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Robert Fisk: The number of women sentenced to death across the Middle East has very little to do with justice

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© Getty Images
Members of the human rights charity Amnesty International protest outside the Iranian embassy in west London, on April 20, 2009. Amnesty International members demonstrated on Monday against the scheduled execution of a young Iranian woman Delara Darabi, who was sentenced to death for a crime committed when she was under 18 years old.
The execution of women holds a special revulsion for Westerners, especially - let us be honest about this - when the women are decapitated, hanged or shot in the Muslim world. Our revulsion at the act of killing a woman is thus neatly dovetailed into our foundational conviction that Islam treats women not only as second-class citizens, as chattel, property, prizes of "honour" to be slaughtered if that "dignity" is even rumoured to be besmirched, or as sacrificial victims of their menfolk's crimes. Often male sadism is involved.

What do the masterful male executioners of Saudi Arabia think of when they hack off the head of a woman in a public marketplace? What of the Iranian state executioner who heard 23-year-old Delara Darabi screaming to her mother for help down her mobile phone: "Oh mother, I can see the hangman's noose in front of me. They are going to execute me. Please save me." And who, as the girl was strung up, sneered down the same phone to the mother that nothing could save her daughter now?

Delara Darabi's "crime" was to have confessed to killing her father's cousin, apparently to save the life of her boyfriend, who was said to have committed the crime and who would most certainly have hanged for it. But her family had already obtained a two-month stay of execution. She was an accomplished artist, an angel to her fellow prisoners. When I questioned the then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about her execution, he replied - pitifully - that he was against capital punishment but that the Iranian judiciary was "independent" of the government. "I do not want to kill even an ant," he told me.

Now the Iraqi authorities, executing male prisoners by the dozen - for "terrorism", of course - have taken to torturing, raping and occasionally executing some of the thousands of women illegally detained in their jails. Human Rights Watch - may its name be praised - has just revealed how a female prisoner entered her meeting with HRW's delegate on crutches. She had, she said, endured nine days of beatings and electric shocks that had left her permanently disabled. Her split nose, scars on her back and burns on her breast were consistent, the organisation said, with the abuse she had alleged. Then came - quite literally - the "killer" line in their official report: "She was executed in September 2013, seven months after Human Rights Watch interviewed her, despite lower court rulings that dismissed charges against her..."

Beer

'Neknomination': Isaac Richardson is first Briton to die from online drinking craze

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© Unknown
Mr Richardson died after he drank a 1.5 litre mixture consisting of a whole bottle of white wine with a small bottle of vodka, a quart of whisky and a can of lager.
A former grammar school student has become the first Briton to die as a result of accepting a 'Neknomination' dare.

Isaac Richardson, 20, told his friend he would "outdo" previous competitors in the controversial drinking game, before downing a lethal cocktail of wine, whisky, vodka, and lager, at O'Connor's backpacker hostel in Woolwich, south-east London.

After going to the bathroom to vomit, he was unconscious within two minutes, and was taken to hospital where he died in on Saturday morning, the Daily Mail reported.

"They did their best but he was dead," 35-year-old Tobi Obiwale, an employee at the hostel, told the Daily Mail.

The hotel receptionist is one of thousands of Britons to reportedly take part in the game of dares that originated in Australia, and has since spread across the world via the internet.

Comment: For more detail on 'Neknomination' deaths and bizarre behavior see here.


USA

221 percent increase in one year? Why are so many people renouncing American citizenship?

American Flag
© The Economic Collapse Blog

The number of Americans that renounced their citizenship was 221 percent higher in 2013 than it was in 2012. That is a staggering figure, and it is symptomatic of a larger trend. In recent years, a lot of really good people with very deep roots in this country have made the difficult decision to say goodbye to the United States permanently. A few actually go to the trouble to renounce their citizenship, and that is mostly done for tax purposes. But most willingly choose to leave America for other reasons.

Some were very serious when they said they would leave the U.S. if Barack Obama got a second term, some (such as Jesse Ventura) are dismayed at how our freedoms and liberties are eroding and are alarmed at the rise of the Big Brother police state, some are absolutely disgusted by the social and moral decay that is eating away at the foundations of our society, and there are yet others that consider "the grass to be greener" on the other side of the planet.

