Did You Know the Ocelot From Archer Is a Historical Figure?

Archer and Babou

We’re making children’s books. What that means is a lot of my time is spent fact checking, editing, and looking for great open use pictures. Writing a book on cats means that today my job is searching the internet for pictures of cats. It’s a good day.

I’ve seen and learned some cool stuff, but this by far takes the cake: Babou, Cheryl/Carol/Charlene Tunt’s pet ocelot is (or is named after) an actual ocelot in history, and not just any ocelot.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you Babou the ocelot and Salvador Dalí the human:

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Babou was the name of Salvador Dalí’s pet Ocelot. Allegedly acquired from the Columbian Head of State in the 1960s, Babou spent no small amount of time by Dalí’s side. Dalí outfitted his adorable friend with a leash and stone studded collar and would take it everywhere one might take a medium-sized dog.

In one account, a woman became terrified of the animal in a New York City cafe. Dalí told her not to worry; it was just a normal cat that he had painted over.

Like Cheryl’s pet, Dalí’s Babou was certainly no stranger to luxury. It was known to lounge on a silken settee located in front of a carved marble fireplace.

Being a wild animal, the historical Babou was ill-suited to domestic life and the outbreaks depicted on Archer are likely based in truth. As actor Carlos Lozano recounted: “I only saw the ocelot smile once, the day it escaped and sent the guests at the Meurice scurrying like rats for cover.”

If you have to ask why Dalí and Archer both love ocelots, prepare for an education in the most ferocious cuteness you’ve ever seen:




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They are wild and owning one is cruel, but cruelty has never been so tempting.

Photo #1 embedded from Archer Wiki; The rest from Wikimedia Commons. 

UAE Child Rights Law Contains Controversial Breastfeeding Clause

ينام خالي القلب و ان صابه نعاس و انا و قلبــي بين هايــس و رميــسIn January, the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates drafted a law to protect children’s rights. Controversy has arisen over recent months because of a clause that mandates women breastfeed their children, if physically able, for the first two years of their lives. The government hopes to use this clause to raise the rates of breastfeeding as a way to improve child nutrition and health.

This clause has been criticized because it legislates a very personal decision for women, making breastfeeding a legal requirement rather than a choice. For this reason, many consider this to be a question of women’s rights. Additionally, many women cannot breastfeed, while others have difficulty doing so and many more choose to feed their child with formula either entirely or as a supplement to breast milk.

The controversy also stems from the lack of clarity surrounding exactly how the law would be implemented. Would women be sued, punished or imprisoned for failing to breastfeed their children for a full two years? This question remains unanswered and hotly debated.

“Breast milk is very important for a child. In the end of the day we want women to try as much as they can to feed their baby naturally. This is not to say that women who do not are criminals, but they may face disciplinary measures, but definitely not prison,” explained Sultan Al Sammahi, deputy head of the Committee on Health, Labour and Social Affairs for the Federal National Council.

An Emirati lawyer, Ali Al Abadi, interprets the clause’s wording differently, claiming that it can mean if a mother “did not breastfeed the child, is subject to punishment under this bill unless there is a reason why she cannot. But if she has been found to be neglecting this right it would be considered as an offence, even if the law is not intended to punish.”

An additional problem is that women in the UAE have little institutionalized support or  education to facilitate the desired rise in breastfeeding. They face the challenge of trying to breastfeed despite only 45 days of paid maternity leave and little accommodation once they reenter the workplace. Additionally, even if women want to breastfeed, many struggle to do so because without knowing who to turn to for advice or support when encountering difficulties  with low milk supplies, sore nipples, problems with baby latching or infection.

Even international breastfeeding advocates like La Leche League recognize the problems of imposing a law such as this. A spokesman for the group’s UAE chapter declared that “we imagine that this law may be extremely difficult to implement at the current time given a lack of support and information on breastfeeding available to mothers here in the UAE.”

In addition to legislating breastfeeding, the Law on Child Rights aims to protect children from a wide range of abuses including child pornography, physical and sexual abuse, exploitation and neglect. It also sets requirements for meeting basic human rights of food, shelter, healthcare and education.

