South Africa: Soweto Pride


Today, Johannesburg will host its annual Pride event with a march and other festivities. The 2013 event, titled, “c,” was rescheduled in September and moved to the well-heeled Sandton district of the city.
Yet both the new title and venue will likely not eliminate last year’s controversies. The 2012 Pride angered and disappointed many when the organizers violently turned away black activists who called for a one minute silence in honor of those black lesbian-identified women whose sexual orientation and gender identity had put their safety and their very lives at risk. (See last year’s coverage here.) Sexual violence targeting lesbian, black women has been a constant specter in South African society, although the frequently used term “corrective rape” remains contested, as activist Sekoetlane Phamodi has pointed out earlier this year. More than a decade after black lesbian activists founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) to claim the rights of equal protection under South Africa’s constitution, targeted sexual violence still challenges these claims. The attempt on the part of activists with the One in Nine campaign to bring these issues to the fore of the 2012 Pride, and the resultant violent and disappointing response, underlines the daily challenges of life at the intersections of queerness, blackness, and township life.
To demand visibility and claim a queer identity in an environment structured by violent homo- and lesbophobia (Muholi’s term) as well as long-existant racial inequities is a tremendous challenge in South Africa. The original Pride celebrations in Johannesburg in the early 1990s were in this way a bold claiming of public space by people marginalized by their orientation (and just as often by their race, gender, and class identities as well). It is in this vein that a response to 2012 Pride, the Soweto Pride March attempted to “reclaim our space within Pride” through marching and celebrating not just sexual orientation but also the many other intersectional struggles and victories of black lesbians. Visual activists Zanele Muholi & Zandile Makhubu of Inkanyiso Queer Media created a fantastic series of photos documenting Soweto Pride. The many different figures in Muholi and Makhubu’s artwork capture a wide range of queer, black identities in celebration in Soweto.
These photographs are another part of Muholi’s larger work on documenting black lesbian life in South Africa. Her photographs of queer South African women have received numerous mentions in international news media, particularly for their varied (and often vulnerable) depictions of her subjects. Muholi and Makhubu’s work on the Soweto Pride shows a wide array of Pride celebrators in various outfits, poses, and moments of celebration. A celebration of solidarity and love in the midst of difference appear to be a common theme within the pieces.
Indeed, the images suggest much in common with the claims of a populist organizing group, the newly-formed Johannesburg People’s Pride, developed primarily in response to the results of the 2012 Johannesburg Pride. In their manifesto, People’s Pride called for a pride celebration that exists both as “a Political movement for social justice and social change” and that operates as “a microcosm of the society we wish to live in, and not a mirror of the divided one that we currently live in. We wish Pride to be a space that all can access, where all can be free, andwhere every voice is important.” Johannesburg People’s Pride celebrated as part of the larger Soweto Pride, and then held its own, pointedly political march on Constitution Hill on October 5.
By Maria Hengeveld and TJ TallieAfrica is a country 

Homemade bomb targets police patrol in Bahrain


Anti-government factions have stepped up intensity and frequency of bombings
  • AP
  • Published: 15:00 October 28, 2013
Bahrain: Police in Bahrain say a homemade bomb targeting a police patrol has wounded an unspecified number of policemen, the latest in escalating violence in the tense Gulf nation.
Anti-government factions have stepped up the intensity and frequency of bombings as part of a more than 32-month uprising by Bahrain’s opposition against the government.
Monday’s police statement says the blast wounded a “number” of policemen, including two seriously.
It says the bomb exploded on Saturday as the police were on patrol in Demistan, about 10 kilometres southwest of the capital, Manama.

Peru's UFO investigations office to be reopened


Air force to revive office that lay dormant for five years after increased sightings of 'anomalous aerial phenomena'
1963 picture purportedly showing a UFO in New Mexico
1963 picture purportedly showing a UFO in New Mexico. The Peruvian unit will bring together sociologists, archaeologists, astronomers, meteorologists and air force personnel to analyse sightings. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis
Peru's air force is reopening an office responsible for investigating UFOs due to "increased sightings of anomalous aerial phenomena" in the country's skies.
The Department of Investigation of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena (DIFAA), first created in 2001, is being revived after lying formant for five years because more UFO sightings have been reported to the media, said Colonel Julio Vucetich, head of the air force's aerospace interests division.
The unit will bring together sociologists, archaeologists, astronomers, meteorologists and air force personnel to analyse these events, Vucetich told the Guardian. "Many people don't report UFO sightings because they fear they will be labelled mad or made fun of, but nowadays with new technology – cellphone videos, Facebook, Twitter – they can be much more open, without feeling that they are the only ones who have seen what they've seen," he said.
"This new office needs those people to come and report their sightings so we can open a file and, using their information, do the respective analysis and investigation," he added, flicking through a hefty scrapbook of newspaper cuttings recording Peruvian UFO sightings dating from 1950 to the present day. Peru's Institute for Studies of Historic Aerospace is turning it into a book.
Vucetich said the office had responded to increased sightings of natural and artificial phenomena, from meteorites to "space junk" in Peru. "When you present evidence of UFOs, people can react with terror or hysteria, so we have to be very careful how we present it," he stressed.
UFO sightings are not uncommon in Peru. Two weeks ago, local media reported that villagers in Marabamba, in Peru's central Huanuco region, watched luminous balls of light in the sky over several days. Numerous reported sightings of UFOs have been made in Chilca, a beach resort 59km south of Lima. The unexplained sightings have attracted UFO investigators from around the world. One former resident, Paulina Jimenez, 82, told the Guardian how 16 years ago she saw "a huge number of flashing lights" over a bluff overlooking the resort's Yaya beach, the most regular location for UFO sightings among local residents.
"There are various locations in Peru where there are regular sightings. What's bad is that those reports have never been proven so I can't, on behalf of the air force, verify those," Vucetich said.
He added that he, too, had seen what he could only describe as "anomalous aerial phenomena". "On a personal basis, it's evident to me that we are not alone in this world or universe."
The UFO office has a telephone hotline, an email address (dinae@fap.mil.pe) and a website for reports of UFO sightings.
The revival of the UFO office will allow Peru to compare and share information with similar agencies in Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina.
Last week, Antonio Huneeus, a Chilean UFO investigator, told Open Minds UFO Radio that the Peruvian move responded to greater interest in such phenomena in the region.
"There are a few cultural reasons too, the public is more open-minded about the phenomenon of UFOs," he added.



