Wednesday, March 31, 2010

People power stops Barasti gig

Talking, as I was in my earlier post, about heads rolling, that should be happening at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi.

We have a three day official mourning period for Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, killed in a glider accident in Morocco.

Non-Arabic radio stations are playing classical music and Arabic stations are broadcasting readings from the Quran in place of regular programmes. Venues have been asked to ease off with their entertainment, generally meaning no alcohol and no loud music.

But giving at least one finger, and probably two, Barasti Bar at Le Meridien sent an early morning text message to its regular customers about the gig featuring rapper Vanilla Ice:


If you want to provoke a response, a backlash against expats' disrespectful behaviour, I can't think of a better way to do it.

But it misfired because, in spite of the lurid stories in the UK tabloids, in reality only a tiny minority of expats behave that way.

This afternoon Arabian Business is reporting:

"Barasti bar scraps concert after Twitter outrage networking site Twitter was inundated with comments criticising the remarks for being insensitive, given Tuesday’s announcement of the tragic death of Sheikh Ahmed...

...When approached by Arabian Business over the
(community) outrage, the hotel released a statement saying the concert had been shelved."

I have no doubt that most expats, all but a very few, will applaud the decision to cancel - and be appalled at the original one.

The vast majority of us, as the campaign demonstratess, are not the badly behaved, disrespectful drunks depicted by people like Johann Hari. (BTW, I responded to his article here.)

Whoever was responsible for deciding the concert would go ahead and for sending out the original text needs to be fired. And to try to salvage their reputation, the hotel needs to tell us that's what's happened.

The Arabian Business story is here.

At last - changes at the top of Nakheel

I've posted in the past about the delay in removing people ultimately responsible for the excesses of Nakheel and for experienced executives from the established merchant families to be brought in to sort out the mess.

So I'm pleased to see today's news that both have happened.

A new board has been appointed for Nakheel with the prominent businessman Ali Rashid Lootah named as the new chairman to replace Sultan Bin Sulayem.

The CEO, Chris O'Donnell, has not been reappointed to the board and there are naturally rumours that a new CEO may be appointed.

The Financial Times says:

"The ruler's lieutenants behind Dubai's real estate boom-to-bust years are being gradually replaced by established names from the city's mercantile elite."

I've said before that it's a pity they weren't in charge from the beginning. I'm sure we would have had far less ego-driven, commercially unviable, too-rapid development.

This news comes days after the announcement of the debt restructuring plan, which in spite of too little detail being included seems to have met with general approval by creditors.

At long last the right moves are being made.

It's taken far too long, which has caused huge and unnecessary damage to Dubai's business reputation. Better late than never though, I suppose.

Gulf News.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Problems with the law

Today there's another story in the UK press about a Brit falling foul of the law here, in that fine example of serious, quality journalism, The Sun tabloid.

It's an opinion-forming paper, with eight million readers.

Like previous similar reports it's a sensationalist story that misses the real underlying problem.

It's that underlying problem that needs to be highlighted and discussed.

The story is about Simon Andrews, and it's headlined: "Dubai Brit faces 6 months in jail for giving finger"

It goes on to tell its readers that Simon also faces deportation and that: "The Sun has broken a string of exclusives involving Brits falling foul of Dubai's draconian Islamic laws"

It quotes 'a British source as saying: "Police in Dubai appear ready and eager to arrest and imprison any Westerner for the slightest infringement of their medieval code."

'Medieval', 'draconian Islamic'. Let's get something out of the way first, before I move on to the real underlying problem.

Different cultures view many things differently.

In many societies a personal insult is considered trivial, the law reflects that and there's no punishment under the law. (Having said that, in those places if you insult the wrong person you may well be physically attacked, stabbed, shot).

In this part of the world society takes a personal insult very, very seriously. So seriously that it's a criminal offence which can lead to jail, and deportation for foreigners. Not 'medieval, draconian Islamic' but a reflection of the society's take on personal insults.

As always, it's a case of needing to understand the culture of the place you're in and acting accordingly.

Having got that out of the way, the real problem in this case is something I've posted about several times before. In concentrating on the charge The Sun is missing it, as they and many others have with previous stories. The real problem is the way the legal system works. Not the charge, the way the system works.

This case is another example of an unsubstantiated accusation. One person's word against another's. There is no evidence, there are no witnesses.

