Tag Archives: men

Did slaves peel your frozen shrimp? A guide to the issue and what to do

Enslaved migrant workers and children are ripping the heads, tails, shells and guts off shrimp at processing factories in Thailand, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.

AP journalists followed and filmed trucks loaded with freshly peeled shrimp going from one peeling shed to major Thai exporting companies. Then, using U.S. customs records and Thai industry reports, they tracked it globally. They also traced similar connections from another factory raided six months earlier, and interviewed more than two dozen workers from both sites.

U.S. customs records show the farmed shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Target, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden. AP reporters in all 50 states went shopping and found related brands in more than 150 stores across America.

The businesses that responded condemned the practices that lead to labor abuse, and many said they were launching investigations.

Q: How do I know if my shrimp or other seafood is tainted by labor abuses?

A: That’s a big part of the problem. Most companies do not make their supply chains public. And even if they did, there are many places for abuses to occur that are not documented or take place far from any type of scrutiny. For example, slaves have been forced to work on boats catching trash fish used for feed at shrimp farms, and migrants have been brought across borders illegally and taken straight to shrimp sheds where they are locked inside and forced to peel. Fishing boats are going farther and farther from shore, sometimes not docking for months or years at a time, creating floating prisons.

Q: What shrimp brands and companies did the AP find linked to tainted supply chains in its investigation?

A: Cape Gourmet; Certifresh; Chef’s Net; Chicken of the Sea; Chico; CoCo; Darden (owner of Olive Garden Italian Kitchen, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze Island Grille, Seasons 52 Fresh Grill, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Yard House); Delicasea; Fancy Feast cat food; Farm Best; Fisherman’s Wharf; Winn-Dixie; Fishmarket; Great American; Great Atlantic; Great Catch; Harbor Banks; KPF; Market Basket; Master Catch; Neptune; Portico; Publix; Red Lobster; Royal Tiger; Royal White; Sea Best; Sea Queen; Stater Bros.; Supreme Choice; Tastee Choice; Wal-Mart; Waterfront Bistro; Wellness canned cat food; Whole Catch; Wholey; Xcellent.

Q: AP reporters visited supermarkets chosen at random in all 50 states. Where did they find shrimp linked to tainted supply chains in its investigation?

A: Acme Markets; Albertsons; Aldi; Bi-Lo; Carrs-Safeway; Cash Wise; Crest Foods; Cub Foods; D’Agostino Supermarket; Dan’s Supermarket; Dollar General; Edwards Food Giant; Family Dollar; Foodland; Fred Meyer; Giant Eagle; Harris-Teeter; H-E-B; Hy-Vee; Jerry’s Foods; Jewel-Osco; Jons International Marketplace; Kroger; Lowes Foods; Mariano’s; Market Basket; Marsh Supermarkets; Martin’s Super Markets; McDade’s Market; Pavilions; Petco; Piggly Wiggly; Price Chopper; Publix; Ralphs; Randall’s Food Market; Redner’s Warehouse Markets; Russ’s Market; Safeway; Save Mart; Schnucks; Shaws; ShopRite; Smart & Final; Sprouts Farmers Market; Stater Bros.; Stop & Shop; Sunshine Foods; Target; Van’s Thriftway; Vons; Wal-Mart; Whole Foods; Winn-Dixie.

Q: Thailand has been in the news a lot lately with problems linked to human trafficking in its seafood industry. Why is this still an issue?

A: Thailand is one of the world’s biggest seafood exporters, and relies heavily on migrant workers from poor neighboring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. These laborers often are misled by brokers in their home countries and illegally brought to Thailand with promises of good-paying jobs. They are then sold onto fishing boats or put into seafood processing plants where they become trapped and forced to work long hours for little or no money. Thailand has repeatedly vowed to crack down on the abuses. It has created new laws and is helping to register undocumented workers, but arrests and prosecutions are still rare.

Q: What are buyers and governments doing to try to stop slave-tainted seafood from reaching their countries?

