Saturday, August 23, 2014

The James Foley beheading: some words of caution...

The alleged beheading of freelance journalist James Foley by the shadowy ISIS (or Islamic State) has sparked outrage and horror around the globe.

I say “alleged” because we are not sure if the decapitation was real or faked.

After three decades of covering wars in the Mideast, Africa, Latin America, and Afghanistan, my reaction as a journalist was also outrage – but cautious outrage.

We westerners have a charming and quaint belief that killing people from the air by using bombs, rockets, shells, napalm and cluster munitions – or even nuclear weapons – is somehow not really as bad as ramming a bayonet into an enemy, blowing him to pieces with heavy artillery, or slashing his throat the way sheep are killed

Air warfare is clean. Air warfare is the American way of war.

Furthermore, on the same day Foley was allegedly being decapitated, 19 people in Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, were publicly beheaded for various crimes. One of the men was executed for witchcraft. There was no outcry at all over this medieval horror. Saudi Arabia is suspected of charging political opponents of the monarchy with drug offenses, which carry the penalty of beheading by a sword-wielding executioner. Not a peep about this in the US media trumpeting the Foley story. Full story...

Related posts:
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  2. Saudi Arabia executes 19 during one half of August in 'disturbing surge...
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The chart that the US police force does not want you to see...


Belgium burka ban: Diplomat rips off Qatari princess' niqab...

A senior Brussels diplomat and chief of protocol has admitted to removing the veil of a Qatari princess by force.

Jean-Marie Pire, 60, is employed by the Brussels council to welcome foreign dignitaries to the Belgian capital and heart of the European Union.

He was approached by the wealthy woman and two female companions in central Brussels, asking for directions to the famous Grand Palace when the diplomat removed the woman's niqab, a black full-face veil.

"I said I don't talk to anyone if I can't see their face," said Pire. "With this reply, I wanted to make it clear that the veil is banned in Belgium.

"Because the person asking me a question didn't seem to hear me, I lifted her veil. I know I shouldn't have done that, but what she did wasn't legal either!" Full story...

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Saudi Arabia executes 19 during one half of August in 'disturbing surge of beheadings'

Saudi Arabia has beheaded at least 19 people since the beginning of August in a surge of executions, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

The deaths relate to the period from 4 to 20 August and are included in the 34 deaths ordered since the beginning of January.

According to HRW, international standards require that capital punishment should only be reserved for the “most serious crimes” in countries that still use it.

Offences that resulted in the Saudi Arabian death penalties in August ranged from drug smuggling and sorcery.

Four smugglers were executed on 18 August for smuggling a “large quantity of hashish” into the country amid an effort by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the government to tackle the social ill of narcotics and warned that anyone else doing the same would also be punished “according to Sharia”, the Saudi Press Agency said. Full story...

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Fisk - Who are Isis?

For centuries, governments told their soldiers and their people to “Know Your Enemy”. The problem with the Isis “Caliphate” – and it is a big problem for President Obama after journalist James Foley’s murder – is that we don’t know who it is. We are told of its butchery, cruelty, its kidnapping of women, its burying alive, its viciousness towards Christians and Yazidis and its public beheadings, but that is all. Even the Isis leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, comes across as a mad combination of the Mahdi who murdered Gordon of Khartoum, the assassinated Osama bin Laden and Oliver Cromwell, who did to the civilians of Drogheda what the Muslim Lord Protector al-Baghdadi has done to his enemies.

Foley’s ritual slaughter is enough to dissuade even the most foolhardy of journalists from seeking an interview with al-Baghdadi. Never before in the Middle East has so much land been out of bounds to the Western media. So ignorant are we of this Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – a dark land in which the reports we see of it are their own phone videos – that the Obamas, Camerons and Hammonds can only gnash their teeth at this unspeakable enemy. Easy reaction – but not much to go on. Yet Isis knows how to do one thing: confront Obama with his very own hostage problem, the same conundrum Tony Blair faced when Ken Bigley appeared before the video lens. Do you ignore the warnings, thus proving that you don’t care about your individual citizens when undertaking military operations – which is the truth – or do you turn into Jimmy Carter, curtsy to every whim of your enemies, go down on one knee and tell the Pentagon to “Hold it right there”?

Now Obama has seen the next American reporter threatened with beheading. Will he blink? He can’t, can he? Full story...

Unruly Air India passenger tied to seat from Australia to Delhi!!!

It could have been a replay of Uruguay forward Luis Suarez chomping down on a hapless defender. Or a rerun of the famous scene from 'The Wolf of Wall Street' in which Leonardo DiCaprio went berserk on a plane. An Indian passenger on Air India's Melbourne-Delhi flight on Wednesday reportedly got so unruly after a few drinks that he allegedly tore the clothes of two flight pursers and tried to beat up and bite some fellow passengers.