Personally, I have a number of friends that have made the very hard decision to relocate their families thousands of miles away because they see what is coming to America and they believe that there isn't any hope of turning things around at this point. I also have a lot of friends that are determined to stay in the United States no matter what. When it comes to the future of America, almost everyone has a very strong opinion, and these are discussions that we need to start having.

Once upon a time, the United States was seen as "the land of opportunity" all over the globe and it seemed like everyone wanted to come here.

But now that is all changing. As we have abandoned the principles that this country was founded upon, our economy has gone steadily downhill.

Red Flag

One in four 26-year-olds still live with parents thanks to tanked economy

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A ten-year survey of millennials reveals that almost one in four (22.6%) 26-year-olds are still living with their parents.

The U.S. Department of Education report confirmed that, if you are tired of living with Mom and Dad, then do your homework and stay in school. According to the survey titled "Where Are They Now," education makes a difference: generally those with more schooling were less likely to be living at home. The study shed some light on how older millennials have been faring during the Great Recession.

According to a Pew Research analysis of the 2012 data, lower levels of employment, an increase in college enrollment, and a decrease in young people getting married are major factors in the increase of millennials living at home.

The survey followed 13,000 high school students who were sophomores in 2002, and checked in with them in 2012 to see where are they now.

Some of the results are:
  • 10% living with roommate(s), prompting fellow millennial Katy Waldman to write an embarrassing Slate article bearing the headline, "More 27-Year-Olds Live With Parents Than Roommates"
  • 53.8 percent made less than $25,000 from employment in 2011
  • 40% had been unemployed for one or more months since January 2009
  • 13% reported they were neither working for pay nor taking postsecondary courses
  • 60.2 % of those who had enrolled in college, reported they had taken out student loans

Health

British teacher found dead in Qatar 'was sexually assaulted, stabbed and burned then dumped in desert'

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Tragic: Lauren Patterson's body was left smouldering in a remote desert
A British school teacher found dead in Qatar had been sexually assaulted and stabbed before her burnt remains were left smouldering in a remote desert, a court heard.

Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for one of the men accused of murdering 24-year-old Lauren Patterson branding it "heinous and shocking" to the country's "conservative society."

Lauren's mother, Alison Patterson from West Malling, Kent, and other family members, were in court in Doha to hear how her attacker took Lauren to a home he used for sexual trysts with women, "conquered her body", and killed her by stabbing her twice.

Then with his accomplice, he put Lauren's body in the boot of his car and drove out of the city of Doha to Al-Kharrara, where they burned her remains.

The court was told a knife was found inside Lauren's rib cage.

Hearts

Facebook answers grieving dad's emotional plea

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It was a desperate plea from a tearful dad, tossed like a message in a bottle into the vast sea of the Internet.

"You ever do something crazy because you just don't know what to do anymore? Well, that's what I'm doing right now," said John Berlin, staring into the camera with moist, red-rimmed eyes.

"I'm calling out to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook," he continued. "You've been putting out these new movies, these one-minute movies that everyone's been sharing. Well, my son passed away ... and we can't access his Facebook account. I've tried e-mailing, and different things, but it ain't working. All we want to do is see his movie.

"I know it's a shot in the dark, but I don't care," he said, his voice breaking. "I want to see my son's video. His name's Jesse Berlin. So please help me."

The Arnold, Missouri, man shot the emotionally raw, 84-second clip on his phone and posted it Wednesday morning to YouTube and Facebook. By late afternoon it had hundreds of thousands of views and he was deluged with Facebook messages.

Then, that night, Facebook called.

Question

Google's mysterious hi-tech barge must be moved from San Francisco Treasure Island pier, orders City

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© Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle
A sailboat moves on San Francisco Bay near a Google barge off of Pier 1 on Treasure Island on Monday, February 3, 2014 in San Francisco, Calif.
State regulators said Monday that Treasure Island development officials must find a new place for Google's mysterious high-tech barge or face penalties for not having the necessary permits.

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission sent a letter Friday informing the Treasure Island Development Authority that the barge is not authorized to be moored on the island.

"No permit has been issued to anybody for any activities at Pier 1 or on the adjacent shoreline," said Larry Goldzband, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. "We have started an enforcement action with regard to activities at the pier and shoreline."

