French foreign policy in Africa

The “related links” tab on this Spiegel article is split down the middle between other pieces detailing French military action in the Central African Republic and articles bemoaning Germany’s unwillingness to risk military intervention on an international stage. This split is fair, since the article on one hand lauds France as “Europe’s sole military force” (subtitled “Giving France respect where it is due”) and bemoans that Germans and other Europeans “prefer navel gazing to action.” [1] Moreover, the article is linked to in another article detailing some of the challenges faced by the German military in Afghanistan and its as-of-yet minimal role in Central Africa as a new Defense Minister takes office.

The first article does a pretty good job of detailing the reasons why the recent history of French foreign policy so fascinates me:

  • France was one of the driving forces behind the NATO intervention in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi
  • Hollande was one of the loudest proponents of intervention of some sort against Assad’s government in Syria.
  • In January 2013, France used an invitation from the Malian Government and a delayed UN mandate to unilaterally conduct military action in Mali and expedite intervention from other African states.
  • In the past months, France has begun military intervention in the Central African Republic with the stated mission of preventing genocide.
  • Just this week it was reported that France is going to increase the size of military deployments in former colonies, saying that they intend to move to a regional counter-terrorism strategy in West Africa.

France is also encouraging other EU countries, Germany in particular, to contribute to these military ventures. So far Hollande has not had much success in this, though Germany is currently training Malian troops and is in the process of moving its main African troop-transport airbase from Senegal to Mali in order to react to potential threats more quickly.

In either case, French foreign policy since Hollande took office is a far cry from the stereotypical French opposition to any military intervention and subsequent creation of freedom fries.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Defense Minister, has given two stated objectives to the most recent strategy developments:

  1. While running the risk of turning into Afghanistan 2.0 (with some of the same problems, but also some different ones), avoid the mistakes of Libya. This requires active and continued involvement of French troops in Africa rather than the distant and temporary military intervention and then letting the nation largely sort out its own problems.
  2. Change the paradigm from counter-terrorism within nations to a regional intervention.

One of the challenges of counter-terrorism is that the opponents are not only non-state entities, but they aspire to be non-state entities, meaning that they do not abide by borders that the counter-terrorist forces are at least supposed to acknowledge. During the French intervention in Mali, the al Qaeda-linked fighters slipped into the desert, often into the surrounding countries. If the French are successful in organizing a regional strategy with the prior cooperation of the nations in the region, they can bypass the issue of national sovereignty–and by having a pre-existing “intervention” in most of the countries, they can establish bases in a larger portion of the Sahel.

It is an ambitious foreign policy agenda in Africa. But in a region that has recently been destabilized by sectarian violence, coups, and multiple different groups of religious extremists, the project has a chance to pay dividends. The German authors suggest that the French people take a immense amount of pride in that their country still plays the role of a global superpower, which causes the collective eye-rolling in other Europeans (especially Germans). This statement may be a bit of a stretch, though Hollande certainly doesn’t seem to have suffered for catapulting France into this position.

The motivations for the main participants are pretty straightforward. France has economic interests throughout its former colonies (including its source of uranium) and so it makes sense to for it to intervene. The United States has little interest in intervention in Africa, but an active interest in curtailing al Qaeda-linked groups in the ongoing war on terror, so it makes sense for the US to support French action however it can. One of the question marks is how the former colonies perceive this strategic shift since it could be seen as a return of European colonialism. However, most of the coverage has indicated that the local populations do not want anything to do with radical Islam and the governments can gain regional stability and thus security from the presence of French troops.

Even though I am skeptical of military intervention as a solution for problems as entrenched as religious extremism and local violence, I am fascinated to watch this French endeavor unfold because it does seem to have been designed with care w/r/t the problems of modern counter-terrorism and be altruistic in as much as it is designed to prevent political instability in the region that threatens to create a situation comparable to Rwanda in 1994.[2] Economic and humanitarian aid will likely be necessary to stabilize the region, while military aid would provide a stop-gap measure since, as has been seen in Mali and elsewhere, the threats to the government and the local population go far beyond religious extremism and include ethnic divisions, multiple religions, corruption, and a-religious separatist groups.[3]

It is absolutely necessary to scrutinize this sort of action and the motivations of the parties involved, but I do believe that “first world” nations have a responsibility to help take care of other parts of the world. The critical question is how those nations help. Military intervention will probably be insufficient and it could well be that this action drags on a decade or more, but this is a much more efficient use of resources than were either of the recent US interventions. As far as this sort of action goes, this new French plan seems to be one of the better ones.

