Sunday, August 31, 2014

Your brain on coffee...

Bahrain arrests top human rights activist...

The prominent Bahrain human rights activist and critic of the ruling family, Maryam al-Khawaja, has been arrested by authorities on her arrival at the Gulf state's airport.

Posts on the Twitter account of Khawaja said she had been charged with insulting the king, assaulting police
officers, and faced charges for her involvement with the rights campaign, Wanted For Justice.

Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, is the daughter of Shia Muslim activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, who has been in custody in Bahrain since 2011 and is on hunger strike.

The Reuters news agency reported her mother Khadija al-Musawi as saying her daughter would be transferred to the public prosecution court on Sunday.

A later post on her Twitter account stated that she would be held for seven days and was not allowed to see a lawyer before her interrogation.

Khawaja, who has lived abroad for several years, had returned to Bahrain to see her father, who recently decided to go on a new hunger strike. Her sister, Zainab, had been released from custody on Friday pending further investigation. Full story...

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Ecuador’s women turn to boxing to fight sexual violence...

After surviving a harrowing rape attempt, Any Hurtado took up boxing — and found herself surrounded by other Ecuadoran women using their fists for protection in a country torn by sexual violence.

Statistics paint a disturbing picture of the threats women face in the South American country: six out of every 10 have been the victims of gender-based aggression, and one girl in 10 suffers sexual abuse before the age of 18.

Hurtado, a 17-year-old nursing student, lived through her own horror story last year.


She was walking home when a group of men surrounded her and tried to rape her.

“They started grabbing me and trying to assault me,” she told AFP.

“As I was struggling against them I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get away. But I found the strength somewhere. I hit the one closest to me and managed to run away.” Full story...

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Dear Mr. President, why I'm leaving America...

“Dear Mr. President,

I am writing with a heavy heart as I, my husband, and our daughter are all seriously contemplating giving up our U.S. citizenship. We are doing this not to avoid paying U.S. taxes but because we strongly object to a system that is blatantly discriminatory and unfair to law-abiding Americans living outside the country. In addition, it has become too expensive, too difficult, and frankly, too frightening, to try to comply with all of the tax filing requirements that now apply to citizens living abroad.

My husband is 70 years old and I am 69. I was born in St. Louis, my husband in Denver, and our daughter in Toronto. When my husband graduated with a PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania, and I with a law degree from Villanova, both in 1971, he received a job offer to teach U.S. history to Canadian university students. I began teaching law at the same university. We never expected to stay in Canada but, as you know, life is often unpredictable and we have now happily lived here for 43 years. I retired many years ago and my husband more recently.

(...)

What America is doing to its own citizens living in other countries is not right and we have had enough. What I have outlined here is only part of the problem. All we want in return for fulfilling our responsibilities as Americans is to be treated fairly and equally. We are performing our part of the bargain. America is not.

There are approximately one million Americans living and working in Canada, and millions more in other parts of the world. I understand from our specialized tax accountant, and our cross-border consultant, that we are not alone in contemplating or taking this very dramatic and previously inconceivable step of relinquishing our U.S. citizenship. What a sad state of affairs for America and for its citizens everywhere. Full story...

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7 important details nobody mentions about Ferguson...

(...)

After many days of putting off the report's release, the Ferguson police have since admitted to never even filing one. Incident reports are incredibly important (and required), and they should ideally be written within 24 hours of the incident (for hopefully obvious reasons). But they didn't even write one. Isn't that fucking coo-coo bananas, y'all? I guess they either just never got around to it or never got around to wanting to tell the truth about it. Either way, there's that.

Or there that is not, I guess.

So Darren Wilson, allegedly savagely attacked in the line of duty, didn't file an incident report about it, nor did anyone in the department. Don't worry, because that very day the case was handed over to the big guns: the St. Louis Police Department. After a request from the ACLU, the STLPD refused to release a copy of their department's incident report, and spoiler alert, it's because they didn't write one either.

After the first refusal, the ACLU sued the STLPD for the report's release under the state's Sunshine Law. This eventually made the department admit that they never filed a report either, as I spoiled for you earlier. After the ACLU won the case, the St. Louis PD wrote up this baby 10 days after the shooting and released it 12 nights after the shooting. Full story...

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Stoic Punjabi Sikh Wedding...

Sri Lanka must change, urge unions and intellectuals...