Saudi Women Defy Driving Ban


The Indy 500 this was not, but for the few dozen Saudi women who took to the wheel on October 26—in defiance of the Kingdom's ban on female drivers—their act of subversion was just as exhilarating. Activists inside the country had hoped for a higher turnout for the appointed day of protest, but last-minute problems may have dissuaded would-be drivers, including warnings from prominent clerics and the hacking of a website belonging to the October 26th Women's Driving Campaign. Still, supporters told the AP that at least 60 women took part in the protest, uploading a handful of videos to document their four-wheeled civil disobedience. As one young mother gushed to The New York Times after a successful supermarket run, "I'm so proud of myself right now." Check out a YouTube video, supposedly showing a woman driving on the day of protest, below.


Bahraini Activist Urges US to Stop Supporting Al Khalifa


(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - “It would be wise for the US to relinquish its support for the Al Khalifa regime when it cannot stop the bloodsheds in Bahrain ...,” Ali Fayez, member of Bahrain’s 'Tamarod (rebellion) Movement', told FNA in Manama on Saturday.

He underlined that the US needs to reconsider its regional stances and the treaties it has signed with some countries of the Middle East.

Fayez described the Al Khalifa rulers as dictators who lack any legitimacy, and said, “One of the most important mistakes of the US is surely its policy on Bahrain, because Washington is still supporting the Al Khalifa regime although it knows that it is a dictatorial and blood-sucking regime facing a popular revolution."

Fayez reiterated that the US failure in implementing its policies in the Middle East is due to its wrong coalitions with certain regional states.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.

According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested.

Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.


Why Saudi Arabia and the US are moving apart


There are tensions between the two but they are not on the verge of breaking up
  • By Max Fisher, Washington Post
Ever since the United States and Saudi Arabia fell into something of an alliance in the late 1970s, the world’s most unlikely partnership has had lots of down moments. Another big one came this weekend, when Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar Bin Sultan Al Saud told European diplomats that his country would step back from cooperating with the United States on Syria, according to the Wall Street Journal and Reuters. Bandar said that his country’s recent decision to refuse a seat at the UN Security Council was meant as a show of public protest against the US, its long-time ally.
This very public Saudi jab at the US is the latest in a series of increasingly frequent disputes between the longtime allies. They are probably not on the verge of breaking up, as observers have been predicting since 1990, when the kingdom was roiled by popular outrage against the alliance. But many of the mutual interests that have brought the two countries together seem to be falling apart.
Here’s a partial list of those interests and how they’re changing in ways that could turn the two countries against one another, very roughly ranked starting with the strongest disagreement. The first six are bad news for the relationship, the last two are good news:
1. Egypt: At odds. Saudi Arabia strongly opposed the Islamist government of Mohammad Mursi and supported the July military coup. The US tepidly supported Mursi and opposed the coup. This August, Saudi Arabia announced that it would replace any foreign aid to Egypt that got cut, a not-so-subtle jab at the US, which did later cut military aid to Cairo. Saudi Arabia would seem to be actively undermining US policy in Egypt.
2. Iran: Could be at odds. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, both the US and Saudi Arabia have opposed Tehran, working together to hem in their mutual enemy. It’s been a linchpin in the relationship. But now the US and Iran are talking about cutting a nuclear deal, possibly as part of a larger detente, which Saudi Arabia opposes. If the deal goes through, and there’s a US-Iran thaw, it would be a big blow to the US-Saudi relationship.
3. Iraq: No more reason to cooperate. Saddam Hussain’s Iraq was a mutual enemy, and the reason that the US stationed troops in Saudi Arabia in 1990, setting off a public backlash there against the American presence. Now Saddam is gone, replaced by a US-backed, Shiite-led government.
4. Syria: Declining cooperation. As this latest news shows, the Saudis have gotten past the point of frustration with US policy toward Syria’s civil war, which they see as disengaged and indecisive. Both countries still want the same outcome to see the war end in a way that forces President Bashar Al Assad to exit but does not empower extremists but have very different views about how to do it. Still, it’s hard to see the two actively working at cross purposes, given that Riyadh’s whole complaint is that the US is disengaging from the issue.
5. Afghanistan: Declining cooperation. The US and Saudi Arabia have worked together on Afghanistan since the 1979 Soviet invasion; they did so again after the Taliban’s 2001 ouster by US-backed Afghan troops. Once US troops withdraw next year, they will have less reason to work together on Afghan issues. But they will still share an interest in curbing the Taliban and Al Qaida there, so will likely continue sharing intelligence and counterterrorism work.
6. Oil: Declining cooperation. As the US starts to produce more of its own energy resources and import less from the Middle East, it has less interest in Saudi oil. And Saudi Arabia is selling more of its oil to China, which just became the world’s largest net importer. Still, oil prices are set on a global market, so as a net importer, the US would like to see Saudi oil continue to flow.
7. Al Qaida: Status quo cooperation. The terrorist group has long targeted both Saudi Arabia and the United States as the “near enemy” and “far enemy”, further driving the two together. Al Qaida’s has seen a resurgence in Syria, Mali and Libya. The US has the firepower and Saudi Arabia has the intelligence, so they need one another. As long as there’s instability-fuelled extremism, there will be cooperation.
8. Yemen: Status quo cooperation. Both countries are so concerned about extremism in Yemen that the US built a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia in 2011, from which it’s deployed missions to the country. There’s also a Shiite insurgency in northern Yemen that Saudi Arabia is very worried about; the US likewise would like to see the country become more stable.
So the future doesn’t look terribly bright for the US-Saudi relationship. Still, that doesn’t mean they’re about to break up. The impossible-seeming relationship has survived much more serious disputes; as long as there are oil and terrorism in the Middle East, the two countries will still need one another. But they may soon need one another much less than they used to.

