Veiled threats in France over Islamic dress

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

This week, France plunged into another bitterly divisive national debate on Muslim women’s clothing, reopening questions on how the country with western Europe’s biggest Muslim community integrates Islam into its secular republic. A parliamentary inquiry is to examine how many women in France wear full Islamic veils or niqab before a decision is made over possibly banning such garments in the street. More than 50 MPs from across the political spectrum have called for restrictions on full veils, called “degrading”, “submissive” and “coffins” by politicians. Yet the actual numbers of niqab wearers in France appears to be so small that TV news crews have struggled to find individuals to film. Muslim groups estimate that there are perhaps only a few hundred women fully covering themselves out of a Muslim population of over 5 million – often young French women, many of them converts.

That such a marginal issue can suddenly take centre stage in a country otherwise struggling with major issues of mass unemployment and protest over public sector reform shows how powerful the symbol of the headscarf and veil remains in France.

If men decided to join a religion that required playing dress-up like the pope, walking around with velvet slippers and swinging a incense brazier from the radio antenna of their mule – I think you’d get the same response from the officials of a nation that works more at being secular than are the critics from other purportedly secular nations. Hypocrites all.

The current initiative against full Islamic veils began in Venissieux, a leftwing area on the industrial outskirts of Lyon. Its communist mayor, André Gerin, led proposals for a clampdown, saying he saw increasing numbers of full veils in his constituency…

Gerin said women in niqab posed “concrete problems” in daily life. “We had an issue in a school where a headteacher at the end of the school day didn’t want to hand back two children to a phantom,” he said. Gerin has refused to conduct the town-hall wedding of a woman wearing niqab. Another woman wearing a full veil was refused social housing by a landlord in the area. The mayor said that when women haven’t removed their face covering, it has resulted in conflict with public officials who often felt insulted or under attack. But he denied stigmatising the wider Muslim population…

Two previous calls for a law restricting full veils have been left to gather dust. This time, the debate is gathering force.

In some nations, Jedi is becoming a significant minor religion – for whatever reason. Do I get to testify before a court of law wearing my Darth Vader helmet?

Why does the world give the US special climate dispensation?

It would be laughable anywhere else. But, so everyone says, the Waxman-Markey bill…is the best we can expect – from America.

The cuts it proposes are much lower than those being pursued in the UK or in most other developed nations. Like the UK’s climate change act the US bill calls for an 80% cut by 2050, but in this case the baseline is 2005, not 1990. Between 1990 and 2005, US carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels rose from 5.8 to 7bn tonnes.

The cut proposed by 2020 is just 17%, which means that most of the reduction will take place towards the end of the period. What this means is much greater cumulative emissions, which is the only measure that counts. Worse still, it is riddled with so many loopholes and concessions that the bill’s measures might not offset the emissions from the paper it’s printed on. You can judge the effectiveness of a US bill by its length: the shorter it is, the more potent it will be. This one is some 1,200 pages long, which is what happens when lobbyists have been at work…

Like the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS), Waxman-Markey would oblige companies to buy only a small proportion (15%) of their carbon permits. The rest will be given away. This means that a resource belonging to everyone (the right to pollute) is captured by industrial interests without public compensation. The more pollution companies have produced, the greater their free allocation will be – the polluter gets paid. It also means, if the ETS is anything to go by, that the big polluters will be able to make windfall profits by passing on the price of the permits they haven’t bought to their consumers…

Even so, I would like to see the bill passed, as it at least provides a framework for future improvements. But why do we expect so little from the US? Why do we treat the world’s most powerful and innovative nation as if it were a failed state, rejoicing at even the faintest suggestion of common sense?

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Ireland grants rights to same-sex partnerships – well ahead of Congress!

Ireland has recognized the legal rights of same-sex couples for the first time in a civil partnership bill that gave people in long-term relationships many of the statutory rights of married couples.

But it stopped short of recognizing civil marriage. There are strong rights conferred to marriage under the constitution of the traditionally Catholic country, which was amended to lift a ban on divorce in 1995.

“This bill provides legal protection for cohabiting couples and is an important step, particularly for same-sex couples, whose relationships have not previously been given legal recognition by the state,” Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said in a statement.

The legislation provides a range of previously denied rights including maintenance obligations, protection of a shared home and succession. “Balance is achieved by maintaining material distinctions between civil partnership and marriage, in particular between the rights attaching to both, while at the same time reflecting the equality rights protected by the constitution,” Ahern said.

The legalized sale of contraceptives caused controversy upon its introduction in 1979 in Ireland, where abortion still remains illegal.

Which gives you a couple of snaps of life in the world outside of American baseball. Federal law rarely is distracted by the state-vs-feds crap we get to put up with in the U.S. as an excuse for reactionary behavior.

You can see how far backwards we can move – quick as a bunny – if you start giving up on essential civil rights. The anti-choice inquisition would reinstate laws against contraception as quickly as any other question involving choice over superstition.

The best tribute to Farrah Fawcett was written a month before her death, by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Those of us who were around THEN will remember this image.

I wasn’t a Farrah Fawcett fan. Nothing personal, she just wasn’t on my preferred list of actors and actresses.

