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Saudi Police Arrest Two in Clampdown on Protest Against Ban on Women Drivers

Saudi police moved to head off what appeared to be shaping up as a nationwide protest against the country's ban on female drivers, arresting one of the event's organisers yesterday and shutting down a Facebook page dedicated to the planned protest.


Manal al Sharif, a 32-year-old computer security consultant, was taken from her home in Al Khobar around 5.30am local time, according to Waleed Abu al Khair, a lawyer and human rights activist in Jeddah. Her brother was also arrested, Mr Khair said.

Magic Wand

Myanmar's Forgotten Refugees Bordering on Despair

Myanmar Karen
© Corbis
As Myanmar's isolation eases, ethnic Karen who fled worry they may be forced to return

Slowly Myanmar's isolation is fading. In November the regime held a general election, admittedly heavily circumscribed but the first in two decades. It then released the opposition leader and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi. A formal transfer from military to civilian rule took place last month. No one doubts that the soldiers are still in charge. But more countries are loosening policies designed to shackle the regime. The European Union has relaxed some sanctions. America, which has appointed a special envoy to Myanmar, wants to engage. The UN's point man on Myanmar has just paid a rare four-day visit to the country. And now the ten-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) says it may give Myanmar the ASEAN chair for the first time in 2014 - assuming "steady progress and political developments" continue on their present course.


Comment: And so we see, it only requires the appearance of change for the EU and US to quietly remove sanctions. Business as usual, now that the world is no longer watching.


Arrow Down

German insurance company held orgy 'to reward salesmen'

budapest
© APGerman insurer Munich Re held an orgy at The Hungarian Art Nouveau spa in Budapest (orgie not pictured)
A German insurance company decided to reward the success of its sales staff in a rather unusual way - with a prostitute-filled orgy.

While most organisations might show their appreciation for their employees with a free night out or a generous bonus package, insurance giant Munich Re decided a night of sex was the best way to keep staff motivated.

One of its divisions, Ergo, has admitted an orgy in a Budapest spa was organised in 2007 to reward particularly successful salesmen, with guests able to take prostitutes to bed and 'do whatever they like.'

But a participant in the orgy has revealed that far from being a chaotic free-for-all, the occasion was extremely well organised, with prostitutes wearing colour-coded armbands and receiving stamps after rendering their services.

Crusader

US: Rapture didn't happen Saturday, but many in Michigan believe world will end one day

Activists believing that
© Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty ImagesActivists believing that "Judgment Day" will happen on May 21, 2011, spread their word near Manhattan City hall in New York on May 12, 2011.

Saturday came and went with no reports of the Rapture happening -- as was predicted by one Christian group.

But from the Christian militia Hutaree to a preacher with a TV show out of Rochester Hills, the belief that Christ will return in the end of times is held by many in Michigan. For some of them, it's a way to convince people to turn to God and live righteously. Overall, 79% of Christians in the U.S. believe Christ will return one day, according to a Pew survey.

In Michigan, the arrests last year of members of Hutaree - a militia in Michigan whose members called themselves Christian warriors and were allegedly plotting to overthrow the U.S. government - brought renewed attention to end-times theology. To the Hutaree, the world was in the seven-year period of tribulations that comes before Christ's return, said the head of the church they attended. They believed "the government is already influenced by the antichrist," Elton Spurgeon, pastor of Thornhill Baptist Church in Hudson, told the Free Press. And so the time to fight was now, its members believed.

Bizarro Earth

Apocalypse not as doomsday fizzles out

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© UnknownThe prophecy of the end of the world ended with life going on as usual despite warnings of Judgment Day.
The prophecy of the end of the world ended with a whimper, not a bang on Saturday as life went on as usual despite warnings of Judgment Day by a US preacher which provoked panic in some quarters and parties in others.

Televangelist Harold Camping had insisted the so-called 'Rapture' would begin with powerful earthquakes at 6pm local time in each of the world's regions, with worthy souls transported to heaven.

According to the 89-year-old and his religious broadcasting network Family Radio, the not-so-good were to suffer hell on earth until October 21, when God pulls the plug on the planet once and for all.