The directive comes after numerous complaints about the construction since the spring when it came to light that Google was building a floating structure at the island.

The barge, made of 80 stacked shipping containers, will have to be moved to another permitted facility in San Francisco Bay while the authority seeks a Conservation and Development Commission authorization to moor the craft on Treasure Island, Goldzband said. The authority could face fines or enforcement proceedings if it doesn't comply.

V

Insane America: Chicago G8 protestors found not guilty of terrorism, but guilty of protesting

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© Reuters / Chicago Police
The 'NATO 3': Brian Church (L), Brent Vincent Betterly (C), and Jared Chase are seen in these handout photos from the Chicago Police department released to Reuters May 19, 2012.
Defendants in the 'NATO 3' trial were found not guilty of terrorism charges on Thursday. The three young men, accused by the state of Illinois of plotting violent acts at the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, were found guilty on two counts of mob action.

Brian Jacob Church, Brent Betterly and Jared Chase were acquitted of charges including material support for terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism.

The defendants were found guilty of two much lesser mob action charges and one count each for possessing an incendiary device to commit arson, which carries the possibility of up to 30 years in prison.

After nearly three weeks of trial proceedings, the jury in the case deliberated for just under eight hours before the verdict was read at around 16:15 CST. Closing arguments lasted around five hours on Thursday.

Illinois state prosecutors and attorneys for the defense said the verdict in the trial would create a clear line between terrorism and violence. In addition, throughout the case, the defense showed how much the supposed plot to use molotov cocktails in Chicago during the 2012 NATO meeting was shepherded by law enforcement, highlighting increased counter-terrorism operations by police in the US that critics say border on entrapment. The defense also warned that dissent should not be conflated with terrorism.

Sheriff

Out of control LAPD cops who riddled cars with bullets in manhunt for renegade Marine Chris Dorner escape with slap on the wrist

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© AP Photo/Chris Carlson,File
This Feb. 7, 2013 file photo law enforcement officers look over the scene of an officer involved shooting in Torrance, Calif.
Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and the L.A. Police Commission have found eight officers violated department policy when they fired at two women delivering newspapers in Torrance last year during the hunt for ex-LAPD cop Christopher Dorner. Beck will now decide the discipline the officers will receive.

"In this incident the Police Commission unanimously adopted the recommendations of the Chief of Police for all officers who discharged their service weapons," police commissioner Steve Soboroff said in a written statement.

Two women were delivering newspapers early Feb. 7, 2013. At about 5:15 a.m., eight LAPD officers fired more than 100 rounds at their blue Toyota Tacoma truck. Two bullets struck Emma Hernandez, 71. The other woman, Margie Carranza, 47, was injured by broken glass.

The officers were protecting an LAPD official's home who had been threatened by Dorner. Law enforcement across Southern California had been on the lookout for a gray Nissan Titan that was reportedly driven by Dorner. A few hours before the LAPD shooting, Dorner fired on two Riverside police officers, killing one of them.

Attention

Crybabies of the 1 percent: Spoiled rich kids, Tom Perkins and the real affluenza

Forget affluenza. The rich's real "disease" is failing to get that their privileges come at a price: our contempt.

Ethan Couch, Tom Perkins
© CBS DFW/AP/Eric Risberg
Ethan Couch, Tom Perkins
More than half a century ago, "West Side Story" satirized the idea that what was then known as juvenile delinquency was a product of poverty and the psychological maladjustments it produced, and that therefore "this boy don't need a judge, he needs an analyst's care."

Since then, America has been busy transforming itself into an unabashed plutocracy: while median household income has barely budged since the mid-1960s, the annual income of the top 1 percent has increased by an average of approximately 200 percent in real terms.

So perhaps it's not surprising that the belief that economic deprivation leads to psychological hardship, which in turn inspires youthful crimes, has not merely been discarded but, in some cases, actually inverted.

Consider the case of a Texas teenager who killed four people and severely injured two others while drunk-driving in his father's pickup truck. Prosecutors wanted to send him to prison for 20 years, but a judge decided to give him no jail time at all after an expert witness for the defense testified that the defendant was suffering from "affluenza."