Finally, the pilot sent a message to the airline command centre in Delhi that he wanted to divert the plane to Singapore to offload the passenger. But since the long diversion would have meant a delay of several hours for other passengers on board, the airline instead took a bold decision.

It asked the crew on board to firmly tie down the unruly passenger to his seat using ropes, wires and whatever material was on board so that he could not harm other passengers or jeopardize safety of the aircraft. The crew did just that and much like DiCaprio in the film, the passenger flew to Delhi firmly tied to his seat with a few strong flyers keeping a watchful eye on him. He was handed over to security agencies on arrival in Delhi.

"Once we confirmed that the passenger can be securely tied to his seat, the aircraft was asked to fly directly to Delhi. One person's unruly act would have meant a delay by several hours for the other passengers," said an official. Full story...

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Desmond Tutu pleads to Israelis, liberate yourselves by liberating Palestine...

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was at the forefront of the anti-apartheid movement in his native South Africa. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, and has used his platform to campaign on a number of global human rights issues, including the spread of HIV/Aids, homophobia, racism and various world conflicts.

Over the years, he has often voiced his support for the people of Palestine, likening their situation to that of black South Africans under apartheid. After a visit to Jerusalem in 1989, he said that he was a "black South African, and if I were to change the names, a description of what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank could describe events in South Africa." He reiterated this sentiment in 2002, when he spoke out against "the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about." Accordingly, he has long been a supporter of the campaign for divestment from Israel.

Now, after the latest round of violence in Gaza, in which more than 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed, he has spoken out again. This time, he makes his case through the unusual medium of an Israeli newspaper, the left-of-centre Haaretz. Under the headline, "My plea to the people of Israel: Liberate yourselves by liberating Palestine", Tutu sets out the comparison with South Africa, the need for open-mindedness from both sides to facilitate dialogue, and his support for economic divestment from Israel.

"Violence begets violence and hatred, that only begets more violence and hatred," he writes. "We South Africans know about violence and hatred. We understand the pain of being the polecat of the world; when it seems nobody understands or is even willing to listen to our perspective. It is where we come from. We also know the benefits that dialogue between our leaders eventually brought us; when organizations labelled 'terrorist' were unbanned and their leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were released from imprisonment, banishment and exile. We know that when our leaders began to speak to each other, the rationale for the violence that had wracked our society dissipated and disappeared. Acts of terrorism perpetrated after the talks began – such as attacks on a church and a pub – were almost universally condemned, and the party held responsible snubbed at the ballot box." Full story...

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True facts about marsupials...

Indira Gandhi assassination: Controversial film blocked...

India has blocked the release of a film on the assassination of former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, after complaints it glorified her killers.

Intelligence agencies had warned of potential violence if it is released.

The film, Kaum De Heere, or Diamonds Of The Community, had been scheduled for release on Friday.

It tells the story of Ms Gandhi's Sikh bodyguards who shot her dead apparently to avenge her decision to send troops in a deadly raid on the Golden Temple.

Sikhs say thousands were murdered when the army entered Sikhism's holiest shrine in Amritsar to flush out militants.

Mrs Gandhi's assassination triggered an outburst of communal violence targeted at Sikhs and more than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in attacks across India. Full story...

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Nearly quarter of suicide cases at Switzerland's Dignitas are Britons...

Terminally ill Britons now make up a nearly one quarter of users of suicide clinics like Dignitas in Switzerland, new figures have shown.

Only Germany has a higher numbers of ‘suicide tourists’ visiting institutions to end their own lives.

Between 2008 and 2012, 126 Britons chose to die in Zurich, the majority at Dignitas, and a handful via less well known clinics, like Exit.

In 2012, 29 people from the UK travelled to Switzerland to end their own lives, the highest number ever and around one per fortnight.

 Experts from the University of Zurich used data from the Zurich Institute of Legal Medicine and the figures were analysed by Oxford University. Full story...

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Yes, the TSA’s $1 billion Rapiscan scanners really were completely worthless...

It should be evident enough with our porous Southern Border that the fear hyped from potential terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11 is more a mechanism of societal control than a real, tangible threat.

But nothing has proven that more than a recent WIRED report into how completely useless those Rapiscan full body scanners the Transportation Security Administration had been using at airports up until last year — you know, the ones that showed off you and your grandmother and children’s private parts in fine detail for all of TSA to see — really are.

