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Iran To Ease Ban on Women Attending Sporting Events

Women Sporting Events Iran

Now that Iran has agreed to suspend its nuclear program (pending Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent ultimatum that Iran will only sign a final nuclear accord with six world powers if all sanctions against the country are lifted), the country can start focusing on more important things – like softening the ban on women attending sporting events.

Since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, the government has barred women from attending most sporting events involving men, deeming that mixed crowds watching games together was un-Islamic. Then, in January, the Iranian government eased up a little, saying it would allow foreign women to attend men’s matches, but it was still out of the question for Iranian women. Until now… sort of.

Following criticism from international sport federations and protests by Iranian women and women’s rights activists, Iran’s deputy sports minister, Abdolhamid Ahmad, announced that the government would partially lift the ban on women attending men’s sports matches.

And by “partially”, he means while women and families may be allowed to enter some sports stadiums, the rules won’t change for all matches because some sports are mainly related to men and “families are not interested in attending” them. Plus, some “masculine” sports, like wrestling or swimming, which leave little of the male figure to the imagination, are far too risqué for Iranian women.

And by “attending men’s sport matches”, Ahmad means women will most likely be assigned to special sections in the stadiums and perhaps some mixed seating will be available for families. Iranians consider the regular seating areas too rowdy and “not Islamic enough” for women.

Well, I guess progress is progress, no matter how small – plus, it’s more than Saudi women get. Now, if only Iran could ease up on hanging homosexuals from cranes and stoning women for adultery…

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No More Palestine if Netanyahu Wins Israeli Election

Israeli Election Netanyahu

On the final day of his reelection campaign, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that as long as his party stays in power, there will not be an independent Palestinian nation.

“I think anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state, and to evacuate territory, is giving radical Islam a staging ground against the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a video interview in a last minute bid to win over right-wing voters.

So… is he going to make Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza full citizens of Israel with all the civil rights that come with?

Nope. Instead, he pledged to build more settlements in the West Bank.

“We will continue to build in Jerusalem, we will add thousands of housing units, and in the face of all the [international] pressure, we will persist and continue to develop our eternal capital,” Netanyahu declared.

Millions of Israelis are now voting in what is expected to be a pretty close electoral race. The latest opinion polls showed Netanyahu and his Likud party are facing a surprisingly strong challenge by the centre-left Zionist Union electoral alliance, lead by Yitzhak Herzog and former peace negotiator Tzipi Livni.

The only thing standing in Netanyahu’s way (besides many voters’ aversion of his extreme right-wing views) is… ARABS! Netanyahu warned on election day that a large turnout by Arab voters could endanger the country’s political right.

“Right-wing rule is in danger. Arab voters are going to the polls in droves. Left-wing organizations are bringing them in buses,” Netanyahu said in a video message on his Facebook page.

Israeli citizens voting in an Israeli election? Damn those Arabs and their voting rights! What’s next? Demanding equal rights for all human beings in Israeli society!?

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Nigeria’s Boko Haram Pledges Allegiance to ISIS

Boko Haram ISIS

In the worst merger since Comcast-Time Warner, Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to ISIS, according to an audio message purported to be from the Nigerian terrorist group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.

The audio message, which has not been officially verified, was posted on Boko Haram’s Twitter account on Saturday. The speaker says Boko Haram is announcing its “allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims, Ibrahim ibn Awad ibn Ibrahim al-Husseini al-Qurashi,” (another name for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) and calls on “Muslims everywhere to pledge allegiance to the caliph.”

Well, I can’t say this is a complete surprise; the two groups have a lot in common.

One is a terrorist organization that began a military campaign in 2009 to impose Islamic rule and ban western-style education in northern Nigeria. The other is a terrorist organization that took control of large territories in eastern Syria and northern Iraq last year with the goal of establishing a state ruled by a single political and religious leader according to Islamic law.

One enjoys kidnapping schoolchildren and setting off suicide bombs in busy markets. The other prefers beheading foreign aid workers and performing mass killings and abductions of members of religious and ethnic minorities.

