplete brain developed, thanks to an amazing feature of the brain called neuroplasticity—the brain's ability to fundamentally rewire itself to cope with new demands. The brain can't cope with everything, and the more of it is lost, the less it can reassign functions to the remaining pieces. But neuroplasticity is nonetheless quite remarkable. 

The woman from China's is far from the only such bizarre and fascinating story. A short trip through the annals of modern medicine reveals even more surprising cases of missing brain structures. 


Missing Half of the Cerebral Cortex


There are a surprising number of known cases of people missing half of their cerebral cortex—the outermost chunk of brain tissue. A currently living and healthy 16-year-old German girl is one. She was born without the right hemisphere of her cortex, though this wasn't discovered until she was 3 years old. According to her doctors, who published a full case study on her 6 years ago, "despite lacking one hemisphere, the girl has normal psychological function and is perfectly capable of living a normal and fulfilling life. She is witty, charming, and intelligent." 

The physical ailments caused by her missing brain tissue were seizures (since treated) and a slight weakness on the left side of her body. But here's something amazing about the way her brain has coped: While most people missing half their cerebral cortex lose sight in one eye, her left eye processes visual information from both the right and left visual field. In other words, her doctors say that while she has no depth perception (which is dependent on two eyes seeing slightly different images), her vision is otherwise like that of someone with two eyes, encompassing the entire mental field of vision. 


Missing Half the Entire Brain


In a more severe case, Michelle Mack, a 42-year-old Virginia native, is missing not only half of her cortex but most of the deeper, underlying brain structures on her left side as well. This neural abnormality is believed to be the cause of a prebirth seizure, but was not diagnosed until Mack was 27. 

Mack graduated high school and speaks and communicates with some level of normality—thanks to neuroplasticity. But her brain has not faultlessly rewired itself: Mack still has issues comprehending abstract concepts, is prone to emotional distress, and her lowered visual–spatial processing ability means that she also is easily lost in unfamiliar surroundings. Yet, living with her parents, she nevertheless manages a productive and fulfilling life. 


Missing All but the Brain Stem



Trevor Waltrip, born in Louisiana on Christmas Eve in 2001, has defied the odds for 12 years. He lived without any brain at all save the brain stem. 

Trevor was born with a rare condition called hydranencephaly, which replaced his neural tissue with cerebrospinal fluid. His brain stem allowed him to breathe and maintain a heartbeat but little more. He was kept on a feeding tube up until last month, when he passed away peacefully.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ojo Maduekwe: "All Hail The Lion"

September 20, 2014



“I, the lion, tamed the Leopard in Rivers State”, said a former Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Mr. Joseph Mbu, this week when he consciously stepped outside the professional precinct to throw jibes at the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi. In this report, Ojo M. Maduekwe, analyses his recent outburst within the context of his stint as police commissioner in the state



It would be the career highpoint of every Police Force Public Relations Officer (PRO) Nigeria has ever had if Nigerians are convinced that the police are their friend. Some, like the immediate past PRO, Frank Mba, genuinely did their best to project a friendly police force to the Nigerian public.

The new PRO, Emmanuel Ojukwu, during the handover ceremony added in his acceptance speech that, “the Police are your helper and friend.”

But the conduct of officers such as the former Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu, remains bad publicity that could ruin their efforts.

Before his redeployment to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, as the Commissioner of Police for the FCT, and later elevated to the position of an Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mbu was always in the news in a confrontational manner with the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi.

Their dispute stemmed from accusations of bias and unprofessionalism. Many described Mbu’s handling of differences between him and Amaechi to have been rather political than professional. THISDAY had published an article then titled, ‘Mbu Joseph Mbu: Police or Politician?’ The piece stated in part: “Ever since the crisis in Rivers State broke, Mbu has brazenly shown partisan tendencies, making many to wonder whether he is a policeman or a politician.”

Governor Amaechi at the time had accused him of being on a mission to the state and that he was working for the First Lady. Indeed, he further described him as the military wing of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The disagreement degenerated to the point that there was a clamour in the media, led by the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), for either the sack or redeployment of Mbu, a campaign that would later necessitate his redeployment to Abuja.

One may never know the exact truth behind the dispute, and so some could argue that if properly analysed, the governor would probably be found partly guilty for engineering the disputes. However, such a position, observers insisted, could only have been taken by those who failed to interpret Mbu’s leadership of the police in the state, side-by-side with his antecedents.