We live in a country where we have been force fed the official story that a group of hijackers with box cutters were able to take over airplanes, so we aren’t even allowed to get on one now without taking off our flip flops first because there might be bombs hidden in them. In addition, if we don’t want to get patted down by TSA’s finest, we have to go through radiating full body scanners, you know, just to make sure we aren’t hiding bombs in our underwear either.

Except those scanners, which were supposed to help protect the American people from rampant terrorists trying to board planes and kill us all everywhere which scanned people for nearly a decade at over 160 airports for a price tag of $1 billion don’t actually work. Full story...

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Foreign assisted suicide cases in Switzerland double in 4 years...

The number of foreigners travelling to Switzerland to commit assisted suicide doubled over a four-year period, a study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics said on Thursday.

In 2012, 172 foreigners took their lives in Switzerland, which has liberal euthanasia rules, up from 86 in 2009, with citizens from Germany and Britain making up almost two-thirds of the total, the study found.

Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since the 1940s, if performed by someone with no direct interest in the death.

"Mercy killing" is also legal in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and some U.S. states but remains illegal in many countries, pushing some terminally ill people in those coutries to travel abroad where they can be helped to die without fear of their loved ones, or doctors, being prosecuted.

Courts in Britain, France and the European Court of Human Rights have been struggling with the delicate issue in recent months. Full story...

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Rapes surge in Sri Lanka amid weak laws...

Recent allegations that a naval officer in the northern city of Jaffna raped an 11-year-old girl have cast a spotlight on the growing problem of sexual violence in Sri Lanka.

According to police statistics, incidents of rape have increased by nearly 20 percent in the last two years, with 4,393 cases registered during 2012-2014 as compared to 3,624 in 2010-2012.

In the Jaffna case, police confirmed they had apprehended and brought before the courts a suspect attached to the navy, but refused to comment further.

"While this particular case has received significant media attention, thousands of others do not," said professor Savithri Fernando, who counsels victims of sexual abuse.

"Sexual abuse is rampant," she told Al Jazeera citing the Asian Human Rights Council research on rape in the island nation. Full story...

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Irom Sharmila: India hunger striker freed...

Indian activist Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been on a hunger strike for 14 years, has been freed following a court order.

Ms Chanu said she was happy to be freed but would continue her fast.

She began her hunger strike in 2000 to protest against a controversial law in the state of Manipur, which gave the Indian armed forces sweeping powers.

She was arrested shortly after her protest began and put in a hospital and force-fed through a pipe in her nose.

On Tuesday, a court in the state capital, Imphal, rejected the charge that she was "attempting to commit suicide" and ordered her release.

For nearly 14 years, Ms Chanu has been held in judicial custody in a hospital in Manipur's capital, Imphal. Full story...

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hate Crime? Nationwide outrage at 'racist' policing after Michael Brown killing...

Chinese paper calls for retaliation over Australia tycoon's "bastards" comment...

An influential Chinese newspaper called for retaliation against Australia on Wednesday after Australian mining mogul and politician Clive Palmer described China's government as "bastards" who shoot their own people.

The Australian government has rebuked Palmer for his comments, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she planned to contact the Chinese embassy to stress that the Australian parliament does not share Palmer's "abusive" views.

While the Chinese government has yet to publicly comment, a prominent Chinese newspaper, the state-run Global Times tabloid, weighed into the controversy, saying Australia should be taught a lesson.

"China cannot let him off, or show petty kindness just because the Australian government has condemned him," the newspaper said in an editorial in its Chinese and English editions.

"China must be aware that Palmer's rampant rascality serves as a symbol that Australian society has an unfriendly attitude toward China." Full story...

Sydney businessman reveals his five-year Dubai prison nightmare...

In 2006, Marcus Lee was offered a job in Dubai, working for one of the country's largest property developers. He and his wife Julie, both accountants from Sydney, decided to take a chance on the offer and made the move to the United Arab Emirates.

Three years after they moved, Marcus was arrested for a crime he didn't commit and spent nine months in Dubai prisons, including two months in solitary confinement, and four years under house arrest as he fought to clear his name.

Marcus, 45, and Julie, 50, whose ordeal finally came to an end in January when they were able to return to Australia, have written a book about the experience.

The book, Trapped, consists largely of Marcus's diary entries from the time of his imprisonment. In the book he tells how the process of writing about his ordeal and the love notes smuggled to him by Julie on her prison visits were his 'lifeline'.

After the couple relocated to Dubai, Marcus says 'Everything was going along happily for a few years' before he was hauled into a police station and questioned about a man he had never met and a payment his company had made to another company. Full story...

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Thai junta's reach into lives of ordinary Thais continues to grow...

Army Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha presented Thailand’s 2015 budget to his handpicked National Legislative Assembly on Monday, 183 of 197 of whom promptly voted in favor.

