The recent news reporting about Egypt's political crisis creates the impression the country has fallen into the hands of a band of ultra-conservative mullahs intent on forcing women into niqab (full covering) and chopping off light-fingered hands. Egypt is clearly in turmoil -- but the current troubles are more complex than opposition to a supposed radical religious takeover.
The protests have been centred on opposition to the country’s proposed new constitution, planned to go to referendum this Saturday. But much of the protest is now also explicitly opposed to the continuing presidency of Mohammad Morsi. Given his election in June in what was widely regarded as a free and fair process, this begs the question of the Egyptian opposition’s commitment to democratic processes.
This past weekend, we saw the media – old, new, and social – trying to digest the indigestible.
The death of Jacintha Saldanha, the British nurse who apparently took her own life after being caught up in a prank phone call from 2DayFM DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian, is one of those stories that is so sad, so utterly pointless and bewildering, as to leave us gasping for something, anything, coherent to say about it.
There’s also something frighteningly random in how things seem to have played out: a simple, farcical prank call from the other side of the planet, and suddenly a 46 year old woman – a mother of two and from all accounts a dedicated and well-regarded professional – is dead.
That she is appears to be, from what we know at this stage, the result of decisions that had nothing to do with her.
As the world celebrates Human Rights Day on 10 December, it is a good time to pause to reflect on the status of human rights in Timor-Leste. 13 years after the end of Indonesian rule and after ten years of independence, the question arises as to whether Timor-Leste’s aspirations to respecting notions of human rights, as outlined in its Constitution, have been successful.
Notions of human rights are broadly located in two categories; civil and political rights and social, economic and cultural rights. It is conventional to regard these respective categories of rights as being equal in value and mutually dependent.
LAST week was a big week in Canberra. While much of the focus was on Julia Gillard's work for the Australian Workers' Union in the mid 1990s, the Parliament also considered laws for the national disability insurance scheme, education funding recommended by the Gonski review, pokie reform, the Murray-Darling basin plan, and recognising indigenous Australians in our Constitution.
But another important issue was considered by our politicians; one that may have far-reaching implications for our justice system and more broadly across the community, and one that received hardly any attention amidst the cacophony of the last sitting week of Parliament - the Senate began to consider a new policy of "justice reinvestment".
It is starting to look like Israel’s apparent reaction to the Palestinian Authority (PA) being granted ‘observer state’ status at the UN last Friday is about to backfire. In a rapidly changing world, Israel’s heavy handed response is seen as less and less seen as an appropriate way forward.
Last Friday, the UN General Assembly voted 138 to nine, with 41 abstentions, to grant Palestine observer state status. While not recognising Palestine as a full state, which requires nine of the 15 UN Security Council members to also vote in favour, including all veto-power members, the vote was a significant step towards Palestine’s eventual statehood recognition.
Contrary to claims by Israel’s spokesman, Mark Regev, the vote gave the PA overwhelming international endorsement for the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
There is much speculation that the Victorian Government will move to sack the Darebin City Council early in the New Year, following the release of the Ombudsman’s much anticipated report into the council’s affairs. On the face of it, the State Government will be acting to protect local residents by cleaning up yet another dodgy council.
There has long been a strong sense that the Ombudsman’s inquiry was necessary. Most Darebin residents are aware that there have been at least a couple of highly questionable council planning decisions, and it is common knowledge that political control of the council was held by a particular political network.
However, there is a yawning gap between addressing the problems of Darebin’s previous council and the Baillieu government’s likely solution. For a number of reasons, sacking the council is the wrong answer.
It is the question that underpins the search to find an answer to the obesity problem: what drives us to eat? No matter what a person’s genetic profile, environment or activity levels, eating more food than what the body needs to meet its energy demands results in just one outcome: weight gain.
Pervasive food marketing and 24 hour access to cheap, energy-dense food are important drivers of making us eat more. Other factors such as lack of sleep, endocrine disorders, air conditioners (which reduce the energy needed by the body to regulate temperature), and even increasing maternal age are just some of a long list of factors that can each explain a small part of the weight gain problem.
Everyone has friends and enemies online, but what do you do when people online are threatening to kill you? Well-known Icelandic women’s rights advocate Hildur Lilliendahl Viggósdóttir faced this problem last month when she came across the following message on Stefán Heiðar Erlingsson Facebook wall: 'If I "accidentally" ran over Hildur, she is probably the only person on earth that I would back up over, and leave the car on top of her with the hand brake on!!! Put this in your "men who hate Hildur" folder, Hildur Lilliendahl'.
If it was intended as an act of sneaky rat cunning -- first get elected and then seize total power -- Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi's edicts last Thursday which have thrown the country into turmoil were both painfully transparent as well as being a high-risk gamble.
Exempting presidential decrees from judicial review fundamentally challenges the idea of separation of powers, which is critical to democratic functioning, is on the face of it an anti-democratic act. However, Egypt's judiciary remains that which was appointed by previous dictator Hosni Mubarak and there was real concern that it could, with the stroke of a pen, roll back the revolution.
The judiciary's hobbling of Egypt's parliament showed it is certainly not averse to wielding its power in overtly political ways.