Monthly Archives: May 2010

Aljazeera Arabic Presenters Quit over row over Clothing

Five female presenters at Al Jazeera Arabic channel have resigned over conflicts with management over “delicate issue”, including their looks and dresses.

Jumana Nammour (Lebanon), Luna Al Shibl (Syria), Lina Zahr Al Deen  (Lebanon), Jullinar Mousa (Lebanon) and Nawfar Afli (Tunisia) were among a group of eight women working for the Doha-based pan-Arab channel who had filed a complaint to protest against “repeated offensive public remarks” by an official from Al Jazeera about “clothes and decency.”

The other three female presenters, Khadija Bin Qenna (Algeria), Laila Al Shaikhli and Eman Bannoura did not hand in their resignations, Saudi paper Al Hayat reported on Sunday.

Sources that the paper did not name said that Al Jazeera formed an investigation committee to look into the unprecedented mass resignations.

The panel, chaired by Khalid Abudullah Al Mulla, concluded that Al Jazeera had legal rights over the looks and appearances of its presenters and that the channel was entitled to “set conditions and criteria for its employees’ physical aspects in line with the spirit, values and images it wants to disseminate,” Al Hayat said.

The probe committee dismissed the harassment complaint levelled against Ayman Jaballah, the deputy editor-in-chief, saying that his attitudes and behaviour were within his prerogatives and that he did not make any remarks that could harm the presenters’ reputation. His observations were not personal and were purely professional and related to the general appearance of the presenters, the panel said.

A similar complaint about the behaviour of the head of the make-up section was also dismissed.

“Arguments with the head of the make-up section were the result of different professional approaches and linguistic and cultural differences,” the committee said. However, it called for the drafting of a guidebook stating the presenters’ looks and clothes and recommended the appointment of a clothing adviser to offer expertise.

The panel said that all remarks on the presenters’ looks and clothes should be given in writing to avoid embarrassment.

Al Jazeera, established in 1996 as a news channel modelled after the BBC, quickly became the most popular media in the Arab world, mainly thanks to its talk shows, live reporting and analyses. It has often incurred the anger of Arab countries and was singularly targeted by the Bush administration.

Ex-defence chief wins Colombia vote

Colombia’s former defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos, has easily won the first round of the country’s presidential election, but without the majority needed to avoid a June run-off with rival Antanas Mockus.

Santos, the anointed successor of Alvaro Uribe, the outgoing president, led with 46 per cent of the votes, while Mockus, a former Bogota mayor, had 21 per cent with almost all polling stations reporting, electoral authorities said on Sunday.

But the Unity party candidate failed to get more than 50 per cent of the votes needed to clinch victory outright and will have to battle Mockus, the Green party’s man, in a second round on June 20.

Addressing his supporters late on Sunday, Santos said: "Today our party, as it did four years ago and as it did on March 14, ratified that it is the first political force in the country."

Surging ahead

But Mockus was not conceding defeat, despite garnering less than half the votes his opponent did.

"More than three million citizens have united in what has become a wave of green hope. We know that together we can transform society, we know violence, inequality and corruption are not our destiny – they are problems we can overcome," he told his supporters.

Opinion polls had shown Santos in a tight race with Mockus, well ahead of the seven other candidates.

Speaking from Bogota, Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera English ‘s Latin America editor, said the "extraordinarily competitive" race had been expected to be one of the closest the country had seen in many decades, but Santos had emerged with a one-sided win instead.

Jorge Restrepo, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera English that the discrepancy between the opinion polls and the election results may have been due to pre-election surveys giving the urban opinion more weight.

"Colombia still has a significant proportion of the rural population who mostly support the security and continuation of Uribe’s security policy," he said.

"We may have also underestimated the very many strengths and the importance of Uribe’s opinion."

Al Jazeera English‘s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Colombia’s second largest city, Medellin, said even the Santos camp was surprised by the margin of its candidate’s win, describing the results as exceeding all expectations.

Our correspondent said either Santos connected with voters on health and social issues or on his security policy.