They’ll have lots to talk about!

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It’s Business As Usual in Saudi Arabia… And Other News

Saudi Arabia King

The King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, has died at the age of 90, weeks after being admitted to hospital with a lung infection.

His half brother and heir to the Saudi throne, Prince Salman, is 79 years old and is also in very poor health – meaning Saudi Arabia will be back in the same spot in a few years. Within hours of acceding to the throne, the newly appointed King Salman, vowed to maintain the same policies as his predecessors. “We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” he said in a speech on state TV. So… intolerance of free speech, gender discrimination and multiple beheadings? The Guardian

Hitler MustacheFurther proof it’s never a good idea to don a Hitler mustache: the head of the German anti-Islamisation movement Pegida has stepped down after a picture of him posing as Adolf Hitler went viral. In addition to the Hitler pose, Lutz Bachmann made some disparaging anti-refugee comments on Facebook in which he reportedly described immigrants as “cattle”, “scumbags” and “trash”. Pegida spokeswoman Kathrin Oertel said the anti-refugee comments went too far but the “Hitler” photo was totally fine and that it was a “joke” and “satire, which is every citizen’s right”. Nevertheless, the German government was not pleased. Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said: “Anyone in politics who poses as Hitler is either a total idiot or a Nazi. Reasonable people do not follow idiots, and decent people don’t follow Nazis.” Fair enough. BBC News 

Annual March For Life Protests 1973 Roe v. Wade Ruling In WashingtonYesterday marked the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, in which the US Supreme Court ruled women had the freedom to terminate a pregnancy if they desired, ending once and for all America’s abortion debate – minus the four decades of passionate debate that followed. Yesterday was no exception to the ongoing abortion fight. Anti-abortion protesters marched in Washington as the US House passed a bill to tighten restrictions on abortion. Although an earlier bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks was scrapped, the Republicans did manage to pass a more limited measure to forbid the use of taxpayer money for abortions. The White House has said it will veto the legislation – arguing it “unnecessarily restricts women’s reproductive freedom and consumers’ private insurance options” – making the whole thing a fruitless endeavour. But since the US is still sharply divided on the issue of abortion, with polls suggesting Americans are about evenly split four decades after the Roe v Wade, politicians and citizens alike will continue to squabble over the issue or years to come.  New York Times

Climate Change Senate 1The US Senate passed an amendment on Wednesday saying climate change is real and not a hoax – because the only way to decide if something is a scientific fact is by having politicians vote on it. The measure, stating that “climate change is real and is not a hoax”, passed by a margin of 98-1. The lone dissenter was Senator Roger Wicker from Mississippi. Sigh… Although to Mississippi’s credit, their other state Senator, Thad Cochran, voted yes – possibly because he’s old enough to have witnessed all the cyclical trends since the last ice age. The whole climate science squabble broke out during debate over amendments to the bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Democrats wanted Republicans to admit that climate change is real and that human activity plays a role. But while Republicans were willing to admit that climate change isn’t a hoax, many refused to admit that human activity is a factor. Two other amendments (which needed 60 votes to pass) failed: “human activity significantly contributes to climate change” failed 50-49 and “human activity contributes to climate change” failed 59-40. Still, progress…? The Hill

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Even Taliban Leaders Have LinkedIn Profiles

TTP-Ehsanullah-Ehsan LinkedIn 2

A senior Taliban commander, wanted in connection with an assassination bid on Malala Yousufzai’s life, has been found using the networking site LinkedIn.

Ehsanullah Ehsan, one of the world’s most notorious terrorist leaders, has 69 connections on LinkedIn and lists “jihad and journalism” as his unique skills.

Ehsanullah_Ehsan_LinkedInEhsan also provided details of his schooling, employment history and language skills. He describes himself as “self-employed” and says he has been a terrorist spokesman since January 2010 – first for Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistan wing of the Taliban, which carried out the attack against Malala Yousufzai in 2012 and now for TTP Jammat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Taliban. Sounds like a straight shooter with upper management written all over him!

