Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Kuwait conference calls for document on women rights

In yesterday’s Kuwait Times, there was a tiny paragraph in the reporting about Personal Law in Kuwait pertaining to women that stated

“Among the loopholes of that must be corrected is the provision empowering a woman’s father to marry her to whoever he likes or divorce her without consulting or even informing her . . . “

Is this possible? Does this still happen? I thought in Islam, a woman had to agree to accept a man as husband, and had a right to have clauses put into her marriage contract? And a father can have his daughter divorced from her husband without her even knowing about it, much less agreeing to it?

Here is today’s reporting from the Kuwait Times on the recommendations for legal changes:

KUWAIT: Participants in the Conference on the “Kuwaiti Women in National Legislations” have recommended the preparation of a comprehensive national document to facilitate women participation in the country’s development aspects under the sponsorship of the legislative and executive authorities as well as the civic society institutions.

At the conclusion of the one-day conference, organised by the National Assembly’s women affairs committee, the participants demanded improvement of legislative performance, promotion of the existing legislations and completion of the legal system in an introduction for the rise of women’s rights in the society.

To read the rest of the article, with the recommendations made by the committee, click on Kuwait Times, here.

April 23, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Middle East, News, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 8 Comments

Dire Predictions on Earth Day

This is from AOL Top News compiled for Earth Day 2007.

Scientists Offer Frightening Forecast
By Ker Than and Andrea Thompson
LiveScience.com

(April 22) — Our planet’s prospects for environmental stability are bleaker than ever as the world celebrates Earth Day on Sunday. Global warming is widely accepted as a reality by scientists and even by previously doubtful government and industrial leaders. And according to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is a 90 percent likelihood that humans are contributing to the change.

The international panel of scientists predicts the global average temperature could increase by 2 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 and that sea levels could rise by up to 2 feet.

Scientists have even speculated that a slight increase in Earth’s rotation rate could result, along with other changes. Glaciers, already receding, will disappear. Epic floods will hit some areas while intense drought will strike others. Humans will face widespread water shortages. Famine and disease will increase. Earth’s landscape will transform radically, with a quarter of plants and animals at risk of extinction.

While putting specific dates on these traumatic potential events is challenging, this timeline paints the big picture and details Earth’s future based on several recent studies and the longer scientific version of the IPCC report, which was made available to LiveScience.

2007

More of the world’s population now lives in cities than in rural areas, changing patterns of land use. The world population surpasses 6.6 billion. (Peter Crane, Royal Botanic Gardens, UK, Science; UN World Urbanization Prospectus: The 2003 Revision; U.S. Census Bureau)

2008

Global oil production peaks sometime between 2008 and 2018, according to a model by one Swedish physicist. Others say this turning point, known as “Hubbert’s Peak,” won’t occur until after 2020. Once Hubbert’s Peak is reached, global oil production will begin an irreversible decline, possibly triggering a global recession, food shortages and conflict between nations over dwindling oil supplies. (doctoral dissertation of Frederik Robelius, University of Uppsala, Sweden; report by Robert Hirsch of the Science Applications International Corporation)

2020

Flash floods will very likely increase across all parts of Europe. (IPCC)

Less rainfall could reduce agriculture yields by up to 50 percent in some parts of the world. (IPCC)

World population will reach 7.6 billion people. (U.S. Census Bureau)

2030

Diarrhea-related diseases will likely increase by up to 5 percent in low-income parts of the world. (IPCC)

Up to 18 percent of the world’s coral reefs will likely be lost as a result of climate change and other environmental stresses. In Asian coastal waters, the coral loss could reach 30 percent. (IPCC)

World population will reach 8.3 billion people. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Warming temperatures will cause temperate glaciers on equatorial mountains in Africa to disappear. (Richard Taylor, University College London, Geophysical Research Letters:)

