Thursday, June 29, 2006

No comment...

For reasons too boring to go into I was doing a quick bit of research on Magna Carta. Salisbury Cathedral has a copy and on their website I came across this paragraph. I was struck by the last two sentences, having just been reading about 'rendition', Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib et al:

"Magna Carta is Latin for “The Great Charter” the famous agreement made between King John and his barons at Runneymede in 1215. It is beautifully written in Latin on vellum (animal skin) and contains some 3,500 words, many of which have been abbreviated. It established, amongst other principles in law, that no free man may be imprisoned or prosecuted without fair trail before his equals. The basic principles of the Magna Carta have been incorporated into the Constitution of the United States of America."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

We wuz robbed!

Italy v Australia. Score 0-0, we're in the third and final minute of extra time with just 5 seconds left.

An Australian defender is on the ground in the penalty box, an Italian falls over him...and the referee signals a penalty!

A penalty!?

According to the laws of the game, a penalty shall be awarded if a player commits any of the following inside the penalty area:

*kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
*trips or attempts to trip an opponent
*jumps at an opponent
*charges an opponent
*strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
*pushes an opponent
*tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball
*holds an opponent
*spits at an opponent
*handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

This follows on the heels of the appalling performance of referees Pol and Ivanov. The fans and the players deserve better than this.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Who is?

The tailors or the customers...?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Beautification Tips

Handy hints for when you want to beautificate something.

Find an area with well-established greenery, preferably lawn & flower beds and a nice pathway. If it also has shrubs and/or trees it’s even more suitable.

Dig up the pavers and pile them artistically, rather than neatly, on the flowerbed.

Dig several large, deep holes in the centre of the lawn, being sure to pile the sand up on the flowerbeds next to the piles of pavers. Make sure enough there’s enough to also cover at least 45cm of the trunk of shrubs/trees.

Place red & white plastic cones around your beautification project. String a line of red & white plastic pennants along the line of cones.

Leave for as long as possible to mature.

It is important to note that to be truly successful the finished project should not look as good as the original it replaced.

Note: No visible activity is permitted, so working at night is recommended.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Criminal stupidity...again.

Driving from Dubai Marina into Al Sufouh Road at 3.30 this afternoon, a European female driver pulled alongside me. I stopped for the red traffic light, she slowed, changed her mind and drove straight through.

At the next traffic light outside Mina Seyahi, where a U-turn is clearly shown as not allowed, she decided to do a U-turn in front of oncoming traffic.

I bet the young child in her car was mightily impressed.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Due process?

On Guantanamo:

Bush said 200 detainees had been sent home, and that most of the remaining 460 are from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan.

"There are some who need to be tried in US courts," he said. "They're cold-blooded killers. They will murder somebody if they are let out on the street."

450 people are still being held without even being charged with anything (only 10 have been charged) some for four years so far. Yet Bush can declare to the world that they are cold-blooded killers who will commit murder if they are released.

Due process means nothing, US and international law means nothing, innocent until proven guilty means nothing.

This is what people are dying to defend, and to impose on others?

I'm still irritated...

There is absolutely no excuse for the media making mistakes in their chosen language.

Here's another example of sloppy, unprofessional work. The English-language 7Days not bothering to check things.

Getting it right really isn't difficult, just hire a competent native English speaker to proof-read.

I guess it's just yet another example of the 'it doesn't matter, they've paid their money' attitude so common in the companies we have to deal with.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I'm irritated.

In the grand scheme of things it really doesn't matter, and I know there are many more important things going on in the world, but it annoys the hell out of me.

At least two radio commercials are advertising special deals, and I quote, "until stocks last."

"Until stocks last" - oh come on!

The two advertisers are Bose and Seiko, hardly obscure names and I'm sure they're not using a one-man-band ad agency. Surely there's someone at the agency or the client who speaks English well enough to have noticed it. If not, they should hire a proof-reader who does.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Well, which was it?

Yesterday's power failure - I hate the trendy, ugly word 'outage' - was front page news in Emirates Today and Gulf News. Interestingly, they identified different causes. Are they talking about the same event?

Gulf News tells us: According to DEWA officials, the problem was traced back to the Mall of the Emirates substation located adjacent to the mall, which also serves areas of Al Barsha.

However, according to EmTod: Large parts of Dubai were left without power after a cable fire at Jebel Ali power station yesterday.

"We sent many fire engines to assist the Jebel Ali Civil Defence fire engines in putting out the fire," a Dubai Civil Defence official said. "It took three hours to bring the fire under control."