Of course, the really important thing about recent French politics is Hollande visiting his mistress on a scooter.

[1] The article also argues that the French are unwilling to conduct the economic reforms that the Germans have been pushing on the EU countries.
[2] There are economic motivations, too, of course, but this is a situation that there is enough of one that Hollande can try to intervene to prevent the image problem that would come with another African genocide.
[3] Despite a military strategy designed to circumnavigate the national borders, the West is still firmly committed to maintaining the existence of those borders.

Assorted Links

  1. Mali rebels torched library of ancient manuscripts– The first (confused) report out of Timbuktu after French forces recaptured the city. The mayor of Timbuktu claimed the rebels torched the library, though some reports are indicating that a large number of manuscripts were not burned or were never at that library , and also that some three hundred sufi shrines were destroyed. As terrible a loss as this is, what frightens me more is the statement by Malian officials that (partly) as a result of this action, all rebels need to be killed. First, wholesale slaughter is never the answer, but, more importantly, there are also several different rebel groups, as well as ethnic Tuaregs who have not revolted against the government, but who are lumped in with the rebels.
  2. As Extremists Invaded, Timbuktu Hid Artifacts of a Golden Age– A story in the New York Times reporting on how many of the manuscripts from Timbuktu were rescued from destruction as citizens in Timbuktu hid them.
  3. Unesco to rebuild wrecked Timbuktu tombs– UNESCO is taking it upon itself to rebuild the lost tombs at Timbuktu out of local mudbrick, replicating as best as possible the original structures. I understand why they are doing it and that they have little recourse, but it nonetheless feels that the tombs and sites have already lost something fundamental and to rebuild them feels as though people wish to pretend that the destruction never happened.
  4. The Lawless Sahel Offers a Vast Santuary to Islamist Extremists– An article in Spiegel that looks at the gap between the Mahgreb in North Africa and the areas claimed and controlled by sub-Saharan countries as a region that has historically fostered insurgents, but is now providing refuge to Islamist extremists. Only the Algerian army has had success against the Islamists in the region, in large part because the Islamists tend to be better paid and equipped than the national soldiers (such is the case in Mali). Despite this, the Islamists are under a variety of leaders and are unified in purpose alone.

On to Timbuktu

According to a report I saw this morning, French forces in Mali have seized an airport outside Gao, one of the provincial capitals turned Islamist stronghold.1 In response to this and in reaction to a conversation with someone with whom I was discussing Mali last night who did not know the backdrop, I have decided to give a rundown of the conflict.

Mali was a French colony until 1960 (which is part of the reason that France got involved militarily).2 Mali was governed by a dictator until a military coup established a democratic republic in 1991. There was a peaceful transfer of power through the first several elections, but this stability belied tensions in Northern Mali between ethnic groups, particularly against the ethnic Tuareg, who compose ten percent of the Malian population. In 2011 those tensions led to a rebellion, which led to a military coup by soldiers unhappy with how the government was handling the rebellion. The man who led the coup was Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, the beneficiary of US military aid to Mali in that he had come to the United States for military training on several occasions over a ten year period. The soldiers, nominally led by Sanogo, were frustrated with corruption in the government and had decided to protest. When they arrived at the presidential palace to protest to President Toure, they found it deserted. Only later that day did the soldiers decide to execute their coup and begin looting. Sanogo eventually agreed to return power to the elected government, but also obstructed that return as people refused to consider him a former head of state. At the same time, the Ansar Dine, a radical Islamist group with ties to Al Qaeda seized control of the North. In June of 2012 they captured the UNESCO World Heritage Site (and regional centre) Timbuktu.

In the month after taking Timbuktu, the Ansar Dine first shut down the tourist industry there and then began to destroy the mausoleums, shrines, and mosques, which they consider to be idol worship. The destruction prompted outrage from archeologists and historians, and a plea from the UNESCO director for international pressure to stop radical islamists from destroying world cultures (she wrote that this was just the latest incident). Then the Islamists banned the traditional drumming in Northern Mali. Stories began to leak out about the complete stagnation of Northern Mali, including grisly punishments, economic lethargy, and opposition to Ansar Dine, often led by relatively secular men and women. Ag Ghali, the Ansar Dine leader, was a leading Tuareg separatist (albeit one who drank and smoked and was considered unreliable) who was pushed out by the Tuareg after which returned as the leader of the fundamentalist Islamist group in favor of Sharia, not Tuareg nationalism, and he funded their cause through banditry, kidnapping, and drug trafficking.

