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Monday, August 31, 2009

13 year old Dutch girl wants to sail around the world

The craze to create records can make people do all sorts of things. But the expectation is that parents are there to control and guide the lives of children until they are capable of making their own decision. However, this does not always seem the case.
If you consider the art of sailing, it seems all fun and pleasure, out on the blue waters, under a nice sun, enjoying. However, if you consider a much longer journey, then not everything is such smooth sailing; you have storms, harsh weather, hot burning sun, engines break, and so on. Hardly something a 13 year old girl can manage alone, and yet her parents are fine with her attempting this. It took a court to bring some sense into this issue (link to article):

A Dutch court intervened Friday to stop a 13-year-old girl from attempting to sail around the world by herself, stripping her parents of sole custody. Laura Dekker's parents support her round-the-world ambition, which sparked concern from child protection officials because of her age. They took the case to court to prevent the solo trip.
Social workers took the action to stop the teen from attempting to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe because they believe the voyage would be too dangerous. "It's really more a question, is that person, that young person, mature enough to be able to look after themselves and deal with everything that's going to come at you when you get out alone at sea?" he said.

Seems more like an attempt to make a name for a person, or else a strong wish, not founded on more logical thinking, in some quarters, this could be called a 'death wish'.

Girl found 18 years after kidnapping

This is truly weird news. In the past 2-3 years, the world has found many cases of girls getting kidnapped and help for years altogether. They are exploited sexually, in many cases bearing multiple children while being held prisoner, and worst of all, in some cases, the person who has done this to them is none other than a relative (a father in some cases).
In yet another case, a family suddenly one day lost their 11 year bright bubbly daughter in 1991 (can you even remember that year). For a parent to lose a daughter like this, and not know what happened, whether their daughter is alive or has been killed by some monster, it must have been an emotional trauma. And then one day to suddenly discover that their daughter had been kept in confinement for 18 years, been exploited sexually, and forced to have 2 children (link to article):

A woman who was snatched as an 11-year-old from a bus stop was reunited on Thursday with her family after spending 18 years as the captive of a convicted rapist who fathered her two children, police said.
"None of the children have ever been to school. They've never been to a doctor," a police representative told a press conference. "They were kept in complete isolation in this compound, if you will."

It is horrible, one cannot believe the trauma that this girl would have gone through.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Malaysian woman to be caned for alcohol drinking

When people start getting out of control in terms of alcohol drinking, they head off to rehabitilation centers to break their habits. Others try to moderate their alcohol limits. However, in many Islamic countries, alcohol is firmly banned, and citizens are not allowed to consume alcohol. Even then, using corporal punishment to deter drinking is another very different step in prevention of alcohol drinking. However, consider the weird situation where a citizen of a country is not allowed to drink while another citizen of the country can drink (difference based on the religion of the person), a woman could be caned for drinking, and the punishment is imposed by a religious court that is parallel to the civil judicial system, and the civil judicial system cannot interfere in this judgment (link to article):

A Malaysian model, who was set to become the first woman to be caned in the southeast Asian country for drinking beer in public, had her sentence postponed Monday until the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. An Islamic, or sharia, court in Pahang had fined Kartika -- a Muslim -- $1,400 (5,000 Malaysian ringgit) and sentenced her to six strokes with a rattan cane for drinking at a hotel bar two years ago.
The caning would have been carried out within seven days of that, making her the first woman to be caned in Malaysia under sharia law. The moderate Muslim country has a dual-track justice system, in which Islamic courts operate alongside civil courts. But the country's civil system also cannot overrule a sharia court sentence.

Such a punishment, caning, for drinking alcohol, seems very harsh. Further, the fact that a country's civil courts cannot over-rule a religious court seems even stranger.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rat eating plant found in Phillipines

Not many people know that there are plants that eat meat as well. Say again ? Plants that eat meat ? Yes. There have plants such as the pitcher plant and sundew that eat meat. But humans need not be worried as yet. In a recent discovery by scientists, a plant that can eat rats has been found on Mount Victoria in Palawan, central Philippines. The plant has been named in honour of Sir David Attenborough. The plant has a pitcher which attracts insects and rats, and then takes nutrition from these animals (link to article):

The new discovery measures up to 30 centimeters in diameter and is formed by a tendril which inflates into a large cup-shaped trap. McPherson told CNN: "Around the mouth of the pitcher are secretions of nectar which attracts insects and small animals. The rim has lots of waxy downward-pointing ridges which help prey fall directly into the pitcher.
"These plants grow in really harsh areas where soil quality is very poor -- often pure gravel or sand. Catching insects allows the plant to augment nutrients that it otherwise wouldn't have access to." "These plants have evolved to catch insects. But on rare occasions they do catch rats and mice. The first reports of these plants catching rats was made in the 19th century by a British explorer called Spenser St John," McPherson said.