But apart from the very different versions of events, here's a bit that intrigued me in Gulf News' report:

Do not exceed 'allotted supply'

In the wake of several power cuts throughout Dubai, Dewa officials have urged the public to be wary of overextending their power supplies.

"It is very normal for small scale, contained power cuts to take place when demand is very high, such as in the summer months," said Dewa spokesperson, Abdullah Al Hajri.
Downplaying the incidents as 'isolated', Al Hajri indicated the situation was entirely normal during the summer months.

"Some isolated problems are to be expected during the summer," he told Gulf News, adding that the main cause is people exceeding their allotted power supplies, putting strain on the area substations.

Al Hajri said that subscribers are advised to inform Dewa about additional loads placed on the electricity supply.

People exceeding their allotted supply? Maybe I'm the only one who didn't know that there's an 'allotted supply'. Or is it a language problem in the reporting?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006

As if proof was needed...

We're all only too aware that 'customer service' is an oxymoron in Dubai, particularly with bigger companies.

This little item in sums up the attitude perfectly:

Football fans were in the dark last night as World Cup broadcaster ART offered English commentary on an Arabic channel showing the time and score for the Spain vs Ukraine match, then promptly removed it for Saudi Arabia vs Tunisia.

World Cup 1, which normally only has Arabic commentary, offered an English option for the Spain match, but most fans were unaware and tuned into English-language World Cup 3, which still did not have the score or time on screen last night.

To add to the confusion, ART refused to explain exactly what is going on, despite repeated requests.

Since kicking off our ‘What’s The Score?’ campaign on Tuesday, 7DAYS has received hundreds of faxes from frustrated football fans who want the time and score shown on English-language matches.

7DAYS attempted to deliver your petitions to ART’s offices in the Jebel Ali Free Zone yesterday, but was told that the only man who could receive them was in the company’s office on Sheikh Zayed Road. Staff then said they “couldn’t remember” where that office was.

Customers get sub-standard service......that's normal.
Ask what's going on & they ignore you...that's normal.
Try complaining & get the run-around...that's normal.

Not much of a story is it, it's just all so perfectly normal in the Dusty City.

Savour it while it lasts...

"Stop the press!"

'Emirates Today' this morning gives us a story with three aspects to it:

A World Cup screening of the Saudi Arabia versus Tunisia match at the marquee in Media City was marred by trouble between rival supporters last night.

Fans clashed five minutes before the end of last night's game which ended at 2-2.

A fight erupted as some of the Tunisian fans asked a group of Saudi fans to sit down shortly after their team had taken the lead.

One Saudi fan, who was involved in the brawl, said: "It was a fight between Tunisian and Saudi fans. The Tunisians asked us to sit down in a way that did not show us respect, so we fought."

Emirates Today witnessed one female fan being punched in the face by youth who was running to join the fray.

Security guards tried to stop cameramen and photographers from recording the fracas before it got out of hand.

Emirates Today reporters also saw security officials trying to remove the cassette from a television news camera.

An INTV reporter and producer said that security had tried to stop them from filming and at one point grabbed their cameras to confiscate the tape. The men, however, refused to hand over the tape.

The organiser of the event, Rami Shehadeh said: "The security escorted the unruly fans out before it (the violence) could escalate."

(My highlighting)

First, it's about a fight between rival football supporters.

Second, it's about the attempt to censor the media.

Third, it's more confirmation that stupidity is rampant.

The fight was going to be reported anyway, with or without pictures. Security staff not understanding that and then creating a second, and much more sinister, story by trying to suppress it is a fine example of utter stupidity.

You're there to keep good order boys, not to censor the media.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Big Boss is on the case!

Gulf News reports the good, no make that excellent, news that The Big Boss has decided enough is enough with the road situation.

HH Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum...(insert positions here)...has issued orders to the departments concerned to adopt measures to improve traffic safety standards on roads, especially on the Al Khail Road and Jumeirah Road.

He has ordered officials to take strict action against drivers, particularly truck drivers, who violate traffic laws and safety rules, putting the lives of other drivers and pedestrians at risk.

Following these orders, Mattar Mohammad Al Tayer, CEO of the Dubai Roads & Transport Authority and Brig. Eisa Aman Obaid, Dep. Dir. Dubai Traffic Police held an urgent meeting to discuss measures to implement the Ruler's directives.

I wonder whether he used the diplomatic language the paper reported? I suspect it would have been a little more direct - I'd love to know exactly what he said. It certainly got them hustling to hold an urgent meeting.

I know he's a busy man, but let's hope he follows up.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tell me you're joking...

