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the column of lasting insignificance: January 4, 2014
by John Wilcock

ISLAMIC WOMEN ARE dominated by men because that’s the way the men want it, not because it’s mandated by the Koran. “One of Musawah’s goal is to persuade Muslims that Sharia laws are not divine but subject to discussion” contends the Nation explaining that the concept of Masawah (“equality” in Arabic) is growing among the women who are seeking to reclaim Islam and the Koran for themselves. The concept, now spreading slowly throughout the Middle East, began in Malaysia where one of its founders, Zainar Anwar has been trying to disabuse women of the notion that the concept of a husband’s authority over his wife is justified by Islamic teachings. “When they are exposed to this new knowledge, they feel duped” she says. “All these years they believed that their suffering in the form of abandonment, polygamy, and beatings was all in the name of God”. If political Islam has a future says Ziba Mir-Hosseini, a legal anthropologist at the University of London, it has to democratize. “A large part of this process involves taking into account the rise of women and minorities. (It) is unfolding differently in each country—in Egypt they wore hijabs as they protested—because of different political structures and social conditions. But it is happening”.

STILL REGARDED AS an experiment, a prison in Texas claims that only 10% of its ‘graduates’ return to jail, compared with the recidivism rate for most American prisoners which can be seven times as high. The prison, Richmond’s Carol S. Vance Unit outside Houston, is probably the most successful prisoner-rehabilitation unit in the country whose aim, says its director Tommie Dorsett, is ”to break the cycle of criminality”. Up to 24 months before their scheduled release, writes Jay Nordlinger in the National Review, inmates present plans for businesses they’d like to start once they’re outside, and expert advisers, including bankers, attend to proffer advice. Prisoners who range “from check-writers to murderers” and from 21 to 58, must seek “a spiritual or moral transformation”, according to the brochure, and study a variety of subjects, including learning to connect with their children and listening to victims of crime, explaining how those crimes have affected their lives.

A DISASTROUS YEAR for Carnival’s cruise lines which found itself the subject of jokes on late-night talk shows which has obviously prompted changes. When the Carnival Triumph was towed into Mobile with leaking sewage and shrieking passengers, the company’s $5bn boss Micky Arison was nowhere to be seen, says Forbes, and he was similarly “a no-show” a year later when the company’s Costa Concordia ran aground in Italy killing 32 people. “I’ve always been a behind the scenes CEO”, Arison, 64, explained, but he nevertheless stepped down in favor of a new chief, Arnold Donaldson, who the mag says “has no hands-on experience running a vacation or transportation company—let alone the biggest one in the world”. Once tagged Carnivore Cruise Lines, the company has gobbled up Britain’s Cunard, Seattle’s luxurious Seabourn, Italy’s Costa, PO Princess, and finally Holland America—a fleet of 102 ships catering to 10 million passengers a year. The new CEO is still an unknown quantity, Forbes suggests, but some other changes include back-up engines on a few ships and redesigning some interiors to appeal to Chinese tastes.

IF YOUR INCOME is between $100,000 and $250,000 you’re a HENRY in the parlance of the retail trade that is beginning to focus its attention on High Earners Not Rich Yet after realizing, reports Stores, that there are about four times as many of them as the really rich. “Henrys are the new mass-market for marketers and brands up and down the pricing scale” says Unity Marketing president Pam Danzinger.

CHINA IS ENTERING the aircraft-building business in a big way and with typical hustle, hoping that its state-owned company Comac can be a global rival within five years to Boeing and Airbus which currently dominate 70% of the world’s aircraft market. To handle what is expected to be the world’s largest passenger business by 2032, China is expected to need an additional 5,580 planes—about the same number as commercial planes in the US today—and Comac (the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China) hopes that most of those will be the new C919 which Fortune says “looks like the spitting image of an Airbus 320”. It’s almost exactly the same size, too, but can be built for $75m, about $10m cheaper than its rival. “But aerospace is a tricky business” the mag says, “and money and skills don’t guarantee success any more than following a soufflé recipe does”. About four million parts go into a plane and they came from suppliers all over the world. Comac has hired more than 100 foreign experts for the C919 program.