In developing countries, the urban population will more than double to about 4 billion people, packing more people onto a given city’s land area. The urban populations of developed countries may also increase by as much as 20 percent. (World Bank: The Dynamics of Global Urban Expansion)

2040

The Arctic Sea could be ice-free in the summer, and winter ice depth may shrink drastically. Other scientists say the region will still have summer ice up to 2060 and 2105. (Marika Holland, NCAR, Geophysical Research Letters)

2050

Small alpine glaciers will very likely disappear completely, and large glaciers will shrink by 30 to 70 percent. Austrian scientist Roland Psenner of the University of Innsbruck says this is a conservative estimate, and the small alpine glaciers could be gone as soon as 2037. (IPCC)

In Australia, there will likely be an additional 3,200 to 5,200 heat-related deaths per year. The hardest hit will be people over the age of 65. An extra 500 to 1,000 people will die of heat-related deaths in New York City per year. In the United Kingdom, the opposite will occur, and cold-related deaths will outpace heat-related ones. (IPCC)

World population reaches 9.4 billion people. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Crop yields could increase by up to 20 percent in East and Southeast Asia, while decreasing by up to 30 percent in Central and South Asia. Similar shifts in crop yields could occur on other continents. (IPCC)

As biodiversity hotspots are more threatened, a quarter of the world’s plant and vertebrate animal species could face extinction. (Jay Malcolm, University of Toronto, Conservation Biology)

2070

As glaciers disappear and areas affected by drought increase, electricity production for the world’s existing hydropower stations will decrease. Hardest hit will be Europe, where hydropower potential is expected to decline on average by 6 percent; around the Mediterranean, the decrease could be up to 50 percent. (IPCC)

Warmer, drier conditions will lead to more frequent and longer droughts, as well as longer fire-seasons, increased fire risks, and more frequent heat waves, especially in Mediterranean regions. (IPCC)

2080

While some parts of the world dry out, others will be inundated. Scientists predict up to 20 percent of the world’s populations live in river basins likely to be affected by increased flood hazards. Up to 100 million people could experience coastal flooding each year. Most at risk are densely populated and low-lying areas that are less able to adapt to rising sea levels and areas which already face other challenges such as tropical storms. (IPCC)

Coastal population could balloon to 5 billion people, up from 1.2 billion in 1990. (IPCC)

Between 1.1 and 3.2 billion people will experience water shortages and up to 600 million will go hungry. (IPCC)

Sea levels could rise around New York City by more than three feet, potentially flooding the Rockaways, Coney Island, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, portions of Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, lower Manhattan and eastern Staten Island from Great Kills Harbor north to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. (NASA GISS)

2085

The risk of dengue fever from climate change is estimated to increase to 3.5 billion people. (IPCC)

2100

A combination of global warming and other factors will push many ecosystems to the limit, forcing them to exceed their natural ability to adapt to climate change. (IPCC)
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will be much higher than anytime during the past 650,000 years. (IPCC)

Ocean pH levels will very likely decrease by as much as 0.5 pH units, the lowest it’s been in the last 20 million years. The ability of marine organisms such as corals, crabs and oysters to form shells or exoskeletons could be impaired. (IPCC)

Thawing permafrost and other factors will make Earth’s land a net source of carbon emissions, meaning it will emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than it absorbs. (IPCC)

Roughly 20 to 30 percent of species assessed as of 2007 could be extinct by 2100 if global mean temperatures exceed 2 to 3 degrees of pre-industrial levels. (IPCC)

New climate zones appear on up to 39 percent of the world’s land surface, radically transforming the planet. (Jack Williams, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

A quarter of all species of plants and land animals—more than a million total—could be driven to extinction. The IPCC reports warn that current “conservation practices are generally ill-prepared for climate change and effective adaptation responses are likely to be costly to implement.” (IPCC)

Increased droughts could significantly reduce moisture levels in the American Southwest, northern Mexico and possibly parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, effectively recreating the “Dust Bowl” environments of the 1930s in the United States. (Richard Seager, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Science)