An item in today's Gulf News said in part:

Dubai Police have said that they will name and shame heavy vehicle drivers who jump traffic lights and endanger lives.

A driver, identified as A.H., was arrested by police patrols from the Criminal and Investigation Department in cooperation with Traffic Police after he jumped a red light at the Al Quoz-Muscat Street intersection.

He was driving a bus owned by a private company with 81 passengers aboard. Police said he put himself, the passengers and other drivers in extreme danger.

Name and shame? Oh, come on, get real.

Firstly this potential killer was named as "A.H." Secondly there's a photo of him. He'll find as many copies as he can and proudly show the folk back home that he had his photo in the paper! Do they really think that getting his name, and possibly photo, in the papers is going to stop a moron from driving dangerously in future.

Is this the best we can come up with to stop killer drivers?

The full article, complete with photo of AH, is here

Monday, June 12, 2006

Some diplomacy!

Colleen Graffy, the deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, told BBC's Newshour yesterday. "Taking their own lives was not necessary, but it certainly is a good PR move."

diplomacy n skill in management of international relations.

Didn't she do well!

Nearly five years in a prison camp with no charges laid, no hope of ever being released, and the reason they kill themselves is to create a PR stunt, according to not only Ms Graffy but also other spokesmen.

And it's now announced that after nearly five years in the prison camp 141 of the prisoners will be released without charge. Including one of the prisoners who killed himself. No-one bothered to tell him that he was to be released.

So even under this new twisted American version of democratic law, they couldn't find them guilty of anything.

The time is long overdue to get back to observing international, and national, law.

Here's what the New York Times has to say about it today:

The Deaths at Gitmo

The news that three inmates at Guantánamo Bay hanged themselves should not have surprised anyone who has paid the slightest attention to the twisted history of the camp that President Bush built for selected prisoners from Afghanistan and antiterrorist operations. It was the inevitable result of creating a netherworld of despair beyond the laws of civilized nations, where men were to be held without any hope of decent treatment, impartial justice or, in so many cases, even eventual release.

It is a place where secret tribunals sat in judgment of men whose identities they barely knew and who were not permitted to see the evidence against them. Inmates were abused, humiliated, tormented and sometimes tortured. Some surely are very dangerous men, committed to a life of terrorism and deserving of harsh justice. But only 10 of the roughly 465 men at the camp have been charged with crimes. The others, according to senior officers who served there, were foot soldiers of the Taliban or men who just happened to live in a country invaded by the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

Inmates at Guantánamo Bay have tried seeking help from the American courts, and one case has reached the Supreme Court. But most of these appeals were thwarted by claims of national security. Any new appeals will fall under a shocking new law that deprives the inmates of the centuries-old right to challenge their imprisonment. Government lawyers have even tried to use that law retroactively, to dismiss all pending appeals.

Guantánamo Bay and other American detention centers have sparked outrage around the world — deeply harming America's image as the defender of humanity against just these sorts of abuses. Last month a United Nations panel called for the prisons to be shut down. But the administration's response to all of this has been defiance.

When dozens of inmates went on hunger strikes last year, the authorities strapped them into metal "restraint chairs" and ordered doctors to force-feed them. Military officials said they did this only to inmates on the brink of death, but The Times has reported that the restraint chair was used on all hunger strikers, regardless of their condition.

Medical groups were overwhelmingly appalled by this practice, but the Pentagon issued new rules this month reaffirming that military doctors can be ordered to force-feed prisoners. The only role for psychiatrists at Gitmo seems to be to help prepare prisoners for interrogation.

So it was not surprising in the least when inmates attempted suicide. Twenty-three tried to kill themselves over eight days in August 2003, but the military covered it up for 18 months. Now, three inmates have succeeded. Camp officials say one was a mid- or high-level Qaeda operative. One was captured in Afghanistan (doing what, we're not sure), and the other was from something the camp commander, Rear Adm. Harry Harris Jr., called a splinter group.

Admiral Harris's response was as appalling as the suicides. "I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us," he said. The inmates, he said, "have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own."

These comments reveal a profound disassociation from humanity. They say more about why Guantánamo Bay should be closed than any United Nations report ever could.

Stone Age communications.

I'm getting more and more irritated at the bloody stone age 'service' that we get from Etisalat. Over ten years ago my dial-up service in Australia was a hell of a lot faster than this so-called broadband.

When is the UAE going to drag itself into the 21st Century with communications?

It's a mindset that goes beyond just the out-of-touch and out-of-date Etisalat. We have the out-of-date and inefficient nonsense of total reliance on mobile phones. Web sites are out of date, anything up to literally years; no-one bothers to answer e-mails; no access to VOiP; the slowest downloads you can imagine.

