Friday, March 31, 2006

Ethnic cleansing in Burma

Just came across an article reporting on continued ethnic cleansing in Burma. This just goes on and on. The leadership of the country does not care about its own people. Power and wealth seem to be all they know!

Rights group accuses Myanmar troops of ethnic cleansing - Daily Times - Site Edition - Monday, March 27, 2006:
BANGKOK: The military has in recent weeks launched attacks on several ethnic Karen villages in western Myanmar, forcing thousands to flee their homes and go into hiding, a rights group said.

Hundreds of troops have attacked at least six villages and townships in Karen state, according to The Free Burma Rangers, an advocacy group that works inside the impoverished country that is also known as Burma. Troops have terrorised villagers and destroyed scores of homes, the group said.

“All of these attacks are occurring in a North-South line stretching from Toungoo to Shwe Gyin, roughly at the junction of the plains and mountains,” the group said in a statement posted on its Web site on Tuesday. “It seems to be aimed at cutting off all support for the resistance as well as stopping all rice, medicine and other needed material from reaching the displaced people who are living in these areas.”

A spokesman for the Myanmar government could not be immediately reached for comment.

Karen guerrillas have been fighting for independence from Myanmar for more than five decades in one of the longest-running insurgencies in the world. They began peace talks with the junta in 2003 and later reached a provisional truce, but sporadic fighting has continued.

The violence against the Karen and scores of other insurgent groups over the years has spawned an estimated one million internal refugees, and another 400,000 who have fled to neighbouring Thailand, refugee aid group the Burma Border Consortium said earlier this year.

The conflict wracking eastern Myanmar has destroyed some 3,000 villages and displaced 80,000 people a year in most recent times, the group claimed.

The 2004 ouster of Gen Khin Nyunt, who negotiated cease-fires with 17 insurgent groups, reinforced hard-liners within the junta and “resulted in increasing hostility directed at ethnic minority groups,” US-based Human Rights Watch said in its 2006 report.

Myanmar has been a pariah to the West since 1990, when its military rulers refused to hand over power to the Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy after it won elections. Suu Kyi has been in detention for almost 10 of the last 16 years.

Malaysia’s foreign minister and special ASEAN envoy Syed Hamid Albar said it was regrettable that he could not meet with Aung San Suu Kyi during his trip to Myanmar. Syed Hamid Albar, who begun his long-delayed visit on Thursday, left the military-run country on Friday night, one day early than scheduled, without being allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the last 16 years in jail or under house arrest.

“I told them that it would have been better if I had been allowed to meet Suu Kyi and other political leaders as it would be a step towards their democratic reform,” Sunday’s New Sunday Times quoted him as saying.

“The reason given for the prohibition was that Suu Kyi is under house arrest and nobody is allowed to see her,” he said.

Syed Hamid, however, said his early departure from the country was because he had completed his work there, and insisted the mission was a success. During his visit, Syed Hamid met with Myanmar Prime Minister Soe Win, Foreign Minister Nyan Win and several junta-related officials.

Syed Hamid said he had told Soe Win that Myanmar had to convince the international community that it was committed to democratic reforms. “While ASEAN has a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, we sent across a message that they need to convince not only ASEAN but the international community that they are making democratic progress,” he said. Agencies

Abdul Rahman Update

Good news about Abdul Rahman. Not so good news about other Christians in Afghanistan.


Leniency for rapist? Come on...

This makes my stomach turn! Rape is rape. How can there be exceptional circumstances? These idiots could have said 'NO!' and refused to participate, it would have been 2 against one. What's wrong with them? They did it... they can't squirm out of it now. The girl is left with the nightmares, drugs, and the shattered ruins of her life. How about leniency for her?

Rapist deserves leniency in exceptional case: lawyer - National -

THE victim of a gang rape has had nightmares for seven months, turned to drugs and had to quit her job because she could not forget the attack.

But the lawyer for one of her attackers, Chrisovalantis Papadopoulos, said yesterday the rape in July 2004 was only brief and "at the very bottom of the scale of seriousness".

Papadopoulos and Bulent Topcu said they had been forced by another man, Canan Eken, to have sex with the woman, but were found guilty of gang rape last month. Both had apologised to the victim, who was allegedly being punched and kicked by Eken in his Rosebery flat.

The woman, who was 17 at the time, told the District Court yesterday she became afraid of the dark, and slept next to her mother for seven months after the attack.

"I would have nightmares every night about the rape … Even when I was not asleep, every time I shut my eyes I could see what went on that night. I couldn't get their faces out of my head," she said.

She turned to drugs to take away her pain and no longer trusted people, she said. "Every time I walk out my front door I feel unsafe."

The case was exceptional because the men were not the instigators of the rape, said Papadopoulos's barrister, Barry Cross. His client deserved less than the standard minimum period of 10 years in jail, he argued.

William Brewer, Topcu's barrister, said his client also deserved less than the minimum 15 years sentence for his offence because the oral sex had stopped as soon as Eken left the room.

The men will be sentenced next month.

More drive by shootings

What on earth is wrong in NSW? It feels like the press is reporting a drive-by shooting just about every day. There have been 22 shootings in Sydney and others outside of Sydney. This is plain awful!

Shootings not random: Moroney - National -

Thursday, March 30, 2006

More Christians Arrested in Afghanistan

As one case gets some resolution by the whisking Abdul Rahman out of country, more trouble is at hand for Christians in Afghanistan. Pay back maybe for being shamed in the eyes of the world. Afghanistan needs to be pressured to make solid changes such that all its citizens have freedom of choice.

Read more at Novapress: North America » Blog Archive » More Christians Arrested in Afghanistan:
More Christians Arrested in Afghanistan
by Hilary White

KABUL, March 28 2006, ( – US-based Christian news source, Compass Direct, reports that more Christians have been arrested for their faith in Afghanistan in the wake of the release of Abdul Rahman. Compass, a news service that tracks persecution of Christians mostly in Islamic countries, says harassment of the Christian community has been stepped up.

Compass says two more Christian converts have been arrested in other parts of the country, but further information is being withheld in the “sensitive situation” caused by the international media furor over Rahman.

Reports of beatings and police raids on the homes of Christians are filtering out of the country through local Christian ministers.

The Italian newspaper, La Republica, published an interview with Abdul Rahman that the paper obtained through an aid worker who visited him last week. Rahman told the paper that, though he did not want to die, he was ready give up his life for his faith.

If God decides, I am ready to confront my choices, all the way,” he said.

“I read the Bible and it opened my heart and mind,” he told the paper. I have done nothing to repent, I respect Afghan law as I respect Islam. But I chose to become a Christian, for myself, for my soul. It is not an offence.”

The threat of death hangs over the heads of all Afghan Christians, of whom US-based groups say there may be as many as 10,000, meeting secretly in houses for prayer and bible study, and living in fear of their lives. Under Afghanistan’s strict Islamic law conversion to another religion is a capital offense and Muslim leaders have been calling for Rahman’s execution and threatening to kill him.

Rahman is in hiding and is thought to be under the protection of the UN through whom he has requested asylum outside Afghanistan. An offer has already been made by the Italian government. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, announced yesterday that he would ask the Council of Ministers to “grant Rahman hospitality in Italy.”

Italy has close ties with Afghanistan; the Afghan royal family lived in exile in Rome for 30 years, returning to Afghanistan only after the fall of the Taliban regime.

When the announcement of Rahman’s release was made public, demonstrations broke out in which protesters chanted, “Death to Christians” among the anti-Bush and anti-American slogans.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Burma -- Hanging on to power at all costs

Yesterday's Bangkok Post has an article on Burma. It's helpful to be reminded that not only is greed a motivating factor for hanging on to power, but also fear, fear of being brought to justice for all the atrocities they have perpetrated on the peoples of Burma for so many years. The wealth of those in power (and their families) is obscene! People starve and suffer while the privileged few have boxes of gold bars, imported cars, palatial homes with jade studded walls... etc and so forth.

Bring it to an end! Set the people free! Release the captives! Stop the dishonourable behaviour!Burma

Bangkok Post News: Hanging on to power at all costs:
Burma's generals celebrated this year's Armed Forces Day yesterday in the country's new capital, Pyinmana Nay Pyi Daw, some 400km north of Rangoon. The military regime began moving the country's government and war office there last November. The new capital has been renamed for the occasion the Royal City, in keeping with the monarchist pretensions of Burma's top general, Than Shwe.

