A new low in Pakistani “honor killings” – wife in disputed marriage murdered in court by her brother

So-called honour killings by families who believe their daughters have disgraced them are increasingly common in Pakistan. But the gunning down last week of a woman by her brother, a lawyer, in front of dozens of witnesses in a packed courtroom in the bustling city of Hyderabad marks an alarming new low.

The family of 22 year-old Raheela Sehto had already made their fury at her marriage to Zulfiqar Sehto – a love match struck without their permission – abundantly clear. They reacted by filing a claim with local police that their daughter had been kidnapped by her 30-year-old husband, a life-long neighbour who had wooed Raheela over the years, although largely through clandestine mobile phone conversations.

Her uncle had tried to throttle her with a scarf at an earlier appearance at the high court in Hyderabad in July. The couple had petitioned the court for its protection and to try and have the kidnapping charges thrown out.

But Sehto, a university graduate working for the local electricity company, said they felt they had no reason to fear for their lives in court, even when in the earlier part of the morning he was sitting almost directly in front of his wife’s eventual killer, Javed Iqbal Shaikh, her brother.

Shortly after the two judges had returned to their seats after a break, Shaikh, dressed in the black suit and tie of his profession, produced a gun he had smuggled into court, lunged at Raheela and shot her point-blank in the left side of the head…The gunman, Shaikh, then tried to shoot Sehto, but was overpowered by police.

According to the latest survey of violence against women by the Aurat Foundation, a rights group, there were 2,341 honour killings in 2011 in Pakistan – a 27% jump on the year before. The report also said there were more than 8,000 abductions and 3,461 rapes and gang rapes…

Pakistan law sounds as if it is as useless to building better lives for the people of the nation as, say, the elected government or bureaucrats down to the level of local judges. Life surely ain’t getting better.

Not too “disabled” to steal six cases of beer!

A “disabled” man who was apparently unfit to work was caught on CCTV as he managed to find the strength to steal six large crates of beer from a supermarket.

At the time of the offence Marek Damien Kedzior was out of work, described as “disabled” and awaiting an operation having suffered two broken legs, Selby Magistrates Court heard.

Magistrate Brian Wood told him that there did not appear to be “much wrong” with him judging from the CCTV photos, which showed Kedzior carrying the boxes of lager, and said he should focus on finding work rather than “pinching”.

The 30-year-old, of Selby, North Yorks., pleaded guilty to stealing the boxes of Stella Artois lager, worth £90, from a Tesco store on June 10.

Sandra White, prosecuting, told the court Kedzior was seen on security cameras carrying several boxes of lager out of the supermarket, before loading them into a vehicle driven by a second man…

Kedzior described himself as a binge drinker, and had been drinking vodka earlier in the day but had no money for more alcohol, said Steve Munro, who was representing him.

Oh. Another condition perhaps that he should be treated for, eh?

Catholic Church reinstates 17th Century prayer as part of the political campaign against same-sex marriage, death with dignity

The French Catholic Church will revive a centuries-old custom next week with an updated national “prayer for France” opposing the same-sex marriage and euthanasia reforms planned by the new Socialist government.

The prayer, to be read in all churches on Aug 15, echoes the defense of traditional marriage by Pope Benedict and Catholic leaders around the world as gay nuptials gain acceptance, especially in Europe and North America…

King Louis XIII decreed in 1638 that all churches would pray on Aug 15, the day Catholics believe the Virgin Mary was assumed bodily into Heaven, for the good of the country. The annual practice fell into disuse after World War Two.

In the text, Catholics will pray for newly elected officials “so that their sense of the common good will overcome special demands.” This would include support for traditional families “throughout their lives, especially in painful moments…”

Pope Benedict said in January that same-sex marriage threatened “the future of humanity itself…”

Socialist President Francois Hollande pledged during the election campaign last spring to reform marriage laws and his government has said it would do so early next year. Opinion polls say about two-thirds of the French support gay marriage…

Hollande has also expressed sympathy for euthanasia, which is not allowed in France, and named a commission to review whether the current law stressing palliative care for the dying needed to be expanded…

Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. Switzerland and the U.S. state of Oregon allow assisted suicide.