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Japan’s Institutions Fail the Country’s Most Vulnerable Children

Free SpiritHuman Rights Watch released the report Without Dreams: Children in Alternative Care in Japan assessing the impact these care facilities have upon children who live there. As of 2013, more than 39 thousand children lived in institutions rather than in a family setting. The report identified problems with child care institutions, including abuses that take place and long-term implications for these children.

“It’s heartbreaking to see children crammed into institutions and deprived of the chance for life in a caring family setting. While other developed countries place most vulnerable children in family-based care, in Japan, a shocking 90 percent end up in institutions,” explained Kanae Doi, director of Human Rights Watch for Japan.

Children end up in institutional childcare after having been either abandoned or taken from unfit parents by the government. Rather than send these children to foster care or adopt them out to new families, the Japanese system assigns most children to institutions where they are deprived of caring family relationships and commonly subjected to abuses.

Infant care institutions, child care institutions, and short-term therapeutic institutions are often understaffed and overcrowded. As a result, the well-being and development of the children living there suffer. These children have insufficient access to education and live in poorly maintained facilities with poor hygiene and a lack of privacy. Many also become victims of physical and sexual abuse by caretakers or other institutionalized children.

Growing up under these conditions, children experience lifelong difficulties including developmental and learning disabilities, high rates of unemployment and underemployment, homelessness and other social difficulties.

According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children “should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding…the institutionalization of a child is a measure of last resort and only occurs when family-type measures are considered inadequate for a specific child.”

This does not happen in Japan where child guidance centers preferentially assign children to institutions rather than pursue adoption or foster care. This allows centers to avoid spending large amounts of time finding individual children a more acceptable living situation. It also benefits institutions which financially benefit from government subsidies that pay based upon the number of children in residence.

Doi called for Japan to reform its alternative care system, stating that “Japan’s child care policymakers are allowing bureaucratic priorities to get in the way of finding alternative care that is in the child’s best interest. While many people working in the system are committed to helping children, a sustainable solution should recognize that foster care and adoption need to play a much more central role.”

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Senegalese Laws Endanger Lives of Young Girls

Girls in Sebikhotan Senegal’s abortion laws regularly deny young rape victims permission for abortions. These laws revictimize these girls by forcing them to either carry unwanted and risky pregnancies to term, or seek illegal and unsafe abortions. These poor, rural girls have no acceptable options because Senegalese laws prohibit almost all abortions, considering abortions to be a crime punishable with up to 10 years in jail.

The most recent case that garnered attention is of a 10-year old girl from a poor family who was raped by a neighbor. She is now 5 months pregnant with twins, and although human rights activists have fought to get her legal approval for an abortion, legislators have rejected her pleas.

“She is going to have to go through with the pregnancy. The best we can do is keep up pressure on the authorities to ensure the girl gets regular scans and free medical care… We had a previous case of a raped nine-year-old who had to go through with her pregnancy. We paid for her caesarean but she died a few months after the baby was born, presumably because the physical trauma of childbirth was too great,” explained Fatou Kiné Camara, president of the Senegalese Women Lawyers’ Association.

The United Nations’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has declared these laws dangerous and deadly because they have resulted in high numbers of maternal death, illegal abortion, and incarceration of women convicted of abortion. For young girls, pregnancy and giving birth are both extremely risky and traumatic, having a high potential for severe health consequences and even death. Similarly, illegal abortions commonly result in the death of hundreds of women every year in Senegal.

These laws discriminate against women and girls, especially those from poor and rural backgrounds. If a girl’s family has enough money, it is relatively easy to go to a private clinic for an abortion. Poor women do not have this option but must either carry the pregnancy to term or seek back-channel abortions because avenues for seeking legal abortions are prohibitively expensive and complicated.

“For a termination to be legal in Senegal, three doctors have to certify that the woman will die unless she aborts immediately. Poor people in Senegal are lucky if they see one doctor in their lifetime, let alone three. A single medical certificate costs 10,000 CFA francs ($20), which is prohibitive,” stated Camara.