For most of the last 50 years, Burma has been ruled by military dictators. The current crop of generals seized power in a military coup nearly 18 years ago, brutally suppressing the massive pro-democracy demonstrations which had brought the capital Rangoon to a virtual standstill for months.

The military regime continues to insist it is preparing the way for the introduction of a multi-party democracy. But greed and fear of possible Nuremberg-style trials have made Burma's top generals increasingly xenophobic and intent on hanging on to power at all costs.

Burma's military rulers ignored the results of national elections in May 1990 which the opposition National League for Democracy _ led by Aung San Suu Kyi then also under house arrest _ convincingly won.

Since then the generals have clung on to power despite international isolation and increasing pressure, including sanctions imposed by Europe and the US. Fear and greed seem to be the main reasons why they are reluctant to step down.

In fact Burma's reclusive generals are tightening control on military and administrative power for fear that if they stepped down they would face Nuremburg-style trials. The country's top military leader, General Than Shwe has often told the former Malaysian prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, that was what he was most concerned about.

The top generals have been preoccupied with control ever since they seized power. Almost every aspect of Burmese life is dominated by the army. Economic activity is tightly controlled by the army and the media is rigidly censored.

"Power motivates the generals above all else," according to the independent Burmese analyst Win Min based in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. "If they have power, they can do and get whatever they want _ money, jewellery and cars," he said. In fact they operate with impunity. When Than Shwe's tailors tried to collect what they were owed for clothes they had made for the women of the household more than a year ago, they were paid a fraction of the bill. The next day the tax inspectors were sent round to the shop to audit their accounts.

Over the past two years the army has been centralising authority in the hands of a few generals. Burma's generals are grouped around the country's top two military rulers _ Senior General Than Shwe, the head of state, and deputy Senior General Maung Aye, who is effectively in charge of the army.

The country is managed through a system of patronage and corruption. Greed and fear are the main motivations of the men in green who run Burma.

"The military leadership has rewritten and reinterpreted history to reinforce their belief that only they can save the country, and have done so to a degree that they believe it," the Burma specialist, Professor David Steinberg told the Bangkok Post. "They have a profound, but misguided, sense of nationalism, which they have used to attempt to legitimise their actions. This includes the belief that all foreign governments have attempted at one time or another to divide up or otherwise undermine the state."

The top general, Than Shwe, who sees himself as the country's new monarch, has a passion for luxurious and grandiose houses. "He needs to feel that he lives in a palace," according to a Burmese businessman who knew Than Shwe well. He had massive pillars coated in jade in his recently built new home in Rangoon, before deciding that it was not regal enough. He then spent millions of dollars on importing Italian slate before finally deciding that the pillars needed to be of Chinese marble, according to a Burmese building contractor. Grandiose dwellings were also built for all his children.

Money, jewellery and fast, expensive, imported cars are all accumulated by the top military leaders and their families. When the former agriculture minister, General Nyunt Tin, was arrested last year, five boxes of gold bars, diamonds and other precious stones were confiscated. Four large diamonds alone were worth six million dollars, according to a Burmese police source. Gold and jewellery were plastered into the walls of his new house that was built last year, according to the neighbours.

Imported cars _ often smuggled in from Thailand or shipped up from Singapore _ are also very popular. The agriculture minister's family also had more than 30 expensive imported cars in their possession when the minister and his son were arrested.

"In Burma, power relates to whether you're in the military or not. There is a saying in Burma that when you have stars on your shoulder, you have power and you're a big thing, but once you have no stars on your shoulder, you've no power and you're nothing," according the analyst, Win Min.

This is another reason that the top generals are hanging onto power _Than Shwe should have retired more than 10 years ago.

Four years ago when the generals moved against the grandsons of the former dictator General Ne Win, the top three generals _ Than Shwe, Maung Aye and Khin Nyunt _ slept for nearly a week in the heavily-guarded, downtown War Office, as they feared that Ne Win's son-in-law had hired a foreign assassin while he was in Thailand.

The generals are extremely chauvinistic and xenophobic.

Over the past two decades, Burma's generals have used nationalism to justify their actions. "Nationalism is a justification, not the motivation, for them to hang on to power as they can no longer use socialism, as Ne Win did," said Win Min.

"They don't like democracy or federalism either _ as these are seen as foreign concepts. By promoting Burmese nationalism, the junta also hopes to be better placed to attack Aung San Suu Kyi for marrying a British man and marginalise the ethnic groups along Burma's borders," he added.

The generals only understand authority. Their allegiance is to their superiors; they have been trained to obey orders implicitly. "The generals do not discuss issues _ they only bark commands to their subordinates," said a retired military officer.

The former prime minister and intelligence chief, General Khin Nyunt, who was purged from power in October 2004 and later given a suspended sentence of 44 years in prison, told the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi that the army never negotiated.

Burma's top general, Than Shwe, insists on being called "king". When Than Shwe visited the Burmese embassy in Delhi during his official visit to India two years ago, everyone had to sit on the floor in deference to his royal position, according to Indian diplomats.

The way he dealt with the former prime minister and intelligence chief was more like a former monarch than military leader. Thousands of Khin Nyunt's supporters in the military and government were purged. Hundreds of the senior military intelligence officers were sentenced to hundreds of years in prison.

He has recently become so preoccupied with the possibility of a foreign invasion, especially by the US, that he moved the capital 400km north of Rangoon, into the hills in central Burma to make it safer in case of an attack.

The problem is that the next generation of generals already in the process of being promoted into the ruling SPDC, is likely to be just as uncompromising as their superiors. "They are just clones," said Win Min. "Their children are already corrupt and dominating the country's businesses."

So greed and fear is likely to fashion their outlook as much as it has Burma's present military leaders. And any likelihood that they may be encouraged to hand over power to a democratically-elected civilian government is extremely remote.

Unwilling Self-Negation » Open Letter To Reformist Muslims

The Anchoress has pointed us to the following open letter to reformist Muslims. It first appeared Mar 23. It is heartening to read.

Unwilling Self-Negation » Open Letter To Reformist Muslims

Unlike some of my fellow believers I don’t think that the recent glut of Westerners calling for the reformation of Islam is due solely to an imperial Western ambition. I believe that much of non-Muslim engagement with Islam is premised upon a well-intentioned impulse. I believe that some Western antipathy towards Islam is due to decency. It is quite plausible that a generation that faced off against two totalitarianisms might be right about a third. It is also plausible that for every Westerner who calls for the destruction of Islam in order to defend the Western status-quo, there is another Westerner who agitates for change in Islam because has a Muslim friend who has been hurt by what passes for Islam, or has a glimpse (in Hafiz, perhaps in Ibn Rushd), of what Islam could be; and as such, is upset by what Islam today is not. I believe that there are many in the West capable of recognizing beauty — and they have recognized the beauty that Islam was in the hands of Rumi, and also have recognized the potential of that beauty in Islam today, in Muslims today. This is another way of saying that I believe there are many in the West who are driven by the humanity of the Muslim, who faces daily in Iraq, in Punjab, in subversive mosques in Europe, the inhumanity of a utilitarian death theology.

Yes, I know that there was a time when the West went to ‘civilize’ and ended up conquering; when it went to ‘keep the dominoes upright’ and ended up slaughtering; when it went to ‘trade’ and ended up colonizing; when it went to ‘liberate’ and left civil war behind. Yet, in spite of this I believe that there are Westerners who are impelled solely by the humanity of the Muslim, because when the West conquered there were Westerners who spoke against it; when the West went to Vietnam there were Westerners who spoke against it; when the West colonized there were Westerners who were anti-colonial. Even still, all Westerners cannot be held accountable for the sins of their leaders. Muslims can, and do, ask that others forgive what Muslim leaders do in the name of God. Why cannot the West be forgiven for how its leaders have manipulated humanism? I forgive.

If, then, there are those in the West who challenge what passes for Islam today, on the basis of their humanity with the Muslim, then we Muslims must embrace them as our brothers. It is conceiveable, yes, that there are those in the West with as much sadomasochim (or courage, if you will), as the reformists of Islam; with as great a penchant for human rights as the reformists of Islam; with as great a willingness to face off against the edifice of a corrupt theology as the reformists of Islam. We must embrace them as our brothers, be they Latino, Black, or dare I say, white; be they Hindu, Jew, Christian, or dare I say, secular-humanist. We — this is the ‘we’ that refers to all those who fight injustice — did not exclude such helpers when the evil was Soviet Union. We — this is the ‘we that refers to all those who fight injustice — did not exclude the helpers when the evil was Jim Crow. Nor when the evil was the patriarchy which denied female equality. In fact, if reformist Islam is to stand a chance, it has to be open to those who want to help. There has never been a case in history where change has occurred without participation by some members of the dominant discourse joining in the efforts of those who agitate for change.

