In a statement sent to the Journal, North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman indicated he’s working with the State Department to facilitate kidnaped missionary Jeff Woodke’s safe return home.
“My thoughts are with Jeff Woodke and his loved ones during this extremely trying time,” Huffman said of the 55-year-old McKinlyville man who was abducted in West Africa on Friday night. “It is devastating to see my constituent who has spent his life dedicated to humanitarian service be victimized in this way. I am working with State Department officials and will do everything in my power to ensure Jeff’s swift and safe return home.”
1st UPDATE: Reuters is reporting that Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum has confirmed the identity of the American kidnapped last night as 55-year-old Jeffery Woodke of McKinleyville.
Additionally, Bazoum issued a statement offering some additional detail about the attack, including that an armed man on a motorcycle arrived at Woodke's home in Abalak and opened fire on an armed guard before a Toyota truck returned to abduct Woodke.
"These criminals are now heading towards Mali. Our forces are on their trial," Bazoum says in the statement, according to Reuters.
The New York Times also now has a report up, which can be found here.
Multiple news reports are identifying the Christian American aid worker kidnapped by armed gunmen in Niger yesterday as a 55-year-old Mckinleyville man.
Britain’s Daily Mail and CBN News, a Christian online reporting outlet, have both identified the man as Jeff Woodke, a Humboldt State University alum who works for the Redwood Coast School of Missions run through Arcata First Baptist Church. According to the Redwood Coast School of Missions website, Woodke has “committed the past 25 years of his life to a ministry he founded in Niger amongst a number of unreached people groups.”
According to multiple accounts, gunmen stormed the home of a longtime American aid worker in the the West African city of Abalak, killed a bodyguard and a local police officer in a shootout and then fled with a kidnapped American toward Mali. CNN reported that witnesses say the worker was forced to strip down to his underwear before being put into a 4x4 vehicle, noting that “such measures are often taken by kidnappers to avoid hostages being tracked.”
CNN further reported that "authorities are taking all necessary measures to locate the American and his abductors, including imposing a heavy military presence between Abalak and the border with Mali, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly."
Radio France Internationale reported the victim had worked in the area since the 1990s with Youth with a Mission, which bills itself as a “global movement of Christians … dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world.” The group reports that it works in more than 1,100 locations spread across 180 countries — including Abalak, Niger — with a staff of more than 18,000.
It’s unclear who is responsible for the kidnapping and the U.S. State Department has so far said publicly only that it is aware of reports of a kidnapping of a U.S. citizen in Niger. Attempts to reach North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and Arcata First Baptist Church were not immediately successful this morning.
A short bio on Redwood Coast School of Missions indicates missionary work in Niger has been a huge part of his life’s work.
“Jeff’s passion in providing humanitarian aid to those who are amongst the poorest in the world, coupled with his desire to see God’s kingdom advanced in a largely Muslim world has played a large part in the life and ministry of (Arcata First Baptist Church),” the site says.
On her Facebook page, Christian author Cheryl Ford indicated she was a 15-year member of the same Humboldt County church as Woodke and that her family went to Niger under his leadership a couple of times.
“One had to marvel at the man,” she wrote. “My world kind of stopped yesterday over this news.”
Ford also quoted Tracy Rickstrew, who worked at Arcata First Baptist Church and whom Ford identifies as a “former Niger team missionary,” as follows: “Our friend and director when we worked in Niger, Africa was kidnapped yesterday. Please pray for him and his family. I know his heart would not be for his own life, but for God’s glory in all of this. He is tough and his faith is resolute and we know that there is nowhere on earth that he can go where the Spirit of God is not already with him.”
Back in June of 2014, Woodke was a guest speaker at the Arcata First Baptist Church. Watch the video below:
The Department of Veterans' Affairs announced yesterday that it will ban the flying of Confederate flags in national cemeteries. The announcement comes exactly two months after House Republicans voted to remove legislation sponsored by Representative Jared Huffman that would accomplish similar a similar end from a VA appropriations bill.
The new policy set forth by the VA will not restrict the placement of Confederate flags on individual graves, but it will prohibit the controversial symbol from being flown on flagpoles above cemeteries. Rep. Keith Ellison, who joined Huffman in urging the VA to amend their policy, referred to the Confederate flag as a "symbol of treason" as well as racism.
