Out On The Crown
January 11, 2022
The Good News
- Baby lost in chaos of Afghanistan airlift found, returned to family (Reuters)
- Aussie-UK couple marry in Buckinghamshire after 20 months apart (BBC)
“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.” – Kofi Annan
Getting Her Day In Court
The Supreme Court of Pakistan was established August 14, 1947. For 74 years, no woman sat on the court. After decades of struggle to secure greater representation and rights for women in this conservative, male-dominated society, a rare victory occurred last Thursday, when Pakistan’s top judicial commission approved the elevation of Judge Ayesha Malik, 55, to the highest court in the land. She joins 16 “regular” male justices, and two who are ad hoc. Many lawyers and activists see her nomination as a defining moment for women’s empowerment in the country. The retirement age for Pakistani justices is 65.
The pathway to her nomination was anything but smooth, as Malik faced bitter opposition from a large section of the legal community. Some lawyers threatened to go on strike if she became a member of the Supreme Court (SC). Last September the judicial commission rejected her elevation after four of the eight members opposed her, citing lack of seniority. Malik had joined the Lahore High Court in 2012, and was fourth in seniority. But Gulzar Ahmed, the SC’s chief justice, continued to support her, and legal advocacy groups argued against the contention that seniority is a disqualifying factor for nomination.
Malik has rendered some landmark verdicts in her career, among them last year’s outlawing of virginity tests for female rape survivors. In her verdict, which unfortunately only applies in the state of Punjab, Malik said: “It is a humiliating practice, which is used to cast suspicion on the victim, as opposed to focusing on the accused and the incident of sexual violence.” Nighat Dad, a digital rights lawyer and human rights activist, said Malik had proved “her competence in the courtroom,” and that her nomination “opens up endless possibilities” for other women in the legal field. “In a country where crimes of gender-based violence are a constant reality, more women [on the SC] can hopefully have a domino effect on the larger justice system to be more inclusive,” Dad said, adding that the law had “immense barriers for women and marginalized communities.”
Sexual assault and discrimination remain largely unpunished crimes in Pakistan, and some observers cautioned that one victory for women was far from enough. Zarmeeneh Rahim, an Islamabad-based lawyer, noted the obvious: “If women continue to be shackled by patriarchy and regressive interpretations of Islam, we will continue to not progress in terms of developing the human capital required to succeed nationally and globally.” Still, she said, “to finally see a woman sit on the highest court in the land is a small step forward in that struggle.” (NYT, Guardian)
Out On The Crown
- De facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), son of Saudi Arabia’s titular king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, is one of the most divisive monarchs in the country’s long history. Among his first power grabs in 2017 was to imprison numerous elites, including blood relatives of the royal family.
- Princess Basma bint Saud, 57, the youngest of 108 children of King Saud, who ruled Saudi Arabia from 1953 to 1964, was arrested in March 2019 as she prepared to fly to Switzerland for medical treatment. Basma and her daughter, Suhoud al-Sharif, were held in a high-security jail without charges for nearly three years; many speculated it may have been related to the princess’ public advocacy for human rights and constitutional reform.
- Last week, the two women were released, again just as suddenly and without explanation. It’s unclear whether the women will be allowed to travel abroad, a pressing issue because Basmah needs medical care for a heart condition that’s not available in Saudi Arabia. (Guardian, NYT)
Falling Rock In Brazil Kills Six
- At least six pleasure boaters drifting near a waterfall on a Brazilian lake were killed Saturday when a towering slab of rock broke from a cliff and toppled onto the boats. As many as 20 other people could be missing and officials were seeking to identify them. Some 32 more were injured, although most had been released from hospitals by Saturday evening. Video showed a gathering of small boats moving slowly near the sheer rock cliff on Furnas Lake when a fissure appeared in the rock and a huge piece toppled onto at least two of the vessels.
- Furnas Lake was created in 1958 for the installation of a hydroelectric plant. It is near the city of Capitólio, in the state of Minas Gerais, and is a popular tourist draw in the area about 260 miles north of Sao Paulo. Officials suggested the wall coming loose could have been related to recent heavy rains that caused flooding in the state and forced almost 17,000 people out of their homes. (ABC News)
Additional World News
- Russian troops deploy to Mali’s Timbuktu after French exit (Al Jazeera)
- Tianjin, a city of 14 million near Beijing, starts testing all residents after Omicron surfaces. (NYT, $)
- Prague protest draws thousands against vaccine mandate (The Hill)
- Fleeing violence in Myanmar, thousands camp along Thai border river (Al Jazeera)
- Sri Lanka seeks Chinese debt restructuring amid crisis (AP)
- Some North Korea escapees end up desperate enough to return (LAT, $)
- Australia hits back at Djokovic: Nobody has guaranteed entry (Reuters)
Raising Some Mayor Concerns
- New York City mayor Eric Adams, 61, has been in office less than two weeks and already there’s controversy over his selection of top members of his new administration, despite their qualifications. To name a few, Adams’ choice for police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, 49, the first woman to fill the post, has clashed with the Manhattan district attorney over proposed police reform.
