Somalia’s Al-Shabab bans handshakes between men and women

Somalia, somalia, handshakeAs if you didn’t have enough reasons to avoid visiting Somalia, Al-Shabab has given you another. BBC reports that the Islamist group has banned handshakes between men and women in the town of Jowhar. It’s also illegal to walk with or chat with a member of the opposite sex you’re not related to.

It’s not clear what the punishment would be for committing these “crimes”, but BBC’s correspondent in Mogadishu says a common punishment is public flogging.

Al-Shabab controls much of southern and central Somalia and rules under a harsh form of Shariah law that, in the humble opinion of this agnostic, has nothing to do with real Islam. I’ve read the Koran twice and don’t recall anything about it being a sin to shake hands or talk with someone of the opposite sex. In fact, I’ve had conversations in public with many devout Muslim women, including Somali women. Looks like these women could tell Al-Shabab a thing or two about Islam.

Luckily not all of Somalia is controlled by these idiots. In the north part of the country, Puntland remains free from their rule, although it’s full of pirates, and Somaliland is a safe place to travel. When visiting Somaliland I met a lot of refugees from the south and they all felt tremendously grateful that they didn’t have to live with Al-Shabab’s false form of Islam.

[Image courtesy user Hucz via Wikimedia Commons]

75,000 teddy bears left behind in hotels every year

This has got to be the saddest statistic I’ve heard in a long time.

Just think of it–seventy-five thousand teddy bears wondering why they got left behind. Seventy-five thousand distraught owners. Seventy-five thousand hotel owners frantically calling Teddy Bear Protection Services to get the bears emotional support.

It gets worse.

The figure is only for bears lost and returned last year at one hotel chain–Travelodge. Granted it’s one of the biggest budget chains in Europe with 380 hotels and 6.5 million guests last year, but think what the statistics must be globally. While Travelodge has made heroic efforts to reunite teddies with their families, it’s obvious the UN needs to gets involved.

Faced with this problem Travelodge did a bit of research and surveyed 6,000 people about their teddies. They made the surprising discovery that teddies are popular with adults too. A third of adults go to bed with a stuffed animal, and 25 percent of men take teddies on business trips with them. Respondents said it’s comforting to go to bed with a teddy, and psychologists say having a cuddly friend from home helps people feel comfortable in a strange place.

It’s heartening to see teddies enjoying travel. Some bears even have their own blogs, like Travel Schlepp, who is currently in Taiwan and offers some good advice on what to pack when going to Asia this season. BBC travel correspondent Misery Bear tells of the dangers of visiting the beach.

Just remember, teddy friends, to check your bed before checking out. You don’t want to leave your best friend behind.

Cute teddy photo courtesy user Mike R via Wikimedia Commons.

Father saves daughter from zoo bear attack

Warning to little girls everywhere–giant teddy bears may very well try to eat you.

Warning to parents everywhere–watch your kids when around dangerous wild animals.

A Dutch family was visiting a private zoo in Luenebach, Germany, when their three-year-old daughter became enchanted by an Asian black bear. While her parents’ backs were turned she climbed the fence, which was only a meter (three feet) tall, and fell inside the bear’s enclosure. The bear then struck the kid. Daddy leaped in, got his own share of bear battering, and managed to save his daughter. Both were taken to the hospital but their injuries are not life-threatening.

This isn’t the first time the bear has acted like, well, a bear. Three years ago he attacked and injured a zookeeper.

Police are now investigating why it was so easy for a small child to get into the bear’s enclosure and why the parents didn’t notice her doing it.

As a parent I can testify to how quickly a small child can slip out of sight and get into mischief, but even when my son was three he knew not to climb fences and approach strange animals. Why? Because I told him. Of course that’s no guarantee, but he hasn’t done it in the first five years of his life, greatly increasing the chances that he will see the next five. Parents, please, teach your kids about animal safety. Cute does not mean safe. Just ask the Chinese guy who suffered a panda attack.

Image courtesy of Guérin Nicolas via Wikimedia Commons.