Many health professionals have gone on strike in Sri Lanka, though this has been suspended for a fortnight by court order. Other workers too are threatening industrial action if their pay is not raised to match the cost of living.

Over a hundred artistes and intellectuals earlier called for major change to tackle the island’s economic and political problems and crack down on corruption and abuse of power.

Judge Sujatha Alahapperuma (sister of a government minister) issued an order suspending the strike. Supplementary medical staff such as pharmacists and physiotherapists are demanding better salaries and conditions of work.

Other public and private sector trade unions may also strike if their grievances are not addressed.

“Hidden beneath the superficial development being carried out by the government through its various infrastructure projects, which are funded by costly foreign loans, is the reality of the erosion of the economic well being of the people,” stated a Public Appeal By Artistes, Intellectuals and Social Activists. Full story...

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Kerala holidaymakers left high and dry as India's wettest state bans alcohol...

When Britons David and Uma Cresswell booked a Christmas holiday in the Indian state of Kerala two years ago, they imagined clean beaches, Ayurvedic massages and the prospect of sipping ice cold martinis and beers while watching traditional bamboo houseboats floating past.

But the resort the couple from Wanstead, east London, visited did not have a licence, so alcohol was officially off the menu.

"The hotel management would sneak warm alcohol into our room with strict orders to only drink it there, which we really did not like doing," said Uma Cresswell. "It really ruined our holiday as you couldn't just walk up to the bar and order drinks."

The Cresswells' experience is set to become the norm in Kerala India's wettest state – where residents drink 8.3 litres of alcohol per person each year, more than twice the national average – is about to go dry.

State leaders are forcing the immediate closure of more than 400 bars, with another 312 losing their licences by March. Retail liquor stores will be phased out gradually. Full story...

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India's big fat online wedding...

India’s thriving US$83-million online matrimony bazaar welcomed a new member to its club recently – a portal christened www.Iitiimshaadi.com. The service will cater exclusively to the alumnus of the world’s 100 top educational institutions including blue chip universities like Harvard and Yale who are searching for the perfect marriage partner.

Iitiimshaadi is just one of a growing number of online matrimonial websites that have upended traditional players like astrologers and pundits who had for centuries dominated the market by fixing matches between Indian families based on caste, religion, social/ economic status and horoscopes, changing the face of Indian romance. The presence of these agents is still vibrant in rural/semi-urban areas though where internet penetration has been slow.

The portal is only one of the 100-odd that dot India’s booming online matrimony market. www.Iitiimshaadi.com’s owner Ajay Gupta, 51, claims to have more than 1,800 registrations already. He says he has also successfully connected 120 people after his team filtered the "right candidates" from a pool of resumes to help subscribers find a suitable spouse.

India, often seen as the land of arranged marriages, is experiencing robust growth in the online matrimony business. The industry started to gain traction around the turn of the century when private internet service providers (ISPs) were allowed to determine tariffs for services in accordance with guidelines laid down by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. This allowed websites to charge for their services and expand their repertoires. Full story...

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Top of British society is a racket for the privileged...

Much of the upper crust of British society is a racket for the privileged in defiance of the democratic wishes of the majority. That really is the core of Elitist Britain, that while 95% of Britons believe "in a fair society every person should have an equal opportunity to get ahead", the figures in a government report published on Thursday reveal an ingrained unfairness.

Only 7% in Britain are privately educated, and yet this section of society makes up 71% of senior judges, 62% of the senior armed forces and 55% of permanent secretaries. It is quite something when the "cabinet of millionaires" is one of the less unrepresentative pillars of power, with 36% hailing from private schools.

The statistics should provoke Britain's media into a prolonged period of self-reflection. They probably won't since 54% of the top 100 media professionals went to private schools, and just 16% attended a comprehensive school – in a country where 88% attend non-selective state schools. Forty-three percent of newspaper columnists had parents rich enough to send them to fee-paying schools.

In the case of the media this has much to do with the decline of the local newspapers that offered a way in for the aspiring journalist with a non-gilded background; the growing importance of costly post-graduate qualifications that are beyond the bank accounts of most; and the explosion of unpaid internships, which discriminate on the basis of whether you are prosperous enough to work for free, rather than whether you are talented. Full story...

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Friday, August 29, 2014

The Kuwaiti satirist arrested for his tweet...