- Adams also appointed his brother, Bernard Adams, 56, a retired NYPD police sergeant, as deputy police commissioner, saying his brother would help keep him safe from “white supremacy and hate crimes.” On Friday morning, a former top police chief announced his own somewhat questionable appointment as deputy mayor for public safety.
- Philip Banks III, 59, resigned from the NYPD in 2014 after being named an unindicted co-conspirator in a wide-ranging federal corruption investigation that resulted in several convictions, including that of a police chief who served as Banks’ top aide. Banks’ brother, David Banks, 62, is the mayor’s new schools chancellor, and 52-year-old Sheena Wright, David’s partner, is deputy mayor for strategic operations. (NYT, Guardian)
The Vax Of The Matter
- As of this writing, the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on President Biden’s contentious strategy to combat COVID-19. On Friday, SCOTUS heard nearly four hours of arguments over two of the administration’s vaccine requirements – cases that will have implications for some 84 million workers nationwide. On Monday, absent a ruling on challenges presented by Republican-led states, OSHA began implementing its vaccine-or-test requirement for private companies.
- Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson pushed back, urging large businesses in his state not to comply with the administration’s vaccine mandate, calling it an “oppressive” rule. “They should wait until they get the Supreme Court decision…” he said. Likewise, Iowa’s governor Kim Reynolds announced that Iowa will not be adopting or enforcing the mandate.
- “We are going to continue to protect the freedoms and liberties of Iowans,” Reynolds said in a statement. Conversely, Illinois’ Labor Department filed to adopt the federal OSHA vaccine-or-test standard, effective immediately. NYC has also mandated vaccine requirements for employees in the private sector that go even farther than the administration’s. (US News)
Additional USA News
- At least 34 people rescued after they became stranded on a floating chunk of ice in Green Bay (CNN)
- New York City Mayor Eric Adams allows noncitizen voting bill to become law (NBC)
- Trump challenges suits over US Capitol riot, argues fiery speech was official act (Reuters)
- Kyle Rittenhouse’s AR-15 came from a man who now agrees to a plea deal (USA Today)
- ‘Meet The Press’: Covid-19 Advisory Says Virus Could Become Endemic (Deadline)
- Several skiers hurt at NC ski resort after hydrant struck (ABC)
- More People Are Getting Unapproved Fourth Doses of the Covid-19 Vaccine (NYT, $)
A Dream Job
- For never having accomplished much of anything, this guy’s an entrepreneurial genius. Shoji Morimoto, 38, was accustomed to having family, classmates, and co-workers tell him he was a “do-nothing”. After college, he listlessly shuttled through one dispiriting job after another. Then in 2018, unemployed and on a whim, the self-described slacker opened a Twitter account under the moniker “Do Nothing Rent-a-Man,” and began offering his diffident companionship – but not a drop of sweat equity – to the world.
- Morimoto turned down requests requiring too much effort, like cleaning houses, doing laundry, making scintillating banter, being “a friend,” even posing nude. But he’s stood in the freezing cold to be an audience for a struggling street musician, accompanied the painfully self-conscious on outings to shops and restaurants, and even shared cake with a lonely soul on a birthday. Recently, Morimoto met one of his regulars, a woman in her 30s. After perfunctory greetings, they sat down to sip coffee, in silence. The woman, who chooses to remain anonymous, said Mr. Rental offered a safe space with no judgment, no strings, and no talking. “Japanese women tend to worry about what others think, and about not burdening others,” she said. “It’s exhausting. So being freed of this obsessing is valuable.”
- The concept of offering to be a plus-one at restaurants or on shopping trips is not unheard-of in Japan. But Morimoto may be the first to entertain a wide range of “assignments” for nothing more than carfare and, if needed, meals. “People use me in different ways,” he said. “Some people are lonesome. Some feel it’s a shame to go somewhere (interesting) alone – they want someone to share their impressions with.” “Rent-a-man” has struck a chord in this workaholic and conformist country. Morimoto is followed online by almost a quarter of a million people, and schedules up to three appointments nearly every day. “What’s amazing is the huge variety of personalities, circumstances and situations,” he mused between gigs. He never deviates from his original business plan. “I lend myself out to do nothing, which means I don’t make any special effort. I don’t initiate conversation. I reply to chitchat, but that’s it.” (CBS News)
- ‘A Rosetta Stone’: Australian fossil site is a vivid window into 15m-year-old rainforest (Guardian)
- The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else, scientists say (Yahoo)
- DNA can now be pulled from the very air we breathe. It could help track endangered animals (CNN)
- Tropical Futurism Envisions the Climate of Our Fate (Wired)
- All hail the Ariane 5 rocket, which doubled the Webb telescope’s lifetime (Ars Technica)
- Detailed Footage Finally Reveals What Triggers Lightning (Wired)
- Horned helmets predate Vikings by 3,000 years, originating in the Bronze Age, researchers say (CNN)
' title="RECOMMENDED FOR YOU"]