After LinkedIn caught wind that Taliban commanders were using their site to engage in some business networking, the company took down Ehsan’s account.

A LinkedIn spokesman said the company’s security team had decided to “restrict it” and stressed that it was not clear if the account actually belonged to Ehsan or if it was just a fake.

The spokesman said, “(I) Can’t say for certain that it is someone else…But I can say that our security team has a high degree of confidence that it is a fake account, which is reason enough to restrict it. (I) Also can’t say for certain who might have set it up if it is fake.”

Or… the discovery that Ehsan has an open profile on LinkedIn was too embarrassing for the networking company so they had to shut it down immediately?

Either way, it’s a shame Ehsan’s account has been restricted. What could be a worse punishment then an endless supply of LinkedIn endorsement emails?

Does Ahmed have these skills or expertise: Suicide bombing?*

*Disclaimer: one time use.

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So… Is Al-Baghdadi Al-Bagh-dead or not?

Al-Baghdadi

Conflicting reports emerged over the weekend suggesting that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was either killed in a coalition airstrike or injured in a coalition airstrike. Well, which is it?

An Interior Ministry intelligence official confirmed that al-Baghdadi was hit Saturday during a strike on al-Qaim, a border town in the western province of Anbar but the Pentagon did not provide any information on whether al-Baghdadi was wounded. Iraq’s Defense and Interior Ministries both released statements that al-Baghdadi was wounded in the attack led by Iraqi forces, but they did not elaborate on what types of injuries he sustained.

Well, the injuries must have not been very severe because several days after reports surfaced that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have been killed or injured in an airstrike, the self-proclaimed leaders of ISIS released a new 17-minute audio statement.

In the recording, released via social media, the speaker says IS fighters will never stop fighting “even if only one soldier remains”.

“God has ordered us to fight,” he said. “For that reason the soldiers of the Islamic State are fighting… they will never leave fighting, even if only one soldier remains.”

Al-Baghdadi criticized President Obama’s decision to increase the number of advisers deploying to Iraq to help security forces battle the Islamic State.

“Here is Obama who has ordered the deployment of 1,500 additional soldiers under the claim that they are advisers because the Crusaders’ airstrikes and constant bombardment —day and night —upon the position of the Islamic State have not prevented its advance, nor weakened its resolve,” he said in the tape, which appears authentic and recent.

Al-Baghdadi also called for attacks against the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Baghdadi urged supporters in Saudi Arabia to take the fight to the rulers of the kingdom, which has joined the U.S.-led coalition in mounting air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria.

So the leader of a terrorist group is commanding his followers to attack a country that is notorious for funding terrorists? Bold strategy, al-Baghdadi. Let’s see if it pays off.

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Is A Man With A Plan… To Eliminate Israel

Grand_Ayatollah_Ali_Khamenei

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has put forth a plan (via Twitter) to wipe Israel off the map, which he believes will be accepted by the international arena. Spoiler alert: I don’t think it will.

In a table posted on Khamenei’s official Twitter account on Sunday, the Ayatollah revealed his 9-step plan to destroy the “fake Zionist regime”.

The Supreme Leader of Iran tweeted a set of answers to what are described as the “key questions”, saying that Israel is guilty of a host of “crimes”. He proposes a referendum to install a completely new government that will decide whether “Jewish immigrants who have been persuaded into emigration to Palestine” are allowed to remain in Israel or will be made to “return to their home countries.”

Screenshot 2014-11-10 12.02.45

The nuclear talks must be going great…

On the plus side, the Ayatollah plan does not appear to involve a violent massacre of Jews. Khamenei is n o monster. He draws the line at a “classical war by the army of Muslim countries” and throwing “migrated Jews at the sea.” However, he did tweet that until his plan can be implemented, there should be “powerful confrontation and resolute and armed resistance” against Israel. Just don’t throw them into the sea.