But for Mbu, who is a high ranking police officer, his recent comment concerning the months spent in Rivers as Police Commissioner has shown that his years of experience in the force have done little to influence his professional conduct and to a large extent, his attitudinal disposition.

Recently, after he was redeployed from Commissioner of Police FCT, and made the AIG for Zone 7, Abuja, Mbu, while handing over to his successor, Mr Wilson Inalegu boasted: “I, the lion, tamed the Leopard in Rivers State. It is only lion that can tame leopard. Each time the leopard remembers my face, it makes noise, but if it knows I am around, it cannot make noise.”

Although he made no mention of who the leopard was, being that aside his confrontation with the Bring Back Our Girls group, wherein he banned their gathering, Amaechi was the only personality Mbu has disagreed with publicly.

Even though he once claimed to respect Amaechi and his office, Mbu, as Rivers State Commissioner of Police, earned national notoriety by harassing and disrespecting Amaechi and his supporters. He gave as little as nothing to the office of the governor in terms of respect.
Responding to Mbu’s claim of taming him, Amaechi, in a statement through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. David Iyofor, described Mbu as a puppet who lacks the steel and strength of a lion.

Part of the statement read: “This character called Joseph Mbu completely lacks the courage, steel and strength of a lion. Rather, he is a shameless, corrupt puppet of a woman. How can a man who has no strength of character, a man who willingly submits himself to serve as a puppet of a woman call himself a lion?”

In the statement, the governor made an argument that should enlighten every police officer of their duties to the society. Amaechi said of Mbu: “This is a man paid by taxpayers to protect, secure and serve the interests of the people. But when he was in Rivers State, he spurned the people, trampled on the masses.”

Amaechi’s argument could be considered under what is globally termed ‘the Nine Principles of Policing’, as coined by Robert Peel.
In 1829, the first modern police force was created in London by then home secretary, Robert Peel. Peel’s policing principles formed the basis for foundation of the London Metropolitan Police Force, and was reported to have been the precursor to and model for all police forces in Canada and the United States of America. Part of the principles that underscore Mbu’s actions and outburst as being unprofessional are listed as follows:

The police must remember “To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect; to recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.”

Also the police are advised “To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives; to seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion;

“But by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.”

Lastly, “To maintain at all times, a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

Mbu may argue that his actions as Commissioner of Police in Rivers, was him fulfilling his professional duties. But, how true was that? Was his unilateral banning of the peaceful gathering of the Bring Back Our Girls group, an action that was overruled by the then Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, another way of him fulfilling his professional duties?

What about the time he was alleged to have led a team of policemen, few months before he was moved to Rivers, to raid the palace of the Olubadan, allegedly on orders from above?

Irrespective of his many misdemeanours, Mbu’s indiscretions have over the months been rewarded with redeployment and now elevation. Even though at a time, a former Inspector General of Police, who now heads the Police Service Commission, Mike Okiro, said Mbu’s conduct in Rivers was being probed, his recent elevation and continuous outburst, has fuelled the assumption by many that Mbu has Abuja connections up to Aso Rock.

Even with a thousand Force PRO’s seeking to rebrand the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerians would continue to view the force with suspicion; except actions and utterances of officers like that of Mbu are checked.

As an AIG, many would reckon that Mbu’s elevation is of no benefit to the society, which he is by law sworn to police; unless he is tamed and properly trained to understand that the principles of policing all over the world is community-based and unbiased.

This article was sourced from here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Opinion | PUNISHMENT OR CHILD ABUSE?

September 18, 2014


The indictment in the United States last week of the N.F.L. player Adrian Peterson by a Texas grand jury for reckless or negligent injury to a child has set into relief the harmful disciplinary practices of some black families. Mr. Peterson used a “switch,” a slim, leafless tree branch, to beat his 4-year-old son, raising welts on the youngster’s legs, buttocks and scrotum. This is child abuse dressed up as acceptable punishment.

While 70 percent of Americans approve of corporal punishment, black Americans have a distinct history with the subject. Beating children has been a depressingly familiar habit in black families since our arrival in the New World. As the black psychiatrists William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs wrote in “Black Rage,” their 1968 examination of psychological black life: “Beating in child-rearing actually has its psychological roots in slavery and even yet black parents will feel that, just as they have suffered beatings as children, so it is right that their children be so treated.”

The lash of the plantation overseer fell heavily on children to whip them into fear of white authority. Terror in the field often gave way to parents beating black children in the shack, or at times in the presence of the slave owner in forced cooperation to break a rebellious child’s spirit. Black parents beat their children to keep them from misbehaving in the eyes of whites who had the power to send black youth to their deaths for the slightest offense. Today, many black parents fear that a loose tongue or flash of temper could get their child killed by a trigger-happy cop. They would rather beat their offspring than bury them.

