Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hungry Hippo Chomps Cheery Chum

A South African farmer has been killed by the pet hippopotamus he raised from the age of five months, and which he once described as being like a son to him.  Humphrey the Hippo gouged his 41-year-old owner Marius Els to death by repeatedly biting him in a vicious attack. The farmer's mutilated body was discovered submerged in a river running through his 400-acre farm in rural South Africa.

Els kept 20 different species of exotic animals, including giraffe and rhino, on his farm near Klerksdorp in NW South Africa. But he developed a special fondness for Humphrey, whom he bought aged just five months and for whom he even built a special lake. 6-year-old Humphrey weighed over a ton when he killed his adopted father.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Poop Scoop

A leading Nigerian comic actor arrested on suspicion of ingesting drugs to smuggle to Europe was on Friday freed on bail after 25 closely monitored bowel movements produced nothing suspicious.

Babatunde Omidina, known by his stage name Baba Suwe, was arrested last month at Lagos's international airport where he had been due to take a flight to France. But after 24 days in detention during which his bowel movements were earnestly followed by authorities and the media, an apologetic High Court judge in Lagos ordered his release.

Judge Yetunde Idowu told the frail and emaciated looking actor: "I wish you well. Take care of yourself. You are free to go home."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Prize-Winning Chinese Fire Drill

Organisers of the Confucius Peace Prize - China's alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize - say they are determined to give the award to Vladimir Putin, despite opposition from Beijing.  The Culture Ministry announced earlier that the award would not be given this year and disbanded the prize committee.

But committee member Qiao Damo, a poet, says he has set up a new panel and insists that a ceremony will go ahead.  He said Mr Putin was chosen for his opposition to Nato's Libya bombing.  However, it seems he was made aware of the award, and he failed to turn up for the ceremony.

The Confucius Peace Prize was established last year, apparently with official backing from Beijing, shortly after the Nobel committee announced it was awarding the peace prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.  Mr Liu has been in jail since 2008, and the decision to award him the Nobel Peace Prize enraged Beijing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Betrayed With A Kiss

Benetton's latest controversial ad campaign depicting world leaders kissing had folks buzzing, but now the Italian clothing retailer has pulled one of its ads -- the one of the Pope making out with a top Egyptian imam -- right after the Vatican denounced it.

 The photo of the pope kissing Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb of Cairo's al-Azhar institute, the pre-eminent theological school of Sunni Islam, had been on Benetton's website all day but was pulled about an hour after the Vatican's protest.

Benetton had said its "Unhate" campaign was aimed at fostering tolerance and "global love." Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi called the ad an "unacceptable" manipulation of the pope's likeness that offended the religious sentiments of the faithful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Boning Up On Phillipino Politics

The Philippine government has defied a Supreme Court ruling that allowed former President Gloria Arroyo to travel abroad for medical treatment.  Former President Arroyo, who is suffering from a bone disease, was prevented from boarding a plane at Manila airport.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court ruled that a travel ban imposed by the government was unconstitutional.  Arroyo is currently facing corruption claims, and the government fears that if she leaves the country she will never return.

A government spokesman said the Arroyos would be treated with dignity but "we will be firm in our decision not to allow them to leave the country  This is all high drama. They want the public to sympathise with them," he was quoted as saying.  Arroyo's lawyer Raul Lambino accused the government of inflicting "inhumane, cruel punishment" on his client.

The majority of the Supreme Court judges were hired during Mrs Arroyo's term, and it is not the first time the court has overruled the current president.  Last year the current administration tried to set up a Truth Commission to investigate Mrs Arroyo's administration, but the court ruled that such a panel would be unconstitutional.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Runaway Bride: Bangladesh Edition

A top human rights group in Bangladesh has praised a bride who disowned her husband within minutes of their wedding because he demanded a dowry.  Sultana Kamal of the Ask rights group said that Farzana Yasmin had taken a "principled and brave stand against the gross injustice of dowry payments".  Yasmin told the BBC that dowries "were the cancer of society".

Yasmin's decision to divorce her husband within minutes of their wedding in the conservative southern district of Barguna has sent shockwaves through the country, with supporters and opponents of her action fiercely arguing their cases on Facebook.

Giving or receiving dowries is a criminal offence in Bangladesh but is still widely practised.
"Ms Yasmin has shown considerable bravery in doing what she did to highlight the evil and oppressive dowry system," said Ms. Kamal, the head of the Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) rights group.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Get Yourself Off The Web

Stumbled on this great site-- it has information on dozens of top-level sites, giving you details on what information is being gathered and stored about you and instructions on how to unlist it.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Crackdown On Immigrant Labor Hurts The Economic Recovery

Apple growers say they could have had one of their best years ever if a shortage of workers hadn't forced them to leave some fruit on trees.

Farmers say an immigration crackdown by the federal government and states such as Arizona and Alabama scared off many more workers. They have tried to replace them with domestic workers with little success and inmates at a much greater cost. Many growers have resorted to posting "pickers wanted" signs outside their orchards and asking neighbors to send prospective workers their way.