It is virtually impossible for poor, rural women to visit even one doctor. There are only 20 hospitals in the entire country with 7 of them being in the capital city. Not only is an appointment itself prohibitively expensive, but so are the time and costs associated with getting to a doctor’s office.

For these reasons, the Association for Senegalese Women Lawyers has been fighting for a change in legislation that would align Senegalese laws with the African Charter on Women’s Rights. Although Senegal ratified the charter, the country has yet to implement the necessary changes to abortion laws. These changes would permit abortions for victims of rape or incest, or for those whose lives or mental health are in danger due to the pregnancy.

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More Than 100 Schoolgirls Abducted in Nigeria

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing NigeriaMore than 100 female students have been abducted from a school in the state of Borno in northeastern Nigeria. Militant Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram is suspected to have caused the attack. Gunmen reportedly entered the school’s hostel where the teenage girls were sleeping on the night of April 14th, ordered the students onto trucks, and drove away. Governments and news agencies around the world have condemned the mass kidnapping.

All educational centers in Borno state were closed three weeks ago due to Boko Haram attacks in the area, however this group of students had returned to their school in order to sit final exams. An estimated 14 girls escaped from the trucks as they were being driven away, but most of the 129 abducted students are still missing. Eighteen-year-old Godiyah Isaiah is one of the girls who managed to escape. She said that the gunmen initially posed as Nigerian soldiers who had arrived at the school to evacuate the students to a safer region.

Boko Haram is thought to have taken the students to their camps near the Cameroonian border. The group has abducted girls in the past to use for forced labor or sexual slavery. Groups from the Nigerian police force, army, and air force have been searching for the girls, as have many of the girls’ own parents, who have headed into the Sambisa forest to look for their children.

Boko Haram has carried out increasingly violent attacks in Nigeria in recent years as part of its campaign to create an Islamist Nigerian state. The group frequently targets schools, teachers, students, and ordinary civilians, and is said to have killed an estimated 1,500 people so far in 2014.

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Exhaustion and Hunger Afflict Central African Refugees Arriving in Cameroon

Flee or Die. Refugees from CAR in CameroonThe conflict in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) has displaced nearly 1 million of the country’s 4.6 million people. Of these, 300 thousand have fled the country while 650 thousand have been displaced within the country’s borders. Fleeing from violence and destruction, C.A.R. refugees have flooded neighboring Cameroon with more than 44,000 men, women and children having crossed the border over the past year. During their treacherous journey out of the C.A.R.,  refugees have been plagued with infections, malnutrition, exhaustion and death.

“The situation of the refugees is particularly alarming. Some 80 percent of the latest arrivals suffer ailments such as malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory infections. More than 20 percent of children are severely malnourished…Many have lost relatives to hunger along the way or shortly after reaching Cameroon,” explained Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, a spokesperson for UNHCR.

As of March 2014, the number of sick and dying refugees arriving from C.A.R. have increased significantly. Fleeing from conflicting militia forces, refugees spent weeks hiding in the bush with little to no access to basic necessities like food, clean drinking water, or shelter. The resulting numbers of refugees arriving in Cameroon in need of medical attention have overwhelmed aid agencies and medical workers.

Compared to what aid organizations have witnessed in other refugee situations, refugees arriving in Cameroon exhibit more extreme illnesses. When they arrive, many are suffering from extreme exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition, and diseases such as respiratory infections and malaria. Children, who account for around 50% of all refugees, are especially vulnerable to illness and death.

Mariano Lugli, the Assistant Director of Operations for Doctors without Borders, explained that refugees “have already suffered too much and they are extremely vulnerable…As the situation in CAR deteriorates, more and more people are arriving in Cameroon. It is urgent that all humanitarian actors act with immediate effect. These refugees need security, food, shelter, access to drinking water and emergency medical care.”

Upon arrival, refugees require medical assessment and treatment for the many serious ailments they suffer as a consequence of their strenuous journeys. Doctors without Borders has performed nearly 800 consultations weekly in response to this need. This organization has also provided access to potable water, soap and blankets, as well as establishing mobile clinics, latrines, and showers.