Bahrain teen killed by his own bomb


17-year-old planned to carry out bomb attack and faced criminal charges, say police
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: A teenager was killed in Bahrain when a bomb he was carrying exploded, the police said.
“The operation room received a call reporting an explosion in a deserted area in Bani Jamra,” the police said late on Tuesday, quoting the General Director of Northern Governorate Police and referring to a village west of the capital Manama. “The caller said that there was a dead body at the scene. Security forces were immediately deployed to the area and the crime scene was examined.”
The police said that they found a bomb, a gun and ammunition near the dead body.
“The deceased is 17 years old and he is wanted on criminal charges. The initial investigation revealed that the bomb had exploded while he was carrying it to plant in another location.”
The senior officer added that the public prosecution had been notified and gathering of evidence was still going on.
“Anyone with any information should call the police hotline and all calls will be treated as anonymous,” the police said.
In the most recent attacks, five security officers were injured in an explosion in August in the village of Dair, north of Manama. In July, one policeman was killed when a homemade bomb exploded in the town of Sitra, near Manama.
Earlier in the day, a Bahraini court sentenced six people to 10 years in jail each after it found them guilty of a fire bomb attack on a police patrol in the village of Jadhafs, near Manama, injuring two officers and setting their vehicle on fire.
State news agency BNA said the court had exercised leniency in passing the sentences, taking into consideration that five of the suspects were under 18 years of age when the attack took place. It gave no date for the attack.
With inputs from Reuters


Saudi withdrawal stuns UN Security Council


Saudi Arabia angrily rejected a UN Security Council seat on Friday, accusing the UN body of "double standards" over the Syria war and other trouble spots in an unprecedented diplomatic assault.
The Saudi move sparked disarray at the Security Council where it only won the seat on Thursday at a UN General Assembly election.
Russia criticized the Saudis' "strange" decision, but the kingdom got a more understanding reaction from Western nations.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon said Saudi Arabia did not immediately send notification of its decision to reject the term, due to start on January 1.
Diplomats said it could be possible to persuade the Saudi government to reverse the decision.
"Work mechanisms and double-standards on the Security Council prevent it from carrying out its duties and assuming its responsibilities in keeping world peace," the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.
"Therefore, Saudi Arabia... has no other option but to turn down Security Council membership until it is reformed and given the means to accomplish its duties and assume its responsiblities in preserving the world's peace and security," it added
Unprecedented move
The government said "allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people" with chemical weapons is "irrefutable evidence and proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and responsibilities."
Saudi Arabia... has no other option but to turn down Security Council membership until it is reformed and given the means to accomplish its duties and assume its responsiblities in preserving the world's peace and security.
Statement, Saudi foreign ministry
Saudi Arabia was one of five nations elected by the UN General Assembly on Thursday to start a two-year term on the Security Council. The others were Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria. All had stood unopposed.
No country has ever won a council seat and then refused to take it up.
Saudi Arabia's UN ambassador, Abdullah Al-Mouallimi, gave several press interviews hailing the election.
But the celebrations had barely finished when the Saudi foreign ministry announced the withdrawal.
Russia boycotted council meetings in 1950 in a dispute over who represents China. The council held meetings without them.
In 1980, Cuba and Colombia failed to get a required majority in repeat General Assembly votes. The Council met with 14 members for two weeks until Mexico was finally elected.
If Saudi Arabia maintains the threat, the Asia-Pacific group of nations would have to propose a new candidate for the General Assembly to vote on.
'Strange' behavior
Several envoys said that efforts would be made to persuade Saudi Arabia to take up its seat.
The Russian foreign ministry sharply criticized Saudi Arabia's "strange" argument on the council's record on Syria.
Russia and Saudi Arabia have a traditionally testy relationship, made worse by Russia's support for Assad and Saudi's for opposition rebels.
"The kingdom's arguments arouse bewilderment, and the criticism of the UN Security Council in the context
of the Syrian conflict is particularly strange," the ministry said.
However, France said several countries share Saudi Arabia's frustration.
"We think that Saudi Arabia would have brought a very positive contribution to the Security Council, but we do also understand the frustration of Saudi Arabia," France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters.
Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, shrugged off the Saudi move, calling it "a decision they have to make."
"I understand different countries will have different responses, but we'll continue to work with them on issues that we share of mutual concern," she said.


Saudi police rescue 16 women workers


Indonesian domestic helpers abandoned in isolated area by smuggler
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
Manama: Saudi police have rescued 16 Indonesian domestic helpers after they found them stranded in an isolated area.
The women were discovered by a Saudi national who spotted the group of women as he was driving with his family through the area, around five kilometres from a major highway.
“I was shocked by the sight of the women in this isolated area and I drive towards them,” Abdul Rahman Al Harbi said. “When we got near them, my family and I could see that they were scared and worried, especially that it was the end of the day and darkness was about to set in. One of the women was carrying a baby who we discovered was only two months old,” Abdul Rahman told local Arabic daily Al Jazirah.
He added that one of the helpers said that the helpers did not have legal residence documents and that they had been cheated by a smuggler.
“She said that he had promised to drive them from the Saudi capital Riyadh to Makkah, but dropped them off in this isolated area and drove away. They did not have a means to contact anyone. I called the highway patrol and they took care of the women,” Abdul Rahman said.
Online comments condemned the smuggler and urged the police to take stringent action against him for cheating and abusing the helpers.
However, some comments stressed that helpers and other foreigners should be more careful and abide strictly by the law to avoid being cheated or abused.
Traffickers use the Haj (pilgrimage) season in and around Makkah to transport domestic helpers and workers to the sacred city with promises of highly lucrative deals based on the heavy demands for their services.
Around 2.5 million Muslims, including 1.4 million foreigners, congregate in the city in western Saudi Arabia to perform Haj, the fifth and last pillar of Islam required from all physically fit and financially able Muslims at least once in their lifetime.

Kuwait MPs lash out at Amnesty for questioning homosexuals ban


Lawmakers want foreign ministry to reject watchdog’s ‘interference in domestic affairs’
  • By Habib ToumiBureau Chief