Farmers in other states also are struggling with a labor shortage. A Georgia pilot program matching probationers with farmers needing harvesters had mixed results. Some Alabama farmers tried hiring American citizens after the state's new immigration law chased away migrant workers, but they said the new employees were often ready to call it a day by mid-afternoon. Many quit after a day or two.

Some critics say growers would have enough workers if they paid more. Washington, however, has the highest minimum wage in the country at $8.67 per hour. Apple pickers are also paid based on how much they pick, on top of the guaranteed minimum wage.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Obama: No Green People

The Obama administration has formally denied that it has any knowledge of contact with extraterrestrial life.   "The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race," wrote space policy expert Phil Larson of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  "In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye."

The announcement came as a response to submissions to the "We The People" website, which had previously promised to address any petition that gains 5,000 signatures.  However, after over 17,000 people signed petitions calling for disclosure of government information on alien life, officials moved the goalposts and are now requiring a minimum of 25,000 signatures.

Monday, November 7, 2011

No Way San Jose

A 36-year-old North American man was killed Thursday in front of the Caribeños bus station in downtown San José.  The incident unfortunately serves to reinforce the Costa Rican capital's reputation as one of the most crime-ridden of the Central American region. 

A close friend of the victim  told The Tico Times that the victim's full name is Victor Manuel Grisales.  Authorities initially responded to reports of a wounded man in the street near the bus station, which services the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, in the Tournon neighborhood of San José. They found a 36-year-old-man identified as having the last name Grisal. He had suffered gunshot wounds in various parts of his body.

Friday, November 4, 2011

No Arab Springtime In North Korea

North Korea has banned 200 of its nationals in Libya from returning home amid fears that they may import the revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi. Hundreds more North Korean citizens, including construction workers and nurses throughout the Middle East, have also been told to stay put, according to South Korean media reported by the Independent.

The move is being seen as further evidence that the Kim Jong-il regime’s response to the string of Middle East revolutions has been to tighten the screws at home. The North’s government has recently strengthened control over mobile phones, computers and foreign popular culture which has for years been creeping into the country from the South, via China.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chinese Oppression Results In Tibetan Desperation

A Tibetan nun died after setting herself on fire in southwest China on Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency said, in the eleventh such incident involving Buddhist monks and nuns in the restive region.

Eight Tibetan Buddhist monks and two nuns have now set themselves alight in Tibetan-inhabited regions of Sichuan since the self-immolation of a young monk at the Kirti monastery in Aba county in March sparked major protests that led to a government clampdown.

Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they see as growing domination by the country's majority Han ethnic group.  Most of the suicide attempts have taken place around the Kirti monastery, which is also in Sichuan, and which has become a flashpoint for the mounting anger at the erosion of Tibetan culture.

In an incredible display of self delusion, Xinhua later claimed an initial police investigation had shown the case was "masterminded and instigated by the Dalai Lama clique, which had plotted a chain of self-immolations in the past months for splitting motives".

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tourism vs Mining

A battle is brewing between Mexican citizens and a Canadian mining company for control of the UNESCO-recognized Wirikuta Natural and Cultural Ecological Reserve in the northern state of San Luis Potosí.   The conflict has been unfolding over the past year, since word got out that First Majestic Silver Corp. of Canada had been granted 22 mining concessions for more than 6,000 hectares, nearly 70 per cent of it within the reserve.

Locals are calling on Mexican President Felipe Calderon to honor his promises, reminding him of the 2008 Pact of Hauxa Manaká, when Calderon donned the ceremonial Wixarika clothing in a ceremony attended by five governors and guaranteed the protection of the Wixarika culture and sacred sites.

Local residents in the desperately poor region are torn between their desire for jobs on the one hand, and fears of losing their scarce water reserves on the other. They also worry about the impact on the local tourism industry, currently one of the only sources of employment. 

In 1998, UNESCO declared Wirikuta as one of the world's 14 natural sacred sites in need of protection. Since 2004, it’s been on the tentative World Heritage Site list, and defenders are urging the agency to grant protective status before it’s too late. They are also asking that the reserve's jurisdiction shift from the state to the federal level, since they say the state is not fulfilling its obligations to protect the reserve.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

'Corrective Rape' On The Rise In South Africa

20-year-old South African Zukiswa Gaca was at a bar with friends  when a man tried to ask her out.  "I told the guy that no I'm a lesbian so I don't date guys and then he said to me, 'no I understand. I've got friends that are lesbians, that's cool, I don't have a problem with that.'"

Gaca says he was nice and she trusted him, and they left the bar to meet up with a group of friends, but things went bad quickly.  He told Zukiswa that he actually hated lesbians and threatened her, saying, "I'm going to show you that you are not a man, as you are treating yourself like a man,'"     Then he raped her as his friend watched.

CNN details Zukiswa's story and describes the scope of "corrective rape" in South Africa-- a horrible phenomenon where men rape lesbians in the belief that it will turn them straight.

It was not the first time Gaca had been raped, either. She ran away from her home village, in the rural Eastern Cape, after the first rape when she was 15 years old and too afraid to press charges.  Most known victims, like Gaca, are poor and black and so are the perpetrators, prompting many to ask how a people who fought against discrimination during apartheid can today treat some of its most vulnerable in such a violent manner.


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