A charismatic human rights activist in Kuwait has been detained by police because his tweet was deemed to be "in contempt of religion".

Abo Asam is a big star on Twitter in the country. His scathing brand of satire has attracted more than 115,000 followers on the network, but often landed him in trouble with the authorities too.

About two weeks ago, he posted a lengthy tweet in Arabic. The wording is complicated and doesn't translate easily. In simple terms, it accuses a particular Islamic sect of blindly following their leader, by playing around with the words from a religious text - the Hadith.

The authorities considered the tweet offensive enough to warrant his arrest, and now Abo Asam has now been detained for ten days, pending an investigation. Full story...

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How to eat sushi: You've been doing it wrong...

Malaysia Airlines slashes 6,000 jobs in major restructuring...

Malaysia Airlines has cut 6,000 jobs as part of a wide-ranging overhaul that follows the loss of two aircraft earlier this year.

State investor Khazanah, which owns nearly 70% of the carrier, revealed the 30% workforce reduction on Friday. Khazanah also announced the creation of a new corporation that will absorb the majority of the carrier's assets.

Khazanah plans to buy out minority shareholders and de-list the current Malaysia Airlines. Assets will then be shifted to the new company, which the fund said could be ready to go public in three to five years.

Azman Mokhtar, the managing director of Khazanah, said that the changes were necessary to help the airline compete in the rough-and-tumble airline industry.

 "The combination of measures announced today will enable our national airline to be revived," Mokhtar said. "While funds have been made available, they come with strict conditions, so as to ensure that Malaysia Airlines truly resets its business model and cost structures." Full story...

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Rotherham child sex abuse could be tip of an iceberg, say campaigners...

Rotherham has been labelled a town of shame in the wake of revelations that 1,400 children were sexually exploited over a 16-year-period, but experts and campaigners argue the same abuse is continuing to happen across the country, and is hidden in other boroughs that refuse to acknowledge the problem.

"When you look at the Rotherham report – nature of the abuse, the failures – you could write the same report about any number of different places," said Dr Helen Beckett, of the International Centre, which researches child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking at the University of Bedfordshire. "What we see time and time again is that young people are not treated as victims, there is a real failure to see the vulnerability of these young people and instead write them off as out of control, problematic teenagers."

There is mounting evidence that the shocking revelations in the Rotherham report could provide a glimpse of the scale of childhood sexual abuse across the country, and not just in one town.

In an extensive report into the nature of child sexual exploitation, the Office of the Children's Commissioner identified 2,409 victims over a 14-month period and estimated that 16,500 children were at risk of a specific type of abuse that can see gangs of abusers grooming children as young as 11 in order to rape, sexually abuse and, in some cases, traffic them among other men and between cities. Full story...

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Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation...

’Twas not a famous victory – but that’s what the Palestinians of Gaza are celebrating. There was much shaking of heads in the international media when the fireworks burst over that shattered land on Tuesday night. After more than 2,100 dead – about 1,700 of them civilians – and 100,000 wounded, what did they have to crow about? An end to the killing? Peace?

Well, no. In fact, Hamas – the vicious, horrible, terrorist Hamas with whom “we” (as in “the West”, Tony Blair, Israel, the US and all honourable men and women) cannot talk – has indeed won a victory.

Israel said it must be disarmed. It has not been disarmed. Israel said it must be smashed/destroyed/rooted out. It hasn’t been smashed/destroyed/rooted out. The tunnels must all be destroyed, Israel proclaimed. But they haven’t been. All the rockets must be seized. But they haven’t been. So 65 Israeli soldiers died – for what? And from under the ground, quite literally, clambered on Tuesday the political leadership of Hamas (and Islamic Jihad) whose brothers were participating – much against the wishes of Israel, the US and Egypt – in the Cairo “peace” talks.

In Israel, significantly, there were no celebrations. The ever-so-right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu had once more over-egged its victory demands and ended up with another ceasefire as strong and as weak as the equally febrile truce that followed the 2009 Gaza war and the 2012 Gaza war. Physically, the Israelis had won; all those broken lives and all those smashed buildings and all that destroyed infrastructure do not suggest that the Palestinians have “prevailed” (to use a “Bushite” word). But strategically, the Palestinians have won. They are still in Gaza, Hamas is still in Gaza, and the coalition government of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas appears still to be a reality. Full story...