I’m never surprised when “defenders of the faith” attack my blog posts as overdoing hyperbole when I accuse the Pope and his Princes of the Church of living in the Middle Ages – or the Dark Ages, depending on the issue.

Kind of heartwarming to see an official order reinstating church politics from the early 17th Century. Affirmation is a trip.

Sheep will be able to call for help against wolves via txt msg

Swiss sheep could soon be texting shepherds for help when they are being stalked or attacked by wolves…A Swiss biologist is developing a collar that can monitor a sheep’s heart rate and spot when it is distressed.

The collar will call a shepherd if it spots that the heart rate of an animal has increased for an extended period…

I hope it can differentiate between life-threatening panic and the joy of sex.

Early prototypes of the collar, employing heart rate monitors similar to those used by runners to fine-tune their training, have been tested on 12 Swiss sheep. The tests, carried out in the Bernese Alps above Les Diablerets, involved scaring the sheep with two muzzled Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs…

Wolf expert Jean-Marc Landry from Swiss carnivore research group Kora came up with the idea for the collar in a bid to limit the number of sheep lost to wolves reaching Switzerland from Italy.

Growing numbers of sheep are being eaten by wolves, especially among small flocks owned by farmers who cannot afford a sheepdog. Even those that are not eaten trample down fences and flee long distances when being hunted.

Dr Landry said the first collars would be produced in the autumn and he was considering three different techniques to help protect the sheep.

The collars could be fitted with a mobile chip that alerted a shepherd via text message when the sheep were stressed. Alternatively they might play a loud noise or spray a chemical repellent to frighten off the wolf.

Landry is considering other processes the chip might be programmed to trigger. So far, not especially productive IMHO.

Though, I guess we might try to think up other practical defense mechanisms that would be initiated by appropriate circumstances and signals.

NASA announces $1.1 billion developing a trio of spaceships

NASA has committed $1.1 billion over the next 21 months to support spaceship development efforts by the Boeing Co., SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corp., with the aim of having American astronauts flying once more on American spacecraft within five years.

…Today NASA laid out the details, including the outlays for each of the teams involved. The space agency is setting aside $460 million for Boeing, $440 million for SpaceX and $212.5 million for Sierra Nevada.

The next phase of NASA’s commercial spaceflight effort — known as Commercial Crew Integrated Capability, or CCiCap — calls for these three companies to take their design and testing program through a series of milestones by May 2014. Optional milestones could lead to crewed demonstration flights in later years.

NASA wants to have at least one commercial space taxi carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station by 2017. The three companies say they can meet or beat that schedule, provided that they continue to receive NASA support…

The three companies say their spacecraft will be capable of flying seven astronauts to the space station, at a per-seat cost that’s less than what NASA is paying the Russians…

NASA says the reliance on commercial transport to low Earth orbit would free up the space agency to concentrate on exploration beyond Earth orbit.

RTFA for details on each program – as well as proposals that didn’t make it at this stage; but, just may be worth considering.

Our species is bound and determined to get off this planet. Somehow.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Ride Review: Mission Motors Mission R

How do you begin to talk about riding the Mission Motors Mission R electric superbike? Without question, this machine is unlike anything else. It is drop-dead sexy in that completely unobtainable sort of way, it has more neck-snapping torque than a 1000cc sport bike, and it is electric…just like your toaster oven…

…We could talk lap times, lean angles, and wheelies per second. At its heart, Asphalt & Rubber is sport bike blog, and sport bikers are a very metric driven group. How much power does it have? And how much does it weigh? Ok, and maybe there should be an inquiry into the chances of the bike getting you laid on a Friday night. That being said, the only real metric you need to know is that in the hands of Steve Rapp, the Mission R could give any AMA Supersport rider and machine a serious run for their money at Laguna Seca, for about eight laps…

…The motorcycle I just described to you is the Mission R pictured in the photo at the top of this article, and recently we had the chance to ride the pride of Mission Motors through the streets of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mt. Tamalpais, and out past Stinson Beach & Bolinas Bay, before eventually returning home along the cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway.

The beginning of a long and lovely article, somewhat amazing for folks who haven’t considered astounding power and performance as something quiet and cool. Jensen Beeler had more fun than he might otherwise be allowed.