As early as November 2012, the UN, goaded on by France, had put into place a plan that called for an African force of around 3,000 troops to be deployed in Mali along with a small number of French and American specialists and special forces. The plan also called for negotiations with Ansar Dine in an attempt to leverage them away from al Qaeda.

The Ansar Dine preempted the UN military action in early January by launching an offensive into the south, which led France to move forces from their current UN mission in the Ivory Coast into Mali, launched air strikes, and were followed by troops from African nations. While the UN had mandated a mission, the immediate impetus for French action seems to be the 8,000 French citizens in Bamako and French economic interests there. As of this morning, the Ansar Dine have been driven from Timbuktu, but residents there are without power or water. More frightening, though, are the reports that many ethnic Tuaregs are currently in hiding as Malian soldiers have been conducting summary, extrajudicial executions, and shelling Tuareg camps. The head of the US African Command has also publicly stated that Malian territorial integrity is non-negotiable, indicating that the MNLA (Tuareg separatists) will not be able to realize their dream of a Tuareg state. Despite the concerns about the current offensive, there are many editorials in support of the military action, including this one, by an author who argues that the Ansar Dine jihadists remain part of a large, interconnected–and largely non-Malian–group that seeks to create an Islamic emirate across the continent that must be met by Western military and economic action because previous attempts to curtail it have failed.

For my part, I am fascinated by the French military action.3 I suspect that it was largely warranted and justified– because Mali is a former French colony with many French citizens in the capital, because the UN had already sanctioned action, and because the recognized Malian government appealed for aid.4 I am somewhat concerned that there is too little appreciation for the complexity of Mali (or, as a friend put it yesterday, Africa in general) in that there cannot be a one size fits all solution. There are several different groups–including at least two distinct separatist groups– in Mali, though the Ansar Dine seemed to have aspirations toward conquering the whole country rather than creating a breakaway state. Moreover, as is currently being seen in the Malian actions on the campaign, there historically have been conflicts between the Tuareg people and the government of Mali, not wholly unlike the relationship between the Kurds and the official governments of the countries wherein they live. To demand the territorial integrity of Mali without at least attempting to find a solution to that long-standing problem is naive.

Additionally, the French forces have been successful in Mali to date, but it will be worth seeing whether or not (or against whom) a long term counterinsurgency campaign is necessary. One of the determinants in this case may be whether or not most of the Ansar Dine combatants are Malian–if they are, they may stay relatively local, but otherwise they may abandon Mali for other areas. In either case, the conflict is likely to spread into the surrounding Saharan countries, as has already been seen in with the hostage crisis at the Algerian oil compound. As far as I am aware, the UN mission remains localized to Mali.

I am also waiting to see how extensively the cultural sites of places like Timbuktu have been damaged.

1 Islamist is actually a misnomer, but I will get to that in a moment.
2 All historical and demographic information courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.
3 In part because in college I participated in a political simulation wherein I was the French Defense minister, and in part because I am fascinated at how quickly the Socialist president, Hollande used military force.
4You may, however, be able to debate the legitimacy of that recognition, but that is a different matter.

Assorted Links

  1. Library turns to pole dancing to entice new readers– A library in Scotland is offering a free pole dancing class to lure people into the library. Among other events includes table tennis using books instead of paddles. I don’t know whether to be amused or horrified.
  2. Mali’s army suspected of abuses and unlawful killings– Complicating the French involvement in Mali is the unstable relationship the government has with the Tuareg nomads, with new allegations of abuses and indiscriminate shelling of the camps surfacing.
  3. How the Vatican built a secret empire using Mussolini’s millions– An interesting article, but misleading title. The article traces how the Vatican used offshore tax havens to create lucrative real estate investments in Switzerland, France, and the UK worth more than 500 million pounds. The nest egg for the investment was money paid by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of his fascist government.
  4. A Malian Quagmire?– An op-ed in the Atlantic in defense of military action in Mali. The author cites experts and claims made by the Islamists that indicate that they wish to create an area of influence spanning the Sahara within which Jihad may be fostered. He also provides military and economic reasons why France had to intervene and that there is hope that the French response–combined with aid from African countries–could prevent a prolonged insurgency.
  5. Bowhead Whales see huge population rebound off Alaska’s north slope– From a few weeks back, the whale population is increasing, according to a report at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union. That is good news, of course, but the cool thing is that there is some evidence that a few of the whales might be over 200 years old, after the researcher found a stone harpoon head stuck in a whale. The whaling industry nearly wiped out bowhead whales between 1848 and 1915 using barbed, steel harpoon heads.