One of the first places to be hit, according to Camping, who first wrongly predicted the end of the world in 1994, would be New Zealand - but 6pm came and went with no earthquakes and little local media attention.

Similarly in Europe and the United States, the deadline arrived with little fanfare, and even fewer people ascending dramatically to heaven.

Smoking

Best of the Web: Papers please! Anti-Smoking FASCIST calls for 'License to Smoke'!

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Professor Simon Chapman: fascist
There's been a call to license smoking, and to have a system similar to the one proposed for gamblers, to limit the number of cigarettes people can smoke in a set time.

The Sunday Age reports this morning Professor Simon Chapman, an anti-smoking campaigner from the University of Sydney says a smoking ban could be a reality within 10 to 15 years, and he believes a licensing scheme, using a swipe card for authorised smokers, would pave the way.

Comment: The only antidote to this kind of pathological poison is to say...

Let's All Light Up!

Oh, and by the way, Smoking Helps Protect Against Lung Cancer.


Video

France, Cannes: Horrified Viewers Flee Antonio Banderas' New Flick Due to Extreme Sex, Violence Scenes

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© ReutersMay 19: Director Pedro Almodovar (C) poses with cast members Elena Anaya (L) and Antonio Banderas (R) on the red carpet for the screening of the film La Piel Que Habito, in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival.
Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's latest thriller, The Skin I Live In, had filmgoers fleeing the theater Thursday night at its gala premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, due to some aggressively violent and disturbing content.

The film, which stars Antonio Banderas and budding actress Spanish actress Elena Anaya, focuses on a mad but brilliant surgeon (Banderas) who kidnaps a man who raped his daughter.

The doctor's daughter killed herself from the grief and it drives him to take very drastic measures. This is where it gets complicated and disturbing.

Banderas then gives the rapist a sex change and transplants his deceased daughter's face onto his body.

He later has sex with the man he has brutally experimented on and turned into a woman.

Recycle

Ban Shopping Bags says EU

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© UnknownThe EU was under fire last night for seeking a ban on plastic shopping bags to fight pollution
The EU (European Union) was under fire last night for seeking a ban on plastic shopping bags to fight pollution.

Shops in Britain could be outlawed from stocking them, or alternatively there might be a new tax to dramatically reduce their use.

But angry retailers say any move would hit sales, while doing nothing to save the environment.

Richard Dodd of the British Retail Consortium said yesterday: "A Europe-wide ban on bags is unnecessary. It is likely to alienate customers from the green agenda, which is the opposite of what the European Union is trying to do. It is not appropriate for the EU to get involved."

The average British family uses 12 plastic ­carriers for the weekly food shop, while 46 per cent take home up to 10 from each visit. A ban would require people to remember to take their own bags each time they go shopping. Unplanned trips will be almost wiped out as bags will not be available for purchases.

Light Saber

US: Louisville Woman Pulls Sword at Pizza Hut

Louisville, Kentucky - Police say a woman involved in an argument at a Louisville Pizza Hut raised the stakes considerably when she tried to pull a sword.

It happened Thursday night, shortly after 9 p.m. at the Pizza Hut on 7th St. Rd., near Dixie Hwy.

According to an arrest report, police were called to the restaurant after they received reports that 29-year-old Wynika Mason was "causing trouble." When they got there, she allegedly began yelling at the officers.

An employee told the officers that, shortly before they arrived, Mason began yelling at him and told him that she had a sword on her person. The employee said that Mason, "began to raise it out of the sheath" when her brother seized it from her and put it in their vehicle outside.

Police say Mason told them that she did indeed have a sword and it was still in the vehicle. Officers recovered the sword, according to the arrest report.

Officers say customers and employees were both inside the Pizza Hut when the events occurred, and that the employees, "felt threatened by her behavior."

Mason was charged with disorderly conduct and menacing.

Attention

Syrian forces fire into crowds as thousands protest

Syrian security forces fired live rounds into crowds gathered for at least two protests in the central city of Homs, an activist in the city said, as pro-democracy demonstrations erupted across the country on Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the coastal city of Banias, which was stormed by the army this month, witnessed the largest demonstration since the uprising began in southern Syria nine weeks ago.