There is a concern that some of those who wish to ‘join’ are dissimulators. That they want only to use our ‘reformist’ critique to demonize Islam. That there are hypocrites in the lot of the so called helpers. That they are drawn only to the exoticism of the Muslim woman, or the virility of the Muslim sperm, and so on. My reply is to not be frightened by this possibility. At this time the fight between our philosophy of the future and yesterday’s death theory, has not even begun. When it begins, those who joined for illegitimate reasons will reveal themselves. But that remains to be seen. In fact, who is to say, given the magnitude of the confrontation and given what is at stake — enlightened living for our children — that there will not be individuals amongst us who turn tail in the face of the gravitas? Who is to say, given that our activism will pit us against our elders, our ancestral homes, our history as it has been so far written, that there will not be individuals amongst us who simply turn traitorous and expose us to the frothing fundamentalism we face off against? When we see those who appropriate our efforts, well, we’ll call a spade a spade, but that is no reason to not start gardening.

Man has always come to the assistance of man. The Helpers of Medina to the migrants of Mecca; Indians to the Pilgrims; Ottomans to the Sephardigm; Albanian Muslims to the Jews of Europe. There are men and women in the West who wish to be of assistance to us. So what if they sometimes say things that you find offensive or incorrect. To correct them by way of friendship is much better than to sneer at them. We must judge them, not by their ancestors’ history, but by their love of the oppressed. We are clear, are we not, that there has been one too many Mukhtaran Mai? We are clear, are we not, that there has been one too many tyranny? We are clear, are we not, that there has been one too many Bin Laden? One too many 9/11, 3/11, 7/7, and Aksari Shrine and Shia massacre and Baha’i jailing and Jew-baiting. One too many Bamiyan Buddhas. One too many novelists accused. One too many suicides. The task ahead will be difficult enough. If, then, there are those who will link their arms with us, we must not hesitate. When the moment of reckoning comes — and there is no reason to believe that time is not now — we will be in need of every able mind, profligate pen, and nervous smile. Do it out of pragmatism, or do it out of love, but do it you must.

All those then, theists, secularists, atheists, deists, refuseniks, peaceniks, Jews, Gentiles, Unitarians, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Philosophers, who wish to walk for humanity: speak up and do not stop speaking. Walk with the believers. There are believers who will walk with you.


Ali Eteraz*

* Please Distribute Widely

Abdul Rahman Vanishes - Deathfans and Fascists afoot

The Anchoress has a long article about Abdul Rahman and his release and 'disappearance", hopefully to a safe place, and about the crazy contradiction between "loving God", "being loved by God" and killing those who don't agree with your take on religion and life.

She begins with a quote from scripture:
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. - Deut 30:19


Meanwhile the Death-people are at it again, chanting “Death, Death, Death!”

On Monday, hundreds of clerics, students and others chanting “Death to Christians!” marched through the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif…

Yeah, yeah, Death to Christians, Death to Jews, Death to cartoonists, Death to gays, Death to unveiled or “dishonorable” women, Death to the West. Death to all who don’t agree with us! Death, Death, Death - that’s all these people know. Maybe it’s because they know so little about loving life? Seems to me if you reverence life as sacred, you can’t be constantly hollaring for Death to all of these Created Creatures who were loved into being by God.

Seems to me that if you love God, then you love his Creatures and you do not presume to kill them because of the words of a mere human man - be he a prophet or no. “Religious” people who can look at half the world and say, “God loves us, but not YOU, and therefore you must die” are very screwed up “religious” people who suggest that God does not love what He makes. Nonsensical and probably pretty insulting to God.


I’m trying to decide if people who are this enamored of death are simply supremely insecure in everything, from the rightness of their faith to their manhood. Fascism always contains a “conform or face the consequences” note, whether it’s in the schools, where you must wear the “right” things or be ostracized, or it’s in a city where you celebrate its values or be stigmatised as a hater. It stinks of insecurity. Values, morals and beliefs built upon solid foundations are not so quickly or thoroughly threatened by opposing viewpoints that they require literal or metaphorical calls for death, threats to one’s livelihood or safety, or the right to free expression and free assembly.

So, everyone just take note: If the cause you are embracing, or the “community” with which you’ve aligned yourself demonstrates its “strength” by using these tactics…you might be hanging around with fascists. It might be time to reassess your association.

Read the rest at:
The Anchoress » Abdul Rahman Vanishes - Deathfans and Fascists afoot

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Artist Pro Hart dies

Pro Hart, a great Australian artist, has died. His work is spectacular and I only wished I could have afforded to buy one of his pictures before he became so well known...
Once a prolific painter, the artist had been unable to lift a brush since December last year when he was diagnosed with the debilitating disease that causes muscle wastage.
Read more at: Arts - Entertainment -

Iran Plans a Silent Christian Execution

I came across this at Gateway Pundit. This story needs to get out! That's the only way that this woman is likely to survive.

Gateway Pundit: Iran Plans a Silent Christian Execution

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Afghan president intervenes in case of Christian convert

Now the Afghan president has become involved. Will he be able to make a difference? Will the difference be a one-off special case, or can we expect to see an ongoing and real resolution that allows individuals to make their own choices about their faith without interference from others, especially the "authorities" and "religious leaders"?
Afghan president intervenes in case of Christian convert - World -
Sharia law, on which the Afghan constitution is partly based, rules that a Muslim who converts away from Islam should be put to death.

The case has attracted widespread international condemnation, especially from the United States which led the campaign to remove the fundamentalist Taliban regime in 2001 and is destitute Afghanistan's main donor.

The Islamist Taliban implemented a tough version of Sharia that included stoning people to death for adultery and chopping off the hands of thieves.

The matter has presented a dilemma for Afghanistan, which has agreed to international treaties on human rights but is under pressure from conservative Islamic clerics to abide by Sharia law. ...

Are the Koran and Sharia law in conflict? See my previous post concerning what the Islamic leaders in Oz are saying:
Persecution of convert 'un-Islamic'

Mystery shrouds ghost ship found off Queensland coast

Tis a mystery indeed!!
Is there another Bermuda triangle somewhere off the coast of Australia? Today's Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Mystery shrouds ghost ship found off Queensland coast -

Prosecution of convert 'un-Islamic'

The Aussie Muslim leaders are declaring that this prosecution of Abdul Rahman is a crime against humanity. Today's SMH carries the story.

AUSTRALIAN Muslim leaders yesterday condemned moves in Afghanistan to execute a man who converted to Christianity.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils said the prosecution of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan was "barbaric" and "un-Islamic".

Spokesman Haset Sali called on the Australian Government to see if the Afghan prosecutors could be charged with crimes against humanity unless the religious charges against Mr Rahman were dismissed.

"Such barbaric action by anyone seeking to quote Islam as supporting their criminal action needs to be dealt with as a crime against humanity," Mr Sali said.

He said the Koran stated there must be "no compulsion in religion".

"The prosecution of Mr Rahman, seeking the death penalty against him for converting to Christianity is reminiscent of the fascist era that caused the Second World War and the pointless death of 55 million people."

Mr Sali said Afghans should respect the sanctity of life.

Prosecution of convert 'un-Islamic' -

So, who speaks for Islam? On the one hand we the Koran "respecting the sanctity of life" and there being "no compulsion in religion" and on the other hand the same Koran being used to justify death on religious grounds. You can't have it both ways, surely?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sentences reduced for brutal gang rape

This piece of news really makes me angry! Reducing the sentences for these men because the sentence was "excessive" is senseless!

What about the girl they so brutally raped? She has a life sentence, a life sentence of memory for what she had to go through. Is someone out there going to reduce her sentence? Her body was torn, her soul pierced, and who knows what her dreams are made of now.

Rape is murder. It's the murder of the heart. Here's this teenager, a virgin to boot, and she had to live through what they did to her for their own sadistic pleasure. And, her trussed up parents could do nothing, absolutely nothing to protect her.

Have these animals displayed any remorse? Are they at all sorry for what they have done?

I could spit! So, I'd better stop!

A MAN jailed for up to 40 years for what many consider the worst known gang rape in NSW has had his sentence cut by 10 years.

Dudley Aslett, his nephew and another man sexually assaulted a teenage girl during a home invasion. The nephew, Steven Aslett, had his sentence reduced by four years.