A: The U.S. State Department has blacklisted Thailand for the past two years for its dismal human rights record, placing it among the world’s worst offenders such as North Korea and Syria. However, it has not issued sanctions. The European Union put out a “yellow card” warning earlier this year that tripled seafood import tariffs, and is expected to decide next month whether to impose an outright ban on products. Companies such as Nestle have vowed to force change after conducting their own audits and finding that their Thai suppliers were abusing and enslaving workers. Others are working with rights groups to monitor their supply chains and ensure laborers are treated fairly and humanely.

Zero-growth population advocates mark World Vasectomy Day

Conversations about population control often focus on women, but the other half of the population plays a role,  too.

World Vasectomy Day stems from the other side of the equation. It’s observed annually on Nov. 13, but don’t expect your iPhone to ping with a reminder.

Filmmaker Jonathan Stack launched  the observance, which seeks to encourage people to talk about the vasectomy as a way to avoid unplanned pregnancy and promote population control for the sake of the environment.

Proponents of the campaign — headquartered online at worldvasectomyday.org — include physicians, policymakers and environmental activists who offer a long list of reasons to support World Vasectomy Day:

• Because men must share the responsibility of family planning.

• Because eliminating the fear of unintended pregnancy can improve sex lives.

• Because everyone must do a fairer job of sharing the planet’s finite resources.

• Because a vasectomy is less invasive than tubal ligation and healthier than taking hormones or chemicals.

In 2014, more than 400 physicians in 30 countries performed 3,000 vasectomies, making World Vasectomy Day the largest global family-planning event in history.

This year, supporters hope to enlist the aid of doctors in 40 countries and video from some of the procedures may be streamed live on the Web.

The Center for Biological Diversity offers T-shirts on Nov. 13 to men who share in a few sentences why they “got whacked for wildlife.”

‘Broga’ classes catch on with guys

More men are being drawn to yoga classes especially designed just for them called “Broga,” including at a studio in St. George, Utah.

The classes focus more on the exercises and strength side of yoga, instead of the mystical aspect of the discipline.

During a recent early morning class, instructor Wade Knight led students in warmups and asked who had done yoga before. One man answered that he had tried it, as part of a rigorous workout program marketed on TV, but didn’t like it.

“That’s a rough introduction to yoga,” Knight said.

Most of the other men only had marginal experience with yoga, prompting Knight to advise that he’d keep the class simple and focus on getting the correct posture.

“If I see this weird look on your face, I’ll come back and help you out, or just give me that look that says, ‘Dude, I’m stuck,’ and I’ll come back and help you out,” Knight told the class at the Summit Athletic Club, 

Co-founder Robert Sidoti told The Associated Press earlier this year that he created Broga to let men get a workout to accompany their other fitness routines.

In Broga, there are no candles, no spiritual music, no chanting and no spirituality — it’s about improving the body, he said. Pushups, squats and elongating stretches are added to make a more familiar regime for men, however the exercises still stress breathing, strength, flexibility and balance.

St. George class participants Tyrel Olsen and John Rice told the Spectrum that being able to try yoga without worrying about women around lured them to the class.

“I like yoga, but I hate taking it with women because it’s so intimidating,” said Olsen, a first-time participant. “They’re so good at it.”

Added fellow class participant John Rice: “I really like yoga, but a typical yoga class you get a little static from women; you get weird looks; it’s nice to be able to go a yoga class without that.”

Study shines light on campus sexual violence

About 11.7 percent of students across 27 universities reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation since they enrolled.

The incidence of experiencing sexual assault and sexual misconduct among female undergraduate students was 23.1 percent. The rate was 5.4 percent for male undergraduates, according to the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct released by the Association of American Universities.

Twenty-seven universities, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, participated in the survey, which took place in the spring and involved more than 150,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

“Our universities are working to ensure their campuses are safe places for students,” said Hunter Rawlings, president of AAU, an organization of 62 private and public research universities. “The primary goal of the survey is to help them better understand the experiences and attitudes of their students with respect to this challenge.”

The survey, one of the largest to date dealing with campus sexual violence, looked at whether survivors of sexual assault and sexual misconduct reported incidents to the university or another organization, such as law enforcement. It revealed that rates of reporting were low, ranging from 5 percent to 28 percent, depending on the specific type of behavior.

Students said they did not report incidents because they felt “embarrassed, ashamed or that it would be too emotionally difficult.” Another explanation: Students said they “did not think anything would be done about it.”