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Ferguson aftermath: California city tells cops to get rid of armored vehicle...

The city council of Davis, California has decided to drop the local police department’s Pentagon-supplied armored vehicle following worries from the community that it could be used against demonstrations, as was the case in Ferguson, Missouri this month.

The Davis City Council adopted a resolution this week that orders the city to come up with a plan to drop the MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected), originally developed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and acquired by the city through a government surplus program. The armored vehicles have been distributed to local law enforcement agencies, especially after the wars wound down and the Pentagon’s budget was reduced.

A large crowd largely opposed to the city’s MRAP gathered at the city council meeting for the resolution vote. A petition had circulated around town calling for Davis officials to get rid of or repurpose the MRAP.

“I would like to say I do not suggest you take this vehicle and send it out of Davis, I demand it. I demand it!” announced a man attending the meeting wearing a “Tank The Tank” t-shirt, according to the local CBS affiliate.

 Many in Davis are concerned that the military vehicle could be used against political demonstrations or protests, as was the case in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month when local law enforcement responded to civil unrest over the police killing of an unarmed teenager with what many saw as a heavy-handed, militarized posture. Full story...

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Fueled by superstition, people are violently attacking albinos in Tanzania...

In the past month, a spate of violent attacks in Tanzania targeting people with albinism for their body parts has highlighted a morbid practice linked to witchcraft.

People with albinism, also known as albinos, are born with a deficiency of melanin pigmentation. Those with a complete lack of pigmentation have extremely pale skin and hair, and their eyes are typically a light shade of blue. The condition generally results from recessive genes carried by parents. Albinism in Africa brings with it an increased chance of developing fatal skin cancer, and the lack of pigment to protect eyes against the bright sun can cause sight problems.

Africans with the condition can suffer alienating social stigma in communities where their neighbors and relatives believe them to be ghosts, cursed, or intellectually incapacitated. In some regions, they face a near-constant threat of violence.

UN officials and rights groups reported at least five assaults on albinos that occurred in Tanzania in less than two weeks in August.

On August 5, three men armed with machetes hacked a 15-year-old girl's right arm off below the elbow in the western region of Tabora. Her family was threatened with death and could not scream for help. Later that day, the assailants targeted her uncle, who also has albinism, though he was able to escape. Full story...

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Happy in Udupi...

Cambodian rat meat: A growing export market...

Popularly considered a disease-carrying nuisance in many societies, the rice field rats, Rattus argentiventer, of this small South-East Asian nation are considered a healthy delicacy due to their free-range lifestyle and largely organic diet.

Rat-catching season reaches its height after the rice harvest in June and July when rats have little to eat in this part of rural Kompong Cham province, some 60km from the capital Phnom Penh.

That lack of food coincides with seasonal rains that force the rodents onto higher ground, and into the 120 rat traps local farmer Chhoeun Chhim, 37, said he set each evening.

"Wild rats are very different. They eat different food," said Mr Chhim, explaining with a gourmand's intensity the difference between rice-field rats and their urban cousins, which he considers vermin unfit for the cooking pot.

Common rats "are dirty and they have a lot of scabies on their skin," Mr Chhim said. "That's why we don't catch them." Full story...

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Rome man begs for jail to escape wife during house arrest!!!

Most prisoners long for the day when they will be reunited with their families - but a man in Rome has adopted the opposite attitude.

A 37-year-old, currently under house arrest, has asked a judge that he be placed in jail instead because his "constant fighting" with his wife was too much to bear.

The unnamed father-of-three was just three months into his eight-month sentence for a series of minor crimes, but spending his days at home with his wife had proved to be anything but domestic bliss.

The couple’s neighbours had become well aware of their arguments, which police had been brought in to resolve.

 “Put me inside, otherwise it will end badly,” he was told police at the Tor Bella Monaca police station in the east of Rome, according to Il Messaggero. Full story...

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Malaysia Airlines: 'spike in cabin crew resignations' after MH17 and MH370 tragedies...

Almost 200 cabin crew resigned from Malaysia Airlines in the year to July, many as a result of the MH17 and MH370 tragedies, Malaysia Airlines has confirmed, as rumours swirl about the airline's future.

"Following the MH17 incident, there was a spike in crew resignations but the number has now decreased to acceptable and routinely expected levels,” Malaysia Airlines said in a statement to the Telegraph.

