April 22nd, 2011
Pakistan's Supreme Court today freed five men accused in the notorious gang-rape of a woman under orders from a village council in 2002, angering the victim and human rights groups. The ruling left just one of the initial 14 suspects in prison.
Mukhtar Mai was assaulted after the council in her village in Punjab province ordered she be raped as punishment for her 13-year-old brother's suspected affair with a woman of a higher caste. She attracted global sympathy and much international media coverage by shunning custom and speaking out about her ordeal.
Fourteen men were originally accused in the case, but a lower court acquitted eight. In 2005, an appeals court acquitted five out of the six remaining defendants, saying witness statements contradicted the prosecution case.
The Supreme Court upheld that ruling today, said defence lawyer Malik Saleem. It also upheld the life sentence handed down to the sixth man.
Mai said she would not request another review of the case.
"I am scared these 13 people will come back to my village and harm me and my family," Mai told The Associated Press. "I have lost faith in the courts, and now I am leaving my case to the court of God. I am sure God will punish those who molested me."
Rights activists condemned the decision, saying it left women even more insecure.
"This is a setback for Mukhtar Mai, the broader struggle to end violence against women and the cause of an independent rights-respecting judiciary in Pakistan," Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
Pakistan's criminal justice system has a very low conviction rate, in large part because police, prosecutors and judges are underequipped, undertrained, corrupt and beholden to the rich, powerful and politically connected in the districts where they serve.
Given this, many people turn to village councils to dispense justice based on tribal traditions. They sometimes order women beaten or killed.
Mai's decision to go public brought an international spotlight on the struggles of women in the South Asian country, and earned her many plaudits. She was named Glamour magazine's Woman of the Year, and now runs a school in her village of Meerwala.
April 22nd, 2011
The Daily Mail Online
The Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones accidentally fired his gun in his car after an interview ahead of his court appearance today over his alleged plans to burn a Mohammed effigy outside a mosque.
He was leaving the studios of Fox channel WJBK when his gun shot the floor according to the TV station.
A jury will today consider whether the controversial Florida churchman will have to post a 'peace bond' before his planned demonstration in front of the largest mosque in the U.S.
On its Facebook page, myFoxdetroit.com said: 'Pastor Terry Jones just discharged his firearm in our parking lot.
Heavy police presence: The pastor is hoping to hold the protest in Dearborn, home to the highest proportion of Muslims in America
He claims it was fired by accident. The shot went into the floorboard of his car. No one was hurt. Police on scene.'
Judge Mark Somers issued a preliminary ruling on Thursday in favour of prosecutors who have sought the bond on the grounds that the appearance by Jones would require heavy police protection to prevent violence.
Police confirmed that they believed it was an accident and Jones was reunited with his gun before being sent on his way. The TV station has a policy of not allowing guns inside the building.
The six-person jury will hear the case today in Dearborn which includes one of the largest Muslim American communities in the country.
In the past the town has denied Jones and a handful of his supporters a permit to protest outside the Islamic Center of America.
April 22nd, 2011
UK Daily Mail
Debating having that second cup of coffee? Or perhaps even a third? Now scientists say you can drink them with an easier conscience.
A U.S study found downing lots of coffee doesn't seem to increase the risk of high blood pressure, despite previous concerns.
Surprising: Dr Chen found people who chugged more than five cups of coffee a day were no more likely to have hypertension than those who drank very little
High blood pressure, or hypertension, has been linked to heart disease, stroke and a shorter life expectancy, and some scientists have suggested that coffee might fuel the problem.
But according to a report in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that pooled data from six previous studies, covering 170,000 people, this did not appear to be the case.
'The results suggest that habitual coffee consumption of more than 3 cups per day was not associated with an increased risk of hypertension compared with less than one cup per day,' said co-author Liwei Chen, from Louisiana State University.
But Dr Chen added that more data would be needed in order to draw a firm conclusion.
The studies surveyed the participants to find out how many cups of coffee they drank each day, from less than one to more than five, and then followed them for up to 33 years.
Just more than one in five eventually developed high blood pressure, with the chance of being diagnosed with the condition no different for people who said they chugged more than five cups of coffee a day and those who drank very little.
'I don't think of coffee as a risk factor for high blood pressure,' said Lawrence Krakoff, who studies high blood pressure at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
But 'if people are drinking 12 cups a day and aren't sleeping, I assume that's an important issue.'
The relationship between coffee drinking and blood pressure is complicated by the possibility that it doesn't work the same way for everyone, Dr Chen said.
'People with a different genetic background may react to coffee differently,' she said.
'For some people maybe it's safe to drink a lot of coffee, but not for other people.'
More From the Daily Mail
April 21st, 2011
Posted by Jeffrey Kluger
Want to save the Earth? Easy, just buy a couple of ice trays. To the long list of human inventions that are wrecking global climate—the internal combustion engine, the industrial era factory—add the automatic ice maker.
Climate modelers have long known that households are far bigger contributors to global warming than most laypeople realize. For all the blame tailpipe emissions take for escalating temperatures, homes and office buildings are actually the single largest contributor to greenhouse gasses. One key reason is the 100-plus million refrigerators in America's 111 million households. According to the Department of Energy, the standard fridge sucks up about 8% of the electricity used by all homes—a pretty big share given the dozens of big and small appliances and electronics that are also drawing juice.