Assorted LInks

  1. Naftali Bennett and Israel’s Rightward Shift– An article in the New Yorker that traces a rightward shift in Israel’s political alignment that includes both jettisoning moderate members of Likud and an uptick in membership of far-right parties that are likely to take the third most seats in the upcoming election if they don’t come in second outright. Naftali Bennett is the head of the party profiled; he, and others like him, are campaigning on a platform that opposes the peace process and also opposes the current security measures as being wasteful and inefficient–in a way that conquering greater Israel would not be. Moreover, at least some of the members of this party favor the construction of the third temple, expunging the Israeli democracy, and, quite in contrast to earlier generations of zionists, support a fundamentally religious zionism.
  2. Neolithic Remains Unearthed in Istanbul– While constructing a rail line on the Asian side of the Bosporus (because all manner of nifty things surface during rail construction), remains from a neolithic village have been discovered. Among the preliminary finds, researchers have been able to determine that the inhabitants ate a significant amount of sea food. Byzantine structures have also been found.
  3. France and West Pledge Support After Islamists Start Offensive in Mali– Ansar Dine began a sudden offensive into government held territory and as a result France has pledged to commit more military aid (advisors and supplies have already been in place). It is as of yet unclear, but France might be committing armed forces and there have been efforts to get an African-led military force into Mali. Part of the package, though, is that Mali must recommit to restoring its democratic-republican government in the entire country.
  4. France Claims Gains in Airstrikes Against Mali Islamists– As as follow up to the announcement that France would begin to use force, airstrikes have commenced and French troops from the UN mission in the Ivory Coast have entered the country. Despite hostages held by Ansar Dine, French President Hollande has reiterated that more French support troops are on their way and he is encouraging the UN to put together a West African peacekeeping force.
  5. Sweden Train Crash– A woman obtained keys to a train and crashed into a house. Here is a picture.

Assorted Links

  1. Can Syria’s Fractious Opposition be Melded into One?– A story in the Economist about Syria and the divisions within the rebel forces. In particular, it focuses on western powers refusing to aid the rebels until they have a unified leadership. The author seems doubtful that anything will come of it and, while the west has cause to want a single leadership as to avoid anarchy, there may need to be a multi-state solution.
  2. Syria in Ruins– A visual account of the war in Syria on the Atlantic. Everyone should see these pictures.
  3. Mali and Al Qaeda – Can the Jihadists be Stopped– An account of the UN plans for intervention in Mali, which will be led by Malian and African troops. They are expecting that the intervention force will be able to at least retake the main cities. Unfortunately, this seems to be a band aid for underlying problems, including both a weak central government and disgruntled Tuaregs such that it might end an al-Qaeda led separatist state, but the local unrest will remain.
  4. Why White Women Voted For Romney– A story in the New Yorker that looks at the demographics of the election. The author points out that saying that Obama and the Democrats win the women’s vote is misleading. Educated women, much like educated men, tend to skew liberal, but women are also closer to representative of their racial category (talking about polling data here, not what these mean…I don’t make up the categories), albeit to a lesser extent. White women, like white men, tend to vote conservative overall.
  5. Can Paper Survive the Digital Age?– An essay in the Guardian about the digital age, and calling for people to take the time to remember the paper age.
  6. Orhan Pamuk – By the Book– An interview in the New York Times with my favorite author whose work I have never read.