It surely must be wrong that a case can even be brought on that basis.

And it's another example of the, to me, astonishing fact that the accuser hasn't bothered to turn up in court. This happens time and time again, cases adjourned because witnesses, accusers, defendants simply don't bother to attend the hearings.

An Iraqi man claims that Simon lost his temper and raised his finger.

Simon denies it.

A 'court source' is quoted as saying: "Mr Andrews says the offensive gesture never happened. The Iraqi has never appeared in court to testify against him and there are no witnesses."

No witnesses, the accuser hasn't bothered to attend court to press his claim. Yet it's dragged on for eight months, during which time Simon has been barred from leaving the country. A friend surrendered his own passport as a surety, and that's also been in police hands for the eight months.

How can someone be charged on an unsubstantiated accusation, and punished even before the case has been heard by a ban on travelling? Is that justice?

And why is it still going on after eight months? If the accuser can't be bothered to put his case, the case should be dismissed. How on earth is justice served by adjourning the case?

What happens if the accuser never turns up, does Simon have to stay here forever with the case being endlessly adjourned?

These are the problems with the system that the sensationalist stories don't bother to highlight.

One, that a person can be arrested, charged (and barred from travelling before the case is heard) and found guilty on nothing more than the word of an accuser.

Two, that cases are endlessly adjourned because people don't bother to attend court. Such cases should be dismissed.

Dubai is an ultra-modern, international city state with ambitions to be a world player. The way the legal system works needs to catch up. Urgently.

The latest blow to Dubai's tourism appears in The Sun here.

Other recent examples of the underlying problem with the system are posted here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I'm intrigued

I'd love to know the story behind the brand new Amwaj Rotana at Jumeirah Beach Residence.

I've watched it being built, furnished, flags telling us it was Opening Soon, Rotana signage going up all over the building...

Suddenly, as it seemed it was ready to welcome its first guests, everything stopped.

Now black garbage bags have been taped over all the signs...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bus lanes - this'll be fun

Our beloved RTA has announced that Dubai will start having dedicated bus lanes from May.

They will be exclusively for public buses, taxis and emergency vehicles.

According to Mattar Al Tayer, the RTA boss:

"The project will...minimise the demand for parking spaces at congested spots, reduce the environmental pollution rates caused by private vehicle exhausts and decrease the number of road accidents."


Some of us come from cities which have had bus lanes for years but many others come from cities where there's no traffic discipline at all. The RTA says there'll be an education campaign for a couple of weeks. If there is, if it's understandable, if it reaches all drivers regardless of their language - I'm still sceptical that it'll work.

For the morons who scream along the hard shoulder whenever there's a jam the bus lanes will just provide another way to push in front. I bet drivers of private buses will use them too.

There's apparently going to be a Dh600 fine, but for the people who rack up tens of thousands of dirhams in fines anyway that won't be a deterrent. Nor will it be for those who don't bother to pay their fines and simply don't re-register their vehicles.

I also have serious doubts about the planning of it. While there's a 3.6km stretch and another of 1.4km, there's another of only 320 metres and, even worse, one of just 220 metres.

So to avoid the short bus lane private vehicles will suddenly have to push into the next lane, then they'll move back again after a couple of seconds when the bus lane ends. Or they'll ignore the signs and carry on in the bus lane anyway.

Details are in The National.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Officials and the law

We poke fun at the well-established procedure of a major policy change being announced only to be later 'clarified' - which means cancelled.

I did that in my last post, about the ban-then-no-ban on alcohol being used in restaurant recipes.

But there's a very serious issue involved, one that was raised in the 'clarification' of the alcohol confusion.

That issue is 'officials' far exceeding their authority and believing they have the authority to, in effect, make new laws.

Only government can write laws. As Dubai Municipality's 'clarification' said, DM alone does not have the authority to issue such a ban, of alcohol, it must pass through a number of governmental authorities.

It certainly isn't within the authority of one 'official' to write laws, as has happened so many times.

We've seen it previously with tourist visas, property residence visas, ID cards, the pork ban/no ban...

Seems to me there's a need for clear directives to 'officials' telling them that they must work within the laws as they stand, and explaining to them how far their authority extends.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I can't believe how stupid we are!