2200

An Earth day will be 0.12 milliseconds shorter, as rising temperatures cause oceans to expand away from the equator and toward the poles, one model predicts. One reason water will be shifted toward the poles is most of the expansion will take place in the North Atlantic Ocean, near the North Pole. The poles are closer to the Earth’s axis of rotation, so having more mass there should speed up the planet’s rotation. (Felix Landerer, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Geophysical Research Letters)

April 22, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Geography / Maps, Health Issues, Living Conditions, News, Social Issues, Technical Issue, Weather | 5 Comments

A Lot of Bull

Humor interests me – why do we find some things funny? In the US, we have an entire genre of jokes that have to do with big city/educated/city living people who get taken advantage of by the “ole country boy.” I always find them funny. And, I wonder if these jokes are funny in every culture? Here is one from jokes to go.

A big-city lawyer was representing the railroad in a lawsuit filed
by an old rancher. The rancher’s prize bull was missing from
the section through which the railroad passed. The rancher only
wanted to be paid the fair value of the bull.

The case was scheduled to be tried before the justice of the
peace in the back room of the general store. The city-slicker
attorney for the railroad immediately cornered the rancher and
tried to get him to settle out of court.

He did his best selling job, and finally the rancher agreed to
take half of what he was asking.

After the rancher had signed the release and took the check,
the young lawyer couldn’t resist gloating a little over his
success, telling the rancher, “You are really a country hick, old
man, but I put one over on you in there. I couldn’t have won the
case. The engineer was asleep and the fireman was in the
caboose when the train went through your ranch that morning. I
didn’t have one witness to put on the stand. I bluffed you!”

The old rancher replied, “Well, I’ll tell you young feller, I was a
little worried about winning that case myself, because that
durned bull came home this morning.”

April 21, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cross Cultural, Humor, Joke, Random Musings | Leave a comment

India’s dangerous secret sex lives

In a BBC article by Linda Pressly, we learn that India has the largest HIV case-load in the world with an estimated 5.7 million people living with the virus. And that women are at highest risk of getting the HIV virus – from their husbands.

More people are living with HIV in India than anywhere else but activists in Gujarat say that until sexual diversity is accepted, prevention may be impossible.

In India’s conservative society sex lives are kept very secret

“Just as other people live their lives, my husband and I maintain our normal family life, even though he has boyfriends.”

Gita was relating some of the most intimate details of her marriage.

“We look after each other, so that’s why I don’t have a problem with his homosexuality,” she said.

“At first I was shocked because I didn’t know anything about it. But I discovered that homosexuality is completely natural in some people, so I’m OK with it.

“I never thought it would create any problems for me.”

Gita’s husband Vijay, has been having sexual relationships with men ever since they got married.

You can read the rest of this fascinating article here.

April 21, 2007 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 4 Comments

Uighur People

I had never heard of the Uighur people until I read The Kite Runner, a steady best-seller by Khaled Hosseini (available from amazon.com for $8.40 plus shipping) about Afghanistan, his Afghani childhood, his best friend – a Uighur – and the changes wrought in Afghanistan with the revolution.

(Edit: True Faith accurately points out that the best friend was Hazara, not Uigher)

This article is from BBC News April 12th, about the steady campaign against the Uighur in China.

China ‘crushing Muslim Uighurs’

China has been accused by two US-based human rights groups of conducting a “crushing campaign of religious repression” against Muslim Uighurs. It is being done in the name of anti-separatism and counter-terrorism, says a joint report by Human Rights Watch and Human Rights in China.

It is said to be taking place in the western Xinjiang region, where more than half the population is Uighur.

China has denied that it suppresses Islam in Xinjiang.

It says it only wants to stop the forces of separatism, terrorism and religious extremism in the region, which Uighur separatists call East Turkestan.

