Will Justin Trudeau Speak Out for Raif Badawi?

Raif Badawi remains in prison. Raif Badawi still awaits 950 lashes with a whip. Raif Badawi remains in danger …

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In an open letter published May 3, Amnesty International Canada asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “renew and intensify efforts to encourage Saudi Arabian authorities to free prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi.” The letter’s authors, Alex Neve and Béatrice Vaugrante, emphasize that the organization is asking that the Canadian government “and you personally” (meaning Prime Minister Trudeau) work for Badawi’s release. The letter was directed to Trudeau as a part of World Press Freedom Day, which was marked with events around the globe on May 3.

Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, and the couple’s three young children moved to Canada in 2014 as refugees and have permanent resident status in that nation. The city in which they now live, Sherbrooke, Quebec, awarded Badawi an honorary citizenship in 2015. Thus, the letter writers remind Trudeau, “Canada is well positioned to urge Saudi officials to release Mr. Badawi on humanitarian grounds so that he can reunite with his family.”

“In fact,” Amnesty International Canada urges, “there is no other country with a stronger responsibility to champion Mr. Badawi’s case.”
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Panicky

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
—T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

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Any room with me in it is a panic room.

“Take my advice—I’m not using it.” Oh, I can tell you to keep calm. At my worst, I might insist that you keep calm. But as someone who can introduce stress into the least stressful, sweetly innocuous, and even some of the more pleasant experiences in life, when I am confronted with the parts of life that others find truly stressful, I hunker down and find the effort deep inside myself to make them yet more stressful.

In one of my lesser achievements in the field of stress management, I gave myself a black eye while tying my shoes. These were boots with leather laces (I am not a cowboy) and such laces can take a little effort to yank into position. While securing my “half-knot” on my right shoe, the length of lace in my left hand broke and I clocked myself in the right eye. At the time, I was 34 years old, not 11.
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Where Is Dawit Isaak?

Dawit Isaak, the Eritrean-Swedish journalist and playwright, was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 today in Jakarta, Indonesia. Today is World Press Freedom Day, a global United Nations commemoration, and Isaak was not present for the UNESCO ceremony.

Dawit Isaak has been held prisoner in Eritrea since September 2001. His whereabouts and his condition are unknown.

In June 2016, in a rare interview with France’s RFI (Radio France Internationale), Eritrea’s Foreign Minister, Osman Saleh, spoke with RFI’s Anthony Lattier about Eritrea’s “political prisoners,” and he specifically revealed that Dawit Isaak is still alive.

It was the first official Eritrean acknowledgement that Isaak is alive since 2009, when the nation’s president, Isaias Afwerki, ominously told a Swedish journalist that Eritrea “knows what to do with” Isaak and others “of his kind.”
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A Traveler’s Tale

He was a writer, that much he made certain I knew. A poet.

I never looked for his book online or in a bookstore. He showed it to me, or he showed me a galley proof of it. And now, more than a decade later, I do not remember his name or enough about the book to find out whatever happened to him or it.

The two of us were passengers on a plane, and 98% of my personal air travel history dates from the years 2000 to 2004, when I moved from upstate New York to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and twice a year I returned home for holiday visits. The typical route was: Eastern Iowa Airport to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to Stewart International Airport (or sometimes Logan in Boston), because there are no direct flights between Iowa and anyplace else I have ever lived. The book author was a wadded-up sheet of paper’s direct flight across the aisle from me.
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In Honor of #IndependentBookstoreDay

April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day. For most of the 1990s, I was employed in an independent bookstore in New Paltz, New York. If you are a fan of books and of locally owned businesses and live near an independent bookstore, any excuse to visit your local bookstore is a good reason to visit it.

(Especially booksellers that specialize in used books; the perfume of used books ought to be bottled and sold, but then again, it already is: in old books.)

Huffington Post today published a list of fifty popular independent bookstores located across the country; I have been in three of the fifty (numbers 4, 13, and 28) and number 28 has employed and still employs co-workers from my old bookseller.

A column of mine from 2015:
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When Law and Order Is Neither: Barrett Brown’s Arrest

Updated, May 2, 2017: Barrett Brown was released from FCI Seagoville yesterday. In an article in D Magazine, a publication in Dallas for which he writes an occasional column, Brown reports that he was asked to sign documents on his way out: “One of the forms he was asked to sign gives the Bureau of Prisons permission to talk to the media about him,” which makes no sense, “given that he was ostensibly re-arrested for not getting permission to talk to the media.”

Updated, April 28, 2017: Barrett Brown is being held at FCI Seagoville, a low-security federal correctional institution for male offenders in Seagoville, Texas. My column from last week:
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Hometowns

One of the unique things that is somehow common to many people (we are all alike in our uniqueness) is a stated belief that our hometown is no place special. We are taught to be humble, so anyplace that our humble selves hail from must be thought of as not all that special, either.

This often masks a fierce inner secret belief that one’s hometown is in fact the best place to be from and (insert name of a higher power one believes in here), please help those who chose to be born somewhere else, especially those unlucky ones born in the nearest next neighboring town. Those people are the unluckiest of all, perhaps because they were born so near to our town’s obvious greatness but they were not, which renders all the more dramatic their failure at their life’s first and easiest task: pick the right place to be born.
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Lauri Love Can Appeal His Extradition

The High Court of England today granted Lauri Love permission to appeal his extradition to the United States. No date has been set for the hearing.

Permission was given because “the High Court acknowledged that the grounds [for appeal] raised some issues of great importance,” according to one of Love’s lawyers, Karen Todner.

In a post on Facebook, Love wrote, “Not getting kidnapped yet.” He also told the Courage Foundation: “Every day you wake up to some good news is a blessing, and we can’t take any blessings for granted these days. Good news comes scantly between crisis and calamity. I’m thankful the High Court have recognized the strength of our grounds for appeal and the great importance of the issues raised by the case.”
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