We get deluged with publicity about state-of-the-art, cutting edge, Dubai a city for and of the 21st Century, a great place to relocate your business, a great place to do business blah blah blah.

It's all just so much garbage. We're twenty years behind.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Mobile morons

The newspapers' recent coverage of the stupidity of talking on a mobile phone while driving doesn't seem to be having any effect.

This afternoon on Al Sufouh Road I had cars in front, behind and beside me - with all three drivers concentrating on their mobile phone conversations.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Unfair justice

Another item to add to the long list of things that need reviewing in Dubai/UAE laws:

Man held after killing worker crossing highway

A British man has been held by police for over a week after he accidentally knocked down and killed an Indian worker who was trying to cross Sheikh Zayed Road last Thursday. Cliff Walker, aged 56, was driving a friend to work in Jebel Ali at 7am when two construction workers ran out in front of his car on the road near Ibn Battuta Mall, where the speed limit is 120kph.

“The two workers appeared out of nowhere and despite hitting the brakes and swerving sharply he couldn’t avoid slamming into them,” Walker’s colleague Paul L told 7DAYS yesterday. A 47-year-old Nepalese worker died instantly after slamming into the car’s windscreen while his Indian friend, aged 45, suffered medium injuries and was treated in Rashid hospital.
Walker has been told by the police that he might end up spending another two weeks in Bur Dubai Holding cells until the case has been fully investigated, Paul L added. “He is demoralised and feels pretty terrible about the man’s death, yet he is sitting in jail for something that is not his fault and entirely out of his control,” Singh R, his employer’s PRO said.

But Major Adnan Bin Zael, the director of Bur Dubai police station said holding people involved in accidental death, until investigations by police and the public prosecutor are complete, is commonplace. He could not comment on Walker’s case specifically, but said that even if a pedestrian is crossing in an illegal place, the driver is sometimes also at fault. “It’s not always so cut and dry. We could have a driver speeding or driving recklessly and a pedestrian illegally crossing the road and in that case, both are at fault,” he said.

People crossing major highways is a big problem on the busy roads of Dubai. There are few safe crossing places on most major roads in the city and with speed limits of 120kph, even cars not considered to be speeding are likely to kill anyone they hit.

Being held in jail, especially for a week or more, before even being charged really is far from being a fair system of justice. The more Dubai thrusts itself into the world's conciousness the more these iniquities will receive international exposure, and all the positive publicity will be undone.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Dubai a cultural desert? Get real!

An article in 7(-1)Days, here, raised a regularly-heard complaint. And to its credit went on to basically debunk the complaints.

We’ve all heard the whinges many times haven’t we. As is so often the case, the whingers don’t think before they spout off.

Of course, first you have to define ‘culture’ – most people think it means importing shows from their own country – and you need to compare apples with apples.

In my opinion, for the size of the population we’re well-served.

A follow-up letter in 7(-1)Days identified the problem without realising it.

Alexander Kent from Dubai wrote that: “I’m one of those people who lament that ‘culture is lacking’ in Dubai but I would never go so far as to say it’s ‘soulless’. I feel I am ‘looking hard enough’ and that’s precisely the problem – it’s the looking hard that’s so tiresome here!”

He goes on to say:

“There’s no opportunity to pick and choose cultural events, merely that you have to be grateful for all cultural goings on in Dubai because events are so few and far between. Yes, ‘Chicago’ was recently a huge hit in Dubai but sorry to say, I may like musicals but I don’t like that particular one and I wasn’t going to see Chicago just for the sake of seeing a musical! Dubai needs variety, we need to be able to choose how we enjoy our culture and we should be able to enjoy more of this culture for free!”

Think about the population for a moment. I would have thought it’s stating the obvious to say that by-and-large people from different parts of the world will be attracted to different types of events. How many westerners would go to an Indian concert, for example? So first take away from our total 1.3-ish million population all the people who don’t find the type of event attractive. You actually have a very small number, like a small provincial western town. And how much choice of cultural activities do those towns have? That’s the apples to apples comparison.

But it goes further. Remember that a huge percentage of us can’t afford to go to shows - and not only the labourers, maids, waiters and all the other badly-paid people we rely on, many people struggle to find several hundred spare dirhams.

So take a show such as Chicago – how many people do we have who would find this type of entertainment attractive? And then as Alexander says “I may like musicals but I don’t like that particular one.” That would be true of many others, so they have to be deducted from the total available audience too. Then how many of those left can afford to pay for the night out? Now how many of the few who are left have time on the particular evenings it’s showing?