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The Rules According to ISIS

Journalist rules

After beheading two American journalists, ISIS forces in Deir Ezzor, Syria, have issued 11 rules to journalists who want to report from the region while avoiding being abducted and killed.

The 11 golden rules, all said to be non-negotiable, were established directly by ISIS for any journalists “who wish to continue working in the governorate.” Unsurprisingly, the rules are pretty damn restrictive. Among the conditions, journalists must swear allegiance as “subjects of the Islamic State” and no journalist is to publish any piece of work without first getting approval from the ISIS media office.

Although the vast majority of foreign journalists have already fled ISIS-held regions of Syria and Iraq, here are the full rules for any stragglers left behind:

1 – Correspondents must swear allegiance to the Caliph [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi … they are subjects of the Islamic State and, as subjects, they are obliged to swear loyalty to their imam.

2 – Their work will be under the exclusive supervision of the Isis media offices.

3 – Journalists can work directly with international news agencies (such as Reuters, AFP and AP), but they are to avoid all international and local satellite TV channels. They are forbidden to provide any exclusive material or have any contact (sound or image) with them in any capacity.

4 – Journalists are forbidden to work in any way with the TV channels placed on the blacklist of channels that fight against Islamic countries (such as Al-Arabiya, Al Jazeera and Orient). Violators will be held accountable.

5 – Journalists are allowed to cover events in the governorate with either written or still images without having to refer back to the Isis media office. All published pieces and photos must carry the journalist’s and photographer’s names.

6 – Journalists are not allowed to publish any reportage (print or broadcast) without referring to the Isis media office first.

7 – Journalists may have their own social media accounts and blogs to disseminate news and pictures. However, the Isis media office must have the addresses and name handles of these accounts and pages.

8 – Journalists must abide by the regulations when taking photos within Isis territory and avoid filming locations or security events where taking pictures is prohibited.

9 – Isis media offices will follow up on the work of local journalists within Isis territory and in the state media. Any violation of the rules in place will lead to suspending the journalist from his work, and he will be held accountable.

10 – The rules are not final and are subject to change at any time depending on the circumstances and the degree of cooperation between journalists and their commitment to their brothers in the Isis media offices.

11 – Journalists are given a license to practice their work after submitting a license request at the Isis media office.

Wait a minute… let’s go back to Rule #10. The the rules “are not final” and can change at any time? Well, that’s helpful. It might as well read “Journalists may be subject to the removal of their heads at any time for any reason by any member of ISIS.”

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Bombs Over Baghdad… I mean Syria. And Other News…

Syria Air Strikes

The U.S. war major counter-terrorism operation against ISIS has begun in Syria.

On Monday night, the United States—along with their new buddies Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, launched cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs at ISIS strongholds along Syria’s border with Iraq. The U.S.-led strikes hit the city of Raqqa (ISIS’s self-declared capital of Syria) as well as a number of other villages and cities. In addition to targeting ISIS, the Monday night air strikes took aim at the Khorosan Group, an Al Qaeda cell filled with well-seasoned operatives. Why not kill two birds with one missile? So far the strikes have been a success – if you measure success by dead bodies. At least 70 ISIS militants and 50 other al-Qaeda-linked fighters have been killed in the attacks. BBC News

Chad HomosexualLouisianan gays rejoice, Chadian gays recoil! A judge in Louisiana has ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. State Judge Edward Rubin said the ban violates the due process clause and the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, as well as the full faith and credit clause of the constitution. In other words, it’s good news for the couple in the case, Angela Costanza and her partner Chasity Brewer, who argued that Louisiana should recognize their marriage, which took place in California. Meanwhile, over in Africa, Chad is poised to become the 37th African country to ban homosexuality. As part of a larger overhaul of the penal code, Chad is expected to pass a new law banning homosexuality with a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. The government ministers, who have already signed on to the bill, say claim the law works to “protect the family and to comply with Chadian society.” On a more positive note, the new penal code also abolishes the death penalty, so at least the newly criminalized homosexuals won’t end up on death row… small win? The Guardian