Manama: Lawmakers in Kuwait have lashed out at Amnesty International for criticising a proposal to introduce ‘clinical tests’ to bar homosexual or transgender foreigners from entering and working in any of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member counties.
The lawmakers, backed by Islamists, said that they expected the foreign ministry to respond “in particularly strong terms” to the international human rights watchdog, warning that they would take the matter up in the parliament if they were not satisfied with the answer.
The proposal was reported last week by a local daily newspaper that quoted a Kuwaiti health ministry director who said that it would be discussed by the GCC Central Committee for Expatriate Labour Forces Programme of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Oman on November 11.
Amnesty International said that the proposal “to introduce compulsory ‘medical tests’ and bar any migrant workers deemed to be ‘homosexual’ or transgender from entering Kuwait and other Gulf countries was outrageous and should be rejected out of hand.”
“Instead of continuing to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals, authorities in Kuwait should work to ensure that people are not harassed and abused because of who they are and repeal laws that criminalize sexual acts between consenting adults,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
However, in remarks published by local daily Al Rai on Monday, MP Abdul Rahman Al Jiran said: “The decision to bar homosexuals from entering Kuwait is a sovereign decision. Amnesty International should take care of lofty and noble goals for which it was established, leave aside homosexuality and deviations and stop defending delinquents. The organisation should heed the annual rates of births outside the institution of marriage in Europe and abortions as well as the high rates of underage mothers and other moral crimes forbidden by all divine religions.”
MP Mohammad Al Jabri said that the statement by Amnesty International was not acceptable.
“I was surprised like all Kuwaitis by the interference in the affairs of an Islamic country where its people are committed to the values of Islam,” he said in a statement. “I condemn the brazen requests by an organisation that introduces itself as a protector of freedoms and human rights. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should respond urgently to the so-called Amnesty International to highlight the noble Islamic principles, values and teachings in which the people of Kuwait believe and which reject the propagation of vice and debauchery in the community.”
The lawmaker said that the foreign ministry’s response should be “both clear and strongly worded.”
“We need to make sure that this organisation or any other would not dare target Kuwait or its pure Islamic beliefs,” he said. “The ministry’s response will be under the scrutiny of the National Assembly immediately after its release to ascertain the extent of its reaction to the offense perpetrated by the international organisation and which is rejected by all Kuwaitis.”
Former MP Mohammad Al Hayef said that he rejected the call by Luther to the authorities in Kuwait and other GCC states to “reject any proposals to introduce these discriminatory ‘medical tests’ to ‘assess’ the sexual orientation or gender identity of people entering the country.”
“Such statements cause a backlash against the organization,” he said. “It should have reinforced the slogan of human rights and the defense of the oppressed, not confuse issue and interlace honey with poison so that one of its officials dares to encourage behaviour that is against the human nature and clashes with the teachings of all apostles. Deviant behaviour and attitudes undermine and destroy humanity.”
According to Thawabet Al Umma, an Islamist group, Amnesty International “should in the name of humanity encourage people to be straight in their behaviour and attitudes, and not encourage them to engage in deviant acts and destructive acts that undermine communities through lethal physical and psychological that are difficult to treat.”


Malaria vaccine raises hopes after ‘positive results’


Durban – Results from a phase III clinical trial indicate that a malaria vaccine candidate reduces by half infections of malaria among children tested in Africa after an 18-month follow-up, signifying a major development in the fight against the killer disease.
Researchers say the most clinically advanced malaria vaccine, RTS,S, created in 1987 by scientists working for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), could be ready for use by 2015. GSK teamed up with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative to develop the vaccine through funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The efficacy of the vaccine is being tested among more than 15,000 young children and infants in seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa: Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
The results were presented at the 6th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria Pan-African conference in Durban, South Africa, this week (8 October).
David Kaslow, the vice-president of product development at PATH tellsSciDev.Net that the researchers have learnt that the efficacy persists through 18 months in young children and infants.
RTS,S could protect children and infants against malaria for 18 months after vaccination, resulting in 46 per cent reduction of cases in children aged 5 to 17 months at first vaccination. For infants aged 6-12 weeks old at first vaccination, it reduced malaria infections by 27 per cent.
The results were achieved in an environment where other malaria control measures such as insecticide-treated bed nets were used by 78 per cent of children and 86 per cent of infants in the trial.
Daniel Ansong, a paediatrician and a senior lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, says GSK will submit the regulatory file from the phase III trial to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2014.
“If EMA provides a positive scientific opinion, it would pave the way for national regulatory authorities in Africa to license the vaccine” says Ansong, who is also the principal investigator for the RTS,S trial in Agogo, Ghana, tells SciDev.Net.
The same regulatory file will be submitted to the WHO, which has indicated its intent to issue a policy recommendation as early as 2015, Ansong adds.
Kaslow says the vaccine shows a potential substantial public health impact, but the decisions about whether to approve, use or fund the vaccine depend on having all the results from the pivotal phase III efficacy trial.
While its developers believe the vaccine could help avoid many of the nearly 660,000 malaria-related deaths a year, most of which occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, vaccines alone will not control malaria, according to Charles Mbogo, president of the Pan-African Mosquito Control Association, based in Kenya.
“Major achievements in the fight against malaria have been mainly through mosquito control,” says Mbogo. “Additional weapons such as an effective malaria vaccine should be applied to complement the fight against the disease.”
By Munyaradzi MakoniSciDev Net

Saudi wife files for divorce over smoking


Husband blamed for not respecting "no smoking" marriage term
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
Manama: A Saudi woman is filing for divorce after she saw her husband smoke “secretly” near their home.
“When we got married four years ago, one of her terms was that I do not smoke,” the husband said. “I do smoke, and I managed to hide it from my wife for four years.
Unfortunately, she saw me smoke secretly as I was standing with a neighbour near our home. She became very agitated and insisted on leaving the house and taking the children,” the husband said, quoted by local news site Al Weam.
The wife was eventually driven to the family home in the Red Sea resort of Jeddah by her brother.
Online reactions ranged between full support to the wife for upholding her principles and her wish not to be associated with a smoker and sharp criticism for her for wrecking her family over a cigarette.
“It is her right not to have a husband who smoked, but she cannot destroy her family in a moment of anger,” Sinam posted. “After all the husband smoked outside and did not bother her at home.”
Sarrah, in another online comment, said that the wife had rushed into a decision that would gravely impact the family.
“We understand her anger, but it cannot be grounds for divorce. She should talk with him and remind her of the terms for their marriage,” she posted.
Court data published in January indicated that Saudi women added divorce to the risks and dangers associated with smoking.
According to a report, more than 100 women in the Western city of Madinah have filed for divorce after their husbands refused or were unable to quit smoking.
“Courts in other cities in Saudi Arabia have also accepted cases filed by unhappy wives who wanted a divorce over the issue of smoking,” Okaz daily said. “Attempts by reconciliation committees to keep the spouses have failed to convince the wives who insisted on smoke-free husbands. The issue is now being addressed before the wedding and several young women in Madinah have rejected marriage proposals from men who smoked,” the daily said, citing a report on the status of smoking-related divorces.
The report was prepared based on studies and research on the effects of smoking on marital relations.
The daily said that around 40 per cent of Saudi university graduates flatly rejected to marry husbands who smoked.
The young women attributed their uncompromising decision not to “marry themselves into a smoking home” to health concerns about themselves, their future husbands and their future children.
A Saudi judge last year ruled that women who suffered as a result of their husbands’ smoking were allowed to file for divorce.
In October 2012, Saudi judges set a new trend in the country by using cigarette smoking as a factor in child custody cases.
“A parent could now lose the custody case if he or she is proven to be a smoker,” a legal official said.