If beating children began, paradoxically, as a violent preventive of even greater violence, it was enthusiastically embraced in black culture, especially when God was recruited. As an ordained Baptist minister with a doctorate in religion, I have heard all sorts of religious excuses for whippings.




And I have borne the physical and psychic scars of beatings myself. I can’t forget the feeling, as a 16-year-old, of my body being lifted from the floor in my father’s muscular grip as he cocked back his fist to hammer me until my mother’s cry called him off. I loved my father, but his aggressive brand of reproof left in me a trail of un-cried tears.


Like many biblical literalists, lots of black believers are fond of quoting Scriptures to justify corporal punishment, particularly the verse in Proverbs 13:24 that says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” But in Hebrew, the word translated as “rod” is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” The shepherd’s rod was used to guide the sheep, not to beat them.


Many believers — including Mr. Peterson, a vocal Christian — have confused the correction of children’s behavior with corporal punishment. The word “discipline” comes from the Latin “discipuli,” which means student or disciple, suggesting a teacher-pupil relationship. Punishment comes from the Greek word “poine” and its Latin derivative “poena,” which mean revenge, and form the root words of pain, penalty and penitentiary.


The point of discipline is to transmit values to children. The purpose of punishment is to coerce compliance and secure control, and failing that, to inflict pain as a form of revenge, a realm the Bible says belongs to God alone.


Yet secular black culture thrives on colorful stories of punishment that are passed along as myths of ancient wisdom — a type of moral glue that holds together varying communities in black life across time and circumstance. Black comedians cut their teeth on dramatically recalling “whoopings” with belts, switches, extension cords, hairbrushes or whatever implement was at hand. Even as genial a comic as Bill Cosby offered a riff in his legendary 1983 routine that left no doubt about the deadly threat of black punishment. “My father established our relationship when I was 7 years old,” Mr. Cosby joked. “He looked at me and says, ‘You know, I brought you in this world, I’ll take you out. And it don’t make no difference to me, cause I’ll make another one look just like you.’ ”


The humor is blunted when we recall that Marvin Gaye’s life ended violently in 1984 at the hands of his father, a minister who brutalized him mercilessly as a child before shooting him to death in a chilling echo of Mr. Cosby’s words.


Perhaps comedians make us laugh to keep us from crying, but no humor can mask the suffering that studies say our children endure when they are beaten: feelings of sadness and worthlessness, difficulties sleeping, suicidal thoughts, bouts of anxiety, outbursts of aggression, diminished concentration, intense dislike of authority, frayed relations with peers, and negative high-risk behavior.


Equally tragic is that those who are beaten become beaters too. And many black folks are reluctant to seek therapy for their troubles because they may be seen as spiritually or mentally weak. The pathology of beatings festers in the psychic wounds of black people that often go untreated in silence.


Adrian Peterson’s brutal behavior toward his 4-year-old son is, in truth, the violent amplification of the belief of many blacks that beatings made them better people, a sad and bleak justification for the continuation of the practice in younger generations. After Mr. Peterson’s indictment, the comedian D. L. Hughley tweeted: “A fathers belt hurts a lot less then a cops bullet!”


He is right, of course, but only in a forensic, not a moral or psychological sense. What hurts far less than either is the loving correction of our children’s misbehavior so they become healthy adults who speak against violence wherever they find it — in the barrel of a policeman’s gun, the fist of a lover or the switch of a misguided parent.




This piece was written by Michael Eric Dyson for the New York Times.


Festus Keyamo: The Cock-and-Bull Story of the Federal Government Over the Smuggled $9.3m Cash

September 18, 2014

Festus Keyamo
I have just read, with some amusement, the position of the Federal Government regarding the cash totaling $9.3million that was seized by the South African authorities as an attempt was made to smuggle it into that country. From my little understanding, the Federal Government’s position can be summarised as follows:
  • That it is aware of the movement of such large sum of money by cash out of the country.

  • That the cash is meant for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency.

  • That the transaction was done by cash to ensure the speed of the transaction.
  • That it resorted to buy from South Africa because of procedural bottlenecks in the purchase of such items from western countries.