This is very interesting for those people who see a very clear separation between vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. If a plant can itself eat meat, then that separation starts to wither away.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weird law: Denying your wife food if you don't get sex

In April, there was wide-spread international condemnation when a legislation catering to the Shia sect in Afghanistan was passed. This legislation tilted the gender balance very strongly towards men, something not uncommon in Islamic countries. However, since Afghanistan was a place where troops from many nations were fighting the Taliban, and many of these troops were losing their lives, there was more outrage. How could a country have such a law if the Government of the country was dependent on foreign aid and foreign support. At that time, the President of Afghanistan, Karzai, shook off the criticism by claiming that he had not read the legislation clearly before signing it, and he would take steps to revert. However, seems like nothing really happened after that (link to article):

Afghanistan has enacted a new legislation empowering men of Shia sect of Islam to deny their wives food and sustenance if they refuse to obey their husbands' sexual demands, a media report said on Saturday. The new final draft of the legislation also grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers, and requires women to get permission from their husbands to work, The Guardian reported.
According to the report, the new law has been backed by the hardline Shia cleric Ayatollah Mohseni, who is thought to have influence over the voting intentions of some Shias, who make up around 20 per cent of the population. Karzai has assiduously courted such minority leaders in the run up to next Thursday's election, which is likely to be close, a poll indicated.

Given that the President is now contesting for re-election as the President of Afghanistan, and Shia votes will also be important, it is doubtful whether this legislation will be so easily reversed; would be so ironic that a state supported by the West enshrines a massive gender bias.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Man sent to jail for yawning in courts

One knows that judges treat the courts as their domains, not letting anything happen in their can that could be seen as dis-respecting, or as subverting the majesty of the law. The law of contempt of court is made so that if a person acts in a way that could lower the dignity of the judge or the courtroom, then the person can be punished. For the whole judicial system to work, it is necessary that the entire judicial system is held with respect and seen to be efficient and un-biased; equally important is that judges do not misuse this facility and send people off to jail if they feel offended by something.
In this particular case, a person in the courtroom yawned loudly, to the extent that the judge felt that it was a deliberate attempt at being dis-respectful, and the person was sent off to jail for 6 months (link to article):

Drowsy spectators in one suburban Chicago courtroom might want to stifle their yawns from now on. Clifton Williams, 33, of Richton Park, is facing six months in jail for making what court documents call a yawn-like sound in Will county judge Daniel Rozak’s court last month. The yawn happened as Williams’ cousin, Jason Mayfield, was being sentenced for a drug charge.
Rozak found Williams in contempt of court and sentenced him to six months in jail. However, Rozak could free Williams after a status hearing, if Williams apologizes and the judge accepts.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Humour: Kenyan offers animals for Chelsea Clinton

Chelsea Clinton's (wikipedia) dowry: 40 goats and 20 cows.
Now if you have finished laughing, this was actually a proposal made by a Kenyan man (Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor). Giving livestock for gaining the hand of a girl in marriage is apparently proper in Kenya, and this offer was first made 9 years ago when the then President Clinton had visited Kenya. He renewed the offer when President Clinton's wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Kenya, and she was told of the offer in an open session. What makes the offer even more interesting is that the man is already married, but it would be legal for him in Kenya to get a second wife. However, it would be quite apparent that he would have to wait for quite some time for Chelsea to agree to this proposal.
Maybe the man felt emboldened since now President Obama has kin in Kenya, and this would have made Godwin seem bolder. A secretary of state cannot be rude or be forcefully direct, so Hillary took the most politically correct answer in terms of stating that this would be Chelsea's decision. :-) (link to article):

CNN's Fareed Zakaria, the session's moderator, commented that given the economic crisis at hand, Chepkurgor's dowry was "not a bad offer." However, Clinton said her daughter was her own person. "She's very independent," she said. "So I will convey this very kind offer."
In Kenya, a man proposes with dowry for the prospective bride, Chepkurgor explained. He said he stands by his initial livestock offer until someone makes a counteroffer. Chepkurgor, now 39, first made his intentions known when all three Clintons visited East Africa in 2000. He wrote a letter to the former president, offering himself as his only child's suitor. He said he had not expected the secretary of state to address the issue during her visit to Kenya this week.

Air France disaster hoax fools Bolivian TV

The Air France disaster over the Atlantic Ocean in July was a mystery, with investigators unable to find a lot of wreckage, were only able to find 51 bodies overall (most of them were lost to the sea), and unable to find the black boxes that would be able to help them figure out what actually went on. Right now, the most investigators have been able to do is to use a series of automated messages that the plane sent out over a 2 minute minute, and speculate over what went wrong. They seem to have determined that the crash happened because the speed detectors on the plane threw wrong information, and hence caused the plane to go into a spin.
However, as with any such disaster, there are a lot of people who try to make some mileage out of this tragedy, or spin some new stories. One of these is a hoax about a camera being found in the wreckage, that apparently caught a few shots as the plane went down. One Bolivian TV channel apparently got caught in this hoax and showed this on the TV (link to article):

Bolivian TV channel PAT has been left looking a bit daft after broadcasting extraordinary images of the last moments of Air France flight 447, lost over the Atlantic on 1 June.
In fact, the camera can be traced to ABC Studios and sharp-eyed readers will notice that the photographs feature well-known actress Evangeline Lilly, aka Kate Austen from TV series Lost.

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