“Under the emerging trend, the smoking factor is now being treated like the drinking factor and can decide the outcome of the custody case,” he said.
The court would favour non-smoking parents and would factor smoking into custody cases to protect the child from the negative impact of passive smoking.
According to official figures, Saudi Arabia is home to six million smokers, including around 800,000 teenagers, mainly intermediate and high school students, and 600,000 women.
However, expatriates also account for a significant proportion of cigarette consumption in Saudi Arabia despite the increase in the number of awareness campaigns about health risks related to smoking and passive smoking and the adoption of several legislative restrictions.

300km security cordon around Makkah


31,294 people, 22,227 vehicles turned back for lack of required entry papers
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief
Manama: A 300-kilometre security cordon has been established around the sacred city of Makkah where Muslims are congregating to perform Haj (pilgrimage) to keep away infiltrators.
Thousands of people without proper papers have been attempting to enter the city in western Saudi Arabia, often by taking rugged dirt roads and through hills to reach the sacred sites.
However, the police have established the cordon that includes 30 fixed checkpoints and 50 mobile patrols to monitor the perimeter of the city, local Arabic daily Al Eqtisadiya reported on Sunday at the start of the six-day Haj season.
A special support force of 200 members is on permanent standby for emergency cases, sources told the newspaper.
The Saudi authorities have warned that they would not allow people planning to perform Haj to enter the holy sites if they are not registered with accredited Haj operators.
The decision is based on security and organisational concerns related to the large crowds expected to congregate in the area.
According to the daily, 31,294 Saudis and foreigners have been turned back at the security checkpoints in the last six days.
The police were able to detain 12,641 Saudis and foreigners for breaking the Haj regulations and to bust 75 bogus operators who cheated people.
The police also turned back 22,227 cars as they attempted to reach Makkah without possessing the required documents. The operation allowed the police to impound 2,606 vehicles for breaking the rules, the daily said.
More than 4,000 vehicles and 1,400 motorcycles were seized by the police for transporting people to the suburbs of Makkah even though they did not have the papers they needed to enter the city.
Although Saudi authorities have tremendously improved the mass movement of around three million people in a tight area during the Haj, making it faster and smoother, they still have to face formidable challenges posed by people not abiding by the regulations.
Several Saudis and expatriates try to take advantage of the Haj season to make money by making false promises to trusting people keen on performing Haj or by offering “secret passages” to the holy sites to those who are not registered with a Haj operator.
Pilgrims congregate on Mount Arafat in the outskirts of Makkah on Monday for a day of prayer and supplication.
Haj, the fifth and last pillar of Islam, requires all physically fit and financially able Muslim men and women to perform Haj at least once in their lives.

Malaysia court rules non-Muslims cannot use 'Allah'


A Malaysian court has ruled that non-Muslims cannot use the word Allah to refer to God, even in their own faiths, overturning a 2009 lower court ruling.
The appeals court said the term Allah must be exclusive to Islam or it could cause public disorder.
People of all faiths use the word Allah in Malay to refer to their Gods.
Christians argue they have used the word, which entered Malay from Arabic, to refer to their God for centuries and that the ruling violates their rights.
One Malaysian Christian woman said the ruling would affect the community greatly.
"If we are prohibited from using the word Allah then we have to re-translate the whole Bible, if it comes to that," Ester Moiji from Sabah state told the BBC. More...

Syria chemical weapons: OPCW plea for short ceasefires


The head of the body tasked with destroying Syria's chemical weapons says fighting is preventing access to some sites through rebel-held areas.
Ahmet Uzumcu, of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, called for local, short-term ceasefires to allow experts to work.
He told the BBC he hoped the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to the group last week, would help their work in Syria.
Syria officially joins the Chemical Weapons Convention on Monday.

Start Quote

Ahmet Uzumcu
They are working in very challenging circumstances in the field”
End Quote Ahmet Uzumcu OPCW director general
The OPCW and the UN have had a team of 60 experts and support staff in Syria since 1 October. They are based in Damascus and have been carrying regular visits to facilities.
In his first interview since the OPCW won the prize, Mr Uzumcu told the BBC's Today programme that Syrian officials had been co-operating and facilitating the experts' work.
He said they had been taken wherever they wanted to go, and that they had already reached five out of at least 20 facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.
However, Mr Uzumcu said, routes to some of the sites went through opposition-held territory and this prevented access.
"They change hands from one day to another, which is why we appeal to all sides in Syria to support this mission, to be co-operative and not render this mission more difficult. It's already challenging," he said.


Egyptian director Mohamed Diab talks about his film on sexual harassment


Over the last few years, the waves of sexual assault and harassment on the streets of Egypt have been in the news perpetually: Initially as a disheartening stain on the euphoria generated from the promise of political change, then as a component of the violence and oppression that has emerged in recent months.
Despite being released in 2010, Cairo 678, written and directed by Mohamed Diab, gained broader recognition in the early stages of Egypt’s transition, as international outrage grew over attacks on foreigners and Egyptians alike. Now, well over two years since the revolution began, Diab’s film and the issue of sexual harassment are as pertinent as ever, as new, increasingly violent, and premeditated attacks have continued to take place. Mohamed Diab is currently the San Francisco Film Society’s Fall 2013 Artist in Residence. I recently spoke with him about the film, harassment, and his thoughts on Egypt’s future, two years on.
Cairo 678 is Diab’s first foray into directing, following a successful run as a screenwriter. The film documents the lives of three women from diverse backgrounds who have all been victims of sexual harassment and assault, and who work together to combat the problem. The women include Fayza, a mother from a low-income background who dreads taking the bus to work, anticipating the almost inevitable groping, Seba, a wealthy artist who is attacked by a gang of men at a football rally and responds by setting up a self-defense class for women, and Nelly, a stand-up comedian who files Egypt’s first sexual harassment lawsuit.
It was the story of Noha Roshdy, the first woman to file a sexual harassment case in Egypt, and the inspiration behind the character Nelly, that initially made Diab aware of the scope of the problem. When he heard of the case, he decided to attend the trial. Describing an interaction he witnessed, Diab explained: “I remember two reporters who were covering the story for news channels, they were making fun of the girl. One was saying to the other: ‘This guy deserves 15 years.’ The other turned to him and asked why, he replied ‘because he could have harassed a much better looking girl.’ I was sitting next to them and thinking, what if I were the brother of the girl?”
Diab says that after gaining insight into the extent of the problem, he felt obligated to show, particularly to men, the impact of harassment on women in Egypt. He references the police detective in his film as a representation of a portion of the target audience: an everyday man who is misinformed, or takes the issue too lightly, until it hits close to home. Diab explained that in a way the film is an apology: “As a man I really felt that we should apologize, not because all Egyptian males are harassers – the number of harassers is very low (because they’re not caught, perpetrators attack repeatedly). The majority of the rest of men in Egypt know nothing about this, because in their circles, the women who get harassed never tell them.”
Continue reading on Africa is a country
By Sarah El-ShaarawiAfrica is a country