Lejeune-Kaba described the devastating experiences of refugees, stating “many have lost relatives to hunger along the way or shortly after reaching Cameroon… A woman whose husband was shot by the anti-Balaka lost six of her nine children to hunger when they were in the bush for seven weeks without food.”

Following the overthrow of the country’s government by Séléka rebels in early 2013, the Central African Republic has been plagued by violent conflict. As of December 2013, violence escalated further with Christian Anti-Balaka militias targeting Muslim Séléka rebels in retribution for their overturn of the government last year. Violence in the form of mutilation, beating, murder, torture, rape, and pillaging has forced nearly a million people to flee for their lives and safety.


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FIFA Ruling Increases Inclusion of Girls and Women in Football

Soccer BallIn March 2013, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) announced its long-awaited decision allowing both male and female players to wear religious head coverings in international football competitions. This decision will give millions of Muslim girls and women around the world unprecedented access to play football.

The ban on head coverings in international football has prevented female players from participating in significant competitions worldwide. Most notably, in 2011 FIFA disqualified the Iranian women’s football team from competing in a pre-Olympic trial match because players wore headscarves. Muslim girls and women in other countries have been excluded from joining football teams because of their commitment to wearing the hijab.

Farrah Khan, a social worker and activist for the Canadian organization Right2Wear, explained that the ban on head coverings was, “a religious and feminist issue…keeping Muslim women on the sidelines is a form of oppression and is isolating to them.”

In 2012, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, vice-resident of FIFA for Asia, requested the board of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) lift the ban, allowing Muslim women to participate fully in the sport. He stated that “women’s football has come a long way…and the present situation is saying to women worldwide that you’re not allowed to participate for a reason that makes no sense. That’s prejudice. It’s not fair. It has to be dealt with. This is not an issue of religious symbolism, it is simply a case of cultural modesty, and I’m tackling this now because it is a big issue for many, many women all across the world.”

Head coverings were supposedly banned because they posed a risk of head and neck injury. Following criticism of this ban, FIFA and IFAB decided to allow certain, approved head coverings in international matches on a trial basis as of 2012. As of March 2014 the trial period has ended and the ban has been officially lifted. Now, Muslim females along with Sikh and Jewish males, who were previously prohibited from participating in international matches, will be allowed to play without discriminatory restrictions on their attire.

Farrah Khan responded to this development, stating “I’m ecstatic. This is a win for Muslim women and their allies. This sends a really clear message – let’s stop bullying Muslim women and get out of their wardrobes…It tells them they can have the dream of playing on a national level or playing for their country in the Olympics.”

This is a promising step in the fight for equal access to sports for women and girls. Many other circumstances beyond clothing continue to contribute to unequal access to participation in sports worldwide. In many countries, girls are prohibited from playing school sports due to their gender. In other areas of the world, limited resources and programs are dedicated specifically to sports for female players. Consequently, the FIFA and and IFAB ruling represents only one step in the ongoing fight by female athletes to gain gender equality.

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Senegal’s Major Problem With Forced Child Begging

While Senegal has attempted to address some of its huge number of impoverished families with healthcare funding, many of its children are still suffering in school. Human Rights Watch reported on March 19 that many children in Senegalese Quranic boarding school sare living in unsafe conditions and are exploited by their teachers, who force the children to beg and often beat them severely when they do not return a set quota of money. “For at least 50,000 children in Senegal, economic exploitation is masquerading as religious education, as children are forced to beg for long hours to benefit the teacher, and are subjected to severe physical abuse for failing to meet his quota,” said Matt Wells, author of the report.

GPE Head visits Senegal

The government has drafted new legislation to address the problem, but critics say that more oversight is still required; there remain only two full-time inspectors for Quranic schools, of which there are thousands throughout the country. “If we’re going to inspect or even oversee inspections across Senegal, we need more personnel, we need more equipment,” said an official in the inspectorate.