VIEWING FIGURES FOR SOCCER have doubled since starting upon NBC’s Sports channel last year (the network paid for three seasons of England’s Premier League matches) and this year attention will multiply, boosted by Brazil’s World Cup events. According to Horizon Media’s Brad Adgate more than 16 million US viewers watched matches between top clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool early last year, and now games between teams from Spanish, Italian and French leagues are being shown on Al Jazeera’s BeIn Sport.

MULTIPLE MICROREDIT LOANS have been putting so many Bangladesh borrowers in debt that more and more of them are selling their organs to keep up with the repayments. Although declared illegal except between relatives, kidney or liver transplants can cost up to $5,000, reports the New Internationalist, and recipients of many microcredit loans are subjected to so much pressure to repay, that they see such body sales as their only escape. Once seen as a major step towards alleviating poverty, microcredit has become more profit-oriented says Dr. Amer Khana, Malaysian professor, and nobody wants to acknowledge it’s there “for purely commercial reasons”.

A HEFTY INVESTMENT in the million-dollar range will often buy you a passport and citizenship if you maintain continued residence in such countries as Spain, Portugal, Austria, or the U.K., but Malta (pop: 419,000) has brazenly gone one step further by offering immediate citizenship without strings on payment of €650,000. A columnist in the Times of Malta was indignant that the country was selling citizenship “like a sack of potatoes” and had ruined the country’s reputation. But Berliner Zeitunge pointed out that Europe had changed and citizenship no longer implied loyalty to the nation but paying taxes, with Malta merely “demanding payment in advance”.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Mental health advocates opposed limiting access to guns by those with mental illness, reports the NYT, because it would “unfairly stigmatize” them… Claiming to be a “Freeman on the Land”, a growing number of Canadians say the government has no control over them, especially when it demands taxes. The country’s Security Intelligence Service calls them ‘domestic extremists’ when they invariably end up in court…."Whenever you hear of a man speak of his love for his country” wrote H.L. Mencken, “it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it”…. Trader Joe's has no branches in Canada where a retailer, Pirate Joe's, has been reselling goods bought in the US. A Vancouver judge has just okayed the practice reports Stores…..…Australia, where Chinese visitors are the biggest source of tourist revenue, is reviewing plans to build casinos in Sydney and Cairns. Meanwhile, a $400million casino project by Australian investors is planned for Sri Lanka….Omar Barghouti, who accuses Israel of apartheid and instigated the ant-Semitic boycott, got his philosophy degree in ethics from Tel Aviv University. Says he doesn’t want to talk about that…. “We lie loudest”. said Eric Hoffer, “when we lie to ourselves”…. Everybody proves to be such a know-it-all on Jeopardy. What would really make the program interesting would be to select contestants randomly to see what they know without being rehearsed…. A very noticeable 3-inch black plastic tag is now attached to expensive garments sold by Bloomingdales to discourage shoppers who can’t return it if the tag is removed…. …..A Holy Koran theme park is being planned in Dubai, stocked with plants from the holy book and its walls covered with depictions of legendary stories …Clicking together the heels of the shoes designed by British artist Dominic Wilcox sets off the embedded global positioning chips which light up to point in the desired direction…. Guy P. Harrison’s book, Think: Why You Should Question Everything, urges readers to be skeptical about what he terms “the infinite number of weird claims, unusual ideas, dangerous ideas and unlikely-to-be-true beliefs stalking you every day”…….In its monthly ‘Darts & Laurels’ column, the Columbia Journalism Review commends Buzzfeed’s Dave Cullen for his suggestion that mass media stop repeating the actual name of a mass killer. “Repeating the name of the shooter makes him a star”….. Experimenting with a new brand of underwear, Fruit of the Loom took 1,000 pairs of boxer shorts and 1,000 ladies panties, and before putting Lucky Looms on sale “infused them with goodwill” at a Los Angeles wishing well, a collection of four-leaf clover in Alaska, and at the world’s largest horseshoe in Martinsville, IL…. “Take the diplomacy out of war and the thing would fall flat in a week.” —Will Rogers (1879–1936)


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