Saudi Arabia women given licences to practise law

Saudi Arabia launches probe into 12-year-old girl’s marriage


Somali Militants Mixing Business and Terror

NAIROBI, Kenya — Illicit ivory, kidnappings, piracy ransoms, smuggled charcoal, extorted payments from aid organizations and even fake charity drives pretending to collect money for the poor — the Shabab militant group has shifted from one illegal business to another, drawing money from East Africa’s underworld to finance attacks like the recent deadly siege at a Nairobi shopping mall.
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East Africa's underworld helps to support the Shabab.
Now officials here and in the West are redoubling efforts to defeat or at least contain the group — with a watchful eye on its hydra-headed sources of money — before its fighters can strike again in Kenya or even the United States.
For years, American officials have been deeply worried about the Somali militant Islamist group, which claimed responsibility for killing more than 60 men, women and children in the mall in the Sept. 21 attack. But despite comprehensive multiagency efforts to shut down its sources of money, the group still controls lucrative smuggling routes in southern Somalia, extracts protection money from Somali businesses and has raised hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars abroad, part of it from the United States.
Somali elders say the Shabab employ a team of accountants — essentially white-collar militants — who have devised elaborate taxation schemes in Somalia, for instance $500 per farm per year or $2 for every sack of rice that passes through their checkpoints.
“They calculate your income, they do the math,” said Mohamed Aden, a former president of Himan and Heeb, a partially autonomous region of central Somalia near Shabab territory. “And then you have to obey. Otherwise, they kill you. That’s just how it is.”
In addition to its illicit financing activities, the group has proved adept at stealing from Islamic charities, like mosque-building projects and schools, according to several Somali elders.
But the Shabab are also known as savvy businessmen. After the group seized the port of Kismayo in southern Somalia, some car dealers as far as Mogadishu preferred importing vehicles there, instead of using the main government port, saying the Shabab ran a tighter operation with lower fees.
Though African Union forces have pushed the group out of Kismayo, its fighters still control the sandy hinterland around the port, and Somali elders say it continues to tax items like T-shirts, sugar and soap.
“They have a diversified income stream,” said Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former counterterrorism official at the United States Treasury. “Sort of a perfect cocktail that created this nightmare scenario.”
Somalia’s perennial chaos makes the Shabab’s tendrils even harder to remove. Militant groups around the world dabble in the felonious, but the long history of anarchy in Somalia, whose central government imploded in 1991, creates the ideal environment for war profiteers.
Shabab militants are able to extract extortion fees, kidnap Western aid workers along the Kenyan border, collude with Indian Ocean pirates and then retreat to their strongholds with no worries about being arrested or prosecuted because law enforcement is virtually nonexistent in Somalia.
The country’s extreme poverty is another complicating factor. When the United States designated the Shabab a terrorist organization in 2008, setting off sanctions on material support for the group, aid agencies complained bitterly that the American rules were making it impossible to distribute lifesaving aid in Shabab-controlled areas. The American government relaxed the enforcement of some of these rules in 2011, when a famine swept through southern Somalia, to ensure that assistance got to the millions of Somalis who needed it.
While the Shabab control far less territory than they did a few years ago, many people in this region remain terrified of their network of assassins and their continued ability to stage large-scale attacks on civilians, like the massacre in the Kenyan mall or a suicide bombing in Uganda in 2010 that killed scores of people. And as the Shabab transform themselves from a guerrilla movement that once aspired to rule Somalia and fielded a large army of young fighters (Shabab means “youth” in Arabic) to a leaner and more mobile terrorist organization, their costs will go down.
Mr. Schanzer said the attack on the Nairobi mall probably cost the group “close to $100,000,” calculating the price of the automatic rifles, bullets and grenades that were used, along with training costs and possibly rent for a store in the mall that investigators suspect may have been used as a weapon depot before the attack.
Over the weekend, Kenya’s major newspapers reported that the country’s intelligence services had information about a potential strike on the mall but failed to act. American officials said that the warning had been based on fragmentary information and that they had no “actionable” or specific intelligence about the attack.
Many analysts had long believed that Nairobi might be spared because it is one of the Shabab’s logistical hubs, with the Somali enclave of Eastleigh serving as the financial capital for the group.
“That’s where the money transaction companies are,” said Ken Menkhaus, a professor of political science at Davidson College. “That’s where business can be done undetected.”
Mr. Menkhaus said Eastleigh also served as a center for recruitment and fund-raising, and was even used by Shabab fighters looking for a place to recuperate after being wounded on Somalia’s battlefields.
Just about all of the institutions in Somalia collapsed under the weight of 20 years of anarchy, including the banking sector, giving rise to a lightly regulated money transfer business. Western officials have struggled with how to prevent the estimated $1.3 billion per year that flows into Somalia, often from small storefronts in London or Minneapolis, from reaching militant groups without punishing the countless Somalis who rely upon these remittances to survive.
In May, two Minnesota women, both naturalized American citizens from Somalia, were sentenced for providing material support to the Shabab after going door to door with others to raise money for the group, often pretending the donations were for the poor.
A United Nations investigative team reported this summer that Somali businessmen in Qatar had raised money and wired it, using a money transfer service, to a Shabab hit squad to finance “a wave of assassinations.”
The British bank Barclays, one of the few to work with the Somali money transfer companies, has begun severing ties with them, fearing that it could run afoul of laws meant to stem terrorist financing.
President Hassan Sheik Mohamud of Somalia said in an interview that his country desperately needed to replace its informal money transfer business with a proper banking sector, but that it needed more time. The sudden shutdown of financial transfers could be disastrous, he said, especially now, when Somalia is struggling to recover from years of chaos and needs infusions of investment to keep the momentum going.
If anti-Shabab measures are too broad, Mr. Mohamud said, they could backfire. For instance, cutting off the ability of Somali expatriates to send back money to relatives could make many people poorer and drive more jobless, disillusioned youths into the Shabab’s ranks to earn cash to support themselves.
“We need to break that vicious circle of generations losing hope,” Mr. Mohamud said.
As long as large areas of Somalia remain violent and ungoverned, as they do today, the Shabab will have plenty of opportunities to do business. The group has cashed in on the Chinese demand for illicit elephant ivory, training fighters to sneak across the Kenyan border and slaughter elephants for their tusks, businessmen in Kismayo say. Shabab fighters have also extorted access fees from some aid groups, Somali elders say, often getting tens of thousands of dollars to allow humanitarian aid to be distributed in their zones.
But perhaps nothing has been more lucrative for the Shabab than the underground charcoal trade. Known as black gold, the charcoal made from burning Somalia’s acacia forests is highly prized in the Arabian Peninsula. Exporting charcoal was banned under the dictatorship of President Mohammed Siad Barre, but it roared back to life in the chaos that followed his ouster in 1991.
Before Kenyan forces captured Kismayo, the charcoal trade earned the Shabab more than $25 million a year, according to United Nations investigators. The loss of Kismayo was a huge setback for the Shabab, and the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution last year banning imports of Somali charcoal.
But the Shabab have shifted the business to other ports still under their control, continuing to export millions of sacks of charcoal per year.
“They have less money, but they don’t need a lot of money,” Mr. Menkhaus said. “You can still do an awful lot of damage with not that much money.”