New Zealand FlagScotland may have voted against separating from the British Empire, but now New Zealand is getting anxious to cut ties with its former colonizer. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he would hold a referendum on getting rid of the nation’s Union Jack clad flag next year. “I’d like to get on with it, to me I’d like to do it as a 2015 issue,” Key told commercial station Radio Live. “I’m obviously a big supporter of the change, I think there are a lot of strong arguments in favour of the change.” The prime minister wants to ditch the Union Jack in favour of a silver fern against a black background. Critics say this design too closely resembles a pirate’s flag, but Key urged his fellow Kiwis to think of it as New Zealand’s version of the Canadian maple leaf. “I know it was a ferocious debate in Canada, but in the end would any Canadians look back and say they got it wrong with the maple leaf?” he asked. I don’t know… maybe this Canadian. The Guardian

Somali RansomTurns out Somali pirates are more forgiving than ISIS militants… or they’re just more into ransoms. A German-American journalist who was abducted more than two years ago has been freed. Michael Scott Moore was abducted in the Somali city of Galkayo back in January 2012 while researching a book about piracy. A Somali pirate commander told The Associated Press that the journalist had been released after a ransom was paid, but according to Abdi Yusuf, interior minister of the semi-autonomous region of Galmudug in central Somalia where the 45-year-old journalist was abducted, no ransom was paid. Ransom or no ransom (there was totally a ransom), Moore is no doubt happy to be reunited with his family and pirate-free. New York Times

Three BoobsDisappointing Total Recall fans everywhere, the Florida woman who claimed to have had a third breast surgically implanted to scare men away turned out to be a big fat phony. Armed with a handful of disturbing selfies, 21-year-old Jasmine Tridevil (not her real name, obvs) tricked thousands of news organizations into believing she found a plastic surgeon stupid enough to give her a third boob. Tridevil says the surgery cost $20,000 and that included a “nipple” implant. She also revealed: “I got it because I wanted to make myself unattractive to men. Because I don’t want to date anymore.” She sounds smart… “Most guys would think [the extra breast is] weird and gross. But I can still feel pretty because if I wore makeup and cute clothes, I can still, you know… feel pretty,” the 21-year-old (in Courtney Stodden years) continued. But, an investigation by Snopes shows that Tridevil has a history of creating Internet hoaxes and even if she had found a plastic surgeon willing to put his/her license on the line, the procedure would take months to complete and would definitely NOT look Total Recall-esque. Huffington Post

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Saudi Businesswoman Fined For Driving Herself to the Hospital

Saudi woman driving

Aliyah Al-Farid, a Saudi businesswoman and member of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), was fined by police after she drove herself to the hospital to receive treatment for a medical condition. A woman driver? What’s next? A woman doctor?!

In Saudi Arabia, it is not illegal for women to drive on the road, but it is illegal for them to be granted a driver’s license – which pretty much wipes out the former law. As the Quran says, “No woman shall operate a motor vehicle. Ever.”

But Al-Farid claims no one else was available to drive her when she began to experience the medical emergency.

“I told the traffic officers that I had to drive because it was an emergency case,” Al-Farid later told reporters.

“I didn’t do it on purpose and I’m not after fame or media hype. I was very sick and that was it,” she said.

The Saudi police were very understanding and allowed her to proceed to the hospital. But waited for her outside…

When she emerged from treatment, four police cars were waiting to escort her to the local Traffic Department office. While at the station, Al Farid, who has reportedly been caught driving twice before, paid the fine for driving without a license but refused to agree to a police request to never drive again.

The Saudi businesswoman owns a centre caring for people with special needs and on occasion must rush her patients to hospital.

“We can’t leave an epileptic patient convulsing on the ground while waiting for our male driver to come and transport him to hospital.”

“I have to get behind the steering wheel and do it,” she explained.

So… what are Saudi women supposed to do if they are home alone and have a medical emergency? Sit there and die? Well, considering this is the same country where religious police forced schoolgirls back into a burning building because they weren’t wearing the correct Islamic dress, I guess the answer is yes.

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