The above position of the Federal Government is not only ludicrous, it is laughable, untenable and a story only fit to be told to the marines. The following rhetoric posers are germane to this issue:


  • Is it really faster and safer to do an international transaction of such magnitude by ferrying cash across the continent or by a simple wire transfer that can go through in a matter of few minutes or few hours?
  • If, indeed, the matter involves security issues like the purchase of arms by a foreign government like Nigeria, why was the South African Government not brought into the picture beforehand? How could the South African Government be sure that the arms were purchased legitimately by the Nigerian government and not by insurgents if they were not officially informed beforehand?
  • If indeed the manufacturer(s) of such equipment was/were expecting such large amount by cash, why did they not make adequate arrangements with the authorities in South Africa to declare and clear the cash on arrival?
  • Why was money belonging to the Federal Government and meant for purchase of equipment for the Federal Government moved by a private jet and by private individuals and why were they not accompanied by the officials of the Department of State Services or the office of the National Security Adviser in official capacities?
  • Why would a government that is at the peak of promoting the cashless policy in our economy be the chief breaker of that policy by moving such a large amount by cash?
  • If, indeed, it was a legitimate transaction of the Federal Government, why were the officials of our embassy in South Africa not on hand to make the entry easier and smoother?
  • Since the South African Government has said the amount is above the limit of cash allowed into that country, why would a whole government like Nigeria not know the simple immigration laws of a sister and friendly country before allowing that type of amount of cash to be taken to that country?
  • Why would the Nigerian government seek to smuggle cash into a country without disclosure if it was, indeed, for a legitimate transaction?
  • From where did the Federal Government source that amount in Nigeria? Was it from the Central Bank of Nigeria or from the black market? Nigerians demand answers to this with proof.
  • Is it just a wicked coincidence that it is the aircraft belonging to a personal friend and unapologetic ally of the President in the person of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor (my big brother in Warri), that was used to smuggle the cash?
  • If, contrary to the above posers, the transaction was contracted out to a private company in Nigeria, does it not amount to the offence of Money Laundering under our laws for the Federal Government to have allowed that company to attempt to pay for the equipment by cash to the tune of that amount without passing through a financial institution?
The truth is, any transaction the world over that is done by cash, in a huge volume like this and in this manner can only point to one thing: It is an illegal transaction or a transaction for an illegal purpose that is meant to be untraceable. This was a covert, illegal operation that went horribly wrong. The position of the Federal Government is a cock-and-bull story meant to be shoved down the throat of Nigerians, but some of us are not fools.
The hard fact we must all accept now is that billions of our hard-earned monies are being smuggled out of the country on a regular basis under the guise of security matters and with the active connivance of security agencies. Little wonder, then, that the insurgency, rather than waning, is gathering momentum because certain persons, somewhere, are feeding fat on the situation whilst innocent lives and limbs are being wasted.

May God help us all.

Thank you.

FESTUS KEYAMO, ESQ.



This article was retrieved from here on September 17, 2014 at 11:14pm.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The "Untamable" Leopard and the "Wannabe" Lion

September 17, 2014





1.
In the days of Chinua Achebe's ancestors, tortoises flew the skies and chose nicknames for themselves, whales ferried humans across oceans, and crocodiles climbed trees for fun. Today, hyenas laugh, larks sing, and koalas wail. Now, going by current news reports, it does appear that lions and leopards now speak and trade banters. Truly, our Transformation Train acknowledges no boundaries and knows no limits.

2.
A certain lion claims to have tamed a leopard in Igweocha; the leopard says a thousand such lions cannot tame it and instead dismisses that "wannabe lion" as a mere hapless dog which does the bidding of another animal.

3.
The lion and the leopard are two big cats; they are both wild animals. How does one wild animal tame the other?

4.
Is there a leopard in Igweocha? Is Igweocha a game reserve? 

5.
If a thousand lions are insufficient to tame the leopard, biko gwanu m, how many lions (or dogs) will be required to tame the leopard?

6.
If the "lion" is really a dog, what kind of dog? Domestic? Wild? Hyena? Wolf? Nkita?


#JustMusing


The above piece has been inspired by a news story that was seen in a Nigerian newspaper on September 17, 2014.


Research Findings: The More You Sit, The More Likely You Are to Develop Diabetes Mellitus

September 17, 2014


GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

If people need motivation to get up from their office chairs or couches and become less sedentary, two useful new studies could provide the impetus. One found that sitting less can slow the aging process within cells, and the other helpfully underscores that standing up — even if you are standing still — can be good for you as well.