Other findings in the survey:

• Rates of sexual assault and misconduct are highest among undergraduate females and those identifying as transgender, genderqueer, non-conforming and questioning.

• The risk of the most serious types of nonconsensual sexual contact due to physical force or incapacitation decline from freshman year to senior year.

• Nonconsensual sexual contact involving drugs and alcohol constitutes a significant percentage of the incidents.

• A little fewer than half of the students surveyed witnessed a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter. Among those who reported being a witness, most did not try to intervene.

Last year, when the White House launched the “It’s on Us” campaign to keep women and men safe from sexual violence, the administration encouraged people to take a personal pledge that includes a promise “to intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.”

Other elements of the pledge: to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur and to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

UW-Madison: It’s on Us

Earlier in October, UW-Madison joined the “It’s on Us” campaign, displaying its commitment to the effort at the Badger’s homecoming football game on Oct. 17.

In addition, a series of “It’s on Us” videos — featuring UW athletes Vitto Brown, Corey Clement and Sydney McKibbon, athletic director Barry Alvarez and men’s hockey coach Mike Eaves — will be played at home games at Camp Randall Stadium, the Kohl Center and LaBahn Arena.

“We are pleased to join with the campus in raising awareness of this issue,” said Alvarez. “We are constantly educating our staff and student-athletes about creating an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported, and this is a great way for us to share that message.”

More than 40 student leaders at UW-Madison, along with University Health Services, the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, the UW Police Department and the Division of Student Life took the “It’s on Us” pledge.

Report: 43 domestic-violence related deaths in Wisconsin in 2014

Forty-three people in Wisconsin lost their lives to domestic violence in 2014, according to the Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report released this week in conjunction with anti-violence walks hosted by the Zonta Clubs of Madison and Milwaukee and by End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

The report says 36 people were victims of domestic violence homicides. Six people were perpetrators of homicides who then committed suicide and one individual was a perpetrator of domestic violence who was killed by responding law enforcement.

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin has been producing the annual report since 2000. The 2014 homicide count was close to the annual average for that 15-year period.

“The release of the report and the gatherings today mark a time of remembrance and reflection,” said Patti Seger, executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. “The report highlights research findings that point to clear warning signs for domestic violence killings. These indicators of risk should inform our efforts to prevent domestic violence deaths in the future.”

The report contains an in-depth discussion of a set of domestic violence assessment questions. The questions are designed to identify those who are at the greatest risk of being killed and provide them with outreach and services. A number of jurisdictions across the county and the state are using a version of the assessment questions, including Madison and Milwaukee.

The walk that took place in Madison circled the Capitol Square and was called the Purple Ribbon Walk.

In Milwaukee, the Zonta Says No to Violence Against Women Walk took place at city hall. Civic leaders, including Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Chief of Police Edward Flynn and District Attorney John Chisholm, joined in the walk.

“The Purple Ribbon Walk is a memorial to those who have lost their lives and is a recommitment to improving the safety of victims going forward,” said Laurie Logan, president of the Zonta Club of Madison. “During the walk, we carried purple pennants bearing the names of the victims who died in 2014 to show that we carry forward their memories and that we continue our commitment to preventing violence.”

“We organized the Zonta Says No to Violence Against Women Walk to draw awareness to domestic abuse and to call attention to the steps we can take as a community to enhance the safety of victims and their children,” said Donna Kahl-Wilkerson, president of the Zonta Club of Milwaukee. “We are proud that Milwaukee County is using lethality assessment to improve the response to victims.”

Other statistics from the report include:

• In 2014, 91 percent of domestic violence homicide perpetrators were men.

• The majority of victims of homicides involving intimate partners were killed after the relationship ended or when one person in the relationship was taking steps to leave the relationship.

• Victims reflected the span of life, from 1 year old to 78 years old. The average age of victims was 40 years old. Perpetrators ranged in age from 17 to 80. The average age for perpetrators was 41 years old.

• Homicides were committed in 19 separate counties in Wisconsin. About 55 percent of the homicide incidents occurred in urban areas, and roughly 45 percent happened in rural communities.

• Guns were used in 59 percent of the domestic violence homicide incidents.

