Child marriage – and divorce – in Yemen

A 10-year-old, Nujood Ali, also granted a divorce

The nine year old child lives with her parents and six brothers and sisters in a humble, two-roomed house overlooking the mosque built by her namesake, Queen Arwa, who ruled Yemen 900 years ago.

She knows nothing of wealth and power but, in her own way, she has helped make history.

Arwa is the youngest of three Yemeni girls who recently went to court complaining they were married against their will and asking for divorce – an astonishing display of defiance that has prompted the government to review its law on early marriage.

Earlier this year, her father announced she was to be married, ignoring her tears of protest. She claims to have forgotten her husband’s name and all she will say about him is that he seemed tall and old.

So why did he sell his daughter to a stranger?

“He gave me $150 and promised another $2,000. I was really in need of money and thought it was a solution for the family,” he explains…

With parliamentary elections next year, President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government may be reluctant to alienate the growing forces of Islamic fundamentalism, so women’s rights campaigners are preparing for a bitter fight. They are concerned that, with the global economic down-turn, more families will be under pressure to sacrifice their young daughters.

Read the details. Sad as they are.

Even considering that many of the freedoms withheld from Arwa are dramatically different from those withheld from others in our own society – freedoms that religious moralists are perfectly willing to decide for the rest of us is what I resent most about crap like this.

I’ll gladly leave you alone – if you leave me alone.

Luxury hotel – open for just one guest

Nadene Ghouri laments the collapse of Pakistan’s most famous tourist destination while spending time as the only guest in a 50 room luxury hotel.

A valley as green as the emeralds that lie beneath the mountains. Cold and clear rivers flowing from the snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush. A brilliant blue sky – it’s hard to describe the Swat valley without getting carried away.

It feels like one of the most beautiful and magical places on earth. But it’s also extremely dangerous as Pakistani security forces take on Islamic extremists.

Until recently Swat was a tourist destination, popular with both Western backpackers and Pakistani honeymooners. Here you could go trekking or ride a horse along mountain passes, ski pristine slopes, view ancient Buddhist sites or shop in bustling bazaars selling brightly embroidered shawls, folk jewellery and locally produced honey.

But today the sound of nightly gunfire echoes across the mountains, the hotels and bazaars are boarded-up, and the tourists long gone. The ancient monuments are at risk – caught in the crossfire of clashes between the Pakistan military and Taleban fighters.

The area is now deemed unsafe for Western tourists because of the fighting and threats of kidnap.

One of those classic British tales “from our reporter” – in this case, Swat, Pakistan.

Read through and imagine what you’ve missed by not visiting this lovely region. Before it became a center of confrontation with religious nutballs.

Australian judge sentenced pair to zzzzzzzzzzzz!

It is OK for judges to be temporarily distracted, but sleeping in court is out, the High Court has ruled.

Two men, whose trial was presided by the former District Court judge Ian Dodd, have been granted a retrial on drugs charges after the ruling, published yesterday.

Judge Dodd, who had been referred to as “the sleeping judge” after repeatedly falling asleep in court, retired from the bench in 2005. He was diagnosed with sleep apnoea.

But the High Court found the judge had failed in his duty to supervise and control the trial and participate in it, leading to a miscarriage of justice.

I’m one of those with OSA who is a thorough advocate of CPAP therapy. Sleeping with a mask pressuring air into my lungs from a whispering compressor gives me a complete night’s sleep. Refreshed, normal blood oxygen levels, I’m ready to do metaphorical battle with the ignorant of the world, every morning.

And it doesn’t reduce my crankiness a jot.

Medication Overuse Headaches are surprisingly common

There is a critical need to review current treatment strategies for the increasingly common problem of medication overuse headaches (MOH).

“MOH is associated with severe disability, unmet treatment need and little clinical data to support current management strategies” says neurology expert Professor David W Dodick from the Mayo Clinic…

MOH, previously known as rebound headache, drug-induced headache or drug-misuse headache, is a headache that occurs at least 15 days a month when patients overuse medication.

Tolerance to the analgesic effect of the acute medication develops over time, consumption may increase and patients may show withdrawal symptoms when they stop the overused mediation” explains Professor Dodick. “We estimate that the condition affects one in every 100 adults and one in every 200 adolescents worldwide, which is a considerable number.

“For example, in the USA 60 per cent of people with chronic daily headaches attending headache clinics have MOH. Data from a physician study suggests that it may be the third most frequent type of headache after migraines and tension-type headaches.

The international papers that accompany Dr Dodick’s overview show that MOH is a common problem, but the incidence, causes and treatment vary from country to country.

Yet another interesting piece of research on an illness that may seem obscure to some – if you ain’t suffering or dedicated to the prevention and cure of the ailment.

Good luck to Dr. Dodick and his new task as an editor.