"Many cited 'family pressure' as the reason for their resignation due to the MH17 and MH370 tragedies," the statement said.

A spokesman for the airline would not comment on rumoured crew shortages, but said the organisation’s resignation rate was "way below the industry norm”, and pointed to the company’s support for staff through counselling and special prayer sessions, as well as a talk held last week titled 'Exclusive Discourse - MH370 and MH17 from the perspective of Islam’.

 “Some are afraid to fly. There is nothing we can do about this. They have developed some kind of fear and we hope that over time, they will be back to normal.” Malaysia Airline System Employees Union secretary-general Abdul Malek told local media. Full story...

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India's Narendra Modi to launch bank accounts for every household...

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to launch a plan to provide a bank account for every household, in a landmark initiative to help the poor.

Nearly 40% of Indians have little access to financial services and are often at the mercy of moneylenders who charge extortionate interest.

Mr Modi has told state and private banks to support the plan.

Correspondents say taking banking to the poor, who may have no identity papers, will be a challenge.

"There are millions of families who have mobile phones but no bank accounts. We have to change this scenario," Mr Modi said in his first Independence Day speech on 15 August.

Reports say Mr Modi's government aims to provide bank accounts to 75 million households by 2018, and to have two account-holders per household. Full story...

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Egyptian female activist defecates on ISIS flag... (Graphic)




Controversial Egyptian Femen activist Aliaa Magda al-Mahdy has posted a photo of her and a fellow activist defecating and menstruating on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) banner, the Blaze news website reported.

In the photo, al-Mahdy is shown facing the camera while the other unidentified activist, wearing what appears to be a hijab, has their back to the camera. Al-Mahdy has “IS,” an acronym for ISIS, drawn on her chest and the other protester has the Femen logo on her back.

The Norway-based activist has reportedly received death threats following the controversial post.

This is not the first time al-Mahdy has used provocative means to voice her message. In 2012 the 23-year-old took part in a protest by the International women’s movement Femen in Stockholm “to say NO to Sharia constitution in Egypt!”

Speaking to Al Arabiya News in 2012, Inna Scevchenko, a leader Femen France said Alia was kidnapped in Egypt in 2011 after she posted nude pictures on the internet. Full story...

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Brazil’s valley of beauties appeals for single men!!!

It sounds like a tale from Greek mythology: a small rural town hidden in the rolling hills, populated by beautiful women who are looking for love.

But this is the reality for the ladies of Noiva do Cordeiro, deep in the countryside of south-east Brazil.

In the picturesque 600-strong community, where men are scarce, or work far away in the city, the women are left to shoulder the town’s burdens alone. The situation has led some of the women, who are known throughout Brazil for their beauty, to put out an appeal for single men. “Here, the only men we single girls meet are either married or related to us; everyone is a cousin,” said Nelma Fernandes, 23.

“I haven’t kissed a man for a long time. We all dream of falling in love and getting married. But we like living here and don’t want to have to leave the town to find a husband. We’d like to get to know men who would leave their own lives and come to be a part of ours. But first they need to agree to do what we say and live according to our rules.”

 Noiva do Cordeiro, which translates as Bride of the Lamb, has a reputation for its strong female community after its founder, Maria Senhorinha de Lima, settled in the town when she was branded an adulteress and exiled from her own church and home in 1891. Full story...

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Coca-Cola forced out of $25 million factory in India...

The Coca-Cola company has been forced to abandon a $25 million newly built bottling plant in Mehdiganj, Varanasi, India as the result of a sustained campaign against the company's plans.

The $25 million plant - which was a significant expansion to its existing plant in Mehdiganj - had already been fully built and the company had also conducted trial runs, but could not operate commercially as it did not have the required permits to operate.

Coca-Cola required permissions, or 'No Objection Certificate' (NOC), from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) - the national groundwater regulatory agency, and the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) - the statewide pollution regulatory agency.

The Central Ground Water Authority rejected Coca-Cola's application to operate for its new facility on July 21, 2014, and had sought time till 25th August 2014, to announce its decision before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), India's 'green' court.

Somehow having learnt that its application had been rejected, in order to save itself major embarrassment, Coca-Cola sent a letter to the CGWA on Friday, August 22, 2014 - two days before the rejection was to be made public on Monday, August 25, 2014 - stating that it was "withdrawing" its application. Full story...

