Melkam Addis Amet 2014 | Happy Ethiopian New Year!

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:00 AM EDT, 09 September 2014

Young Ethiopian Girl with Flower, Photo by Tiffany

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – The Ethiopian New Year, which in Amharic is called Enkutatash, commences on 11 September 2014.  The name of this festival harkens back to the revered Queen of Sheba, who upon her return from Jerusalem where she visited King Solomon, brought with her a wealth of gold and precious stones.

In addition to these gifts, she received jewels from the Ethiopian priesthood to celebrate her safe return. These jewels are known as ‘enku’ hence the eponymous name of the holiday.

The spring festival has been celebrated since Queen of Sheba's times, as it marks the end of the rainy season and the rebirth of the year.  Like the blowing of the Shofar which is a powerful symbol of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, which translates as the ‘head of the new year’ and begins about two weeks following; bouquets of yellow flowers symbolize Enkutatash as a holiday that marks springtime and renewal.

The rituals of both holidays include prayers and sermons, but also warm family celebrations replete with food, singing, and joy.

Ethiopia still retains the Julian calendar, in which the year is divided into 12-months of 30-days each and a 13th month of 5 days and 6 days in leap year. The Ethiopian calendar is 8-years behind the Gregorian calendar from January to September and 7-years behind between September 11 and January 8.

Though Enkutatash originated as a primarily religious festival celebrated over a period of three days, and was predominantly characterized by spectacular religious processionals; it is no longer an exclusively religious holiday. Today’s Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal new year greetings and cards among the urban professionals, though some in the Diaspora still exchange the traditional bouquet of flowers.

For those travelers able to visit the country during this festival, it is an experience not soon forgotten, especially if invited to celebrate in the Entoto Mountains, which is the region of the country that is resplendent with yellow flowers which have come to symbolize this holiday.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

Body Art for the Modern World

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Paul Van Hevel, Guest ContributorLast Modified: 21:12 p.m. EDT, 8 September 2014

Medusa, Body Painting, Photo by One Step 2 FarSAN DIEGO, California -- Photography and art are prominently featured in The Report. The website is anchored by photography, but artists by virtue of their unique and at times revolutionary view of the world are also presented.

Today, we feature a brief post about body art in its historical and modern equivalent, as well as how you can enjoy this art form on a more personal level.

Reasons Why People Love Body Painting

The art of painting the body is not as new as some people may think. For centuries, people in every culture have found ways to add to their natural features in either a temporary or a permanent form.  Body painting differs from the more permanent art of tattoos in the fact that they are only temporary.

According to Bella Volen, "body painting with clay and other natural pigments existed in most, if not all, tribalist cultures.  Often worn during ceremonies, it still survives in this ancient form among the indigenous people of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and parts of Africa, India, Japan and more.”

The art still practiced in much of the world today often represents a rite of passage in either their social or spiritual life and is an integral part of the wearer’s advancement through the years. There are several different reasons why someone may choose to have their body painted.

Traditional Significance

When you’re considering our history, odds are that you’ll find body painting was a significant part of our past. Most often, it was one of the customs of our ancestors and was done to represent some major rite of passage in life. In many cultures it was a common practice for weddings, reaching adulthood, to celebrate new life or to mourn a death.

Religious Significance

It also has a religious or spiritual representation in many cultures. The Hindi, for example use body painting in many of their festivals and celebrations to honor their gods and goddesses with the beautiful henna designs.

It’s Art

No matter what your culture, people will always be able to enjoy true art in the world around them. Body painting is a way to transform the human body into a living, breathing, walking work of art that is not limited to distant lands.

For those who truly appreciate this type of living art, the idea of providing your body as a canvas for true artists at their best can be an exhilarating experience. Whether you enjoy this type of art form for its beauty or for the skill of the artist, there is one thing for sure. Having your body painted will bring you positive attention by offering you and those around you a unique experience that everyone can appreciate.

According to Sean Avram, who is featured on the show Skin Wars, “everyone deserves a chance to feel beautiful and to be treated special and told how good they look…. It is a very inclusive art form that generates a positive atmosphere as people enjoy the creation of the art in awe.”

As Oscar Wilde famously said, “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”

Follow OneStep2Far on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Guest Contributor: @OneStep2Far_DM

NASA Embarks on Asteroid Capture Mission

NASA Orion Space Craft Capturing Device, Photo Courtesy of NASA

NASA Orion Space Craft Capturing Device, Photo Courtesy of NASA

NASA is developing a mission that will "identify, capture, and redirect" a chosen asteroid and set it in orbit around the moon, according to their website.

Two designs are being considered: one is a large inflatable bag-like system, the other is a robotic arm that would snag a sizable chunk off of a larger asteroid.  Later this year, NASA will decide which approach to start with.

Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft will visit the captured asteroid in 2020 and will return with samples in order to study the asteroid's composition.  As well as knowledge for knowledge's sake, this will provide NASA with an opportunity to test out equipment that can be used for a possible mars landing and will also prevent any asteroid/earth collisions, such as the one that killed the dinosaurs or the one featured in Michael Bay's movie Armageddon.