For most of us nowadays, sitting is our most common waking activity, with many of us sitting for eight hours or more every day. Even people who exercise for an hour or so tend to spend most of the remaining hours of the day in a chair.

The health consequences of this sedentariness are well-documented. Past studies have found that the more hours that people spend sitting, the more likely they are to develop diabetes, heart disease and other conditions, and potentially to die prematurely — even if they exercise regularly.

But most of these studies were associational, meaning that they found a link between sitting and illness, but could not prove whether or how sitting actually causes ill health.

So for the most groundbreaking of the new studies, which was published September 2014 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, scientists in Sweden decided to mount an actual experiment, in which they would alter the amount of time that people spent exercising and sitting, and track certain physiological results. In particular, with this experiment, the scientists were interested in whether changes in sedentary time would affect people’s telomeres.

If you are unfamiliar with the componentry of your genes, telomeres are the tiny caps on the ends of DNA strands. They shorten and fray as a cell ages, although the process is not strictly chronological. Obesity, illness and other conditions can accelerate the shortening, causing cells to age prematurely, while some evidence suggests that healthy lifestyles may preserve telomere length, delaying cell aging.

For the new experiment, the Swedish scientists recruited a group of sedentary, overweight men and women, all aged 68, and drew blood, in order to measure the length of telomeres in the volunteers’ white blood cells. Then half of the volunteers began an individualized, moderate exercise program, designed to improve their general health. They also were advised to sit less.

The other volunteers were told to continue with their normal lives, although the scientists urged them to try to lose weight and be healthy, without offering any specific methods.

After six months, the volunteers all returned for a second blood draw and to complete questionnaires about their daily activities. These showed that those in the exercise group were, not surprisingly, exercising more than they had been previously. But they were also, for the most part, sitting substantially less than before.

And when the scientists compared telomeres, they found that the telomeres in the volunteers who were sitting the least had lengthened. Their cells seemed to be growing physiologically younger.

Meanwhile, in the control group telomeres generally were shorter than they had been six months before.

But perhaps most interesting, there was little correlation between exercise and telomere length. In fact, the volunteers in the exercise group who had worked out the most during the past six months tended now to have slightly less lengthening and even some shortening, compared to those who had exercised less but stood up more.

Reducing sedentary time had lengthened telomeres, the scientists concluded, while exercising had played little role.

Exactly what the volunteers did in lieu of sitting is impossible to say with precision, said Per Sj√∂gren, a professor of public health at Uppsala University in Sweden, who led the study, because the researchers did not track their volunteers’ movement patterns with monitors. But “it’s most likely,” he said, that “sitting time was predominantly replaced with low-intensity activities,” and in particular with time spent standing up.

Which makes the second new study of sedentary behavior particularly relevant. Standing is not, after all, physically demanding for most people, and some scientists have questioned whether merely standing up — without also moving about and walking — is sufficiently healthy or if standing merely replaces one type of sedentariness with another.

If so, standing could be expected to increase health problems and premature death, as sitting has been shown to do.

To find out whether that situation held true, Peter Katzmarzyk, a professor of public health at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, (United States), and an expert on sedentary behavior, turned to a large database of self-reported information about physical activity among Canadian adults. He noted the amount of time that the men and women had reported standing on most days over the course of a decade or more and crosschecked that data with death records, to see whether people who stood more died younger.

The results, published in May in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, are soothing if predictable. Dr. Katzmarzyk found no link between standing and premature death. Rather, as he writes in the study, “mortality rates declined at higher levels of standing,” suggesting that standing is not sedentary or hazardous, a conclusion with which our telomeres would likely concur.

****

Gretchen Reynolds wrote this piece which was first published September 17, 2014 on a blog run by the New York Times.

Source: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/sit-less-live-longer/?_php=true&_type=blogs&ref=health&_r=0

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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Pope Francis: Marriage is ... Real Life, ... Not Fiction. [Text of Pope Francis' Homily at Wedding Mass in St. Peter's Basilica]

September 16, 2014


"The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together"





On Sunday, September 14, 2014, on the day recognized as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Holy Father Pope Francis joined 20 couples in holy matrimony. Some of these people had been cohabiting already, in some cases with children to show. In taking this step, Pope Francis signalled once again that he intends to continue to lead our Church along the path of modernization that the conveners of Vatican Council II anticipated and engineered, without shedding any of the core teachings that give the Church its identity. His action, while not being an endorsement of cohabitation and sex outside of marriage, is a recognition that the frailness of our humanity does not preclude us from the love and mercies of our God. It is an affirmation that the Church was established for the Flock, and not the Flock for the Church. It is instructive that he affirms in his homily that marriage is real life and not fiction. I have reproduced hereunder the English translation of the text of his homily on that auspicious occasion, as provided by the Holy See.