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5 reasons to suspect Jesus never existed...

Most antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.” In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.

At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

For over 200 years, a wide ranging array of theologians and historians—most of them Christian—analyzed ancient texts, both those that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t, in attempts to excavate the man behind the myth. Several current or recent bestsellers take this approach, distilling the scholarship for a popular audience. Familiar titles include Zealotby Reza Aslan and How Jesus Became Godby Bart Ehrman.

But other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.” In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received. Full story...

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Malaysian women offer their bodies to ISIS militants in 'sexual jihad'

Three Malaysian women have allegedly travelled to the Middle East as "comfort women" for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters, according to senior intelligence officials.

Jihad Al-Nikah, or sexual jihad, refers to women joining the jihad by offering sex to fighters to boost their morale.

"These women are believed to have offered themselves in sexual comfort roles to ISIS fighters who are attempting to establish Islamic rule in the Middle East.

"This concept may seem controversial but it has arisen as certain Muslim women here are showing sympathy for the ISIS struggle," an intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Malaysian Insider news site.

One of the women, who is in her 30s, had travelled to Turkey in December last year to meet up with middlemen who helped her to complete her journey to Syria via land routes, said the official. Full story...

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Rotherham sex abuse scandal: 1,400 children exploited by Asian gangs while authorities turned a blind eye...

More than 1,400 children were sexually abused during a period of over 16 years by gangs of paedophiles after police and council bosses turned a blind eye for fear of being labelled racist, a damning report has concluded.

Senior officials were responsible for “blatant” failures that saw victims, some as young as 11, being treated with contempt and categorised as being “out of control” or simply ignored when they asked for help.

In some cases, parents who tried to rescue their children from abusers were themselves arrested. Police officers even dismissed the rape of children by saying that sex had been consensual.

Downing Street on Tuesday night described the failure to halt the abuse in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, as “appalling”.

 Following the publication of the report, the leader of Rotherham council, Roger Stone, resigned, but no other council employees will face disciplinary proceedings after it was claimed that there was not enough evidence to take action. Full story...

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Denmark's animal fuckers...

How the web lost its way – and its founding principles...

(...)

The case is used by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the world wide web nearly 24 years ago, as an example of the sharing, perhaps caring and certainly egalitarian principles realised by means of his invention. At a recent Ted talk, Berners-Lee also cited as evidence of the help the web can be to humanity the case of GeoEye, a company that shortly after Haiti's 2010 earthquake released satellite imagery of the devastated areas, with a licence that allowed people to use it. Quickly, relief workers zoomed into it – and added to OpenStreetMap details about the devastated area – to build up a picture of which roads were blocked, which buildings damaged, where refugee camps were growing and when medical ships were reaching port. "The site rapidly became the map to use on the ground if you were doing relief work," said Berners-Lee.

This sort of thing was what he hoped would be made possible after the birth of the world wide web at Cern in Geneva in December 1990. "It consisted of one web site and one browser, which happened to be on the same computer," he recalls. The simple setup demonstrated a profound concept: that any person could share information with anyone else, anywhere. In this spirit, the web spread quickly from the grassroots up.

"The web evolved into a powerful, ubiquitous tool because it was built on egalitarian principles and because thousands of individuals, universities and companies have worked, both independently and together as part of the World Wide Web Consortium [established by Berners-Lee so that stakeholders could work together in open groups to build a better web than any company could build by itself], to expand its capabilities based on those principles."

But, in spreading from the grassroots up, his invention has arguably lost many of the egalitarian principles Berners-Lee hoped for. It has become less straightforwardly a force for good. Earlier this month, Charles Leadbeater, former policy adviser to the Labour government and a champion of the web's potential to give power to hitherto deprived groups, published a report called A Better Web for the Nominet Trust pointing to the pervasive misogyny of the web as an example of how the democratising potential of the internet has not been fulfilled. Full story...

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The Times of India just instituted a bizarre Twitter and Facebook policy...

Hundreds of journalists working at the Times of India and its sister publications have received a peculiar request from their employer: hand over your Twitter and Facebook passwords and let us post for you.

Even after you leave the company.

Under a contract unveiled to employees last week, Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd—India’s largest media conglomerate and publisher of the Times of India, Economic Times, among many other properties—told staffers they are not to post any news links on their personal Twitter and Facebook accounts. This runs counter to many social-media policies in newsrooms across the world, which often encourage journalists to share content widely.