But, as so often happens, she became more interesting as her mortality showed. It happens with movie stars, politicians (even the ones you couldn’t stand), everyday people you never knew. (If you don’t believe it, start reading the obituaries every day, and see if you don’t find yourself clipping the tale of a total stranger once in a while.)

I digress. In May, one of my favorite columnists, Leonard Pitts, Jr., did a piece on Farrah Fawcett. I decided then that I would link to it when she died.

I’m not going to post an excerpt, none of it. You have to read it all. If you don’t read every line, you’ll miss it:

When you can’t even die in peace . . .

Have elders enough exposure to H1N1 flu strains to avoid infection?

A letter…by Rhode Island Hospital infectious diseases specialist Leonard Mermel, DO, identifies characteristics of the outbreak of H1N1 in 1977 and speculates its impact on this pandemic.

Mermel notes that in the late 1970s, an influenza H1N1 reappeared in humans. It had a pandemic-like spread that began in younger aged individuals. This strain, known as the “Russian flu” H1N1, was similar to H1N1 strains that circulated internationally between 1946 and 1957…

In the United States, the first outbreak of the Russian flu occurred in a Wyoming high school. The attack rate there was over 70 percent, however, it affected students only; no faculty were reported to have the illness. High attack rates were seen in schools as well as military bases throughout the United States, similar to the outbreak in Russia. There were few reports of the H1N1 strain in individuals older than age 26, and again, the mortality rate was low.

Mermel hypothesizes that the H1N1 strain circulating now may have enough similarity to the previously circulating H1N1 strains or the H1N1 used in past vaccines so that it may lead to protection of older individuals. He concludes by noting that the weeks ahead should help us to determine if this will be the case.

I can only hope he’s right. The strains of H1N1 circulating in the late 1940’s into the 1950’s was difficult enough to survive. You may not have been at serious risk of dying – at least us young ‘uns – but, you felt like you were.

As a kid, I survived the H1N1 strains in 1947, 1951 and 1953. Painful, severe vomiting, diarrhoea. spiking high fevers – you name it – if it was misery, you suffered through it. Surviving the earlier varieties didn’t forestall the later infections.

Some of these, like the present (A)H1N1 rolled through population centers in the spring, subsided, then roared back with a vengeance in the autumn. Early days with vaccination trials proved unsuccessful from strain to strain back then. Interesting enough, the illness also focused on young people more so than did traditional influenza.

As an old geezer, I’m not certain my body could survive a week or so with those symptoms, again.

Apparently, it’s o.k. to handcuff your kid for hours on end, as long as you do it in the name of Jesus – in GEORGIA

Sandra Alfred, 46, was charged with child cruelty and false imprisonment.

Alfred walked in to the courtroom and listened as a police sergeant told the judge what happened two weeks ago when she called from her Lilburn home to say her teenage son was unruly.

“(She was) trying to explain to us that we were sent to her by God as angels to help her this evening. That this was the third day, and it was supposed to be the worst day, and that her son was possessed by Satan,” said Sgt. Stephen Weed with the Lilburn Police Department.

Police said it was part of an exorcism, where the boy was handcuffed for hours at a time.

“Along with handcuffing, the victim, over the course of three days (he) went without food and water for a period of 12 hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” said Weed.

Doctors believed the boy has the onset of schizophrenia.

Judge Robert Mitchum said Alfred’s beliefs may be different to some, even unconventional, but ruled the evidence did not show a crime since she said she restrained the boy to keep him from hurting himself and others, and police during the incident had to do the same to subdue the teen.

“If you have a 2-year-old that wants to run in front of a car, is the state of Georgia going to say the parents can’t grab that 2-year-old, even hard enough to bruise the child, to keep him from running in front of that car? Is the state of Georgia going to say that? No, it’s not,” said Mitchum.

As for the claims of an exorcism, the judge said, “I’m going to have a hard time believing you’re going to get anybody to say in Gwinnett County, Georgia that Satan doesn’t exist,” said Mitchum.

I’d say to the judge, “It’s people like you who give Georgia a bad name.” What an idiot.

French tourists get to experience NYC police chase – as the chased!

Two of the French tourists and Port Authority coppers
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Operators of an unauthorized New York airport van service that took five French tourists on a high speed chase in an attempt to evade police have been charged with unlawful imprisonment.

Tuesday, the operators of the van service — Khaalif Preacher, 27, and Ian L. McFarlane, 57 — were approached by police for “hustling” travelers outside the Air France terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, prosecutors said.

Preacher, the van’s driver, and McFarlane drove off, ignoring pleas by the tourists to be let out, prosecutors said. Police followed the van “in a marked vehicle with their lights flashing and sirens blaring,” prosecutors said.

The van swerved through traffic, sped though stop signs and red lights, and traveled at speeds of 60 miles per hour on crowded residential streets, prosecutors said.

The men were also charged with assault, reckless endangerment, and resisting arrest. If convicted, they face up to seven years in prison.

This is a double-har!

The tourists for probably trying to save a buck from the exorbitant prices charged by airport hacks in metro NYC. The hustlers for trying to get away from radio-equipped coppers and beaucoup cars to block them sooner or later.