The report was issued a year President Macky Sall pledged to look at the problem following a fire in one of the school that killed eight boys. The legislation proposed would gradually increase regulation and oversight for the schools. “Senegal has long had good laws on the books to address forced child begging, but government will to enforce them has been consistently lacking,” said Wells. “President Sall’s government has many allies in waiting among religious authorities and the broader population. He should swiftly seize the opportunity to put an end to the system of exploitation that threatens to leave thousands of kids with an education only in how to survive on the streets,” Wells added.

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ICC Fails to Convict Congolese Warlord on Sexual Violence and the Use of Child Soldiers

LIBYA-ICC-/On March 7, 2014 Germain Katanga’s trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) came to an end. In response to crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003, Katanga was found guilty of war crimes including murder, attacking civilians, destroying property and pillaging, and as an accessory to crimes against humanity. Justice experts consider this ruling to be only a partial success, since Katanga was also acquitted of the charges of sexual crimes and recruiting child soldiers.

The ICC issued a warrant for Katanga’s arrest in 2007, charging him with seven counts of war crimes and three of crimes against humanity. As leader of the Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri (FRPI), Katanga led an attack upon the village of Bogoro in February 2003. While village residents slept, the FRPI attacked and hunted down ethnic Hema, mutilated and killed with machetes and firearms, and caused thee death of more than 200 civilians, most who were younger than eighteen. Following the massacre, FRPI members including child soldiers, pillaged the village, raped women and girls, and abducted them to use as sexual slaves.

“In their hearts, many victims want to believe that, somehow, this judgment will contribute to peace and reconciliation… forgotten them and that no adequate measures are being taken to put an end to the continuous attacks,” explained Fidel Nista, the Legal Representative of the Main Group of Victims for the case.

Many have been disappointed with the case’s verdict, having hoped that the ICC would set a precedent by convicting Katanga for sexual crimes and the use of children as combatants. With insufficient evidence of his direct involvement in these crimes, the court chose to acquit on these charges due to a lack of evidence. This judgement has led to questions about whether victims of these crimes will ever see justice done.

This was the third case investigated and prosecuted by the ICC in relation to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2012 the court aquitted Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui and convicted Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. In addition, Sylvestre Mudacumura remains wanted by the ICC to answer for nine counts of war crimes. Additional cases may arise in the future in response to ongoing investigations by the ICC.

The United Nations defines war crimes as “serious breaches of international humanitarian law committed against civilians or enemy combatants during an international or domestic armed conflict,” that include acts such as murder, rape, pillage, destruction, and other attacks on civilians who are considered to be protected persons under international law. The term crimes against humanity differs by the extent of the crimes committed, referring to “crimes such as murder, extermination, rape, persecution and all other inhumane acts of a similar character… committed ‘as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.”
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Bilingual Educational System in Morocco Frustrates, Disadvantages Students

Morocco has recently undertaken a concerted program of education reform—taking loans from the World Bank for development, founding an education and training center for women, and creating a plan to promote women’s rights, among others.Still, the state systemically disadvantages certain students from reaching and succeeding in the highest levels of education.

Morocco employs a bifurcated system in its public schools, linguistically and culturally. Arabic is the language of primary and secondary schools, but is replaced by French at the university level. A new report argues that this both disrupts a sense of continuity between secondary and tertiary education, and puts students, especially those from the rural areas of the country, at a distinct disadvantage.

The SchoolThe change can be especially challenging for populations far from the educated urban centers of the country. Rural women especially have less exposure to French—still the language of business in Morocco—and are less prepared to advance to higher levels of education.

Students are forced to spend time adjusting to a new linguistic and educational system that could be quite different from what they were used to. The European model used in universities is prompting some students to look for alternative paradigms like instruction in English. “Morocco has long been handicapped because it has been so oriented toward Europe and France,” said Ahmed Legrouri, dean the science and engineering school at Al Akhawayn University (AIU), Morocco’s only English-language college. “I lost all hope with the French system while I was in high school,” said Fahd El Hassan, an AIU graduate from 2009. “It’s all about memorizing, not about learning.”

The reforms Morocco has made are promising and necessary. However the country does need to reevaluate its system of higher education if it is to allow all its citizens to compete for positions in the academy and in the global workforce.

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