Finding their voice: Speech clinic helps transgender clients

Sylvia Wojcik was making reservations for a beach getaway in Maine when the receptionist on the other end of the line called her “ma’am.” Nothing could have delighted her more.

Wojcik, 66, is transitioning from male to female. For her, that proof that she sounded like a woman was an important moment. 

“It felt like I had just been validated,” she said. “It just gave me a great sense of being at ease with myself.”

Wojcik has undergone several years of voice therapy, the past 18 months at the University of Connecticut’s Speech and Hearing Clinic, one of a growing number of clinics with programs to teach transgender people how to sound more like the gender with which they identify.

“You can be well kept, present well, but if your voice is masculine, you get pegged right away,” said Wojcik, of Enfield, north of Hartford. “I really didn’t start getting success with my voice until I came to UConn. And I’m sure glad I did, because it’s made all the difference.”

The program at UConn is in its fourth year, with about a dozen people participating at any one time. The typical participant will spend an hour a week in a group session, and another 11/2 hours working one on one with a speech pathologist.

They learn not only how to change the pitch of their voice, but also its resonance (males speak more from chest, females from the head) and delivery (males tend to be more staccato, females more fluid).

It involves a lot of voice exercises — humming to find an ideal pitch, naming five words that start with the letter “T.”

The idea is to condition and change the voice without harming the vocal chords, said Wendy Chase, the clinic’s director.

“Pitch up, shoulders back … whatever you’re doing wrong, she tends to help you correct it,” said 61-year-old Brianne Roberts, also of Enfield. “It really works.”

The majority of the transgender clients at the clinic are transitioning to female.

Hormone therapy will naturally cause a lowering in the voice of someone transitioning to male, Chase said. Many “F to Ms,” as they are sometimes called, need to learn the other subtleties.

But clients transitioning either way need to work on articulation and patterns associated with male and female speech, even how to use their hands differently to gesture and touch during communication.

“There is tremendous irony in the fact that we use information based on stereotype to make people feel better about themselves,” said Chase. “But that’s what we do.”

The clinic also has served some people who are not transgender, such as men who wish to sound less effeminate. And some clients, including people who are only considering a change in gender, want a voice that is more neutral, Chase said.

Literature in the field dates back 50 years, but until the past 20 years only a handful of people were doing voice work with transgender people, and the work is still in its infancy, Chase said.

Richard Adler, who retired this month from Minnesota State University-Moorhead, was one of those pioneers. The field has been growing exponentially and internationally, he said, as the world has become more accepting of transgender people and people like Caitlyn Jenner have shared their stories.

“There are still people opposed to the work we do,” he said. “We still get hate mail, but it’s less and less.”

UConn charges clients $192 for a voice evaluation to determine what needs to be changed. It’s then $10 per session for individual treatment and $25 per semester for the group sessions. 

Some insurance companies may pick up some or all the cost if a doctor gives a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. But Chase said that it is still rare.

A typical patient will spend about 18 months in therapy, Chase said, but the number of sessions varies widely.

Roberts, a freelance copywriter, has been attending sessions since February. She expects to participate for at least another semester.

Before the transitioning process, Roberts was a radio personality, voiceover artist and actor. She is now returning to the stage as an actress and doesn’t want her voice to impede her winning roles. 

“For me, passing is important,” she said. “But, in some cases it’s a matter of survival. There are some places where you do not want to be read as being anything other than female. It’s dangerous.”

The sessions also help in other ways, Roberts said. She’s able to talk to other people going through the same experience about progress and problems. And the environment is supportive and respectful, something Roberts said affirms her decision to transition.

As for Wojcik, she is just happy to be able to order sliced bologna at the deli without getting a strange look.

“I want to just be one of the girls,” she said. “I just want to blend in with the woodwork and people not notice that I’m trans.”

Billie Jean King: Caitlyn Jenner helps transgender tolerance

Billie Jean King says Caitlyn Jenner has given people clarity about transgender issues beyond the progress already made four decades after they shared the international sports spotlight.