Judge Michael Finnane sentenced both the Asletts and a number of men involved in gang rapes in south-western Sydney in 2000, which prompted new laws allowing for offenders to be jailed for life.

The judge said he had never seen a victim suffer such horrendous injuries as in the attack by the Asletts, which occurred in a unit in Newington.

Dudley Aslett, 35, and his nephew Steven, then 18, brutally raped the 16-year-old girl, a virgin, along with their friend Christopher Bonham, then 18, after they and a 17-year-old youth broke into the unit and ransacked it in July 2003.

They trussed up her parents in the lounge room and threatened them at knifepoint while their daughter was repeatedly raped.

Dudley Aslett, who has spent one birthday out of jail since he was 10, told the girl he would poke her eyes out with a knife if she looked while he raped her, and encouraged the others to sexually assault her. She required surgery and was in hospital for three days.

Yesterday Dudley Aslett's appeal against his conviction was dismissed, even though there was no DNA evidence against him - he wore gloves and a condom. However, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal reduced his maximum sentence from 40 to 30 years, with the non-parole period cut from 30 to 22 ½ years, because it was "excessive".

The court reduced Steven Aslett's maximum sentence from 24 to 20 years, with the non-parole period cut from 17 to 13 years because of his youth and because he had no previous criminal history.

The officer in charge of the case, Detective Inspector Peter Yeomans, told the Herald the girl was relieved it was finally over and Dudley Aslett would remain in jail.

"Dudley Aslett is evil," he said. "This type of case is just diabolical and senseless and the worst that we've had to deal with [in the NSW Sex Crimes Squad]."

A man involved in the 2000 rape cases is serving 28 years, with a non-parole period of 22 years. His sentence was reduced on appeal from a maximum of 55 years with a non-parole period of 46 years. The High Court last month upheld the ruling that he was not in the worst category of rapists. But Dudley Aslett is, the Court of Criminal Appeal said yesterday.

In handing down the judgement, Justice Graham Barr said while "several errors" had been made by Justice Finnane in determining Dudley Aslett's sentence, it was a "most difficult task" given the numerous, serious offences.

Justice Barr agreed the non-parole period should be above the standard of 15 years for gang rape as the attack was in the "worst category".

Sentences reduced for brutal gang rape

What happens to Thaksin will resonate around the region

Today's SMH has a good piece about the current political crisis that swirls around PM Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand.

What happens to Thaksin will resonate around the region
BUSINESS tycoons occasionally fantasise they could do a better job running the country than the elected politicians - witness the late Kerry Packer's remarks at a Senate inquiry and the promotion of the former Elders-IXL chief John Elliott as a possible Liberal Party saviour back in the 1980s.

Two important countries have recently tried the experiment, and the results are not too edifying for many of the voters shortly to go to the polls.

One is Italy, where the Prime Minister and owner of just about everything, Silvio Berlusconi, is making the remarkable claim that the country is more prosperous than it looks, because of the strength of the black economy.

The other is in our region, Thailand, where the telecoms tycoon-turned-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has provoked a political crisis that seems likely to be dumped into the lap of a reluctant King Bhumibol Adulyadej.


Good business men do not necessarily make good politicians or leaders of countries. A country is not a business no matter how much some rich mogul may fantasise it. The slackers, the disatisified, the disgruntled and other malcontents cannot just be fired like they can in a business. Nor can the rich in competition be walked over like the poor can... though they might be able to be bought off. A country is far more complex than a business, even a business empire as vast as the Shinawatra family's.

Thailand has done very well with these protests. In the past they would have turned bloody long before this. The country has come a long way since the fiasco with General Suchinda and his attempts to keep control. There are still all the mysterious deaths/diappearances from that early 90's crushing of protest that have never been fully brought to light.

I am glad the king has not intervened. He seems to be allowing the political process to run its course.

Somewhere along the way a compromise needs to be reached. Compromise is the Thai way to restore harmony. This is why so many have been trying to bring the relevant people to the bargaining table. From the news reports it does appear that Mr Thaksin is not playing the compromise game as he should. Why not?

Mr Thaksin is hugely popular with the rural people because he has tried to address the problems they have faced through the years.

In the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which spread from Thailand, Thaksin founded his Thai Rak Thai (Thai loves Thai) party, and won the 2001 election on a populist program that included debt relief for farmers, rises in the minimum wage and fiscal reflation.

Thailand boomed and Thaksin won plaudits for his handling of the tsunami. In February last year he became the country's first prime minister to serve out a full elected term, and won a sweeping majority in new elections.

Maybe he became overconfident and has taken advantage of his position for his own ends. I don't know, but the tax free sale of his Shin Corp telecommunications company tipped a lot of critics over the edge.

Thaksin's critics have a long list of charges. To name some: dodgy transfer of financial assets to family members and household servants; the harshness of military and police action against Muslim unrest in the south; promotion of his cousin to army chief and later supreme armed forces commander, his brother-in-law to deputy police chief; extrajudicial execution of 2700 suspects in a crackdown on the methamphetamine trade; defamation lawsuits against press critics.

Crowning the list was the sale of the Shin Corporation, owned by Thaksin's family and in-laws, to the Singaporean Government's Temasek Holdings for 73.3 billion baht ($2.6 billion) using a loophole created by Thaksin that excludes capital gains tax.

Whatever comes of the current protests and the elections next weekend, it's my hope and prayer that Bangkok does not descend into a bloody confrontation.

Measles cases spark alert

When I was a kid everyone got the measles. I was the eldest child in the family and when I first went to school I caught all the usual childhood diseases -- measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc... I was most unpopular with my mother, as if I could help catching the diseases and bringing them home to my siblings!

I guess there were dire consequences for some of the kids from having these diseases though I don't remember knowing about any.

Then along came vaccinations, and measles along with other of the childhood ailments became a thing of the past. Time passed and people forgot about the consequences, seriousness, and inconvenience of these childhood diseases... and, perhaps they forgot about how contagious they were. Perhaps, because it didn't seems like there was a need to vaccinate since these diseases were a thing of the past, then maybe some parents did not feel it was so important any more and their kids never got vaccinated. Who knows?? Now there is the worry of an outbreak.

Today's Sydney Morning Herald reports the alert:
Measles cases spark alert
Where have the germs been hiding all these years anyway?

Dressing-down for female lawyers as judge bares his views

It seems as if some women lawyers are not so "polite" when it come to the way they dress in the courtroom. The judges are becoming distracted!

Tut! Tut!
..., it is clear that some female solicitors have no idea of appropriate court dress. The worst offenders are usually well-built women who expose at least the upper halves of their breasts, and as they lean forward to make a point to a judge sitting at a high level they present a most unwelcome display of bare flesh.
Dressing-down for female lawyers as judge bares his views

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

'Whoever changes religion – kill him'

The London Times gives us a roundup of the contradictory nature of the Koran in regards to those who turn from Islam to something else.
'Whoever changes religion – kill him'
I wonder if there would be the cry "kill him" for those who've turned from Islam to Materialism or Humanism or one of those isms that lead to a syncretistic life style...

Is it only applied to those who convert to Christianity? Do Muslims ever convert to Buddhism? What happens to them?


Different Strokes for Different Folks... in Afghanistan

There are lot of articles appearing in newspapers around the world about the strife that Abdul Rahman is in for having converted from Islam to become a Christian over 16 years ago. Now he faces the death penalty because of his conversion and refusal to recant.

This makes a thorough going farce of the "new" democratic constitution that is now in Afghanistan! The consitution appleas to everyone except the Muslims! Whatever rights and privileges may be in place because of the constitution are subservient to another constitution which is the sharia law. This is a ridiculous state of affairs!

The other thing that is ridiculous is the fact that Abdul has been a Christian for so long... why now? Why at all?

It does seem that with the rise of this world wide radical-ness on the part some Muslims that some other extremists taking advantage of the turmoil to attempt to apply the "super-ordinate" sharia law wherever possible, in this case in Afghanistan.

I pray they will not succeed. I pray that a person's freedom (and right) to choose will be recognised and allowed.

One thing that does distress me is that I haven't yet seen anything in the Australian press...

You can follow what has already been said about this case as any of the following sites:

Afghan man faces death for being a Christian

Afghan man faces death for turning to Christianity

Michelle Malkin has a round up of this in "WE WILL CUT HIM INTO LITTLE PIECES"

Italy moves to save Afghan convert

State Dept. Gobbledygook on Abdul Rahman

Democratic Apostasy: The Martyrdom of Abdul Rahman

and the list goes on!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Outbreak of a worrisome form of botulism in Thailand

There has been an outbreak of botulism in the north east of Thailand, in Nan province. The strain is the same strain as is used to make biological weapons. Seems odd if it's purely a coincidence.
Foreign health experts look into outbreak of botulism


The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has dispatched experts to investigate food poisoning in Nan province after finding the bacteria causing the outbreak is the same strain used to make biological weapons, the Disease Control Department said yesterday.