“Nobody had any problems. Nobody disagreed,” Prayuth told reporters.

If that sounds like an ironic statement, it should. In fact, disagreement is rapidly disappearing as the junta, which came to power on May 22, continues to spread its tentacles deeper and deeper into Thai life, most recently arresting two university students on charges of insulting the monarchy for appearing in a play almost a year ago.

In fact, the junta is grinding exceedingly fine. Countless irritations that plague daily life in what has traditionally been a fairly permissive society are apparently being pushed upwards through some sort of filtering mechanism, then decided by top leaders, probably Prayuth himself, a Bangkok-based source said.

They don’t have much to do with an overriding national philosophy, but they are extremely popular. The National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta is known, has scored an approval rating of around 88 percent in a recent poll. Some 65 percent want the military to stay in power for good, discarding the country’s traditionally messy and usually corrupt approach to democracy. Full story...

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Sri Lanka to refuse entry to UN investigators...

Sri Lanka will not grant visas to UN investigators probing war crimes allegedly committed during the island's decades-long separatist conflict, President Mahinda Rajapakse said on Tuesday.

"We will not allow them into the country," said Mr Rajapakse, who is under international pressure to cooperate with the UN-mandated investigation.

Sri Lanka has refused to accept the authority of the UN Human Rights Council which voted in March to probe allegations that the military killed 40,000 civilians in the final months of the separatist war, which ended in 2009.

 But it is the first time that Mr Rajapakse has said UN investigators will not be allowed into the country, effectively barring them from face-to-face access to Sri Lankans wanting to testify in the probe. Full story...

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It’s a French woman’s duty to wear a bikini, says ex-minister...

It is a French woman’s duty to wear a bikini on a beach, says the former minister for families, Nadine Morano.

Ms Morano, 51, has provoked a political row by complaining that she had seen a Muslim woman sitting on a French beach in headscarf, long-sleeved tunic and trousers while her husband stripped off and bathed in the sea.

“When you choose to come to a country of secular laws like France, you have an obligation to respect our culture and the liberty of women. Or you go somewhere else,” Ms Morano wrote on her Facebook page.

She published a blurred picture that she had taken at the weekend of the woman in the headscarf sitting on a beach. Alongside, she published a photograph of the 1950s and 1960s sex symbol Brigitte Bardot wearing a bikini.

Ms Morano is a centre-right politician, and fervent supporter of ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been accused of exploiting far-right themes in the past. Her remarks provoked an avalanche of comments on social media and reactions from politicians which sometimes crossed normal party boundaries. Full story...

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Brazil's 'virginity test' for women sparks outrage...

The Public Prosecutor's Office in the Brazilian state of São Paulo is investigating why women are being asked to either submit to gynecological tests or, in some cases, prove their virginity in order to apply for state jobs.

The state agency opened an investigation after reports last week that women are being asked to undergo the tests before applying for a job posting at the state Education Department, Brazilian daily O Globo reports. Women under 25 who are not sexually active must provide a doctor’s note confirming their virginity.

The gynecological exams, used to screen for certain cancers, are part of a long list of health tests that the Brazilian government may ask of job applicants for coveted state jobs.

But the requirement has stirred public opinion in Brazil, where many view it as invasive to oblige women to prove their virginity or submit to a pap smear in order to apply for a job. Full story...

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and police militarization...

Britain's three decades of dirty war against the Tamil people...

Watching the UK Border Agency hand over Tamil refugees to a Sri Lankan regime that had tortured them prompted me to explore Whitehall's real foreign policy towards this Indian Ocean island.

The resulting report, Britain's dirty war against the Tamil people, 1979-2009, will be launched next week in Glasgow.

I was fortunate to be guided through this journey by Viraj Mendis, who knows British duplicity only too well. He was deported to Sri Lanka by Thatcher in 1989, after sheltering for a year inside a church in Manchester. Banned from Britain, Viraj continues to fight for Tamil peoples' rights from his adopted home in Germany.

The report initially examines Thatcher's policy on Sri Lanka during her decade in power. Her opening salvo was to dispatch former MI5 director (Jack Morton), a veteran of Malaya and Ireland. He reported back on ‘the depressing picture of apparatus and morale in the security forces tackling the Tamil problem’, at a time when the Tamil armed struggle for independence was just beginning.

Then, from 1983-1987, KMS Ltd, a British mercenary company comprised of ex-SAS soldiers (many of them Dhofar veterans), trained Sri Lankan police commandos, army officers and helicopter gunship pilots in counter-insurgency techniques. KMS became infamous in the late 1980s when its boss, David Walker, was implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal. It is now one of Britain's oldest private military contractors, trading under the name of Saladin Security. Full story...