Detentions and executions

The report accuses China of “opportunistically using the post-11 September environment to make the outrageous claim that individuals disseminating peaceful religious and cultural messages in Xinjiang are terrorists who have simply changed tactics”.

The authors of the report say it is based on previously undisclosed Communist Party and Chinese government documents, local regulations, press reports and local interviews.

The report says the systematic repression of religion in Xinjiang was continuing as “a matter of considered state policy”.

Such repression ranges from vetting imams and closing mosques to executions and the detention of thousands of people every year, it claims.

“Religious regulation in Xinjiang is so pervasive that it creates a legal net that can catch just about anyone the authorities want to target,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China.

The report also reveals that almost half the detainees in Xinjiang’s re-education camps are there for engaging in illegal religious activities.

Uighurs make up about eight million of the 19 million people in Xinjiang.

Many of them favour greater autonomy, and China views separatist sentiments as a threat to the state.

April 21, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, Political Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Statistics, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The Kuwait Left Turn

I actually first came across the first left turn in Saudi Arabia, and would watch in horrified fascination at the stoplights. Saudi Arabian driving was the worst I have seen, ever, anywhere in the world, but the driving has some inner logic if you are there long enough to get used to it. (I had thought I would hate not driving, but in Saudi Arabia, I was happy not to drive.)

In Saudi Arabia, there was no respect for lanes at all. At a junction there might be four legal lanes; one marked for people turning left, one for people turning right, and two for going straight ahead, but when the light turned red, there would be six or seven or eight cars lined up, all squeezed together, almost door to door. If there is a space, a car will fill it.

And maybe four or five of those cars would turn left, but not necessarily the four cars closest to the left. One might be in the far right turn lane, but going left. Yes, there were accidents, but not so often as you would think.

In Kuwait, they have refined the right-turn-lane-left-turn down to an art. I’ve gotten so used to it I hardly notice it any more, and that is why I am blogging about it now, so I will have it down before it falls of the screen.

Here is how it works. The guy in the far right lane realizes he needs to turn left. First move – he turns the wheels left and inches forward. Second step – this is optional – he gets the attention of the guy to his left and indicates he needs to go left. This is done with a combination of desperate looking eyes and a hand motion. Third step – he continues inching forward. Last step – just as the light is about to change/is changing he shoots out into the intersection, across four lanes of traffic, making his left turn.

There’s no honking. People are used to it.

That the lane second to the left also often goes left, although it is marked to go straight ahead, is a given.

It happens so often, we take it for granted.

The second variation on a left turn is that in Kuwait there are long stretches between stoplights or roundabouts, but there are conveniently marked areas where you can make a u-turn. There are left turn lanes that make it easy. But often, there are people who don’t want to get in line, or maybe realize too late that this is where they need to turn. No problem. They just get right up next to you and start edging their way in. It can be really scary when that someone is a big cement truck, or a bus full of workers.

Sometimes there can be two or three cars making that left turn at the same time. You would think it would be a disaster, and somehow, it all seems to work.

All this is . . . . very creative, refusing to be limited to what the law says is permissible. The problem becomes switching tracks when you go back to a country where the laws are less flexible.

April 20, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Travel | 7 Comments

Adventures in Driving: Kuwait

I found this great road, 303, that goes all the way from Mishref to Fehaheel. It is a little slower than 30 (Fehaheel Expressway) or 40, with more stop lights, but I like it because it is like a European boulevard, several lanes in each direction, divided with a barrier, and it has a lot of public art – cool and interesting sabilles (the places put up for the people passing by to drink water) and all kinds of models of ships. It’s a nice drive.

(i am discovering that there are several of these roads in Kuwait; you just have to find them. If you always take the same route, you can miss some amazing sights.)

I was stopped by police checks twice, whipping out my freshly legal driver’s licence. At the second stop, every vehicle was stopped – except for the ATV with two boys on it that got on who got on somewhere in the south and went all the way to Mishref. The first I saw them was when they went whizzing by me at the second police check.