You end up with just about enough to pay for the show to be staged.

Echoing what so many others say, Alexander says:

“…you have to be grateful for all cultural goings on in Dubai because events are so few and far between. Dubai needs variety, we need to be able to choose how we enjoy our culture and we should be able to enjoy more of this culture for free!”

Would they expect variety & choice all the time in a small provincial town in Europe or America? Would they expect artists & promoters to stage events for nothing?


Then why expect it of Dubai?

By the way, a thumbs-up to Alexander for actually signing his letter with a full name - most unusual on the letters pages.

Great stuff from 7(-1)Days!

From today's Metrolife section, the main article slams expats for not learning at least some Arabic. Great, I'm all for it. But for God's sake check your facts before you start shooting your mouth off.

Here's part of what they have to say:

When in Dubai, do you speak the lingo?

The UAE is a nation that attracts many expatriates, from a huge variety of countries. But cultural melting pot it might be, centre of linguistic ability it ain’t - well not for many ‘foreign’ residents. Some expats have been here for years and still haven’t mastered simple everyday greetings like ‘hello’ in Arabic.

It goes on to say:

The questions were:
Question1. What is ‘hello’ in Arabic? (Salam alakom).
Question 2. What is ‘goodbye’ in Arabic? (Ma salama).
Question 3. What is ‘thank you’ in Arabic? (Shukran).

A "simple everday greeting like hello" is Salam alakom (sic) according to
7(-1)Days. Since when ?

Eddie Andrade gave the correct answer, marhaba of course, but received a red cross for being wrong.

Come on come on come on! Checking is simple, stop making fools of yourselves.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The full monty on weather reports.

In Dusty City you never get the full story straight away, you have to piece it together bit by bit.

I think at last we may have the full monty on the weather reporting.

In a piece I posted last month I said:

We've been saying it for as long as I can remember - it's hotter than the official weather report is telling us.

Here's a revelation from today's GN: A senior official at the Abu Dhabi-based UAE Meteorological Authority said the hot weather would not be "unusual" as the mercury dips and rises between 42 to 49C, particularly in Al Ain and other desert cities. Conditions in coastal cities are characterised by high humidity that rises to 90 per cent at times."The temperature is actually three to four degrees higher than reported in our bulletins," said the official, adding this difference was caused by the specific temperature measuring apparatus.


That didn't really make sense, but now we know it was incomplete information. Three weeks later we have an official from the Met Authority telling us this:

The temperature, which touched a 10-year high on Sunday for the month of June at 50C, will remain high all over the UAE, a senior meteorologist told Gulf News.

The weather will remain dry and hot. The maximum temperature measured on the official thermometer is some three degrees less than the actual heat in the open, he said. The Met Department's measurement apparatus are placed under the shades to meet the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) standards.

OK, now we have the picture – temperature is taken in the shade and that's what we’re told will be/was today’s temperature. Which is fine if you stay in the shade. If you’re out in the sun, it’s at least three to four degrees hotter according to our informant. I’d say there’s a bigger difference between shade & sun temperature than that, but he’s the expert.

So the forecast is 45 but it feels more like at least 50 - that's because it is.

Think about it.

A small gossip item in the Sydney Daily Telegraph is worth mentioning.

About the baby born to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jollie, it points out that with the name Shiloh Pitt "in the unforgiving parameters of the schoolyard" the poor child might find herself labelled with an unfortunate Spoonerism.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Absolute "must reads"

There were several articles published over the weekend about the Haditha massacre of civilians.

Two in particular I thought were brilliant pieces and should be required reading by everyone.

They're here:

The horrors really are your America, Mr Bush

America's shame

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Parallel Universe

There’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that there’s a parallel universe existing alongside Dubai.

Who lives there?

‘Officials’ who make statements to the media about what’s happening in the Dusty City which are quite different from what the rest of us who live here see.

One such official gave the following ‘exclusive’ to Emirates Today:

"All six lanes...are going to be fully open for traffic today." At 6pm on May 31 "... still time for contractors to meet the end-of-May deadline."

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to check the newly-completed beautification project I took these photos of Beach Road at around 4pm today. Here it is, in all its completed glory.

Dubai driving? Stop complaining!

Dangerous ride

A Chinese woman carries two children on her motorcycle in Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province, May 27, 2006. In China, traffic accidents killed nearly 100,000 people and injured about 450,000. It is reported that disrespect of traffic rules is one of the major reasons causing such a high death toll. [Xinhua]