Almost 170 villagers from Ban Luang district were admitted to the provincial hospital last week after eating tinned bamboo shoots and developing botulism, a form of food poisoning caused by the clostridium botulinum bacteria.

Seventy-seven patients are being treated in the hospital, and 39 of them are in a coma.

The US health experts were closely monitoring the patients' conditions, Disease Control Department chief Thawat Sundracharn said at a press conference yesterday.

"The CDC is eager to study the ... outbreak in order to strengthen the US preparedness for a biological weapons attack," said Dr Thawat.

Clostridium botulinum bacteria, anthrax and smallpox were the three major components of biological weapons at the moment, he added.

The US infectious disease experts had brought with them 50 doses of anti-toxin serum to try to cure the patients. Britain and Canada had also donated 30 doses of the serum to Nan hospital.

However, he said, the ministry would acquire additional serum from Japan to prepare for any fresh outbreak.

Thailand did not stockpile the serum because usually the number of cases per year was small, Dr Thawat said, adding that the large number in the Nan outbreak was unprecedented.

Dr Thawat said people could develop symptoms of botulism within 12-36 hours of contact with the bacteria. Symptoms include blurred vision, a dry mouth, nausea, vomiting and muscle weakness leading to limb paralysis. In serious cases, the patient would suffer respiratory system failure, a major cause of death among patients with botulism.

A person could contact the disease through a wound or by eating contaminated food.

The department had so far destroyed all 70 locally-produced tins of bamboo shoots to prevent the disease spreading further, said Dr Thawat. A team of medics investigating the disease outbreak suspected that the villagers' unhygienic production of tinned bamboo shoots was the cause of the food poisoning.

Burma's silence must trouble all

An editorial in today's Bangkok Post News reveals how disturbing Burma's secretive leaders' behaviour really is. The bird flu is in Burma, but who knows the extent of it? And, by all accounts, opium and heroin are still the top crops, and production is increasing. Aung San Suu Kyi is still imprisoned in her house. The people still suffer.

But silence remains...
Burma's silence must trouble all
The traditional cliche holds that North Korea is the hermit kingdom, but Burma provides competition for the title. Information about our western neighbour has been as rare as hen's teeth. That is an apt comparison, given that Burma has even been secretive about as important, and as international an issue as avian flu.

Burma's taciturn or non-existent answers cover items as banal as what is the capital city, and as important as an apparent resurgence of opium and heroin trafficking in the country, if not by its military dictators.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar wasn't helping cut through the troubling secrecy when he announced he would finally make the trip to Burma that Asean leaders assigned to him last January. Mr Syed Hamid told one Malaysian newspaper he would be leaving for Burma "soon," meaning in the next nine days. But he would not give the dates, itinerary or expectations of his visit because he wanted to keep out of the glare of media.

Of course, a good politician like Mr Syed Hamid knows that journalists will now give his trip even more attention, which may be his goal. But there is also the chance he is buying into the dangerous and growing isolation of the military regime.

When last seen in public, in roughly the middle of last year, the Burmese junta was bowing to the inevitable, and agreeing to give up its place in the rotation as the 2007 Asean chair. Late last year, the generals ordered a midnight move from Rangoon to the new capital, in remote Pyinmana, as regime-inspired rumours spread that the Americans were going to attack. The country has held another of its sham constitutional conventions, with no progress towards democracy.

There has been no move to free democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, arrested and imprisoned at home without charge or immediate hope for personal freedom. Mr Syed Hamid would not say if he even hopes to meet the Nobel Peace Prize winner, even though his specific warrant from Asean is to assess the progress of democratic reform.

Last week, Burma announced two outbreaks of avian flu near Mandalay, among chickens and quail. A United Nations agricultural team from Bangkok flew to Burma, but health officials remain in the dark. The government mouthpieces which pass as media in Burma were totally silent on the outbreak for three days, which only increased the concern in the minds of consumers and in the poultry markets.

The disregard for their citizens is standard from the generals, but avian flu is a primary security concern around the world. It is no surprise the Burmese junta has no regard for its neighbours, but it remains troubling.

The same holds true for narcotic drugs, which have long been the main export of Burma. The latest UN survey estimated that about 100,000 hectares (around 625,000 rai) are under poppy cultivation. But even that is disputed.

Shan State Army commander Col Yod Suk says many fields have been moved to new areas, and foreigners kept out by the army. The opposition Democratic Voice of Burma radio claims opium now is grown by Naga tribesmen, close to India. Of course opponents have a reason to exaggerate _ but so does the junta. Their New Light of Myanmar newspaper says drug arrests were up again last year, to 4,754 people. Authorities claim to have seized 811kg of heroin and 772kg of opium.

This is not impressive. The 312 tonnes of opium which the UN believes were harvested in 2005 would yield more than 30 tonnes of heroin _ so more than 29 tonnes are unaccounted for, even by the regime's reasoning.

By all accounts, heroin trafficking from Burma has actually increased. Neighbours including Thailand are concerned. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao publicly told his Burmese counterpart to take tougher action against "drugs flooding across the border". Premier Soe Win promised to look into it.

In fact, Burma seems likely to continue as the region's top drug producer and exporter.

US Lawmakers Focus on Human Rights

A recent article at VOA reports on human rights in countries of concern.

This is the little bit they have to say about Burma:

Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Barry Lowenkron, says the situation in Burma continues to be a high priority for the Bush administration.

"Only by Burma's return to the democratic path from which it was wrenched, can the basic rights of the Burmese people be realized," said Barry Lowenkron. "The regime's misrule has inflicted tremendous suffering on the Burmese people and caused or exacerbated a host of ills for its neighbors, from refugee outflows, to the spread of infectious diseases, and the trafficking of drugs and human beings."

Lowenkron says the Bush administration is pursuing what he called all avenues on Burma, including further steps at the United Nations, and pressure on members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

VOA News - US Lawmakers Focus on Human Rights
This is quite a good summary! Burma needs to continue in the spotlight in regards its human rights abuses. Aung Sun Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for far too long. All dissent is squashed. The people live in fear. Minority groups experience constant attacks from the military such that they are unable to live safely in their villages or till their land for food. They are constantly being forced to flee to the jungles while their houses and crops are torched. Malnutrition is becoming more evident among the children out in the jungle areas.

Talk has gone on long enough. Isn't it time for some real action?

Monday, March 20, 2006


Thanks Michelle for highlighting this case! It deserves to be followed up and kept in the spotlight.
Even though religious freedom is guaranteed under the constitution, it actually only goes so far and no further... I suppose if Abdul had been an atheist, or a buddhist, and had converted to Christianity then that would have been okay. But for a Muslim to convert to Christianity... Oh, no, no, no!! That is a big no-no!! And all because he is also still under the strict Islamic law.

Seems like this makes this makes a bit of a farce of the constitution.

Abdul's been a Christian for 16 years! Why now?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Virus blamed for obesity epidemic

Today's Sydney Morning Herald carries a story that does my heart good! Obesity could be caused by a virus... that would be very nice if it's proved that people have gained weight because of a virus and not because of snacking!

Hmmm... I wonder if I could blame my weight on a virus... that'd be nice... I wouldn't need to feel so guilty when I have that "little" snack!

AS MANY as one in five Australians may have contracted a virus linked to obesity. Blood tests on 2000 Australians, carried out in the US, showed about 20 per cent of them had been exposed to a virus called Ad-36, which some researchers say can cause weight gain.

The idea that fatness is catching is controversial. However, Richard Atkinson, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who did the testing, said a fat virus could help explain the worldwide epidemic of obesity.

Read more at:

Virus blamed for obesity epidemic

Cash machine raids: two ATMs stolen

ATM ram riding seems to be a popular pasttime in Oz these days. Hardly a week goes by without reports of a stolen vehicles being used to ram the buildings where the ATMs are. Seems like dangerous work to me... I suppose they get quite of bit of the readies to make it worthwhile. I pity the owners of the stolen vehicles, I guess their vehicles are pretty much write-offs after those joy rides!
Cash machine raids: two ATMs stolen

Friday, March 17, 2006

Child porn ring called the worst imaginable

Now they're saying that this busted porn ring is the worst imaginable!