“The interview … really helped people to be clear in understanding, especially about gender vs. sexuality,” the 71-year-old former tennis star told The Associated Press. She was referring to Jenner’s interview on ABC’s Diane Sawyer in April. “Everybody’s always getting very confused with that. Then they finally realized they have nothing to do with each other.”

King won the last of her 12 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon in 1975, a year before Jenner, now 65, earned the unofficial title of “world’s greatest athlete” by winning gold in the decathlon at the Montreal Olympics.

“Finally Caitlyn will be,” King said. “It’s been a long journey for Caitlyn, and I’m really happy for her.”

King occasionally traveled in the same circles with Jenner, given they were two of the most recognizable athletes in the 1970s.

King said, “We actually did a commercial together, but I don’t think they ever showed it.”

King was 29 when she defeated former professional tennis player Bobby Riggs, 55, in the famed “Battle of the Sexes” match in 1973, putting gender issues in the spotlight.

When she started the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973, King helped pros accept a transgender player in their ranks — Renee Richards, who was denied the opportunity to play as a woman in the 1976 U.S. Open.

The New York Supreme Court ruled in Richards’ favor, allowing her to join the women’s pro tour in 1977.

King said she called the players together after meeting with Richards for four hours. “I said `We’re going to have her on the tour, so get used to it.’ Some were unhappy, some were trying to figure it out. But it worked out fantastic,” King said. “The players ended up loving Renee.”

King played doubles with Richards, who reached the U.S. Open women’s doubles finals in 1977 with Betty Ann Stuart. Richards, who was also a renowned ophthalmologist, later coached Martina Navratilova and “really improved her backhand,” King said.

King marvels at how attitudes have changed since the early 1970s.

“Being educated, learning, having knowledge is so much better,” she said. “Usually things become less shame-based the more you know. An unknown is what people usually fear the most.”

Richards is still King’s eye doctor and “One of the best people I’ve ever known. She’s been a great role model.”

While Richards fought through the courts for acceptance, Jenner came out as Caitlyn via Twitter and was immediately named the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for the upcoming ESPY Awards on July 15.

King, who was outed as a lesbian in 1981, won the award for individual contributions that “transcend sports” in 1999.

“Caitlyn’s in for a whirlwind. She already has been, but it’s going to be crazy,” King said. “I think it’s really appropriate that Caitlyn’s won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.”

Restroom research: Study examines bathroom graffiti by men, women

A new article published in Gender, Place & Culture examines how men and women express themselves in the seemingly private and anonymous spaces of public bathrooms.

Texts or drawings in the bathroom stalls, while created in a private space and presumably during a very private moment, are meant to be public — transmitting ideas, images and even responses.

Using data collected in 10 university bathroom stalls, the study examines differences in communication patterns in women’s and men’s bathroom stalls through an analysis of graffiti content and style.

The research indicated that that while communication patterns tend to be supportive and relationship-focused in women’s bathrooms, the graffiti in men’s bathroom walls are replete with sexual content and insults.

In addition, an analysis of the response-and-reply chains suggests that, in the bathroom stalls, hierarchies of power are established and reinforced even in anonymous, unmoderated spaces, and even when no humans are physically present.

The first major study of bathroom graffiti was produced by Alfred Kinsey in the 1950s, which found that many wall inscriptions were highly sexual, but sexuality was defined quite differently among men and women. Men’s bathroom graffiti centered on sexual acts and sexual organs, women’s graffiti referred to love and relationships in non-erotic terms.

Further studies in the 1970s and 1980s suggested that women’s graffiti was becoming more sexual and political.

In the latest study, 60 years on from Kinsey’s work, Pamela Leong, an assistant professor of Sociology at Salem State University, monitored graffiti in 10 single sex bathrooms.  Leong found that women were more prolific, accounting for 70 percent of graffiti, and male graffiti was what she characterized as overtly sexual, crude, competitive and aggressive.

She characterized female graffiti as less sexually explicit — messages were more relationship oriented, confided private thoughts and feelings, as well as messages of support to fellow writers. She also said women often referred to bowel movements, indicating a need to discuss such things privately for fear of being judged “dirty” or “unfeminine,” a contrast to social acceptance of male lavatorial behavior.