"People here are not voting for change in this election but for an extension of Uribe’s security policy," he said.

Israeli forces storm Gaza aid ship

The Israeli navy has stormed at least one of a convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip, amid reports of casualties on board.

Organisers of the aid flotilla say 30 people were hurt in the confrontation. Israel has made no comment.

The interception reportedly took place in international waters, more than 150km (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza.

The ships are carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid to the Gaza Strip in an effort to break an Israeli blockade.

Turkish TV pictures taken on board the ship show Israeli soldiers fighting to control passengers.

Some reports suggest two people were killed in the clashes.

The footage showed a number of people, apparently injured, lying on the ground. The sound of gunshots could be heard. It is not clear whether the fighting is ongoing.


The six-ship flotilla left international waters off the coast of Cyprus on Sunday and was expected to arrive in Gaza later on Monday.

Israel has said it would stop the boats, calling the campaign a “provocation intended to delegitimise Israel”.

An economic blockade was imposed by Israel after the Islamist movement Hamas took power in Gaza.

Israel says it allows about 15,000 tones of humanitarian aid into Gaza every week.

But the United Nations says this is less than a quarter of what is needed.

Hamas, a militant palestinian group that controls the Gaza strip, has fired thousands of rockets into Israel over the past decade.

Army seems to have upper hand in Bangkok

The Thai army looks to have taken the initiative in the battle with thousands of anti-government protesters who have occupied central Bangkok.

The heaviest fighting is in the Bon Kai area of the city, leading to the main business district.

More than 20 have died over the last three days and scores have been injured.

The government has rejected protesters’ calls for UN-supervised talks to end the crisis.

A state of emergency has been extended to a further five rural provinces, curbing activity in the protesters’ stronghold.

The military now say a curfew will not be imposed in flashpoint areas of Bangkok, as it is not yet needed.

And officials have asked the Red Cross to help evacuate the red-shirts fortified camp in Ratchasprong by a Monday deadline.

Some children, women and the elderly have reportedly already begun to shelter in a temple inside the camp.

Those outside the camp’s barricades can only watch and wait.

Engraved menhir found in India. Dates back to the time between 1,000 and 300 BCE

Mon, 10 May 2010 17:41:24 GMT
K. Venkateswara Rao standing beside the new menhir he discovered in India’s Guntur district
A freelance Indian archeologist has discovered an engraved megalith menhir on an open field about 100 kilometers from the southeastern city of Guntur.

K. Venkateshwara Rao found the menhir on the left bank of Nagaleuru, a tributary of the Krishna at Karampudi, The Hindu reported.

The Menhir, which dates back to the time between 1,000 and 300 BCE, stands alone facing the north-east and bears rock engravings at 8 to 9 feet off the ground.

Menhirs are remnants of the prehistoric megalithic civilization, when people used signs to communicate. Archaeological evidence also shows that they were used as places of worship.

Mr. Rao, who spotted the Menhir after years of research, calls it a “rare and unusual discovery and probably the first-of-its kind in the country.”

It is the first time that a menhir with petroglyphs has been found.

The engravings include three rows of different patterns. The upper row features four concentric circles with four small lines and a small pointed base.
Below the circular patterns, there are shapes of a crawling animal with an elongated head, a humped bull with V-shaped antlers and a peacock.

The lowest row depicts two men carrying a pole on their shoulders and moving towards east.

“The rare discovery is of great historical importance and could lead to further study on pre-historic civilizations in the country,” Mr. Rao said.


Will you feel better if your safety net is a pretty color?

“If you see yourself in an emergency situation, call us for a safety net.

It comes in three colors,” Eurozone.

On the Road to Destruction? Athens, Greece during time of financial crisis.


Athens, Greece Injured from fire-bombed back

Commentary from May 6, 2010

Can a society self-destruct? Yes, it most definitely can and the way Greece is headed right now it is a very real possibility that it will.

Here we have a state and a society that allow a handful of nihilistic hooligans to torch the city and cause the deaths of three citizens.

