Freedom of the press in Dubai?

A curious development given the bad state of press freedom in Dubai:

Sheikh Mohammed, Dubai’s Crown Prince, has called for a new era of press freedom in the United Arab Emirates. In mid-October, he waxed poetic before 500 journalists at his palace, saying, “The UAE will continue to be an oasis of freedom, democracy and co-existence. It will also remain a podium for true words.â€? But while local reports heralded the speech, they failed to mention that the UAE ranks a lowly 137th (out of 167 countries) in the 2004 Index of Press Freedom, compiled by Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog in France. “Links between the media, the governments and powerful businessmen are so close that self-censorship is often the only way possible for journalists,â€? wrote the organisation in its annual report on the region.

Still, many journalists working in Dubai and the UAE claim conditions are improving. International correspondents are largely free to report what they wish, and even local media organisations, which usually face more pressure, can now criticise government policy and state-run businesses—commentary that would have been impossible even five years ago.

An affair to remember

One of the stranger stories you might hear from the UAE:

A camel has been condemned to death after a worker was caught having sex with it in the remote emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. The man, a Bangladeshi driver, was sentenced to three months in jail for his dangerous liaisons. His employer reported him to the authorities after spotting him making regular visits to the camel barn, Gulf News reported.

Ras Al Khaimah is one of the poorer and more traditional sheikhdoms that make up the seven United Arab Emirates, and its judiciary tends to be more conservative than its neighbours’ (Dubai is about an hour’s drive away). Reports said authorities ordered the camel to be killed in accordance with Islamic or sharia law, because its meat was considered tainted by the man’s performances.

Surely the camel was just minding its own business? Why does it get condemned to death?

Police: Wife of TV legal analyst slain

This could turn into an even bigger trial than the ones Daniel Horowitz is involved with.

The wife of prominent defense attorney and TV legal analyst Daniel Horowitz was found slain in the entryway of the couple’s San Francisco Bay area home, authorities said Sunday.

Horowitz, currently leading the defense in a sensational murder trial, called 911 Saturday evening to report that he found his wife, Pamela Vitale, dead in their home, police said.

Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputies said Sunday that the death was being investigated as a homicide. An autopsy was planned Monday to determine how she was killed.

“We talked to a number of people last night, but there’s nobody in custody. We’re still trying to establish a motive,” said spokesman Jimmy Lee.

Stopping blogging

I have to sympathise with the views expressed by Xanadb in his final post.

To my mind the bloggersphere has reached a saturation point. I just can’t be bothered following them anymore. A case in point was the recent announcement of apple’s Video iPod, and the whole hype around web2.0. I don’t really need to read about these things across 2 dozen blogs , each one adding little information or worthwhile opinion. Why do bloggers feel so compelled to echo each other ? Why do they feel the need to write “I’m turning off comments” posts ? (or “I’m taking a break from blogging” posts ?). Who gives a fuck about your comment spam problem ? Being part of this whole blogosphere thing makes me feel distinctly icky so I’m bowing out. Tags, pagerank, trackbacks, pings – the whole thing is tired (or maybe I just don’t “get it”).

All of which is a long winded way of saying that this blogging thing is heavily weighted towards a small handful of influential A-Listers and frankly I’d rather not be part of the rat-race (that’s what it feels like blogging has become – what with ‘how to blog successfully’ books and sites sprouting like weeds). I think it’s time for a restart.

CTRL+ALT+DEL.

I have often had similar thoughts, usually about my own blog’s relevance on the internet. But I still plug away, and I do go through asking myself why the hell I do it, but I seem to always come back. I must be addicted. Best of luck to Xanadb!

Space weapons

Simon over at Dossing believes that weapons in space is ‘utter balloney’ and will never happen. I disagree, the motivation is there and the goal is too big a prize not to achieve. There are lots of possibilities besides the lasers or missiles Simon suggests. I did like Michael Goldfarb’s piece in the Weekly Standard in August where he outlines a number of possibilities for weaponising space.

Among the weapons the Air Force might deploy are space-based lasers, a space plane capable of delivering a half-ton payload anywhere in the world in 45 minutes, and the “rods from god.” The rods are currently just a concept–and have been since the early 1980s–but, if the myriad technical and political hurdles to deployment could be overcome, the system could represent a tremendous leap forward in the military’s ability to destroy underground, hardened facilities of the type that have allowed Iran and other rogue states to violate the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty with impunity.

Rods from God is a rather interesting phrase isn’t it? Can the technical problems associated with this type of technology not be overcome Simon?

And it should be noted that the Bush administration has started work on this area. See this CDI piece, and this Air Force PDF on ‘Counter space’ operations.

Solicitor corruption

I just can’t understand the muted response in the media. Sunday morning radio shows barely mentioned it, Gerry Ryan mentioned in passing this morning. Indeed the Sunday papers I had a chance to look at yesterday barely figured it as part of their news or analysis agendas. The only person to have realised what has actually happened appears to be Pat ‘The Plank’ Kenny.

What are the reasons for the lack of anger and gusto on the part of the media? Are they scared of the solicitors? Afraid of libel allegations? Are people just not interested in solicitors stealing hundreds of thousands of euro from their clients?

Someone please explain.

Irish solicitors

Words can’t desribe. I should really go into a rant about the goings on with Irish solicitors and their clients, but I am so angry I can’t articulate my position right now. I can’t understand why this is not figuring more prominently on Irish blogs or in the media. Outright fraud, theft, whatever you want to call it, but it’s definately not ‘overcharging’. ‘Overcharging’ implies a mistake or an oversight – this was planned, pre-meditated theft of vulnerable people.

And the response?

One firm on Henry Street has put their proverbial hands up in the air – “Sorry we ‘overcharged’ and will refund our clients.”

As one caller to Liveline noted – if he went into his solicitors office in the morning and took €10,000 from the premises would the Gardai be called and him arrested, or, upon being caught, would he simply say, sorry about that here’s your money back, and walk out the door.

The crux of this issue seems to be that people believe this to be an isolated incident. It almost certainly is not, I have no doubt that this behaviour is endemic in the legal profession.

More later.