Assorted Links

  1. We the Aggrieved– An essay on Inside Higher Ed about the partisan nature of this election and how “tribal” anything political has become. The author focuses on how both sides have been playing up the victim card.
  2. Like: Facebook and Shadenfreude– An article in the Paris Review that discusses one of the many issues with Facebook, namely that it does not distinguish between types of sharing, but rather categorizes all sharing as a positive experience. The author examines some of her own experiences on Facebook and discusses the triviality of the sharing and witnessing frustrating and heartbreak in others, more or less concluding that Facebook did not make her happier. I agree with most of her article, though it is also shallow on a few levels, including that she (evidently) has no plans to change her behavior vis a vis Facebook, and deals with some of the larger social implications of the online life in a tangential way.
  3. Two words: working wifi– A portrait of modern life–people huddled around a closed Starbucks, likely in order to use the free wi-fi.
  4. Chris Christie, Your Future President, Sandy Edition– Charlie Pierce at Esquire’s Politics Blog suggests that (by merely doing the right thing in terms of hurricane relief, ironically) Chris Christie is reaffirming his credentials as the early favorite to win the 2016 election. All he has done is praise the president’s leadership, take responsibility for disaster relief in his state, and tell people to get lost when they ask about politics.
  5. A Trip Through Hell: Daily Life in Islamist Controlled North Mali– A story in Spiegel by a German reporter who got permission to visit Northern Mali and see what hte condions were like under Ansar Dine rule. He suggests that there is growing popular unrest against the Islamic group which one of the people he interviews characterizes as a group of adolescents. Interestingly, one of the activists interviewed is female.
  6. Sandy zeigt, wie marode Amerikas Infrastruktur ist – From Joe, an article in German about the ailing nature of infrastructure in the United States. The article claims that nearly all infrastructure systems (power grid, roads, bridges, dams, ports, airports) are a problem, both susceptible to storms like Sandy, but also to more typical weather conditions. Of course, not modernizing the infrastructure will merely cost more money and hinder the economy in the long run (not unlike healthcare). The article does not cover every infrastructure issue I have with the US, but it also called attention to a few I had not considered, including that many ports may be too small to accommodate new generations of container ships.

Assorted Links

  1. Why the GOP Should Fear a Romney Presidency– A story on the Atlantic that speculates about the next four years should Romney win. The argument is based on the work of Stephen Skowronek, particularly in regard to political legitimacy and cycles in presidential legitimacy. The author speculates that should Romney be elected, he would, through no fault of his own, be the next Jimmy Carter by causing the dissolution of the Reagan coalition. By and large, I agree with his argument, though he does not really speculate on the deep partisan divides between Democrats and Republicans. Perhaps it is time for a third party.
  2. The Liberal Arts, Economic Value, and Leisure: Don’t make an economic case for liberal arts– An article on Inside Higher Ed that tries to make a case that the value of liberal arts is to produce good citizens and tries to refute the notion that the liberal arts should, or could, be designed to create entrepreneurs. He notes “if our only god is money, we live in a sad society,” and tries to prove that a narrow focus on marginal economic products is not the purpose of a collegiate education. While I agree with the sentiment presented, Timothy Burke does is also quite right that the article is self serving and, in the current economic climate comits”rhetorical self-immolation.” I think the arts are important and cannot be done away with, but in large part because I question the value of skill specific education for the current workforce. It is better to learn transferable skills–critical thinking, writing, argumentation, etc. There is also a misnomer here that somehow the liberal arts is something that exists in college, rather than something that college can encourage, but that really exists in wider society.
  3. -Mali: no rhythm or reason as militants declare war on music– In Mali there is a crackdown on traditional tribal music by the Islamic militants there.
  4. New York strip club loses bid to have lap dances legally defined as art– The New York court of appeals decided a case over back taxes owed by a strip club in Albany. The club tried to claim tax exemption based on the dances being art. The court disagreed, saying that not everything that could be called as a dance should be defined as art.
  5. The Narrowing of the American Mind– An article on the Chronicle that suggests that job preparation programs are inherently limiting, since the job candidates claim to make all decisions based on money and serve as well-trained parrots, rather than rounded and adaptable thinkers. This is a somewhat better reason to make it possible for students to study things that interest them–and preferably study as widely as possible–while in college than the defense of liberal arts given in Inside Higher Ed above.
  6. As always, comments encouraged. What else is out there?