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Gruesome tales surface of Israeli massacres against families in Gaza’s Shujaiya neighborhood...

As the five-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took hold on August 15, residents of Shujaiya returned to the shattered remains of their homes. They pitched tents and erected signs asserting their claim to their property, sorting determinedly through the ruins of their lives.

Those who managed to survive the Israeli bombardment have come home to bedrooms obliterated by tank shells, kitchens pierced by Hellfire missiles, and boudoirs looted by soldiers who used their homes as bases of operations before embarking on a series of massacres. Once a solidly middle-class suburb of Gaza City comprised of multi-family apartments and stately homes, the neighborhood of Shujaiya was transformed into a gigantic crime scene.

The attack on Shujaiya began at 11pm on July 19, with a combined Israeli bombardment from F-16s, tanks and mortar launchers. It was a night of hell which more than 100 did not survive and that none have recovered from. Inside the ruins of what used to be homes, returning locals related stories of survival and selflessness, detailing a harrowing night of death and destruction.

Outside a barely intact four-level, multi-family home that was hardly distinguishable from the other mangled structures lining the dusty roads of Shujaiya, I met members of the Atash family reclining on mats beside a makeshift stove. Khalil Atash, the 63-year-old patriarch of the family, motioned to his son heating a teapot above a few logs and muttered, “They’ve set us back a hundred years. Look at us, we’re now burning wood to survive.” Full story...

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Order out of chaos: The global elites plan for a “Middle Eastern Union”

The Middle East has been engulfed in a state of chaos for decades now, with the region becoming increasingly unstable in recent years largely due to western sponsored proxy wars. The current map of the Middle East was created in 1916 through the surreptitious Sykes-Picot agreement, a deal which divided the Ottoman-ruled territories of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, into areas controlled by either Britain or France. Today the chaos we see in the Middle East is the creation of Anglo-American-Israeli power, which is attempting to redraw the map to meet their present strategic and imperial objectives.

The Islamic State (IS) has hit the headlines in recent months due to their latest terror campaign in Iraq, which has led to US airstrikes in the North of the country. What has been omitted from mainstream circles though is the intimate relationship between US intelligence agencies and IS, as they have trained, armed and funded the group for years. Back in 2012, World Net Daily received leaks by Jordanian officials who reported that the US military was training ISIL (as it was then known) in Jordan, before being deployed into Syria to fight against Bashar al-Assad. Francis Boyle, a Law professor at the University of Illinois, has described IS as a “covert US intelligence operation” whose objective is to “destroy Iraq as a state”.

The strategy in the Middle East is the creation of a perpetual condition of instability and a policy of “constructive chaos”, where nation states are to be destroyed so that the map of the Middle East can be redrawn. IS provided the pretext to intervene in Iraq once again, with the intervention ensuring the oil fields in Erbil are safely in the hands of multi-national corporations – as oppose to chaotic and dysfunctional mercenaries. As well as providing the justification for the US, Britain and France to “bolster” the Kurds in the North of the country, which furthers the agenda of destroying “Iraq as a state”. As the President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and Former Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, Richard Hass, wrote in an Op Ed for Project Syndicate last month: Full story...

Is Ferguson our future?

“America is on trial,” said Rev. Al Sharpton from the pulpit of Greater St Mark’s Family Church in Ferguson, Missouri.

At issue, the shooting death of Michael Brown, Saturday a week ago, on the main street of that city of 22,000, a neighbor community to Jennings, where this writer lived in the mid-1960s.

Brown, an 18-year-old African-American, was shot multiple times by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white police officer with an unblemished record in six years on the force in Jennings and Ferguson.

From his patrol car, Wilson ordered Brown out of the street where he was walking and blocking traffic. A fight followed. Wilson appears to have been punched in the face. One police report says that there was a struggle for the officer’s gun.

According to Brown’s companion, however, after he was first shot, he threw up his hands and yelled, “Don’t shoot. I surrender.” Then Wilson gunned him down. Full story...

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India brides leave husbands' homes for lack of toilets...

Six newlywed women in a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have returned to their parents because their husbands' homes had no toilets.

The women, all from Khesiya village in Kushinagar district, said they would return only after their husbands had built proper toilets at home.

Nearly half of India's 1.2 billion people have no toilets at home.

Campaigners say the problem is acute in rural India and it is the women who suffer most.

One of the brides, Gudiya, told BBC Hindi that it was very troublesome to go to the fields.

"My parents have a toilet at home, but there is no toilet in my husband Ramesh Sharma's home. Going outdoors was a big hassle, so I fought with him and returned to my parents." Full story...

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I'm ashamed of rape and poor sanitation in India, says Narendra Modi...

Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, today spoke of his shame at the treatment of its women and poor standards of hygiene and public sanitation.

In his first Independence Day speech as prime minister, Mr Modi delivered a passionate call for Indians to value the role of women in the country, to stop aborting female foetuses, and build a cleaner country where women don't have to leave their homes to go to the lavatory or face violence and rape.

Speaking from the Red Fort in Delhi's old walled city, he outlined his vision of an inclusive India free of religious and sexual violence, a growing manufacturing economy which benefits the poor, and a country where government officials arrive on time for work.

His address, the first in many years to be delivered without notes, was received with enthusiasm by commentators who said it reflected his concern over the plight of women in the country and his determination to give more economic autonomy to India's states. He announced the abolition of the Planning Commission, the powerful body formed by Jawaharlal Nehru to coordinate its command economy. Full story...

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Indonesia: Singapore tourists told 'shut up or go home'

Signs showing a picture of a raised finger over a pair of lips have recently gone up at the immigration hall at the Batam Centre ferry terminal, the Straits Times daily reports. Travellers say they're being abruptly told to take the next ferry back to Singapore if caught talking in the queue. Another report says about 50 Singaporeans are being turned away every week for speaking too loudly.

"I was there for a holiday - why couldn't I open my mouth?" one rejected Singaporean tourist tells the Straits Times. "I was just chit-chatting with my friend." Another traveller says she saw a woman turned back even though the rest of her family had already been let through, while a Singaporean Twitter user reports: "We got scolded! They think they are managing a library."

The silence is needed to keep order and ensure tourists can hear officers' instructions, says Batam immigration office chief Irwanto Suhaili. The one-hour journey to Batam is popular with Singaporean day-trippers, and a return ticket costs about $40 (£24). Source...

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Autopsy shows Michael Brown was shot six times, two bullets hit head...

Israel bars Amnesty & HRW from entering Gaza, hinders investigations ...

Israel has been preventing Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch workers from entering Gaza to investigate allegations of war crimes and human rights violations, claims a media report backed by group members’ statements.

Both human rights organizations have been unsuccessfully trying to get permission from the regional Civil Administration to enter Gaza since July 7, Israeli outlet Haaretz reports.

Israeli authorities cited two reasons for their refusal to grant appropriate permits: the closure of the Erez border crossing, located between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and that neither group is part of a list of aid groups approved by the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs.

However, an Israeli newspaper pointed out that the Erez border crossing was in fact opened to “journalists, UN employees and Palestinians in need of medical care” during Operation Protective Edge, which began on July 8.

 It also noted that, according to Israel’s COGAT (coordinator of government activity in the territories) guidelines, exceptions can be made for organizations that are not included on the list. The authority states that unrecognized groups “may submit an exceptional request that will be considered in light of the prevailing policy based on the political-security situation”. Full story...

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Two sisters who kidnapped 13 young children and forced them to work as pickpockets before murdering...

Two sisters who kidnapped 13 young children and forced them to work as pickpockets before murdering them are to become the first women to be executed in India.

Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit became India's most notorious serial killers when they were convicted of a series of child murders in 2001 and sentenced to death. They were charged with 13 kidnappings and 10 murders and were found guilty of five killings.

Now, 13 years after their convictions, they are to be hanged at Maharashtra's Yerwada jail after India's president rejected their final appeal for mercy.

Their imminent executions have revived painful memories in India of some of the most brutal crimes in its recent history. One of the victims was an infant under two years old who died after his head was smashed against an electricity pole.

The sisters themselves were barely adults when they began their killing spree - Gavit was just 15 when she killed her first victim and her older sister was 17. Full story...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Michael Brown: Move over Trayvon. This time it could be war...

Trayvon Martin being shot by a “white hispanic” neighborhood watch volunteer held the headlines for a month or so as the victim-mongers worked overtime to incite a race war. In the end, they were unsuccessful because Trayvon was a punk and a wannabe gangster who clearly attacked the neighborhood watch volunteer and was in the process of beating him to death when self-defense took over and the volunteer shot Martin. That was the initial finding of the police on the scene as well as the county prosecutor. It wasn’t until the governor appointed a special prosecutor who has a history of shoddy prosecution that the victim lobby got fed.

Fortunately, the very courageous, all female, jury saw through the prosecution’s table pounding substitute for the truth and reached the right verdict. Other than the expected howling and spitting, that episode ended pretty well.

Now we’ve got Ferguson, MO and Michael Brown. As we’ve noted, this is not going to end well. In this case, the lines are clearly drawn and nobody is in any hurry to back off and this is not anything like the Martin shooting no matter how the victim-driven-media tries to portray it.