That energy gluttony has always made refrigerators prime targets for design improvements and most of the big manufacturers have made real progress in squeezing every last bit of efficiency out of their machines—especially since they know that cash-strapped consumers are paying closer attention than ever to energy-consumption ratings before making their purchasing decisions. The problem is, those ratings are not always terribly precise. In general, refrigerators will simply get a gross energy-use score, without anyone examining just which components in the overall machine are driving the numbers up or down. Ice makers have thus long gotten a pass, but analysts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently decided to give them a closer look—and they got a surprise when they did.
According to the just-released findings, the average ice maker in the average fridge increases energy consumption by 12% to 20%—a whole lot of juice for an appliance that is in operation 24 hours a day from the moment you first plug it in till the moment you replace it a decade or more later. The reason that number was so unexpected was that the large majority of refrigerators are refrigerator-freezer combinations anyway—which means they're freezing water and making ice no matter what. So why should the simple business of automating the process be so energetically expensive?
The answer, it turns out, is the tiny motor inside the freezing system that's used to release the bits of ice from the mold and dump them into a tray. A motor that is designed to operate in so cold a setting needs an internal heater to keep it from freezing up, and heating elements require a lot of power—in this case, roughly three fourths of the total additional energy the ice maker uses.
Certainly, on the list of big things that are responsible for global warming, the icemaker ranks a good ways behind the coal-fired power plant, but averting climate catastrophe is often a game played in increments and inches, and every kilowatt hour helps. NIST is thus urging refrigerator manufacturers to look closely at the design of their icemakers, insisting that there are "substantial opportunities for efficiency improvements merely by optimizing the operations of the heaters."
That appeal to reason, NIST officials hope, will be enough. But just in case it isn't, the Department of Energy has announced that it intends to add 84 kilowatt hours to the efficiency rating of every refrigerator equipped with an icemaker. Consumers will feel that fact in the wallet—and if manufacturers don't scramble to improve their numbers, they soon will too.
April 21st, 2011
- Washington Post
- In the Loop |
- By Al Kamen
If it’s Passover, it must be Hong Kong. If it’s Easter, it must be Beijing. If it’s spring break, it must be a week-long jaunt by a large Senate delegation to China, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Ten senators, coming off a tough legislative session, plus spouses, staffers and military escorts, landed in the Middle Kingdom on Monday to begin a fine tour to Hong Kong, Chengdu, Xian and Beijing. The Senate news release calls it an “informational trip throughout China,” which Loop Fans know is a tip-off that this is going to be an excellent time.
There will be “site visits of American investments and clean energy projects,” and they are going to discuss “the global economy, security, trade, currency and foreign policy.”
Yes, indeed. There will be no time for shopping in Hong Kong and hardly any time to tour the giant panda’s native habitat in Chengdu or see the ginormous Buddha at Leshan. Not a minute for the Terra Cotta Warriors in lovely Xian, a walled city and the gateway to the Silk Road.
They’ll be so rushed gathering facts, they won’t have a chance to see the wonderful mausoleum of the Western Han emperor Liu Qi and his wife, a site out by the Xian airport that in some ways is more interesting than the famed warriors. But they’ve got to eat, so a stop at that dumpling restaurant just outside the wall is a must. You can tell what’s inside the dumplings because they’re shaped like pigs, cows, ducks, etc. And forget the Great Wall.
The trip is called a “senior” Senate delegation because, in addition to Reid, second-ranking Democrat Dick Durbin (Ill.) and other major players are on board: Democrats Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Republicans Richard Shelby (Ala.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.).
Can’t say whether the delegation, to show Washington’s concern over human rights, will be celebrating Good Friday or Easter with any of the Christians in Beijing who’ve been arrested on recent Sundays in the latest Communist crackdown on religious groups.
We can’t say because, when we tried to get more details on the itinerary, we were told no more could be disclosed because of “security concerns.” Over the years this arrant foolishness has become a major dodge to hide what lawmakers are going to be doing no matter where they travel abroad. (More details are released after the trips, but usually not complete itineraries.)
China, after all, is generally about as dangerous as McLean. The only security threat in Xian might be if one of the Terra Cotta guys came alive, yelled “Hey! It’s Jeff Merkley!” and smacked him upside the head.
At least 17 (that’s seventeen) senators are in Asia this week. (Surely others must be headed to St. Peter’s Square, no?)
In addition to the Reid delegation, there’s a five-member group led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on a week-long trip stopping in South Korea to discuss trade matters and then going on to some other to-be-disclosed destinations.
McConnell is joined by GOP Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Mike Johanns (Neb.), John Hoeven (N.D.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.). Spouses will be on the fine military jet but may not be going with the lawmakers to all locations.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), after a private trip in the region with his wife on his own dime, meets Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) in Hong Kong. Webb, on a two-week tour starting in South Korea and Vietnam, joins Levin for a trip to Guam, Okinawa and Tokyo. This has to do mainly with issues involved in moving the Marines from the base in Okinawa to a new facility in Guam under a recent relocation deal with the Japanese. Unclear whether Webb’s wife is traveling on the earlier parts of the trip.
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