With rescue near, Boko Haram stoned girls to death

Even with the crackle of gunfire signaling rescuers were near, the horrors did not end: Boko Haram fighters stoned captives to death, some girls and women were crushed by an armored car and three died when a land mine exploded as they walked to freedom.

Through tears, smiles and eyes filled with pain, the survivors of months in the hands of the Islamic extremists told their tragic stories to The Associated Press on May 3, their first day out of the war zone.

“We just have to give praise to God that we are alive, those of us who have survived,” said 27-year-old Lami Musa as she cradled her 5-day-old baby girl.

She was among 275 girls, women and their young children, many bewildered and traumatized, who were getting medical care and being registered a day after making it to safety.

Nigeria’s military said it has freed nearly 700 Boko Haram captives in the past week. It is still unclear if any of them were among the so-called “Chibok girls,” whose mass abduction from their school a year ago sparked outrage worldwide and a campaign for their freedom under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

Musa was in the first group of rescued women and girls to be transported by road over three days to the safety of the Malkohi refugee camp, a dust-blown deserted school set among baobab trees opposite a military barracks on the outskirts of Yola, the capital of northeastern Adamawa state.

Last week’s rescue saved her from a forced marriage to one of the killers of her husband, she said.

“They took me so I can marry one of their commanders,” she said of the militants who carried her away from her village after slaughtering her husband and forcing her to abandon their three young children, whose fates remain unknown. That was five months ago in Lassa village.

“When they realized I was pregnant, they said I was impregnated by an infidel, and we have killed him. Once you deliver, within a week we will marry you to our commander,” she said, tears running down her cheeks as she recalled her husband and lost children.

Musa gave birth to a curly-haired daughter the night before last week’s rescue.

As gunshots rang out, “Boko Haram came and told us they were moving out and that we should run away with them. But we said no,” she said from a bed in the camp clinic, a blanket wrapped around ankles so swollen that each step had been agony.

“Then they started stoning us. I held my baby to my stomach and doubled over to protect her,” she said, bending reflexively at the waist as though she still had to shield her newborn.

She and another survivor of the stoning, 20-year-old Salamatu Bulama, said several girls and women were killed, but they did not know how many.

The horrors did not end once the military arrived.

A group of women were hiding under some bushes, where they could not be seen by soldiers riding in an armored personnel carrier, who drove right over them.

“I think those killed there were about 10,” Bulama said.

Other women died from stray bullets, she said, identifying three by name.

There were not enough vehicles to transport all of the freed captives and some women had to walk, Musa said. Those on foot were told to walk in the tire tracks made by the convoy because Boko Haram militants had mined much of the forest. But some of the women must have strayed because a land mine exploded, killing three, she said.

Bulama shielded her face with her veil and cried when she thought about another death: Her only son, a 2-year-old toddler who died two months ago of an illness she said was aggravated by malnutrition.

“What will I tell my husband?” she sobbed after learning from other survivors who used borrowed cell phones to try to trace relatives that her husband was alive and in the northern town of Kaduna.

Musa, who had been in pain and withdrawn after her arrival the night before, greeted a reporter with smiles on Sunday – and the news that her breasts were finally giving milk and nourishment to her yet-to-be-named daughter.

Another survivor, Binta Ibrahim, was 16 years old and accompanying her sister-in-law to the dressmaker when Boko Haram insurgents rode into their village of Izghe, firing randomly at civilians. On that day in February 2014, the AP reported at least 109 people were killed and almost every hut destroyed as the militants lobbed firebombs onto their thatch roofs.

Ibrahim, her sister-in-law and two of Ibrahim’s sisters were among scores of young women abducted.

Her two sisters escaped in the pandemonium that surrounded an air raid, but Ibrahim, who was caring for three children she found abandoned after the insurgents moved into the neighboring village of Nbitha, did not go with them.

“I had these three kids to care for and I couldn’t abandon them a second time,” she explained.

She described trekking for two days from Nbitha to Boko Haram’s hideout in the Sambisa Forest with 2-year-old Matthew and 4-year-old Elija Yohanna strapped to her back and 4-year-old Maryam Samaila clinging to her waist.

“They were so weak from lack of food that they couldn’t walk. There was nothing to do but rest when I couldn’t take another step, and then press ahead when I had recovered,” she said.