Oil will rocket back through $100 a barrel

The oil price will shoot back through $100 a barrel as soon as economic conditions return to normal, and will break through $200 threshold by 2030, say officials at the International Energy Agency.

“While market imbalances could temporarily cause prices to fall back, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the era of cheap oil is over,” says the IEA in the World Energy Outlook report, obtained by the Financial Times ahead of its release next week.

Oil prices have endured a rollercoaster ride this year during some of the most volatile trading on record. Crude climbed relentlessly from $96 a barrel in January to a record $147 by mid-July, spelling misery for drivers.

Households also suffered as wholesale gas and electricity prices – which are linked to those of oil – soared to record levels and were swiftly passed on in higher fuel bills. Oil’s rise was also a main driver for soaring inflation in the UK, which doubled in six months to nearly 5%. But the intensification of the financial crisis this autumn has depressed the oil price to $60-$70 a barrel…

But the IEA cautions the low oil price will be short-lived. It expects oil to trade at an average of more than $100 a barrel between now and 2015 as supply shortages become a reality.

I can see the history-challenged reacting in predictable fashion to short-term phenomena. American automobile manufacturers will crank up for big V-8’s and barely green-washed SUV’s. And the dumbest semi-employed drug dealers in town will buy ’em.

Massachusetts officials panic after passage of marijuana initiative

After Massachusetts voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, top law enforcement officials are scrambling to figure out what they need to do to put the law into effect — despite their efforts to defeat it at the polls.

WTF? Did these idiots just presume that God, country and abstinence automatically win?

Attorney General Martha Coakley, who joined all 11 of the state’s district attorneys in opposing the ballot question, said Wednesday she was working to determine exactly what it will require the legal system to do.

“Question 2’s passage not only authorizes the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, but also establishes a parallel civil regulatory structure that does not currently exist,” Coakley said in a written statement.

Massachusetts becomes the 12th state in the country to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The measure passed Tuesday with 65 percent of voters supporting it and 35 percent opposed.

Under the state constitution, a ballot question approved by voters becomes law 30 days after an election.

Street prices are dropping like a stone. The morality brigade is crying in their (inevitable) beer.

ABC and CNN big winners for election eyeballs

A record-setting 70 million-plus viewers watched election returns Tuesday night, which proved to be historic for cable TV and Web news consumption just as it was for Barack Obama.

It was no doubt the most people to use those mediums to follow election returns. Nielsen Media Research doesn’t have complete historical viewership figures, but the 47 million homes following the story on TV was the most ever.

Web sites run by MSNBC, CNN and ABC News all shattered records for traffic on Tuesday. The top site Yahoo! News saw its page views up 80 percent over the 2004 campaign.

ABC News had the most prime-time viewers, according to Nielsen’s preliminary estimate. But stretch that coverage to 12:30 a.m. EST, which would include John McCain’s concession speech and Obama’s victory appearance in Chicago, and CNN was watched more than any network.

Not only is that CNN’s biggest audience in a nearly three-decade history, it proved that a cable network could beat the major broadcasters on a big event. That’s an important change from even four years ago, when more viewers turned to ABC, CBS and NBC on Election Night.

DirecTV’s Election News Mix was a gas. They ranged 8 mosaic-style panels, 4 over 4, with the network channels top half and CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC and BBCAmerica across the bottom.

As you used the remote to move from panel to panel, you caught the audio for that channel. Click enter and it went full-screen. Click to jog back and you returned to the mix channel.

Absolute heaven for news junkies. Especially with 6 of the 8 in Hi-Def.

Laptop swiped – thousands of social security numbers – surprised?

North Carolina officials say they are alerting residents whose names and Social Security numbers were stored in a laptop computer stolen from a state employee.

The identification data is from more than 52,000 North Carolinians registered with the Division of Aging and Adult Services. Another 32,645 names in the computer had the last four digits of the Social Security number attached, the agency said Wednesday.

The individuals would be getting letters on how to place a fraud alert on their credit cards and a reminder to be wary of unusual phone calls from solicitors.

The computer disappeared from an airport shuttle bus on Oct. 25, the division announced Wednesday. The files were protected by a password.

Computer security at its 19th Century best.

Dumb crook of the day!

A New Zealand rape victim drove her rapist to a police station when he fell asleep in his car after assaulting the woman.

Vipul Sharma, 22, was found guilty of abduction and two charges of rape by the Auckland District Court Tuesday, court officials told Reuters.

The New Zealand newspaper said Sharma met the woman at an Auckland bar in 2006 and later drove her first to a park where he raped her in the back seat of his car.

After the attack Sharma allowed the woman to drive and fell asleep in the passenger seat, so the woman drove him to Auckland Central police station where he was arrested.

She showed a lot of bravery and common sense. I have nothing but respect for what she has endured,” police detective Simon Welsh told the newspaper.

Bravo. The only addition I can think of to this almost-happy ending would have been slamming his whatchamacallit in the car door.

Thanks, Mr. Justin