First of all, Trayvon Martin was a punk, gangster wannabe who had had frequent encounters with the police. We are pretty sure Michael Brown more on the order of a pretty good kid. We’ve formed that opinion because in the week since Brown’s shooting we’ve not heard or read one word about any previous problems with the cops, and with all the national attention on this shooting, if the cops had anything on Brown it would have leaked.

Second, we’ve got two vastly divergent stories about what happened. Here’s what the Ferguson Chief of Police is saying. Full story...

Jet Airways pilot was asleep, co-pilot was on iPad, both suspended...

While the plane they were flying plunged 5,000 feet, a Jet Airways pilot was asleep and the co-pilot was busy on an iPad checking out flight information. Both have been suspended by aviation regulator DGCA which is now investigating the incident.

280 passengers were on the flight from Mumbai to Newark via Brussels when it fell from 34,000 feet to 29,000 feet, according to the Press Trust of India.

A spokesperson for Jet, however, told NDTV that the descent was of about 2,000 feet. While the plane was in Turkish airspace, Air Traffic Controllers noted the descent and sent an emergency message to the aircraft ordering it to climb back up. The co-pilot then woke up the commander.

Both pilots were summoned by the DGCA yesterday for questioning. While the commander said he was on "controlled rest", a short nap inside the cockpit which is allowed by flight operation procedures, the co-pilot testified that she was working on her iPad which had aircraft documents loaded on to it, said unnamed sources to the Press Trust of India.

Confirming the incident, an airline spokesperson said Jet Airways has initiated an internal inquiry into the matter. Full story...

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

India stray dogs to be part of security squad...

Stray canines roaming the Indian capital may soon find themselves attending police training school with civic authorities planning to turn the animals into security dogs, reports said Saturday.

New Delhi residents have long informally adopted some strays as watchdogs and fed them, but this marks the first formal plan to turn them into municipal security dogs.

Delhi authorities said they would enlist police animal trainers to work with the strays and press the canines into service as guard dogs alongside a newly formed "May I Help You?" city security force which aims to assist the public and bolster safety.

"If these dogs are going to roam the NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Corp) area, they might as well work," the civic body's chairman Jalaj Shrivastava told The Hindu newspaper.

"Our plan is to adopt these strays and train them as guard dogs" to work with the public security force -- 40 officers have already been deployed with the city planning to engage as many as 700, he added. Full story...

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India: Politician wears 130,000-pound, 4kg gold shirt for his birthday...



Indian politician, Pankaj Parakh, celebrated his 45th birthday in grand style by adorning a 4kg, 130,000-pound, custom-made, 18-22 carat gold shirt on Friday (8 August).

The politician, who quit high school in Grade 8 and made a fortune out of a garment business, said gold has always mesmerized him.

"Gold has always fascinated me since I was five years old and studying in school. Over the years, I have become passionate about this royal metal. I have got this special shirt stitched to mark my 45th birthday this Friday," said Parakh, as reported by NDTV News.

The gold-laden shirt has been designed in Nashik, a city in the Western Indian state of Maharashtra. The jewels were added on in Mumbai by a team of 20 select craftsmen, who laboured over the last two months, putting in a total of 3,200 hours to bring the project to completion.

The politican's penchant for gold played out at his big day too. Full story...

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‘Jilboobs’ raise clerical hackles in Indonesia...

Could it be that the “jilboob,” a slangy term used by some to describe Indonesian women who pair their modest Muslim headscarfs with tight jeans and sexy blouses, could be on her way out? If the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), has its way, that will be the case.

The jilboob, or sometimes “jilbabe,” gets her name because in Indonesia the full-body burka seen in Afghanistan or the abaya in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, is rarely adopted. Rather than using a black tent to hide a woman from society’s prying eyes, observant Indonesian Muslims prefer the jilbab – or hijab in Malaysia. The scarf usually covers the hair and neck but leaves the rest of the wearer’s wardrobe up for grabs.

The devout might combine the jilbab with modest long dresses and blouses, but many women use the “jilbab and jeans” look to maintain their sex appeal while giving in to whatever pressure or devotion motivates them to cover their hair – often family insistence or to please husbands who want a religious spouse.

Some websites in Jakarta call the sexy jilbab look, the “jilboob,” because it often consists of make-up, jeans a tight shirt and high heels. There is a Facebook page devoted to discussing the pros and cons of the jilboob look and plenty of web sites and twitter feeds -- #jilbabseksi is one -- that show off selfies of young women in their jilbabs, some of which leave little to the imagination. Many stores and boutiques cater to making the “Muslim look” sexy. Women are even seen wearing the head covering with a miniskirt on occasion. Full story...