We have the leadership of the country’s second biggest political party opting for a populist line of rhetoric and failing to answer a simple question on whether or not it will support the government’s economic recovery plan.

We see a society that is mad, and justifiably so, and we see it going down an ill-advised path.

Then we see the government, caught in the grips of panic, contributing to the populist fever and pouring more oil over the fire.

Greece is at the most crucial point of its post-1974 history and whether we destroy ourselves or not, whether we go bankrupt or not, depends not just on our political leadership, but also on every single one of us individually and collectively.

Thoughts from Vicki

I wanted to share the above commentary from the English language portion of the Greek newspaper, (Kathimerini), because of the drama with which it is written as well as some of the cultural points it brings up which we can explore together.

15 hooligans who label themselves anarchists in order to give themselves feelings of justification for their acts of vandalism . . . and now murder.  . . were filmed by security cameras attacking a bank.

In the USA, citizens have shown up at talks given by President Obama with guns casually slung over their shoulders.  In the streets of Athens during times of protest the unions of public worker unions find themselves next to a few young men and women with kerchief-covered faces and backpacks stuffed with Molotov cocktail ingredients.

A CNN International reporter interviewed different segments of the protestors on the street but avoided the self-proclaimed anarchists.  I’m sure they seem quite threatening particularly to Americans.  Unfortunately, when questioned, the “anarchists” are not able to speak logically about their “movement” or what they are trying to accomplish by their actions.  There seems to be an attitude that protest is the means and the end.

The police are in the same position as others in dealing with the austerity measures yet they are they receive the primary attacks from the anarchists.

ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) at banks are the second favorite target.  I have a personal experience in wanting to pay the mother of one of the vandals of bank ATMs.  She was quite anxious to have some money from me, and I would have helped her out . . . but the ATMs at the banks had been destroyed.  It was the weekend and I was unable to give her the cash she wanted.  Whether it registered to her 20-something son that he was hurting his own family by he and his friends’ actions was not clear.  Another of their contradictory acts is to protest that they want jobs yet these hooligans don their kerchiefs and backpacks to protest against private universities that could give them and college graduates of their generation very good jobs at home in Greece.

And the group that was caught by the cameras tossing firebombs into the bank have used this same method before targeting banks.

20,000 to 40,000 citizens on the streets during a demonstration is few for Athens where strikes by labor unions of both working class and professional groups are quite common.  A handful of the ragtag vandals following behind the legitimate protestors have been given credit by much of the foreign news media for causing a panic on Wall Street; exactly the wrong kind of social reinforcement needed by this immature group.

PASOK is the name of the party which won the recent elections and inherited all many shocking surprises of a country badly in debt.   They won against the second large political party in Greece, the New Democracy Party, and the party which Barnaby Phillips, the AJE Athens correspondent, rightly reported has almost thoroughly discredited itself with the populace.

Although the majority of the citizens understand that the austerity measures are the only choice and support Prime Minister Papandreou and the PASOK party; New Democracy is playing along with the foreign media and voting against the austerity plan. Or is it possibly the speculators who gave loans and have been betting for a Greek default who are being supported?

The commentary from ekathimerini was written after three innocent people died in a bankwhenr a fire bomb came crashing through the office window.  They died of asphyxiation.

I don’t agree that the government has been in a panic.  The Prime Minister and the Ministers of Economy and Finance have been articulate and soft spoken each time they’ve been questioned on the decisions they have been making.

Will the Greek society self-destruct? An unlikely scenario given the history of Greek survival against all odds.

Will the Greek government go bankrupt?  The European Union is young and a mechanism has not been established for members of the European Union to go bankrupt (The Brief, CNNI).

The modern democracy of Greece is young and far more inclusive than the ancient Greek democracy.  (Perhaps you recall the USA government/Kissinger-backed dictators who ruled Greece in the early 1970’s?)

I do agree with the last sentence of the commentary which is the reality we face in Greece.  “Greece is at the most crucial point of its post-1974 history and whether we destroy ourselves or not,  . . . depends not just on our political leadership, but also on every single one of us individually and collectively.”