But BCCL, as the company is known, is telling journalists that they must start a company-authorised account on various social media platforms. They also have the option of converting existing personal social media accounts to company accounts. On these, they are free to discuss news and related material. The company will possess log-in credentials to such accounts and will be free to post any material to the account without journalists’ knowledge. It is now also mandatory to disclose all personal social-media accounts held by the journalist to the company. Full story...

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Malaysia Airlines is burning $2 million every day as flights go empty...

Malaysia Airlines is facing dire economic straits after being involved in the two worst air tragedies of the year. Based on some recent photos taken by its few remaining passengers, some flights are operating nearly empty.

In March, Flight 370, scheduled to travel from from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared with 12 crew and 227 passengers on board — which remains a mystery.

Then, last month, tragedy struck again when Flight 17 was shot down while in Ukrainian airspace. All 283 passengers and 15 crew aboard were killed.

Blame for the second tragedy cannot be placed squarely on Malaysia Airlines, as many major carriers routinely fly over conflict zones. But the loss of lives was inextricably linked to the airline by people around the world.

The carrier, which was operating in the red for about five years before either of this year's tragedies, has continued operating despite the major damage to its reputation. Full story...

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Virginia man mourns his dog shot and killed by deputies. The deputies were at the wrong house serving a warrant...

What started as Wise County Sheriff's Office deputies serving a warrant ended in gunfire Saturday, and now a homeowner's dog is dead.

Paul Carico treated his pit bull De'Ja like a daughter. "My dog was like a family member. I mean, we loved her. I love her," he says.

Now, he's heartbroken after he says De'Ja was unfairly shot and killed by a Wise County Sheriff's Office deputy.

Carico says he was home Saturday when he heard De'Ja barking. When he opened the front door to check it out, several deputies stood outside looking to serve a warrant. "I saw these cops and I told them I didn't know the person they were looking for," he says.

Carico claims an officer charged toward the front door, which is when De'Ja got territorial. "He came with a threatening approach up my steps, and the dog was not going to stand for that, she got by me," he says. Full story...

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Babies discovering mirrors...

Now do it for Israeli kid! Calls on Lionel Messi to balance his support of Palestine children...

Netizens are trying to get soccer ace Lionel Messi to honor a four year-old boy, who was killed by a missile fired by Hamas. The child idolized the Barcelona star. Earlier Messi had spoken out about the plight of Palestinian children.

Daniel Tregerman became the first Israeli child to die in the conflict on Friday in Nahal Oz. The four year-old was a big fan of the Barcelona forward and there was a picture in the Israeli papers of him wearing Messi’s No. 10 Argentina football shirt.

Messi had previously expressed his sympathy for the plight of Palestinian children, writing on his Facebook page on August 7.

"Children did not create this conflict, but they are paying the ultimate price. This cycle of senseless violence must stop. We must reflect on the consequences of military conflicts and children must be protected," he wrote. Full story...

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Toxic vaccines and autism: A CDC coverup...

For over 20 years, I have seen enough parents who reported that their child was developing normally until they received a vaccine. Within hours to days of the vaccine (particularly the MMR vaccine), these parents claim that their children changed in their behavior and attitude. The story was always similar; one day the child was normal, the next day he/she was crying and irritable and began regressing on all fronts—neurologically, behaviorally, and emotionally. From this point on, the lives of the parents and affected children were changed forever. Nearly all of these children were eventually diagnosed as autistic.

Unfortunately, vaccines contain toxic additives such as mercury, aluminum, and/or formaldehyde. I have written about these toxic additives many times before. Injecting a dangerous substance like ethyl mercury into any living being makes absolutely no sense to me. How could it make sense? Mercury is an extremely toxic substance that needs to be avoided, not injected into any living being, much less a small child whose blood-brain barrier is not properly formed.

The CDC keeps putting out articles saying mercury-containing vaccines are safe. I think it is ludicrous—how can they be safe? It doesn’t make common sense nor does it make biochemical or physiological sense that injecting mercury into a human being is safe. Someday, the history of medicine will look on this practice of medicine as the dark ages of medicine. (Note: The MMR vaccine does not contain mercury).