The numbers of those arrested increase... and the number of Aussies arrested is up to 4. It is very distressing to see that one of the Aussies is from my home area of Lake Macquarie. I just hope he's not from my home town!
Child porn ring called the worst imaginable

FOUR Australian men are among 29 people arrested for alleged involvement in what the US Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales, called "the worst imaginable forms of child pornography".

Internet videos of live molestation were included in thousands of images of child abuse, involving victims as young as 18 months, allegedly revealed in an undercover investigation of a private internet chat room used in the United States, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Britain.

The Australian arrests included a 30-year-old Lake Macquarie man, a 56-year-old man from Mill Park, in Melbourne, and a 22-year-old man from Stafford, in Brisbane. A fourth man, a 38-year-old from Ashgrove, in Brisbane, was arrested yesterday.

An Australian Federal Police agent, Peter Drennan, above, said all Australian charges related to an international peer-to-peer network involving the swapping of child abuse images over the internet.

Shot Coke worker keeps payout

Coke does the right thing!
Coca-Cola is working with its insurer to make sure a former Sydney contractor who was shot while at work will not have to repay part of a damages award he has already received.

Coca-Cola also said it would contribute to the ongoing living costs of Craig Pareezer, who has been stripped of $2.9 million he was awarded after suing the soft-drinks giant.

The court ordered Mr Pareezer to pay back more than $500,000 he had already received following the December 2004 NSW Supreme Court ruling.

Read more at:
Shot Coke worker keeps payout

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Milosevic supporters prepare tributes ahead of funeral

Even in death Milosevic is causing controversy! If he was fiddling his medication I wonder if he miscalculated his fiddles and it killed him. I bet he got a shock when he woke up wherever he is now! It certainly isn't Russia!

Yahoo News has this article:
Milosevic supporters prepare tributes ahead of funeral

It is unfortunate is that now there can be no resolution for those who suffered under his regime during the years when those Balkan atrocities were carried out. Will any of the perpetrators ever be brought to justice in this life?

Syria, Lebanon to pay for Danish embassy damages

This will be something if Syria and Lebanon come good with the goods to pay for the fire damage to the Danish embassies!

Yahoo News carries the story:

Syria, Lebanon to pay for Danish embassy damages

Hat tip: Freedom for Egyptians

Aussie guilty on NZ sex abuse charges

Even though it is so many years since the abuse occurred I am glad to see that this man is being brought to account for his actions against the little girls who were only 11 to 13 yrs of age at the time. As the adult, I guess he was able to sufficiently intimidate them with with threats of a fearful enough nature that they remained silent for a long time. How much shame have they lived with in the ensuing years? I hope this verdict helps them in their healing journey!

This from today's SMH:

Aussie guilty on NZ sex abuse charges

Man shot in buttocks outside city pub

Man shot in buttocks outside city pub

I guess this guy will have some problems sitting down for a while!


Go see this! It's a must read... and reflect on what was and what is. What will be depends upon our response to the defining moments of history.


Porn ring busted!

In another crackdown on internet porn 27 people have been caught in 9 US states, Canada, Australia and Britain.

Aussies arrested over net child porn ring

It beggars belief that anyone could sexually abuse an infant! How can anyone be so perverse? What is wrong with them? And to do it live on the internet. This is so disgusting! It is just heart breaking...

The awful truth is that this is just the tip of the iceberg and no doubt hardly makes a dint in the perverted behaviour and its pictorial dissemination.
Two Australian men have been charged in an undercover operation over an international child pornography ring that has so far netted 27 people worldwide, Australian Federal Police say.

The investigation has so far identified seven child victims, some as young as 18 months, including an infant whose molestation in April by a US man was transmitted live via an internet chat room to a co-conspirator who used the screen name "BigtDaddy619".

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Extreme application of moral law in Indonesia

Be thankful you're not a woman living in Indonesia!

The following story in today's Sydney Morning Herald fairly makes the blood curdle. The fact that this lady, Lilis Lindawati, was not listened to nor believed, was treated abomniably, denied basic rights to call family, and presumed guilty of being a prostitute simply because she was on the street after dark and had lipstick in her purse is most disturbing. My goodness, lipstick!! For crying out loud!!

It seems as if the mayor of Tangerang, a satellite city on Jakarta's outskirts, might be interpreting sharia law for his own political ends, and it might have nothing to do with morality and purity.

I do wonder who really speaks for Islam. Is there any unifying centre? The catholics have the pope and a college of cardinals. The anglicans have their synod or whatever. The buddhists in Thailand have a supreme sangha council. Is there anything of the sort for Islam? It seems like there are many Islamic factions each deciding what it considers appropriate or inappropriate irrespective of any other faction. Then the more radical factions attempt to foist their rules on the rest of the world, and even onto the other factions. It's all very disturbing!

Anyway, here's the SMH article:

Islamic moral drive spreads fear in Indonesia

By Mark Forbes Herald Correspondent and Karuni Rompies in Jakarta
March 11, 2006

LILIS LINDAWATI finished waitressing at 8pm and was waiting for a bus when the men in brown shirts came. Five jumped from the back of a ute and forced her into a nearby van.

The frightened, three-months-pregnant mother of two was about to become another casualty of Indonesia's escalating morality war. Her crime: she was female, alone and wearing make-up. A tube of lipstick sealed her fate.

New bylaws championed by the ambitious mayor of Tangerang, a satellite city on Jakarta's outskirts, aim to drive out gamblers, drunks and prostitutes. They are enforced by a small army of "public order officers" who cruise the streets, able to arrest anyone at whim.

The move has created a de facto curfew for women in Tangerang. If they are caught alone at night they must prove they are not prostitutes.

As well as banning "physical intimacy" in public places, a bylaw states a woman "who behaves suspiciously" on streets or in hotels, theatres, coffee shops - even private houses - will be jailed.

Tangerang is not the only regional administration to introduce bylaws reflecting sharia - Islamic law. And a proposed national anti-pornography law will ban public kissing and any clothing considered alluring. Baring a navel would earn a jail term.

Moderate Muslim organisations are supporting the changes, but intellectuals, feminists and artists are beginning to mobilise against what they believe is a hardline agenda to reshape Indonesia. This week, on International Womens Day, thousands of Indonesian women demonstrated against the morality campaign.

A fortnight ago, Mrs Lindawati, 36, was ignorant of the debate.

"For God's sake, I am not a prostitute. I am a good woman. I have a husband and I have children," she protested.

But the officers ignored pleas to call her family, jailing her overnight. The next morning she was hauled from a two-room cottage to go on trial in the forecourt of the palatial offices of the Mayor, Wahidin Halim, where a large crowd was celebrating the city's anniversary.

"Everybody was watching," said Mrs Lindawati. She told the judge, Barmen Sinurat, she was not a prostitute. He demanded she empty her handbag, which contained face powder and lipstick.

"Then the judge said, 'There is powder and lipstick in your bag. That means you're lying to say that you are a housewife,' " she recounted. "I am hurt, insulted, because people think I am a prostitute. Please don't blame me if I put on make-up. Many housewives today put on make-up, otherwise our husbands will go away for another woman."

Her request to call her husband, a teacher at the local state school, was again rejected.

Striking his gavel three times, Judge Sinurat pronounced: "You are guilty. You are prostitute." Unable to pay a $40 fine, Mrs Lindawati was jailed for three days.

Mr Wahidin, brother of the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirayuda, was unmoved by Mrs Lindawati's plight.

"She could not prove she is not a prostitute," he told the Herald. "It is true when my men arrested her she was not committing adultery, but why does she put on such make-up?"

What's more, said Mr Wahidin, she wore tight clothes and "a good girl would not stand in the street with that kind of dress".

"The point is we can tell someone is a prostitute or not … They stand in the street moving their body, waving their hands, trying to attract people, seducing." Mr Wahidin denies the changes are political. There are rumours he will stand for regional governor and his morality bylaws have won support from powerful, Islamic-orientated parties.

A legal aid activist, Astuti Listyaningrum, said the show trial of Mrs Lindawati and 26 others was an abuse of the legal process. "Of course they looked terrible, looked terrified. Not because they are prostitutes, but because they were nervous," she said.

Despite the support of her neighbours, Mrs Lindawati now refuses to venture out. Other women have begun carrying letters from their employers explaining they must work late.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

This is great!

Finally, some of our aboriginal friends are getting the recognition they deserve!!! About time, too! The story below is from today's Sydney Morning Herald.