Lydia Polgreen contributed reporting from New York, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.


Italy Suspends Search for Shipwreck Victims

Having floated for at least two days in the choppy Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe, a rickety trawler overstuffed with African migrants fleeing war and poverty was nearing a Sicilian island, not even a quarter-mile away. But it was still dark and no one had yet spotted them. So to signal their position, someone set a match to a blanket.
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About 500 people were said to be on a boat bound for Italy.
But rather than sending a signal, the fire brought tragedy when flames from the burning blanket ignited gasoline. Nearly 500 people are estimated to have been on board — including children — and the blaze created a panic that capsized the boat. So close to reaching land, the migrants were now tossed into the sea. Many could not swim.
The accident, which occurred before dawn on Thursday within easy eyesight of the island of Lampedusa, is one of the worst in recent memory in the Mediterranean: at least 111 people were reported dead, with up to 250 still missing. At least 150 others survived. On Friday, divers suspended the search for bodies because of high seas in the waters around Lampedusa. It was unclear when search operations would resume. The government declared Friday a national day of mourning.
“Today is a day of tears,” Pope Francis, who went to Lampedusa earlier this year to call attention to the suffering of migrants, said Friday during a visit to Assisi. “Such things go against the spirit of the world.”
The grisly deaths again underscored the dangerous, desperate efforts by many migrants from Africa and the Middle East to reach Europe by sea, while also renewing criticism of European immigration policy. Immigration is a politically volatile issue in Europe, so much so that Greece recently completed a nearly eight-mile fence blocking its border with Turkey, an attempt to shut down a major land migration route.
But some experts say that making it harder to slip into Europe by land has only pushed many migrants to try the more perilous route by sea. With conflicts raging in the Middle East and Africa, the number of asylum seekers and migrants arriving by boat in Spain and Italy has spiked this year. According to statistics released by Save the Children, 21,780 migrants reached Italy during the first nine months of this year, including 4,000 children.
Lampedusa, an Italian island barely 70 miles from northern Africa, has become a gateway to Europe for migrants. In some seasons, boats filled with migrants and asylum seekers arrive almost daily.
For Italy, the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean has become an enormous operational and humanitarian challenge. Italian Coast Guard boats are sent almost daily on dangerous rescue missions. Migrants assume huge risks to reach Europe and pay thousands of dollars to smugglers and middlemen, often in Turkey, Egypt and Libya. The smugglers load people onto a large boat for a trip into Italian waters. There, the migrants are usually transferred to smaller boats, some barely seaworthy, and left to float in the current. Then the smugglers flee back to Africa.
It was unclear if the migrants in Thursday’s accident were delivered by smugglers and then transferred to a smaller boat, or if they made the entire journey from Libya in the same trawler. It did seem clear, though, that they were completely unprepared.
“Normally, these boats have a satellite phone, or someone on board will call a relative in Italy who alerts the authorities,” said Veronica Lentini, who works with the International Organization for Migration in Lampedusa, and spoke with several survivors. “But in this case, no one advised anyone.”
Survivors told Ms. Lentini that their ship had traveled from Libya and was a short distance from a tiny sister island of Lampedusa when the engine broke down. Soon, the ship began to take on water, and the fire was started to attract attention. But gas from the broken engine was ignited by the flames, and terrified passengers raced away from the explosion, to one side of the vessel, causing it to capsize.
Lillian Pizzi, a psychologist working with migrant families on Lampedusa, said the survivors were in a state of shock.
“They’re exhausted and they’re finding it difficult to explain exactly what happened,” said Ms. Pizzi, who works for Terre des Hommes, a nonprofit group. She added: “It is something that happens all too often. It has to be read politically. This is not an accident at sea. It is something else.”
In Rome, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said that the vessel had departed from Misurata in Libya, and that most of the passengers were from Eritrea and Somalia. No one onboard had a mobile phone, and he confirmed that gasoline was to blame for the rapid spread of the fire.
Antonio Parrinello/Reuters
The bodies of those killed when a boat packed with migrants caught fire then capsized as it approached Italy’s Lampedusa Island.
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Italian Army, via European Pressphoto Agency
First responders brought the bodies of drowned migrants to shore from a Coast Guard boat on Thursday in Lampedusa, Italy.
“It happened close to shore,” Mr. Alfano said. “Had they been able to swim, they would have been safe.”
Mr. Alfano said Italian rescue boats had been sent as soon as the fire was spotted, and he called on European officials to find solutions to prevent such disasters. “Europe must realize it is not an Italian drama but a European one,” he said during a news conference. “Lampedusa must become the border of Europe, not Italy.”
The death toll was high on Thursday, and could potentially go much higher, but such fatal accidents are hardly rare in the Mediterranean. According to the International Organization for Migration, roughly 25,000 people have died in the Mediterranean in the last 20 years, including 1,700 last year. This week, 13 men drowned near the shore of southern Sicily.
Bruce Leimsidor, an expert in European asylum law, said that many complex factors contributed to such deaths, and that the new wall in Greece was probably contributing to the increased activity on the Mediterranean.
Europe’s complicated asylum regulations vary for African countries, yet even red tape does not deter migrants from taking risks to escape.
“It’s like trying to hold a balloon under water,” said Professor Leimsidor, who teaches at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. “The only thing Europe can do is basically take people and give them decent asylum procedures.”
On Thursday, European Commission officials expressed sadness about the accident and blamed criminal syndicates and human smugglers for exploiting desperate people. They called for a crackdown on the smugglers while saying that Europe also needs to step up dialogue with the countries from which migrants originate.
“No country can solve migratory flows by itself,” said Michele Cercone, a spokesman for Europe’s home affairs commissioner. “This won’t end overnight. We have to put in place new tools, new policies to manage better, and we have to do it at a European level.”
But finding a unified immigration policy is difficult, given that member states have different attitudes and policies toward immigrants. And many advocates for migrants said the European Union had done too little to open legal channels for people to migrate, especially those who are not wealthy or educated, and also needed to improve resettlement programs for refugees and asylum seekers.
“Even people who aren’t engineers have reasons to want to have a good life, and come to Europe, a place of safety and opportunity,” said Philip Amaral, advocacy and communications coordinator for the Brussels-based Jesuit Refugee Service Europe. For many, he said, “the only option is to take a risky trip.”

Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting from Siracusa, Sicily.

South AfricaTrue or False? SA’s Global Competitiveness in Africa is giving way to Nigeria, Rwanda and Ghana


It’s official, South Africa has now been overtaken by Mauritius in the Global Competitiveness report. Mauritius is now ranked 45th up from 54th last year. We are ranked 53rd, down from 52nd last year.
Mauritius is positioning itself as the Hong Kong of Africa. Rwanda is positioning itself as the Singapore of Africa. Nigeria is positioning itself as the investment destination of choice, maybe the China of Africa. And Ghana is working hard at improving its attractiveness.
Recently RMB produced an “Investment Attractiveness Report”. Of the top 40 countries in the world the US and China topped the list with SA at 33rd and Nigeria at 38th.
RMB also produced a supplementary ranking considering the effect of regional affiliation on a countries’ economic attractiveness. In this regard Mauritius ranked # 1 in view of its connectedness with COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), Rwanda # 2 in view of its connectedness with SADC (Southern African Development Community) with SA ranked at # 3.
It would seem that the world’s love affair with us is in danger of cooling somewhat, but the good news is we can easily do better. One way to make a certain difference is to produce the right skills in the right focus areas.
I thought I would do some research on SA’s competitiveness in Africa, what better place to start than the recent Global Competitiveness Report 2013/2014 issued in September by the World Economic Forum ?
I wanted to establish:
1. Which are the largest consumer markets in Africa?
2. Which African countries are making the greatest strides in improving their competitiveness?
3. How well does SA do against our closest African competitors in the key competitive measures of:
  • Public Trust of Politicians,
  • Burden of Government Regulation,
  • Transparency of Government Policy,
  • Strength of Auditing and Reporting,
  • Overall Infrastructure,
  • Quality of Primary Education,
  • Quality of Higher Education,
  • Quality of Maths and Science Education,
  • Procedures to Start a Business,
  • Co-operation in Labour/Employer Relations?
4. Our most important geographical competitors are Nigeria, Rwanda, and Ghana which have a growing number of competitiveness measures in the top 50 (Rwanda in the top 25). How does SA’s competitiveness compare?
I will answer these below, one at a time. There are a number of tables which you will probably find revealing and surprising.
continue reading on South Africa the good news
By Steuart PenningtonSouth Africa the good news

Madagascar mob kills Europeans over 'organ trafficking'


Two European men have been burnt to death in Madagascar by protesters who suspected they trafficked the organs of a missing child for witchcraft rituals.
Witnesses say a local man suspected of involvement was also lynched hours later on Nosy Be, a tourist island resort in Madagascar's north-west.
It is believed he may be the person questioned by police over the child's disappearance on Wednesday.
His detention prompted riots outside a police station and the ensuing unrest.
"Rioters launched a manhunt and killed the Europeans" in the early hours of Thursday morning, the deputy commander of the paramilitary police, Gen Guy Randriamaro Bobin, told the AFP news agency.
He said an eight-year-old boy's lifeless body was found on Thursday morning, without genitals and without a tongue, the agency reports.


The idyllic island resort of Nosy Be has been a magnet for tourists from all over the world. But it has a darker side too. There have long been suggestions that there is a thriving sex tourism industry and there have also been reports of paedophilia.
The vast disparity in wealth between rich tourists and an impoverished local population means there is plenty of opportunity for exploitation. When you add all this together you have the possibility of deep-seated resentment.
Belief in the supernatural in Madagascar also runs deep. Anthropologists believe that accusations of witchcraft often surface when there is friction and jealousy between the haves and the have-nots.
To make matters worse, Madagascar has become increasingly lawless amid a political vacuum since the overthrow of the previous president. With elections coming up there are suspicions that some politicians are exploiting these tense times and incidents like this to stir up hatred.
Officials initially said the men were French nationals, but residents on Nosy Be say one of the men may have been Italian.
"Two foreigners died, we have confirmed that one of them was French," AFP quotes France's foreign affairs spokesman Philippe Lalliot as saying.
Several hours later witnesses, including an AFP correspondent, saw a man dragged from a vehicle and thrown on a fire on the popular palm-fringed Ambatoloaka beach.
A Nosy Be resident told the BBC the man was the suspect questioned by the paramilitary police on Wednesday, who was later released.
The BBC's Tim Healy in the capital, Antananarivo, says Nosy Be is the jewel in the crown of Madagascar's tourist industry and has been used to encourage tourists to return to the Indian Ocean nation following several years of political unrest.
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According to reports, at least one person was also killed in the violence that erupted outside the police station in HellVille, the main town on Nosy Be, on Wednesday.
Police fired shots in the air to disperse the protesters, who had been hurling stones.
The mob then burnt down houses around the station before going on to find the home of the two foreigners.
"They confessed under torture [by the mob] to organ trafficking," Gen Randriamaro Bobin told AFP.
Fishermen carry fishing nets on a beach - Madagascar, 2006 Tourism has been affected by Madagascar's political crisis and most islanders live on less than $2 a day
Local media reported that the protesters had found human organs in a fridge in the building where the Europeans were staying.
Our correspondent says the incident may have political undertones as elections are scheduled to take place on 25 October and there are tensions nationwide.
Poor communities fear that human organs can be removed for use in traditional witchcraft or cults, our reporter says.
Instances of mob justice are common in Madagascar and can be exploited to stir up political tension or as means of revenge over other disputes, he adds.
The French embassy in Madagascar sent out text alerts warning French nationals not to travel to Nosy Be and urging foreigners on the island resort to remain indoors and not go to the beach where it is reported the foreigners were burnt.
A regional government official on Nosy Be blamed for the paramilitary police's lax response to the case was reportedly kidnapped on Wednesday.