The suit the Humboldt-Mendocino Marijuana Advocacy Project brought against the county of Humboldt following its January adoption of a commercial medical marijuana ordinance was settled on July 5, but HuMMAP says there’s still much work left to be done.
The suit, filed in February, was an attempt to “block the environmental damage” it saw as an inevitability following the passage of the ordinance. Among HuMMAP’s chief concerns was the lack of an environmental impact report. As a condition of the settlement, the county has agreed not to modify or accept permit applications past the Dec. 31 deadline until an EIR is prepared. Additional language will be added to the ordinance to address noise from generators, the purchase of carbon credits and the role of Cal Fire. Cal Fire, in the words of HuMMAP’s press release, has such “strong objections … that they did not wish to be substantially involved in the permitting process.” (Cal Fire's public information officer did return calls or emails from the Journal; we will update if contacted.)
In its press release, HUMMAP calls out “environmental groups,” saying “as a trade group we saw it was necessary to make up for unacceptable lapses by environmentalists.” The Environmental Protection Information Center declined to comment on this issue.
The LA Times just released an interesting report on Bernie Sanders campaign donations, offering a look at the regions that have supported his successful grassroots funding campaign.
The data, which was compiled into an interactive map you can explore by visiting their story here, lets you look at donations by ZIP Code, and contains some pretty interesting details about which parts of Humboldt County are feeling the Bern. (Before we are accused of singling out Sanders, let us explain that the candidate's small-donation data was available because of a fundraising tool his campaign uses — more on that below. Because donors of under $200 are not required to be disclosed, similar surveys of other campaign donors were not possible, the Times reports.)
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman blasted presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s planned visit with the leaders of the Westlands Water District in an absolutely scathing press release sent out this afternoon.
“Donald Trump, who continues to refuse to release his tax returns and show the public his personal accounting, will be sitting down with the perpetrators responsible for one of the largest municipal bond fraud cases in SEC history,” Huffman wrote. He accuses Trump and the district of using “smoke and mirrors” to manage their “questionable” financial histories.
Gavin Newsom visits with pot growers and local lawmakers in Garberville.
Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (who visited Humboldt County pot farms last year) is launching the campaign for legal recreational marijuana today with support for an initiative that gathered enough votes to be on the November ballot.
The initiative, which will need voter approval of more than 50 percent, has long been considered the most realistic of several proposed and rumored initiatives to pass, given its financial support from bigwigs like ex-Facebook President Sean Parker and political support from many in the establishment.
Politicians are just like us. Who hasn’t been given $460 tickets to a Warriors or Giants game from a powerful state union or private corporation?
The LA Times just released an article detailing the sports-related gifts handed to California lawmakers and there was our very own 2nd District Assemblyman Jim Wood, leading the state in single gift value.
Humboldt County voters: Here’s your chance to take part in the arcane and confusing tradition of presidential delegate selection. Hold on to your butts.
On May 1, the Democratic Party will choose eight delegates each from the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders camps to potentially represent California’s 2nd Congressional District voters at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
Editor's Note: The following is an opinion piece by Petrolia playwright David Simpson, who co-founded the Mattole Salmon Group and currently sits on its board of directors. A climate change activist, Simpson is attending the 21st United Nations Conference of the Parties in Paris and will be sharing his thoughts with the Journal periodically.
At the outset of the hugely ballyhooed United Nations climate summit in Paris this past week, there seemed to be good reason for climate activists to sense impending disappointment. There had already been years of inaction in the history of these massive annual efforts ostensibly aimed at reducing the effects of climate change on society. Back in 2009, COP 15 in Copenhagen had been widely billed as ‘Hopenhagen” before it quickly become almost synonymous with the failure of hope — one of the great disappointments in the annals of environmentalism and, in some respect, the history of humankind. America, among other nations, had dirty hands from its role there. (COP is UN-talk for “Conference of the Parties,” the “parties” being the nations involved.)
Congressman Jared Huffman is not having the fish. According to a press release, Huffman is "deeply concerned" about the Food and Drug Administration's approval of genetically engineered salmon. He cites the engineered salmon's potential to damage wild salmon populations, ecosystems and the fishing industry, as well as the lack of labeling requirements for producers. The congressman is co-sponsoring legislation to ban GE fish.