Recently I received word that a wise, kind and lovely aborginal lady died recently from a recurrence of cancer. Ruby Naden was from Gilgandra and a friend from many many years ago. She was greatly honoured in the community and loved by many. The church where her funeral was held was packed to overflowing. Her newphew, an Anglican minister led the service. I wish I could have been there too!
Aboriginal doctor honoured for medical research

By Anne Davies and Ben Cubby
March 9, 2006

ONE OF Australia's foremost indigenous medical researchers, Sandra Eades, has been named the 2006 NSW Woman of the Year, in recognition of her work in identifying links between social factors such as housing and infant health.

Professor Eades, the first Aboriginal medical doctor to be awarded a PhD, was named as the winner of the award by the Premier, Morris Iemma, at a function to celebrate International Women's Day.

"Tonight we recognise and celebrate the outstanding contribution Sandra Eades has made to Aboriginal health research," Mr Iemma said.

"In particular, I acknowledge her role in improving the health of Aboriginal women and children through pediatric and perinatal epidemiology."

Professor Eades is a senior research fellow in Aboriginal Health at the Sax Institute, Sydney and conjoint professor in the faculty of public health at the University of Newcastle.

Nominations for the NSW Woman of the Year are sought from all NSW MPs and ministers. Professor Eades was nominated by the Minister for Science and Medical Research, Frank Sartor.

"Professor Eades was the first to show a strong link between infant health and social factors such as education and access to housing," Mr Sartor said.

"Her current research involves culturally specific smoking intervention for pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and the establishment of a major study among NSW Aboriginal children and families attending urban Aboriginal medical services," he said.

Also yesterday, Sarina Bratton won the Veuve Clicquot Award, an annual prize for women who have gained unusual success in business. Ms Bratton established a network of luxury cruises to various Australian ports, including in the Kimberley region and Tasmania, becoming the first woman in the world to found a shipping line - Orion Expedition Cruises.

"It's not going to make a difference to the way we go about our business … but it is very nice," Ms Bratton said, before pausing to kiss her husband, who had just arrived with a bunch of red roses.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Pray for Burma, March 12

Burma has become one of the poorest nations on earth. As it slides deeper into poverty the few in power continue to become richer and richer as they rape the country and line their own pockets without a care for the suffering of others. Hardly anyone in the world raises a peep. Sadly, fear, suspicion, and racial hatreds are fostered to keep the minority groups fighting one another rather than standing up against the common enemy. Actually, bloodshed is not the answer. Bloodshed and the destruction of villages and the murder of innocent villagers has not brought resolution to anything. They need help and hope from another quarter.

On Sunday March 12, there is the "Global Day of Prayer for Burma". I want to encourage everyone to participate. This country has been oppressed for too long. The govt pays no attention to world opinion. A divine intervention is needed to set the land and its people free.

There is a very helpful website, Christians Concerned for Burma, where you can find info for the day of prayer as well as facts about what goes on inside this country.

See also "Genocide in Burma" on this blog.

Macaulay Culkin, another child star in trouble

Yesterday's SMH had a short article about Macaulay Culkin's struggles to get work as an actor. He doesn't know where he fits any more. He's been in trouble with the police because of drugs. There have probably been other troubles of which I know nothing. What I do know is that my heart aches for him and others like him who've been thrust into the limelight at an age when they are too young to deal with all the fame and attention.

How many child stars actually grow up to be healthy well-adjusted adults? Does the movie industry help these youngsters to deal with the consequences of fame and attention? Or are they simply used and discarded when they no longer "behave themselves" or when they no longer have that cute charm that made them so lovable on film?

I thoroughly enjoyed the "Home Alone" movies, especially the one in which Macaulay Culkin starred. I laughed and laughed and laughed. I still enjoy watching the reruns. For some reason I dislike intensely the ones that have been produced since with another child star. They don't feel so spontaneously funny feeling about them.

Culkin struggles to get work
March 7, 2006 - 12:20PM

Former US child star Macaulay Culkin says he has trouble getting work and barely speaks to his friend Michael Jackson.

Culkin told Time magazine he has only spoken to Jackson once since the singer moved to Dubai after being cleared of child sex abuse charges.

"He's doing O.K. I mean, yeah, he's a friend, but the kind of friend you talk to twice a year," he said.

Culkin's semi-autobiographical, stream-of-consciousness novel, Junior, is due to be published this month.

The actor has acknowledged that readers of the book, which reportedly contains many lists, including of people he hates, may think he is insane.

"I've led a very isolated existence since I was 6 years old. It's kind of been me and my mind.

"I hope people don't think I'm crazy because I'm not. I might be feeding into it."

The 25-year-old said he did not know where he fitted in in Hollywood any more and was the most out-of-work actor he knew.

The Home Alone star said he even considered taking up sports management as a career.

"As a 4-year-old, I didn't say I wanted to be an actor. Acting found me," he told Time.

"I thought maybe I should try to find it again. We'll see."

Culkin said he was yet to become engaged to the star of That 70s Show, Mila Kunis, who he has been dating for four years.

"I enjoy cooking for her. I do a really good shrimp scampi. I lead a simple life. I feed the fish. I walk the dogs. I cook dinner. Occasionally I take a meeting."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lonely deaths... again

Sadly, in NSW, Australia there are more elderly deaths being discovered long after they have died. I wrote about this back in Feb (Lonely deaths!) after the 6th person had been found. Some had been dead 8 months. Now another decomposed body has been found.

Some changes are desperately needed in our society. My mother is 89 this year and my brother calls her every morning to make sure she is okay. If Mum does not pick up the phone he drives out to check on her. Something of this sort is good to do. Where the elderly person has no family then perhaps community services or some welfare agency could to set up a system of phoning each day to make sure that the person living alone is okay.

Today's lonely death is in today's SMH. Let's do something to change this terrible circumstance in a lonely person's life!

Elderly woman's decomposed body found

March 7, 2006 - 6:14AM

Advice from the NSW government to take care of neighbours has come too late for an elderly woman whose decomposed body has been found in her north Sydney home.

Police and NSW Fire Brigades officers found the body of the 86-year-old woman at her home on St John's Avenue in Gordon about 7.30pm (AEDT) yesterday, a police spokesman said.

Worried neighbours called police because they had not spoken to her since January.

The discovery of the woman's body is the seventh in only a month.

The bodies of six NSW residents were discovered in similar circumstances in just two weeks last month.

Some of the bodies were decomposed, having been undiscovered for up to eight months.

The latest discovery was made just hours before the state government announced a campaign this morning to encourage public housing tenants to look out for one another after the spate of gruesome discoveries.

Housing Minister Cherie Burton also announced $200,000 in extra funding over two years for a community development project at the Northcott building in Surry Hills.

"Public housing tenants should take responsibility for the future of their communities - and that includes being a good neighbour," Ms Burton said.

"Taking care of your neighbours is something we need to do more as a community and as a community we all need to make more effort."

She said things neighbours could do to keep in touch with each other included looking out for a build-up of mail in letterboxes, organising social activities and inviting people in for a cup of tea.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Thailand's political turmoil escalates

Thailand's political turmoil continues to escalate as thousands upon thousands of protesters demand that Thaksin step down as even caretaker prime minister while Thaksin himself stubbornly refuses to give in to their demands. The situation is becoming disturbingly volatile.

Today's Bangkok Post has a number of articles about the situation:
Crowd Pushes On

The snowballing protests against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra entered their fifth week last night with a new strategy: An indefinite campaign of nightly protests at Sanam Luang, until Mr Thaksin resigns.

The protesters last night marched to the Democracy Monument and then to Government House where they heard a continuing series of speeches from anti-Thaksin speakers, before leaders announced they would return to Sanam Luang to plan and kick off the prolonged resistance early today.

Mr Thaksin, meanwhile, remained defiant and told a crowd of about 20,000 supporters in Khon Kaen province that he would not bow to pressure.
Many prominent citizens are asking the King to intervene. This may be what's needed in order to avoid bloodshed and the country descending into further chaos.
Social 'elite' call on King to appoint PM

Nearly 100 prominent citizens, celebrities and the just plain elite have petitioned His Majesty the King for a royally bestowed prime minister and interim government to ensure a fair election and supervision of the charter amendment.
Many who were loyal party members are now taking their leave of the Thai Rak party and joining the protesters. Praphat has had significant experience in rallying against corrupt governments when he was part of the student uprisings in 1973 and 1976.
Praphat quits Thai Rak Thai to join rally

Former environment minister and student activist Praphat Panyachartrak yesterday resigned as a member of the Thai Rak Thai party to join a campaign to oust his party chief Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Praphat, also a former deputy agriculture and cooperatives minister during the first Thaksin administration, is the first of the so-called "October people" _ students involved in the Oct 14, 1973 and Oct 6, 1976 uprisings _ to rebel against Mr Thaksin and the ruling Thai Rak Thai party.