The children are Christian and Ibrahim is a Muslim. While Nigeria’s northeastern Islamic insurgency has polarized many of Nigeria’s people on religious lines, that was the last thing in Ibrahim’s big heart.

“I love them as if they are my own,” she said, striking her breast with both fists to show the depth of her love for the children, who were rescued with her and still remain in her care.

Vatican unexpectedly ends crackdown against U.S. nuns

The Vatican has unexpectedly ended its controversial overhaul of the main umbrella group of U.S. nuns, cementing a shift in tone and treatment of the U.S. sisters under the social justice-minded Pope Francis.

The Vatican said on April 16 it had accepted a final report on its investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and declared the “implementation of the mandate has been accomplished” nearly two years ahead of schedule. The umbrella group for women’s religious orders had been accused of straying from church teaching.

The brief report stated the organization would have to ensure its publications have a “sound doctrinal foundation,” and said steps were being taken for “safeguarding the theological integrity” of programs. But no major changes were announced and the direct Vatican oversight that the sisters considered a threat to their mission was over.

“I think there are still some questions about how this is going to play out, but that it concluded early was an overwhelming affirmation of what the sisters do,” said Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a religious studies professor at Manhattan College.

The report’s tone stood in stark contrast to the 2012 Vatican reform mandate, which said the nuns’ group was in a “grave” doctrinal crisis. Vatican officials said the Leadership Conference had over-emphasized social justice issues when they should have also been fighting abortion, had undermined church teaching on homosexuality and the priesthood, and had promoted “radical feminist” themes in their publications and choice of speakers. The nuns’ group called the allegations “flawed.” But Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle was appointed to conduct a top to bottom overhaul of the conference.

Just last year, the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, sharply rebuked the nuns’ group for its “regrettable” attitude and behavior during the process. He accused the LCWR of being in “open provocation” with the Holy See and U.S. bishops because they planned to honor a theologian, Sister Elizabeth Johnson, whose work had drawn sharp criticism from the U.S. bishops.

But this week, leaders of the umbrella organization and the Vatican officials in charge of the overhaul released statements of mutual respect, and the sisters met in Rome for nearly an hour with Pope Francis. The Vatican released a photo of the nuns sitting across a table from a warmly smiling Francis.

The turnabout suggested possible papal intervention to end the standoff on amicable grounds before Francis’ high-profile trip to the United States in September. The investigation, and a separate but parallel review of all women’s religious orders, prompted an outpouring of support from the public for the sisters, who oversee the lion’s share of social service programs for the church.

The review of the Leadership Conference emerged from decades of tensions within the church over the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Many religious sisters shed their habits and traditional roles, taking on higher-level professional work in hospitals and schools, with sisters increasingly focused on social justice issues. Theological conservatives grew concerned that the sisters were becoming too secular and too political, instead of focusing on traditional prayer life and faith. The tensions worsened as the number of American nuns dwindled from about 160,000 in 1970, to less than 50,000 today, and church leaders searched for a way to stem the losses.

Conservative-minded Catholics argued a return to tradition would help.

The investigation of the sisters’ group began about seven years ago under Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, a German theologian who spent a quarter century as the Vatican’s doctrine watchdog, after complaints from conservative U.S. bishops and influential Catholics about the organization’s doctrinal soundness.

The first sign of a different outcome for the nuns’ group came in December, when the Vatican’s investigation of all women’s religious orders ended with sweeping praise for the sisters for their selfless work caring for the poor.

On Thursday, Mueller said in a statement he was confident that the LCWR is now clear in its mission of showing its members a Christ-centered vision of religious life that is “rooted in the tradition of the church.” Sister Sharon Holland, president of the nuns’ group, said in a statement the process had been “long and challenging” but “we learned that what we hold in common is much greater than any of our differences.”

The Vatican asked the sisters and church officials not to comment on the report for a month.

“Given the current moment in the church, with Francis emphasizing mercy and not judging and trying to see the best of what people are doing, they had to find a quiet way out of this,” said Michele Dillon, a University of New Hampshire sociologist specializing in the Catholic Church. “What you’d love to hear directly from LCWR leaders is what exactly this oversight means. Who decides what’s really the authentic doctrine?”