Asteroids are chunks of matter left over from the formation of the solar system, and studying them can lead to new insights on the formation of Earth. As well as looking back, asteroid study can also help us move forward. They can be literal stepping stones for space pioneers set to explore deeper into the solar system and also contain resources such as water that can be of use to astronauts traveling through space.

Since 2010, NASA has been keeping an eye on objects close to our planet via their Near Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study, and last year the Asteroid Initiative was launched which narrowed the focus specifically to asteroids. Since then, they've found about 1,217 Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), ranging from the size of a car to larger ones the size of a small moon. Of those identified, six are seen as good candidates for the relocation project.

Follow Sarah on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @SJJakubowski

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Greed is the Hardest Task Master

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Long ago there lived in Northern India a merchant whose wife had died and who went daily from his lonely house in the foothills to the town below, for buying and selling.

"I must have a holiday," he said to himself one day, and he began to climb up into the hills to enjoy the view and the sounds of the forest. In the hot afternoon, feeling sleepy he looked for a quiet place for a nap. Soon he discovered a kind of hole in a cliff, actually a cave; so he lay down in the dark interior and slept. Waking up, he felt there was something with him, in the cave.

Crawling back inside he found a large earthen jar. Then another, and another and another -- there were seven jars there, altogether! Now the merchant wondered if he dared to open them. There was no sound of anyone about, still it seemed a bit risky. But curiosity, as you know, is powerful indeed. He found he could lift the lid of the first jar. What do you know! It seemed to be full of gold coins. So were the second, third, fourth and fifth. Under the lid of the sixth jar he found an aged piece of paper.

On it was written, "Finder, beware!! The seven jars of gold are yours, but there is a curse. No one who takes them with him can leave the curse behind."

Now, next to curiosity, greed is the most powerful urge. Our merchant overjoyed with his luck, wasted no time in borrowing a two-wheeled cart to carry the jars of gold to his house. It was exhausting and next to impossible.

Bulky and hard to lift, they had to be taken two by two; in the dark of night he lugged them to his house. On the last trip, with the seventh jar alone thankfully the load was lighter, and he noticed nothing.

"Let me count the coins," he thought, "and see how great my fortune is." But when that seventh jar was opened he found it was only half-full.

"What!" he cried, "I was promised seven jars!"

He had thrown the note away and forgotten about the curse. The merchant was overcome and obsessed by a spirit of grasping and greed. Now, in the town, he went at his money-making hand and fist; it was all he lived for.

"I must fill the seventh jar with gold,": this was his constant thought. Yet the more he put into the jar, strangely the more it remained half-full. He lived some years more, but never did he enjoy spending the gold he had found, because it was never enough.

Source: Spiritual Stories

War Porn: The Death of James Foley

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ALEPPO, Syria -- We have become a world of sensates, who require more and more input only to receive less and less gratification. We live in a world, and in fact this website and the millions of others like it, inhabit a sphere dedicated to satisfying the immediate need for any information or misinformation that we may seek.

Today, we awoke to the news that another journalist had fallen in the line of duty while trying to expose gross injustices in war-torn Syria. His death was as brutal as, or more so than, the hundreds of murders captured by video and being circulated through the web depicting the torturous final moments of people chosen by radicals to demonstrate the nature of their resolve.

The radical 'du jour' was ISIS, a.k.a. Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, but yesterday it was Boko Haram, tomorrow it may be Hamas, the next, The Ayran Brotherhood, perhaps the KKK,  Al-Qeda may rattle a saber or two, but in the end, the name of tyranny is less important than the fact that "all it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke.

It is easy for us to blame the evil perpetrators for their reprehensible behavior, and indeed, we should feel outraged, but in so doing we must examine ourselves for our role in this dance of the macabre. ISIS would be just another group of religious zealots killing, maiming, and torturing people in the name of their version of "god," but for social media.

ISIS has learned to harness the power of social media to promulgate its ideology, but more insidious, they understand that human nature will do the rest. Much like the style of horror movies known as "torture porn" for its gratuitous amount of screaming, nudity, and bondage; the industry continues to produce these movies because there is an appetite for it. It satisfies a certain type of voyeurism that requires sadism to complete the experience.

Hence, more and more violence, for less and less satisfaction, as proven by the plethora of disturbingly violent videos and graphic images that crisscross the web. Most cannot be authenticated, but lacking in provenance doesn't stop people from 'sharing' and circulating it. Thus is the case with the horrific beheading of James Foley, an American journalist who reported from conflict ridden areas of the world as a freelance photojournalist for the GlobalPost.

That we would wake up this morning to millions of shares of the images captured by an ISIS adherent of Foley's lasts moments, should make us all feel soiled. ISIS heinously, with malice aforethought, and in cold-blood staged the beheading of Foley for the sole purpose of having us, the audience, disseminate it. They are the bait trap, into which we have climbed, and thus poisoned, we leave believing we have escaped, when in fact, we have become the carrier of that which will kill not only us, but everyone with whom we come in contact.