Several activists of the 1970s hold posts in the Thaksin government and Thai Rak Thai party executive. They include caretaker Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, caretaker Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Adisorn Piengkes, and caretaker Deputy Transport Minister Phumtham Vejjayachai.
A disturbing report of interference in the processes of democartic freedoms of speech as the police appear to be hindering protesters entering Bangkok from the provinces yet those coming to support Thaksin seem not to be hindered at all:
Police stop traffic headed for city rally

Police set up highway checkpoints yesterday and stopped vehicles heading into Bangkok for "arms and drugs checks," apparently to deter people from joining the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra demonstration at Sanam Luang.

As far away as Sa Kaeo, checkpoints mushroomed on the orders of Police Region 2 chief Lt-Gen Jongrak Juthanont. Vehicles leaving the province for Bangkok were stopped for painstaking searches and inquiries.

At Ban Kaeng district in Sa Kaeo, traffic was blocked as angry bus passengers sat down on the highway after a half-hour row with policemen manning the checkpoints. The police eventually allowed them to travel on.

In Saraburi, at least 13 checkpoints were set up around the province at dawn yesterday.

Frustrated drivers caught in the jam said police at a checkpoint at Phra Phutthabat police station delayed their trips.
People of influence and standing are trying to encourage Thaksin to step down. Why won't he? Does he really care about the country? Or only about his own position and the power of it?
Prawase urges PM to give up premiership

Leading scholar Prawase Wasi reiterated his call for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to resign from the post yesterday, saying the move was the best solution to the current political crisis.

Dr Prawase said Mr Thaksin could step down or ordain as a monk to end the political conflict like what happened during the Ayutthaya period.

He said when a leader of a country lacks morality, the country is bound to face political turmoil.

Morality and corruption were the talk of the day by people in every corner of society. "People used to think that just politicians were corrupt but now we have reached a stage where corruption allegations involve the entire family of a politician and his cronies, he said.
Chiang Mai is Thaksin's hometown. He has enjoyed a lot of support from the province. He has also undertaken to bring a lot of improvements to the city. Why, there's even a new International Terminal being built at the airport. The city is constantly being beautified. However, this is not guaranteeing continued support during this crisis time. His support seems to be crumbling... being washed away like topsoil down the Ping River.
PM's support unsure even in the North

Chiang Mai: Even in this northern city, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's hometown, not all people are standing by his side in the current political conflict.
A couple of Chiang Mai citizens were willing to express their disappointment with the prime minister:
A clothes-shop owner at Tha Phae said most people in town had lost faith in the premier. She herself was one of the premier's supporters, but has changed her mind and now wants him to leave office.

"I still like his style in general, but I don't like the fact that he has misused his authority to serve his own interests. The sale of his family's shares is one example. The concession that he acquired is supposed to belong to the country, but now we are not sure whether it's still ours," she said.

A 27-year-old tuk-tuk driver from Mae Rim district said he learned about the sale of the shares owned by Mr Thaksin's family and wondered why Mr Thaksin did not have to pay taxes when eveyone else did.

However, he said Mr Thaksin had done a lot to develop the city since becoming prime minister. There were more new roads, the city was cleaner, and more tourists were visiting.

However, since opposition against the premier has grown, his income had fallen by half as fewer visitors were using his tuk-tuk service now.

"I have not decided who I will vote for. I hardly have time to do anything except making a living," he said.
Thailand has enjoyed incredible economic growth in the past few years. It has been a stabilising influence in the region. It's unfortunate that the country is still plagued by self-seeking politicians who care more for lining their own pockets than they do for the welfare of the nation.

Genocide in Burma

Although this is something that has been known for many years, it is nice that it is finally making it into the world's newspapers. There has been much documentation of the situation in Burma. Why hasn't that documentation made a difference? Is it because there's finally a Thai intelligence officer who's making known the evidence he's found.

Burma has become one of the poorest nations on earth while it's leaders have become very rich... and without any care for the suffering of the ordinary people in the country.
New evidence backs claims of genocide in Burma
By Mike Thomson in Rangoon
(Filed: 05/03/2006)

Fresh evidence has emerged that Burma's military government, which seized power in 1962 and has since waged a brutal war against rebel ethnic groups, has been carrying out acts of genocide against its own people.

There have been allegations that in the past decade, soldiers have burnt to the ground as many as 3,000 villages and raped, looted or killed many of their inhabitants. Now, a Thai intelligence officer has uncovered what he believes is proof that these were systematic atrocities ordered by the state.

The middle-aged officer, who asked to be identified only as Thau, has spent several years studying intercepted Burmese military communications and analysing material found at the scene of horrific incidents inside Burma.

It was during recent searches of the bodies of Burmese soldiers killed by rebels that the evidence was discovered. "We found some leaflets on the corpse of a Burmese officer," he said. "They said that the minority Shan people are the enemy and have to be destroyed."

When asked whether this referred to Shan or simply Shan fighters, he replied: "It's the Shan race. That's happened with other races, too."

Shan state, which lies just inside Burma's border with Thailand, has seen some of the most brutal battles between rebel fighters and Burmese government soldiers.

Beheadings by troops of the State Peace and Development Council - the official title of Burma's ruling military junta - are common. So too are beatings, the use of forced labour and rape. Growing use of amphetamines among Burma's 400,000-strong army is fuelling this violence.

David Matheson, a narcotics expert from the Australian National University who is based in Thailand, said researchers had concluded that many troops went into battle high on amphetamines. "When they come across dead Burmese soldiers, they find methamphetamine tablets on most of them if not all of them, particularly in the Shan state," he said.

The brutality of the attacks is evident in video footage, taken by members of the evangelical Christian missionary group the Free Burma Rangers, of the burning of villages. The organisation is one of the few to travel deep into the Eastern Burmese forest region where an estimated 500,000 people have been driven from their homes by the military.

The video shows young men, armed with AK47s, setting fire to bamboo homes as residents flee in terror.

The Rangoon government of Gen Than Shwe seems content with the status quo. Its biggest opponent, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize-winning leader of the National League for Democracy, remains under house arrest.

Her party's landslide election victory in 1990 has never been recognised by the government, which continues to hold more than 1,100 political prisoners. The junta has been gaining ground in its long-running war with rebel ethnic minority groups such as the Karen, Shan and Karenni. These groups, who are trying to win autonomy from Rangoon, have had to adopt guerilla warfare after sustaining heavy losses.

The Karen's commander, Gen Mu Tu See, is not in any mood to give up the fight against the nation's military Junta. "To stop the war is to surrender," he said. "The atrocities will go on because these people are not for democracy."

But does a man who has seen so many of his people die and his army dwindle really believe that his military campaign has been a success? With a weary smile he replies: "It's a draw. Nobody is winning and nobody will win."

In Rangoon, grinding poverty is accompanied by a lack of political freedom. Locals emerging from a cinema were too petrified to discuss their lives or give their names. However, two students described how they had spent 15 years in jail for speaking out in favour of democracy. One claimed he was forced to act like a dog, moving on all fours and "barking" when wardens called his name.

Severe restrictions are being placed on foreign aid agencies, including a proposed new requirement that they employ only people offered to them by the government.

Charles Petrie, the United Nations resident co-ordinator in Burma, said implementation of this would lead to an exodus of aid organisations because of their "inability to function".

As ever, it is the ordinary people who suffer most. At a refugee camp at Mae Sot, a Thai border town, a young Burmese man called Salwa, who lost a leg after stepping on a mine as he fled his home, described how his parents had urged him to run for his life when soldiers arrived.

"They are old and couldn't keep up with us," he said. "We wanted to stop and help them but there was no time. When I returned, I found their bodies."

• Mike Thomson's reports on life in Burma will be broadcast on Radio 4's Today programme at 7.30am from Monday to Friday this week.
The article has also been published in today's Sydney Morning Herald. I hope it gets published in many other newspapers around the world!

This coming Sunday, March 12, is the "Global Day of Prayer for Burma". I encourage everyone to participate. This country has been oppressed for too long. The govt pays no attention to world opinion. A divine intervention is needed to set the land and its people free.

Check out the Christians Concerned for Burma website as they have info for the day of prayer. They also have a lot of other info, with pictures, about the sitation inside Burma.