****

Today’s first reading speaks to us of the people’s journey through the desert. We can imagine them as they walked, led by Moses; they were families: fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, grandparents, men and women of all ages, accompanied by many children and the elderly who struggled to make the journey. This people reminds us of the Church as she makes her way across the desert of the contemporary world, reminds us of the People of God composed, for the most part, of families.

This makes us think of families, our families, walking along the paths of life with all their day to day experiences. It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in a family: mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, the sharing of joys and difficulties. Families are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the “bricks” for the building up of society.

Let us return to the biblical story. At a certain point, “the people became impatient on the way” (Num 21:4). They are tired, water supplies are low and all they have for food is manna, which, although plentiful and sent by God, seems far too meagre in a time of crisis. And so they complain and protest against God and against Moses: “Why did you make us leave?...” (cf. Num. 21:5). They are tempted to turn back and abandon the journey.

Here our thoughts turn to married couples who “become impatient on the way”, the way of conjugal and family life. The hardship of the journey causes them to experience interior weariness; they lose the flavour of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament. Daily life becomes burdensome, and often, even “nauseating”.

During such moments of disorientation – the Bible says – poisonous serpents come and bite the people, and many die. This causes the people to repent and to turn to Moses for forgiveness, asking him to beseech the Lord so that he will cast out the snakes. Moses prays to the Lord, and the Lord offers a remedy: a bronze serpent set on a pole; whoever looks at it will be saved from the deadly poison of the vipers.

What is the meaning of this symbol? God does not destroy the serpents, but rather offers an “antidote”: by means of the bronze serpent fashioned by Moses, God transmits his healing strength, namely his mercy, which is more potent than the Tempter’s poison.

As we have heard in the Gospel, Jesus identifies himself with this symbol: out of love the Father “has given” his only begotten Son so that men and women might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:13-17). Such immense love of the Father spurs the Son to become man, to become a servant and to die for us upon a cross. Out of such love, the Father raises up his son, giving him dominion over the entire universe. This is expressed by Saint Paul in his hymn in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11). Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus crucified receives the mercy of God and finds healing from the deadly poison of sin.

The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who “have become impatient on the way” and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment... To them too, God the Father gives his Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them: if they entrust themselves to him, he will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.

The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together. This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. This is the task that you both share. “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a woman”; “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a man”. Here we see the reciprocity of differences. The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life! Within this theology which the word of God offers us concerning the people on a journey, spouses on a journey, I would like to give you some advice. It is normal for husband and wife to argue: it’s normal. It always happens. But my advice is this: never let the day end without having first made peace. Never! A small gesture is sufficient. Thus the journey may continue. Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not “fiction”! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross. My desire for you is that you have a good journey, a fruitful one, growing in love. I wish you happiness. There will be crosses! But the Lord is always there to help us move forward. May the Lord bless you!

****

[Translation by the Holy See]

Wole Soyinka: Wages of Impunity

September 16, 2014


THE dancing obscenity of Shekau and his gang of psychopaths and child abductors, taunting the world, mocking the BRING BACK OUR GIRLS campaign on internet, finally met its match in Nigeria to inaugurate the week of September 11 – most appropriately. Shekau’s danse macabre was surpassed by the unfurling of a political campaign banner that defiled an entry point into Nigeria’s capital of Abuja. That banner read: BRING BACK JONATHAN 2015. 

President Jonathan has since disowned all knowledge or complicity in the outrage but, the damage has been done, the rot in a nation’s collective soul bared to the world. The very possibility of such a desecration took the Nigerian nation several notches down in human regard. It confirmed the very worst of what external observers have concluded and despaired of - a culture of civic callousness, a coarsening of sensibilities and, a general human disregard. It affirmed the acceptance, even domination of lurid practices where children are often victims of unconscionable abuses including ritual sacrifices, intimate enslavement, and worse. Spurred by electoral desperation, a bunch of self-seeking morons and sycophants chose to plumb the abyss of self-degradation and drag the nation down to their level. It took us to a hitherto unprecedented low in ethical degeneration. The bets were placed on whose turn would it be to take the next potshots at innocent youths in captivity whose society and governance have failed them and blighted their existence? Would the Chibok girls now provide standup comic material for the latest staple of Nigerian escapist diet? Would we now move to a new export commodity in the entertainment industry named perhaps “Taunt the Victims”?