Like pornography, once the image has been viewed it can never be removed nor unseen. There is no such thing as a degausser for our brains. That is what makes pornography so pernicious, it repels and attracts, the image horrific or seductive continues to gain strength and relief is only found in revisiting the image, thus trying to recapture the initial sensation, it becomes addictive.

ISIS knows this as well as any successful purveyor of illicit material. They know that they only have to put it out there, and if one person views it, and even if that person is appalled and simply wants to share their outrage with their social media network, ISIS has already accomplished the goal of proselytizing through the power of concentric exposure.

That Foley had to die under such tragic and inhumane circumstances is heartbreaking. That his mother had to hear about or read about the fact that the world was greedily consuming the last moments of the life of her child is unimaginable. That his family and friends were not even allowed the dignity and privacy to begin the mourning process without the vivisection of their tragedy is shameful. That news media outlets lacked both decorum and humanity in posting the graphic video and images of Foley's beheading is morally reprehensible.

That we have a choice to share or not share the video and images of Foley's murder is the greatest and most powerful choice we can make in this situation. That, and to remember that "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

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Boko Haram's Latest Attacks Target Boys

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DORON, BAGA, Nigeria -- Sunday, Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped dozens of boys from the Nigerian village of Doron Baga. During the raid on the village, suspected Boko Haram dressed in police and military uniforms burned several houses and terrorized citizens while forcing boys and men into awaiting trucks. When the terror ended, 97 people were unaccounted for.

Most were men and boys, although 20 women were also included in the missing.

Security forces from neighboring Chad were able to intercept the group, freeing some of the abducted. However, many were forced onto speed boats in Lake Chad, which is bordered by Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

During the initial attack, witnesses described confusion and sporadic shooting amongst yells of "Allah Akbar" or "God is greatest." Those that could fled to the city of Maiduguri, leaving their village and their boys almost 100 miles behind them. Other refugees through either choice or lack of transportation stayed closer to what was once home.

The attacks came four months after the abduction of 300 schoolgirls in the village of Chibok. In the recent gender-based attacks, women, girls, and the very young were mostly spared. The Boko Haram first came for brides and sex slaves, then came for fighters.

Boko Haram attacks have increased over the past year, stretching the Nigerian police force to its limit and proving that the terrorist group is not limited to only one area of the country.

Follow Sarah on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @SJJakubowski

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The Lost Children of FARC Guerrilla Fighters

columbia female farc fighter on the march, photo by reuters courtesy of trustorg

columbia female farc fighter on the march, photo by reuters courtesy of trustorg

BOGOTA, Colombia — On the heels of a grandmother's reunion with her missing grandson after his kidnapping by the Argentinian army 36 years ago, a wider secret is beginning to unravel. Government and guerrilla forces alike in South America have, for decades, stolen infants from their soldier mothers on account of what they consider "insubordination".

Estela Carlotto had been searching tirelessly for her grandson, Guido, who went missing two months after his birth in 1978. Estela's daughter and Guido's mother, Laura, was a guerrilla fighter for the Argentine group known as "Montoneros."

According to CNN, after Laura was already two-and-a-half months pregnant when she was arrested by government forces in 1977. She then gave birth to her son Guido in a military hospital and executed sometime thereafter. Until now, Guido's whereabouts were unknown.

His grandmother, Estela, started the activist group called "Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayoor", known as simply the "Abuelas". Estela and the Abuelas carry out searches to find their missing grandchildren that had been kidnapped by the government from their rebel parents in Argentina's Dirty War. This month the Abuelas have reunited Estela and the man proven to be her missing grandson. Guido Montoya Carlotto is Ignacio Hurban, who is now 36-years-old and a music teacher in Olavarria, Argentina.

There is also a search for stolen children in Colombia where the guerilla armies take infants from their mothers as they consider is a crime for a guerilla to become pregnant, according to BBC News. Many of these women that are in the guerilla Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, the FARC, are in it forcedly.

BBC News interviewed Teresa, a woman who demobilized from the FARC five years ago. They killed her mother and forced her to join their army at 16-years-old. She soon became pregnant. She explained to BBC News, "I was 16 years old, they forced me to. How would I confront the FARC all by myself to prevent them from taking my daughter if not even a whole army is able to [defeat them]?"

Teresa pleads to have her daughter back saying, "From the bottom of my heart, I beg you to put yourselves in my place. I did not give up my daughter. They took her from me." She was told by an official, according the BBC News that she cannot get her daughter back "because what kind of example can I be to her with my subversive thinking".

Another girl profiled by BBC News was merely 13-years-old when forced into the FARC. She became pregnant at seventeen. She knew that FARC would make her get an unwanted abortion, so she hid her pregnancy for seven months. BBC News says that Maria was allowed to give birth out of fear that a late-pregnancy abortion would kill her. However, she was forced to give her baby to a local family that she knew to raise as their own. She recalled the moment she handed off her infant with her partner saying, "I waited for him at a distance, I couldn't go there. I cried for four days. It was very difficult. But taking the baby and deserting wasn't an option."

While many of the stolen children were supposedly adopted by local families, there are reports of the children being killed. Still, many of these mothers from Argentina to Colombia are committed to finding their lost children in the hopes of one day reuniting with them.

Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright