April 2010


Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor

Apr 1  In Malaysia, Ms. Kartika, who had pleaded guilty to having a beer, has her punishment commuted. Under Islamic law she was to have been beaten with six strokes with a rattan cane. The Muslim officials in charge of Islamic (Sharia) law have ordered her to do community service instead. In Malaysia, Islamic law applies only to Muslims. If you are a Chinese Buddhist or atheistic woman you can sip beer without concern.

Apr 1  In Kansas, Scott Roeder is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions. Speaking to the court, a highly emotional Roeder was extreme in his lack of modesty. He expressed belief that he was morally superior to the man he murdered. And, like Timothy McVeigh, he claims the moral right to a violence that supercedes the laws against such violence created by society as a whole. And he claims knowledge of what was on God's mind, namely God's approval. In court, a representative of the Tiller family characterized Roeder as a terrorist and fanatic.

Apr 2  In the Gaza Strip, Hamas leaders announce their intentions to control rogue groups who are committing violence against Israelis. Hamas leaders are supporting restraint. They speak of the need for unity and calm for the "national interest." Yesterday, Israel's air force committed 13 air strikes in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for attacks that killed two Israeli occupation soldiers.

Apr 5  Massimo Salani, an Italian professor of the history of religion, has expressed concern that Catholics are forgetting about self-denial at the table. Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes is in agreement and speaks of the seriousness with which Muslims abstain from food and water until sunset during their holy month.

Apr 6  An earthquake at the Mexican-California border has inspired a warning from emergency officials that budget cuts have strained their ability to handle a serious earthquake disaster. Lou Paulson, president of the California Professional Firefighters, is among those who are concerned. California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has proposed a 4.8 percent surcharge on property insurance to provide new financing for emergency preparedness, but it faces uncertain prospects in the state legislature, where Republicans are blocking anything resembling a tax. Californians have grown in affluence since World War II, but, like those who win the lottery and end up committing suicide, some people don't manage affluence well. Many Californians are putting the highest priority on their ability to purchase frivolous stuff. Just a little of the money spent on junk food going to taxes, for example, might solve California's budget crisis in addition to reducing their fat.

Roza Otunbayeva

Roza Otunbayeva
courtesty of Wikimedia Commons

Apr 7  More unrest In Thailand. Supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, driven from the office by a military coup in 2006, have converged on the capital, demanding elections and democracy. They view the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as illegitimate. Prime Minister Abhisit declares a state of emergency and, in an address to the nation, speaks of the need for law and order as if that is what he represents.

Apr 8  In Kyrgyzstan, anti-government demonstrators in three cities seem to have overwhelmed government forces after a day of bloody violence. They are protesting the arrest of opposition leaders, rising prices and what they perceive to be corruption. An opposition leader, Roza Otunbayeva, is now described as Kyrgyzstan's president and announces that an interim government, a people's government, has taken power and will create a new constitution.

Apr 8  Kyrgyzstan's former president, Bakiyev, is in the city of Osh, where he has his greatest support. He admits he has lost control of security forces. That suggests that his position is hopeless, but he still claims to be the president. There is anger among anti-Bakieyev people that forces were shooting to kill demonstrators, hitting them in the head rather than the legs. Shop owners expect more trouble. They fear people flooding into the capital and are defending their homes with rifles. Their shops have already been emptied. Bakiyev's political party dominates parliament. It appears that people were willing to risk their lives rather than wait for elections to replace an unpopular government because they had no confidence that elections would be honest. Bakiyev's landslide reelection in July 2009 is widely considered to have been unfair. Writes the New York Times, "Prior to those elections, journalists were arrested, prosecuted and even killed." And election observers noted ballot stuffing, intimidation and media bias.

Apr 19  In Thailand the conflict with the "Red Shirts" remains tense. The Red Shirts, according to the BBC, have support among the rural poor and they have the support of "some urban intellectuals who want to see more democracy and less military influence in the country." The Red Shirts are occupying portions of the capital, Bangkok. Against them are the "Yellow Shirts," a loose group of "royalists, businessmen and the urban middle class," and against them is the monarchy. The hero of the Red Shirts is Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown by the military in September, 1946. The Red Shirts see today's government as illegitimate and want new elections. The government does not want to give in to Red Shirt demands.

Apr 20  Leading Friday's prayers in Iran's capital, Teheran, a senior cleric, Hojjat Sediqi, said, according to the BBC, "Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society, which causes earthquakes."

Apr 22  Public Broadcasting/s News Hour reports a colonial-like arrangement in which foreign investors are buying land in Ethiopia. Local farmers lack the technology to fully exploit the land. (Ethiopian farmers are still plowing with oxen.) Food from the land will feed people abroad. Ethiopian farmers are not benefitting from their government's land policy. The head of Ethiopia's government, Meles Zenawi, has been in power since 1992. He took power with a Marxist Party that was part of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition.

Apr 23  The Washington Post has reported that the federal government's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to put limits on the amount of salt in food that is sold to the public – to better public health, of course. People would still be able to add as much salt to their food as they like. But conservatives Monica Crowley and Pat Buchanan, on the McLaughlin Group on PBS television, are alarmed and complain about a government takeover of our salk shakers.

Oh Eun-sun

Oh Eun-sun

Apr 24  A study published this past week in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that added sugars in processed foods are a problem for the public's cholesterol levels and hearts. Much of the bread sold in supermarkets tastes a little like cake rather than the way real bread tastes, but many of the nation's obese do not know what real bread tastes like and don't care.

Apr 27  South Korea's woman mountain climber, Oh Eun-sun, reaches the top of Annapurna in Nepal and claims to be the first woman to scale the world's 14 highest peaks.

Apr 27  Goldman Sachs executives face a hostile Senate subcommittee today and speak of offering investment opportunities to their clients. Some others sophisticated about Wall Street have been describing Goldman Sachs as a less than honest bookie. In the hearings the Republican senator from Nevada, John Ensign, says that, “People come to Las Vegas to gamble knowing that the odds are against them. However, Wall Street is taking this to a whole new level by manipulating the odds while Americans are in the middle of playing the game."

Apr 27 Greek government officials have lied about the extent of its debt. Standard & Poor's lowers Greece's bond rating to "junk." Stock markets tumble. The Dow today drops 2 percent (213 points) to 10,991.

Apr 28  Debt in Greece is being described as threatening financial stability in Europe and economic recovery in the United States. Debt in Spain, Portugal and Ireland add to the uncertainty. Spain's bond rating has dropped from AA+ to AA. The BBC says that Greece has been living beyond its means in recent years, and it speaks of "widespread tax evasion." Pessimists foresee a financial crash for Europe similar to the melt-down in Argentina at the turn of the century. US industrials (the Dow) was up 53 points today. The US dollar of course is up relative to the Euro.

Apr 28  According to National Geographic's website, a team of evangelical Christians claim to have found "remains of Noah's Ark beneath snow and volcanic debris on Turkey's Mount Ararat." The website quotes the archaeologist Paul Zimansky: "I don't know of any expedition that ever went looking for the ark and didn't find it."

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