The Abayudaya Jews of Uganda

The Star Tribune of 3/24/13 carried a story about a unique Jewish community in Uganda, East Africa. The Abayudaya of Uganda began in 1919 when one African man studying the Bible under the direction of early missionaries decided that the Torah was the true word of God and became the leader of a growing indigenous community of Jews.  Under the leadership of Semei Kakungulu, the Jewish community grew to 3,000 souls.  But then they suffered persecution under Idi Amin who banned the Jewish religion.  The community migrated to the more remote district of Mbale near the Kenyan border where they have been slowly rebuilding.  Today the Jewish community lives in several villages and supports 6 temples, under the leadership of Rabbi Gershom.  Now numbering about 1,500, they run a school to teach the children Hebrew and observe the same Shabbat rituals and Holy Days as Jews around the world.

Sources and Further Info:

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Video: Reconciliation in Kenya

The film below documents one project aimed at building reconciliation after inter-ethnic violence following the 2007 election in Kenya. Kenyan Patrick Mureithi made this documentary about the “Healing and Rebuilding our Communities” workshops held in a slum area of Nairobi which experienced some of the worst violence of 2008. This moving film lets us share the emotions of both victims and perpetrators as they struggle to come to terms with what happened and how they can build a more peaceful future. Be sure to click the “Show More” button at YouTube to read the full press release about the film and its remarkable director.

BACKGROUND: As Kenyans get ready to vote tomorrow (Monday, March 4, 2013) in elections for President and Parliament, we all hope that the violence following the 2007 elections will not be repeated. That election featured 2 presidential candidates, each representing a different, but large tribe. When the results were announced, the loser claimed that the voting was rigged. Supporters of each candidate took to the streets in mass demonstrations which turned violent with people wielding machetes and burning down villages. Over 1,000 were killed and half a million rendered homeless.

The horrors of this post election conflict led to many reconciliation initiatives and projects to prevent a recurrence including the Alternatives to Violence Project Kenya (illustrated in this film) – a Quaker initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. Other projects include Uchaguzi to aggregate & map citizen reports of election violations.

For more info, see “Kenyan Patrick Mureithi Hopes New Film Will Deter Violence After Elections” by Paul Nolan, Wall Africa, Feb. 28, 2013.  The article also describes the no-cost Faster EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) for relieving anxiety. This no-cost technique of tapping on certain pressure points on the body is a boon in a country with few psychiatrists and little access to mental health services.

Cheap Classrooms from Plastic Bottles

Creative recycling in the Philippines enables local communities to build schools very cheaply.  Discarded plastic bottles are filled with liquid adobe, allowed to harden, and then cemented together in ‘walls’ to create a classroom. Since the Philippines confronts an annual shortage of 66,000 classrooms, this local recycle and reuse construction is a cheap and practicable solution.  The MyShelter Foundation claims that “every town in the Philippines produces enough plastic bottle waste to be able to construct a classroom every two weeks.”

Sources:

  • Info from “Transforming Plastic Bottles into Classrooms” posted in the World Bank blog of 3/26/12 at
  • Video “Philippine School Made Out of Bottles” at YouTube
  •  More pictures & info at Inhabitat
  • Other buildings made from plastic bottles – some fancy, some homemade – at WebEcoist

P.S. the MyShelter Foundation has also pioneered cheap solar lightbulbs from plastic bottles.  See a very creatively constructed web site at http://aliteroflight.org/

Analyzing Infographics: Simple Technique for Online Video Lesson

Just discovered “Picturing Information” a 4 minute video which analyzes an Infographic depicting per cent of mothers of 4-year-olds who work outside the home. After pausing to give viewers time to study the infographic and make their own analysis, author analyzes the infographic: Why does child have sad face? Why is mother pictured as a professional (vs blue collar job)?

The video is a good example of how to analyze infographics (or other graphics) for hidden messages.  Furthermore, it employs a very simple technique for creating a video to serve as an online lesson.  In many discussions of the ‘flipped classroom’ (where instructor records and posts a lecture for students to study before class so that classroom time can be used for actual discussion or hands-on activities), the tools involved are quite sophisticated and/or expensive.  But the technique here is easily available to anyone sitting at their home computer who has a smart phone or digital camera that records video.

One can easily adapt the technique of this video to use with widely available PowerPoint.  Just insert the infographic (or poem or short text) in a slide, record your narration, then convert to video (this function included in MS Office 2010 and later).

“Night of Terror” – 1915 Suffragettes Beaten

I just learned that 33 women imprisoned for demonstrating in front of the White House for the right to vote (1917) were brutally beaten by prison guards in what became known as the “Night of Terror”? Why aren’t we taught our history?

“Under orders from W. H. Whittaker, superintendent of the Occoquan Workhouse, as many as forty guards with clubs went on a rampage, brutalizing thirty-three jailed suffragists. They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head, and left her there for the night. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed, and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate Alice Cosu, who believed Mrs. Lewis to be dead, suffered a heart attack. According to affidavits, other women were grabbed, dragged, beaten, choked, slammed, pinched, twisted, and kicked. (source: Barbara Leaming, Katherine Hepburn (New York: Crown Publishers, 1995), 182.) “

Source: Quote above found on web at moondance.org/ 1998 /winter98 /nonfiction /alice.html (web site reported infected by Google as of March 2013)

Why VLC Media Player is Free

In the United States, DVD player software for computers costs money – software developer must pay a $2 license fee for MPEG-2 Codec and a 50 cent to $1 license for Dolby Digital Sound Codec (both necessary to view DVDs) for every copy of software sold. Microsoft will not include a DVD player in Windows 8 – one must purchase separately to avoid adding these license fee to cost of basic Windows 8.

So how can VLC Media Player be free to consumers and include the above Codecs (plus many others)?  Because VLC is a French nonprofit organization and “Neither French law nor European conventions recognize software as patentable.” Interesting to see that other developed, industrialized countries do not patent software. (Source: Ed Bott at ZDnet)

So, to watch DVDs and all video formats for free (& legally) on your PC, install VLC Media Player, available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. VLC offers Blue-Ray support, can convert videos from one format to another, and provides many other features.  Download from the VideoLan homepage.

DVD Styler: Make DVDs to Watch on TV

Jan. 13, 2012:  I just discovered DVD Styler, an excellent free app for making DVDs that can be watched on TV.  You just import the videos you want for your DVD [and DVD Styler can work with almost all video formats, including FLV, CamStudio, MPEG-4 (DivX, Xvid), Real Video plus “containers”  AVI, ASF (wmv) and QuickTime].  If your DVD includes many short videos, it is easy to group similar videos together on different menu pages.

In my experience, DVD Styler is as good as or superior to Roxio, Windows DVD Maker (which handles only a few file formats) and DVD Flick (free but very limited menus).  I had no trouble making a DVD with 9 different videos in various formats and using 3 different menu pages for each set of related videos.

The only serious weakness I observed was a lack of realistic previews.  What size font is best to use, which color combinations best for highlighting,  etc. are mostly a matter of trial & error.  Burn the DVD and then see how it looks/works when played on computer, DVD player and on TV.  Remake if not aesthetically pleasing.

This free software can be downloaded from http://www.dvdstyler.org/en/.  There are versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux.  You can also download a portable Windows version (to run from a Flash drive or USB stick) from http://portableapps.com/apps/music_video/dvdstyler_portable.

Menu Page from DVD that I Created

Shows Menus with 4 Videos plus links to two other Menu Pages

Screenshot from DVD Styler Software

Screenshot showing choice of backgrounds, 2 menus, 3 video titles