00303.jpg

That’s them, over to the right, by the sign, with another car behind them. It wasn’t easy to get their photo because they were really hauling. Their little ATV was going faster than any of the cars on the road, and they didn’t bother stopping for red lights, or police checks.

I didn’t think those things had that much power. But I am also wondering why, when the police saw them, they didn’t stop the boys? These kids had no business being on a highway, no licenses, no helmuts, no protective clothing, on a vehicle going as fast as an average car. And they weren’t that easy to see – it was dusk. To their credit, they stayed in the right lane, and they did look both ways before going through the red lights.

I was amazed at how fast that little thing went.

April 20, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Lumix, Photos | 6 Comments

Thursday? Friday? Saturday?

Today’s Kuwait Times quotes an “official source” as stating that Kuwait will move to a Friday Saturday weekend as of the 1st of September, and that Kuwait is also looking at daylight savings time starting next Spring. Seems like this trial balloon has floated a time or two before, do you think it will fly this time?

Somehow, it feels in Kuwait like the weekend now is Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The expats seem to be working a six day week (except for the maids, who work 24/7) and everyone seems to take it easier all three days. Wonder if this is really going to happen?

April 19, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Experiment, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Social Issues | 7 Comments

Big Brother and ‘The Look’

Last night I was caught up in the hormone laden chaos of Marina Mall.

Surrounded by hundreds of thuggy looking 11-year-olds and adolescent trollops, I wondered what kept the atmosphere from becoming explosive? All that testosterone, all that rampant estrogen, what an unpredictable combination! So I watched, and then I saw it.

The girls are mostly behaving themselves. Most are dressed modestly, but are ready for that “we had a moment” glance, and half-hoping, half-fearing that it will come. “Eeeeeee!!” they scream, thinking someone might pass them a phone number.

But what keeps the young monkeys, hopped up on testosterone, from getting carried away?

Big Brother.

Not is a mean way, not in a threatening way, just being a big brother.

I would see the gangs of kids, and I would see a white thobed guy, maybe with a friend, maybe with his family.

And I would see “the glance”. “The Look”.

The look said “I see you.”

The look said “I know who who you are, underneath the gel and goofy clothing.”

The look said “I know your family.”

The look said “Remember your manners, little brother.”

And I saw the boys catch the look, and remember who they are. The look was enough. The look is effective. It breaks through the mob mentality and reminds the boys that they will soon have the responsibilities of young men, and that this mob mentality roaming around the Mall will pass. The look reminds the boys of the need for SELF control. The look might even say “I remember those days, and those days are over.”

It’s enough.

April 19, 2007 Posted by | Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, ExPat Life, Generational, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Social Issues, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

“It’s All YOUR Fault”

The manifesto received by NBC from Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui says “it’s all your fault” and “You made me do this!”

Has anyone ever said that to you? It is the most chilling experience. People who say things like that are so self-centered and so self-absorbed that they can see the world only in terms of how it effects them, and believe that all things are directed toward them. You can’t argue with them. They see themselves as the center of the universe, and you are only peripheral. Really, I think they have a hard time conceiving that you have any individual existence; you exist only in relation to them.

One of his teachers says Cho was “the loneliest person” she ever met. Uh, yeh. . . I can imagine being so self oriented can make you a little lonely! His former roommates say that at the beginning they tried to make conversation with him, but that he shut them out.

He felt alien. We all feel alien, sometime or another. Most of us don’t go out on a shooting revenge, blaming our alienity on “rich kids” or whatever the enemy flavor-of-the-day is.

I feel sorry for his parents. They must be devastated. They have probably known – but not wanted to see – that their son had serious problems. Their hearts must be breaking, for their son, and they must be wondering where they failed as parents. The damage this kid inflicted against his community resonates on and on.

April 19, 2007 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, News, Random Musings, Relationships | 2 Comments