Now, there may be proof that the CDC not only knew about the link between the MMR vaccine and autism but they changed the data in a landmark 2004 study to hide the damning data. What did the heads of the CDC do? They altered the data and reported in 2004 (1) no association between autism and the MMR vaccine. Who wrote this article? William Thompson, PhD, the new whistleblower, was one of the authors of that 2004 study. He is reported to be suffering with regret and remorse over the damage that has been done to our children over the last ten years. Full story...

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'France is in crisis, all politicians are powerless'

President François Hollande and his Socialist Party were embroiled in yet another political crisis on Monday.

On Monday, Hollande asked his prime minister, Manuel Valls, to form a new cabinet after two ministers publicly criticized the government's economic policy.

Hollande’s popularity is already at an all-time low, but with the appointment of Valls as Prime Minister of France, in April, he had hoped to win back some of his electors, and to re-assert his authority.

But things have clearly not gone as he had hoped. On Sunday, the soon-to-be-sacked Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg and Education Minister Benoît Hamon questioned Hollande and Valls economic policy of trying to trim state deficits by imposing €50 billion worth of cuts.

The rebel ministers demanded a change of tack towards growth and more tax cuts for residents. Full story...

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New ice bucket challenge? Gazans launch 'Rubble Bucket Challenge'...

An appeal to garner support for Gaza which imitates the wildly popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge but uses rubble and dirt instead of cold water is picking up steam on social media. "I have to do something and to send a message all over the world about Gaza," said Ayman al Aloul, a journalist who started the so-called Rubble Bucket Challenge on Saturday. When the 42-year-old discussed the idea with friends, some suggested that he use either a bucket of blood or shrapnel. "It came to my mind that it's good idea to show the whole picture - how Gaza looks now, rubble, destruction, cement with sand, small rocks," Aloul said. By Monday morning, nearly 2,000 had liked the Rubble Bucket Challenge page. Other hashtags doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter included #dustbucketchallenge and #remainsbucketchallenge.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has seen figures ranging from former President George W. Bush to Lady Gaga to Oprah Winfrey being filmed getting doused after being nominated by friends. The viral sensation has earned $62.5 million for the ALS Association, which works to fight the neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Aloul's aims are more modest. "If five famous people in the world like actors or presidents will do the challenge, that means I succeeded in sending the message about Gaza," he said. The conflict that has killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 68 Israelis since July 8 has also leveled swaths of the Palestinian enclave. Full story...

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Loyal dog starves but refuses to leave boy's grave for a fortnight...

From a distance, the dog was a blur next to a freshly dug grave, its whimpers lost in the noise of vehicles speeding past. For more than a fortnight the animal would not leave the spot where the 18-year-old boy who had adopted him had been buried after he died in a road accident. The brown mongrel went without food, braved sun and rain, but refused to move in an extraordinary display of loyalty.

Blue Cross of India volunteers spotted the dog sitting near the grave in the open burial ground near Avadi Bridge, Blue Cross of India general manager Dawn Williams said. "When we attempted to rescue the dog, it stubbornly resisted and refused to budge," Williams said. "It just scratched the grave and whined."

The volunteers then spoke to people who lived nearby. "We met a local resident who said the dog belonged to Bhaskar. He died after being hit by a speeding vehicle on August 2. Bhaskar's mother, Sundhari, 50, is a construction worker who lived in a shed near the building site," Williams said.

 When the team went to Sundhari's house she said the dog, Tommy, had been her son's pet for five years. After his death, the animal had disappeared. She accompanied the team to the grave. The emaciated dog staggered towards Sundhari and crouched near her feet. Full story...

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Monday, August 25, 2014

India lower caste still removing human waste...



Rajni was only 10 when her mother told her that she would spend her life picking up human excrement from dry latrines. They belong to the Valmiki caste, regarded as the lowest among the Dalits - formerly India's untouchables.

"She said that we are born to do this. First, we clean the waste of others and then we get to eat," Rajni recalls her mother saying.

Now 21, Rajni remembers how sick she felt for most of her childhood; the stink emanating from the excrement; and the flies that followed her when she carried the waste in a basket fetched from the households in her village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

"The worst days were when it rained. The waste would drip onto your neck and shoulders," she told Al Jazeera. "You wanted to keep throwing up."

Rajni was married as a teenager and continued to be a manual scavenger in her husband's village until 2012 when Sulabh International, a non- profit organisation, replaced the dry latrines in her village with flush toilets. Full story...

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