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Ten years later: The Greek Olympic wasteland in photos...

Ten years ago, when Europe was successfully pretending it is solvent for the benefit of German exports and Greece was happily masking its budget deficit disaster with Goldman Sachs currency swaps, the Olympic flame was about to light up the Athenian night sky. As BBC reports, the return of the Games to the Olympics' spiritual home was widely hailed as a success at the time. Now, not so much and most Greeks view the Athens Olympics with anger as a contributing factor to the country's economic catastrophe. The Games cost almost twice their projected budget, with organisers not opting to use any temporary, collapsible venues, as other host cities have done.

In total, Greece spent over $10 billion on the Games. "The Games were a lost opportunity, no doubt about it," admits former Athens 2004 spokesman Stratos Safioleas.

Sadly for the broke country, that is an understatement. Here, ten years later, is the wasteland which is all that's left of the 2004 summer Olympics. See photos here...

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Lawyers forum demands action against Arundhati...

The Federation of Bar Associations of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry has urged the Kerala government to initiate criminal proceedings against the writer and social activist, Arundhati Roy for accusing Mahatma Gandhi as a follower of the caste system.

Talking to reporters here on Saturday, Federation president P. Paramasivam said the social activist while delivering a speech at Thiruvananthapuram in July this year had belittled the Father of the Nation by stating that his doctrine of non-violence was based on the acceptance of most brutal social hierarchy, the caste system.

She had even questioned whether it was really needed to name the universities after him, which glaringly exposed the antagonism she had against the great soul of the country, he added.

“We hereby urge the Kerala government to initiate criminal proceedings against Arundhati Roy for her comments on Mahatma Gandhi. If they hesitate to respond within a reasonable time, the Federation will take up the issue to the Courts of Law through proper channel,” he added. Source...

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French MPs propose forcing supermarkets to hand over all unsold food to charity...

A group of French MPs has tabled a draft law to make it compulsory for supermarkets to hand over all unsold food still fit for consumption to charity.

Many supermarket chains in France already donate unsold produce to charities, but 63 MPs from across the political spectrum would like to see the practice enshrined in law.

Late in July, they tabled a draft bill making it compulsory for supermarkets with 1,000 square metres (10,800 sq ft) of floor space to give their “unsold but still consumable food products to at least one food charity”.

Belgium became the first European country to introduce a similar a law in May. The move followed proposals by the European Union to scrap compulsory “best before” labels on coffee, rice, dry pasta, hard cheeses, jams and pickles to help reduce the estimated 100 million tons of food wasted across Europe each year.

 The French MPs believe that despite a “national pact against food wastage” launched last year in France, measures preventing still-edible food being thrown away are “insufficient”. Full story...

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Friday, August 08, 2014

Deaths & Destruction: Israel op leaves Gaza in ruins, no hope of long-term success...

Husband and wife in Brazil discover they are brother and sister...

A Brazilian husband and wife have discovered - live on the radio - that they were brother and sister.

Both had searched for their mothers, who abandoned them as children, but it turned out they were looking for the same woman.

Adriana, 39, and her husband Leandro, 37, who did not want to share their surnames, have known each other for 10 years and now have a six year old daughter together.

Both Adriana and Leandro, who live in Sao Paulo, had been searching for their mother for a number of years. Leandro knew his mother was called Maria, and that she had abandoned him at the age of eight. He was brought up by his step-mother.

Adriana knew her mother was also called Maria, and that she had been abandoned at the age of one. She was brought up by her father.

The couple thought that their mothers, who they believed to be two different women, should the same name was a “coincidence,” as Maria is a common name in Brazil. Full story...

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Despite claims that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the UK, it's Israel's critics who need protection...

Those who dare speak out against the massacre in Gaza face real danger

The horrors of Gaza continue to unfold after the guns fall silent, with thousands of displaced victims scoured the ruins of their bombed homes for whatever meagre salvage they can find, wondering what tomorrow may bring.

Around the world, Jewish communities are now trying to regain the sympathy they forfeited by blindly supporting the devastating Israeli offensive. The traditional way of doing this is to announce a rise in anti-Semitism and whipping up fears of “another holocaust”.

The latest harbinger of “holocaust” was the decision by the Tricycle Theatre in North London not to host this year’s Jewish Film Festival unless the festival gave up funding from the Israeli Embassy. The theatre cited its principle of political impartially and offered to replace the lost fund, but the festival refused. There followed a media storm claiming – you guessed it – “outrageous anti-Semitism”.

The reality is that those who really need bodyguards do not live in London, Manchester or Leeds. They are my brave Israeli friends and colleagues who have attempted to do nothing more than protest peacefully against the Gaza massacres. Full story...

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