As if to confirm all the such surmises, an ex-governor, Sheriff, notorious throughout the nation – including within security circles as affirmed in their formal dossiers - as prime suspect in the sponsorship league of the scourge named Boko Haram, was presented to the world as a presidential traveling companion. And the speculation became: was the culture of impunity finally receiving endorsement as a governance yardstick? Again, Goodluck Jonathan swung into a plausible explanation: it was Mr. Sheriff who, as friend of the host President Idris Deby, had traveled ahead to Chad to receive Jonathan as part of President Deby’s welcome entourage. What, however does this say of any president? How came it that a suspected affiliate of a deadly criminal gang, publicly under such ominous cloud, had the confidence to smuggle himself into the welcoming committee of another nation, and even appear in audience, to all appearance a co-host with the president of that nation? Where does the confidence arise in him that Jonathan would not snub him openly or, after the initial shock, pull his counterpart, his official host aside and say to him, “Listen, it’s him, or me.”? So impunity now transcends boundaries, no matter how heinous the alleged offence?

The Nigerian president however appeared totally at ease. What the nation witnessed in the photo-op was an affirmation of a governance principle, the revelation of a decided frame of mind – with precedents galore. Goodluck Jonathan has brought back into limelight more political reprobates - thus attested in criminal courts of law and/or police investigations - than any other Head of State since the nation’s independence. It has become a reflex. Those who stuck up the obscene banner in Abuja had accurately read Jonathan right as a Bring-back president. They have deduced perhaps that he sees “bringing back” as a virtue, even an ideology, as the corner stone of governance, irrespective of what is being brought back. No one quarrels about bringing back whatever the nation once had and now sorely needs – for instance, electricity and other elusive items like security, the rule of law etc. etc. The list is interminable. The nature of what is being brought back is thus what raises the disquieting questions. It is time to ask the question: if Ebola were to be eradicated tomorrow, would this government attempt to bring it back? 

Well, while awaiting the Chibok girls, and in that very connection, there is at least an individual whom the nation needs to bring back, and urgently. His name is Stephen Davis, the erstwhile negotiator in the oft aborted efforts to actually bring back the girls. Nigeria needs him back – no, not back to the physical nation space itself, but to a Nigerian induced forum, convoked anywhere that will guarantee his safety and can bring others to join him. I know Stephen Davis, I worked in the background with him during efforts to resolve the insurrection in the Delta region under President Shehu Yar’Adua. I have not been involved in his recent labours for a number of reasons. The most basic is that my threshold for confronting evil across a table is not as high as his - thanks, perhaps, to his priestly calling. From the very outset, in several lectures and other public statements, I have advocated one response and one response only to the earliest, still putative depredations of Boko Haram and have decried any proceeding that smacked of appeasement. There was a time to act – several times when firm, decisive action, was indicated. There are certain steps which, when taken, place an aggressor beyond the pale of humanity, when we must learn to accept that not all who walk on two legs belong to the community of humans – I view Boko Haram in that light. It is no comfort to watch events demonstrate again and again that one is proved to be right.

Thus, it would be inaccurate to say that I have been detached from the Boko Haram affliction – very much the contrary. As I revealed in earlier statements, I have interacted with the late National Security Adviser, General Azazi, on occasion – among others. I am therefore compelled to warn that anything that Stephen Davis claims to have uncovered cannot be dismissed out of hand. It cannot be wished away by foul-mouthed abuse and cheap attempts to impugn his integrity – that is an absolute waste of time and effort. Of the complicity of ex-Governor Sheriff in the parturition of Boko Haram, I have no doubt whatsoever, and I believe that the evidence is overwhelming. Femi Falana can safely assume that he has my full backing – and that of a number of civic organizations - if he is compelled to go ahead and invoke the legal recourses available to him to force Sheriff’s prosecution. The evidence in possession of Security Agencies - plus a number of diplomats in Nigeria - is overwhelming, and all that is left is to let the man face criminal persecution. It is certain he will also take many others down with him. 

The unleashing of a viperous cult like Boko Haram on peaceful citizens qualifies as a crime against humanity, and deserves that very dimension in its resolution. If a people must survive, the reign of impunity must end. Truth – in all available detail - is in the interest, not only of Nigeria, the sub-region and the continent, but of the international community whose aid we so belatedly moved to seek. From very early beginnings, we warned against the mouthing of empty pride to stem a tide that was assuredly moving to inundate the nation but were dismissed as alarmists. We warned that the nation had moved into a state of war, and that its people must be mobilized accordingly – the warnings were disregarded, even as slaughter surmounted slaughter, entire communities wiped out, and the battle began to strike into the very heart of governance, but all we obtained in return was moaning, whining and hand-wringing up and down the rungs of leadership and governance. But enough of recriminations - at least for now. Later, there must be full accounting.