Assorted Links

  1. Tension Between Turkey and Syria at NATO Border Escalates– An article in Spiegel about the issues at the border between Syria and Turkey (which has the largest army in the Middle East). There have been several incidents spanning several months, including the shelling of a Turkish town and downing of a Turkish aircraft by Assad’s military forces and Turkish army providing weapons to the rebels. What this article points out, though, is that there are several additional issues going on at the border as Turkey is increasing the number of troops stationed there. The first is that Turkey still has a relatively large Kurdish population that may be seeing the Syrian rebellion as another opportunity to attempt independence along with the Syrian Kurds. If this is the case, the Turkish military build up could be directed against them. The second is that if there is another shelling of a Turkish town, the Turkish army may invade Syria. Unmentioned by Spiegel (but appearing in a NPR story) is that there is also an Alawite minority in Turkey that opposes the Turkish government and its ties to the United States and supports Assad. At the same time, stories about videos from al Qaeda fighters promising to come kill all Alawites after they eliminate Assad have surfaced. For anyone keeping score at home, this makes at minimum four distinct groups spanning the Syrian-Turkish border all of whom mistrust and dislike each other.
  2. China’s Liu Yandong carries the hopes – and fears – of modern feminism– An article in the Guardian about Liu Yandong who is poised to be the first woman on China’s standing committee of the politburo. The author notes that this is a bit a coup for women in China since they have historically been excluded from power (though she points out Mao’s ironic decree that women hold up half the sky), but also that her pronouncements have been conservative and there is no sense that she will push for reforms–either generally or for women specifically–thus limiting the short-term optimism of the move. It is possible, though, that this first step will result in more drastic changes in the future.
  3. EU Foreign Ministers Agree on Military Deployment in Mali– According to Spiegel, EU leaders have a greed to send military instructors and planners to Mali to help train security forces and thereby stabilize Mali. Much of the country is still held by militant Islamists and nomadic tribesmen. Evidently, the mission is modeled after a similar one in Somalia that began in 2010.
  4. Gawker, Reddit, Free Speech and Such– Some commentary by John Scalzi about the idea of anonymity on the internet, journalism, and the apparent scandal when a controversial, but anonymous, Reddit user was outed by a reporter at Gawker. He brings up good points about the internet and when and where free speech is applicable. Perhaps the most valuable points he makes are that on websites owned by private companies, users have as much free speech as the company allows, and that true anonymity does not exist–and is not an inherent right–online is delusional. I agree with him, but I should also note that I cannot really speak to Reddit since I can count the number of times I have been to the site on one hand.
  5. As always, comments encouraged. What else is out there?

Assorted Links

  1. Tolkien and Technology-Commented on by Chad, this is an article in the Atlantic about one of Tolkien’s most enduring legacies to fantasy literature, namely the fear and disdain of technology.
  2. Remote-Scanning Techniques Revolutionize Archaeology-An article in der Spiegel about some of the new technology (like flying lasers) that are helping to uncover archeological sites in remote or otherwise veiled locations without needing to embark upon expensive digs.
  3. First Female, Saudi Arabian Olympians-Some photos on The Atlantic commemorating the first female Olympians in that country’s history.
  4. What do we mean by “evil”-some discussion of the Aurora shooting and how people have labelled James Holmes as “evil.” The author points out that evil is really the only word we have, but that it is a word that says “more about the helplessness of the accuser than it does the transgressor.”
  5. How the Gorgeous, Sometimes Fictional Sound of the Olympics Gets Made-Adding to the spectacle of the Olympics, there are the sounds. I suspect that this sort of manipulation of sounds is more common than we might think, but the huge array of different sounds that are traditionally associated with Olympic sports adds a bit more pomp to the coverage.
  6. Ivory Coast Leader Foresees Mali Intervention Soon-Not soon enough, in my opinion, and the intervention requires approval from the U.N. Security Council, but the ECOWAS has obtained Malian permission for the intervention. This is a response to the Islamic fundamentalists who have taken over most of the country and begun demolishing UNESCO sites (which I doubt is actually the immediate impetus). Hopefully it won’t devolve further.
  7. Mississippi Church Rejects Black Wedding-The church in question was founded in 1883 and has never married anyone who is black; despite the prior registration for the wedding, the congregation decided to upholding its grand tradition and prevent the marriage. The pastor agreed because he feared for his job if he proceeded with the wedding.
  8. Orangutan Sent to Island to Kick Smoking Habit-A zoo in Indonesia is sending their heavy smoking Orangutan to an island in a lake at the zoo along with another Orangutan who is known for stamping out butts rather than smoking them.
  9. As always, comments encouraged. What else is out there?