Finally, Stephen Davis also mentions a Boko Haram financier within the Nigerian Central Bank. Independently we are able to give backing to that claim, even to the extent of naming the individual. In the process of our enquiries, we solicited the help of a foreign embassy whose government, we learnt, was actually on the same trail, thanks to its independent investigation into some money laundering that involved the Central Bank. That name, we confidently learnt, has also been passed on to President Jonathan. When he is ready to abandon his accommodating policy towards the implicated, even the criminalized, an attitude that owes so much to re-election desperation, when he moves from a passive “letting the law to take its course” to galvanizing the law to take its course, we shall gladly supply that name. 

In the meantime however, as we twiddle our thumbs, wondering when and how this nightmare will end, and time rapidly runs out, I have only one admonition for the man to whom so much has been given, but who is now caught in the depressing spiral of diminishing returns: “Bring Back Our Honour.” 

• Professor Soyinka is a Nobel Laureate in Literature.


Important Note: Nigeria has never had a President Shehu Yar'Adua. It seems to me that Professor Soyinka was referring in fact to President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.

Monday, September 15, 2014

You Need ... Some Cold Beer

September 15, 2014.




BUBU
What has so excited you that you have forgotten to comb your hair?
BOBO
Who cares about a comb when these South Africans have decided to aid Boko Haram?
BUBU
You have a habit of sensationalizing issues. How can you say South Africa is helping terrorists?
BOBO
How else would you explain their seizure of the cash meant to purchase arms that the intelligence community planned to deploy against the Boko boys?
BUBU
Now, you are confusing me. What are you really talking about?
BOBO
How would you know when you spend all your time watching Hallmark? Two Nigerians and an Israeli went from Abuja to South Africa to buy weapons on our behalf. When their plane landed at Lanseria, near Johannesburg, South African customs officers impounded the cash with which they were to pay for the arms.
BUBU
Cash? They went to pay for the arms with cash?
BOBO
How else do you pay for arms? With blood?
BUBU
How much were they carrying?
BOBO
I heard it is about 1.5 billion naira.
BUBU
Are legitimate arms transactions between countries usually paid for in cash?
BOBO
I don’t think so. But payment is payment, its mode notwithstanding. How does that change the fact that the South Africans are sabotaging our anti-terror efforts by confiscating our counter-terrorism money?
BUBU
Is it not curious that they were carrying 1.5 billion naira in cash from Abuja to South Africa to pay for arms that they were buying on behalf of Nigeria? Shouldn't they have paid for the arms through the CBN?
BOBO
Are you not aware that that Australian negotiator listed a former senior member of the CBN as a sponsor of the terrorists? Doesn't that tell you that the CBN may have been compromised?
BUBU
Doesn’t that reasoning sound a little bizarre, even for you?
BOBO
Think what you will. There is even more.
BUBU
What more could there possibly be?
BOBO
The National Conventional Arms Control Committee has denied issuing any approval for the purchase of the weapons.
BUBU
I have never heard of that Committee. Who are they?
BOBO
They approve the import and export of any weapons and issue permits for all such transactions between this country and any other.
BUBU
And they say they did not approve this weapons’ purchase on our behalf?
BOBO
Precisely. They even said they were not aware of any such arrangement.
BUBU
Doesn't that tell you that there is something that doesn't add up in that story about trying to buy weapons for Nigeria?
BOBO
All it tells me is that Boko Haram has gotten to that Committee, just as they have gotten to the South Africans and the CBN. Now, they are trying to frame the patriotic Nigerians who went to help us get more weapons.
BUBU
You need a comb for your hair, my friend, and some cold beer.
BOBO
In the war against terror, there are no spectators. You are either with us or with the terrorists.
BUBU
What if you eventually discover that those people were actually not trying to buy any weapons for Nigeria?
BOBO
That is the reasoning of terrorist sympathizers. I will have none of it.
BUBU
It is not beer you need, my dear friend. It is a sedative.






Adapted from Source: http://saharareporters.com/2014/09/15/two-nigerians-and-israeli-smuggle-93million-south-africa-private-jet-buy-arms-allegedly