Last week a new directive was sent to hotels by Dubai Municipality:

"Use of alcohol in preparation and cooking of food is strictly prohibited. Display and sale of food products containing alcohol as an ingredient is strictly prohibited," said the circular, seen by The National.

As I posted on Sunday, after confusion in the industry a 'clarification' was promised for Tuesday.

The 'clarification' has been duly issued, when the Director of the Food Control Department at Dubai Municipality said that the circular was misunderstood.

It said: "Use of alcohol in preparation and cooking of food is strictly prohibited."

I just don't understand how the media and the industry could be stupid enough to think that it meant that the use of alcohol in preparation and cooking of food is strictly prohibited.

To clear up our confusion and misunderstanding the new statement actually has two 'clarifications'.

One, the use of alcohol in preparation and cooking of food is not prohibited.

Two, DM alone does not have the authority to issue such a ban anyway, it must pass through a number of governmental authorities.

The 'clarification' says that food containing alcohol must be treated in much the same way as pork - handled separately and clearly labelled.

As I've said several times before, we really should pay more attention to what we're being told. The authorities have enough work to do without constantly having to clarify things we've got wrong.

Here it is in The National and Gulf News.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Let's be clear about this...

The theme of expats falling foul of the laws rumbles on with a opinion piece by Sultan Al Qassemi in The National today. In my opinion it's one of the most sensible columns on the subject so far.

Sultan mentions some recent cases that have hit the world's media, including the text messaging case, the Bob's Diner kissing case, the beach sex case and the alleged rape in a five star hotel. I've posted about them previously but it's worth looking at them briefly here because they're actually quite different from each other.

Sex on a beach, or anywhere in public, isn't going to be tolerated in any country, so that falls outside the debate about what's acceptable in Dubai.

The alleged rape case was a mixture - the stories said that a woman's report of being raped was ignored and instead she was charged with illicit sex with her fiance. In fact she wasn't ignored and when CCTV footage proved she had not been raped she admitted that she couldn't remember the evening and withdrew the complaint. It is true that she and her fiance were charged with illicit sex.

The text messaging case certainly is about what's acceptable in Dubai and how things are dealt with. I posted about it here.

The kissing case was also about what's acceptable here - and also about the justice system, which I posted about here.

Sultan's column includes four extremely important points.

One, the ambiguity surrounding the whole question of what is and is not acceptable. The column is headed "Nothing should be ambiguous about what’s indecent"

Two, the country needs to decide what it wants to be.

Three, there is a vacuum of information regarding what is and isn’t officially acceptable.

Four, the inconsistency of court sentences.

That's something I've posted about several times, a minor misdemeanor attracting a longer jail term than a serious offence. As Sultan points out, a kiss is not a hazard to others' lives, as drunk driving is. He asks how both can be punishable by a jail sentence.

I would add another point - enforcement. If you have rules and laws you must enforce them, not routinely allow people to ignore them as happens here on a daily basis.

Looking at these important points, ambiguity and the resulting confusion is a real problem.

Comments left on my posts on the subject invariably include 'when in Rome do as the Romans do', accepting that a country has the right to to its own laws but expressing confusion about what is and is not acceptable.

Innocent public displays of affection are an offence yet prostitutes operate openly on the streets of Deira and Bur Dubai, in hotels and even in malls.

There is a dress code yet the malls are full of men in football shorts & singlets and women in revealing clothing.

Alcohol is legally available, the Friday drunken brunches are legendary, yet you can be jailed for drinking alcohol.

No wonder there's both confusion and criticism.

All of this has to be sorted out and Sultan's most important point in my opinion is that the country has to decide what it wants to be. Not just to clarify the situation for expats and visitors but, more importantly, for Emiratis.

As he says, "It is no longer possible to expect that these issues will sort themselves through a policy of ambiguity".

He wants Emiratis brought into the conversation as stakeholders in the future and shape of their country. He says, ideally this is the role of the Federal National Council because it should be the voice of the citizens.

He also wants more media involvement: "the local fourth estate can play the role of the parliament by debating what citizens deem acceptable".

That's critical. Decide what you want to be, then within that framework write the laws.

But they must be consistent and hypocrisy must be removed from the equation.

To tell people that holding hands is indecent while turning a blind eye to prostitution simply won't do. To jail people for 'planning a sin' because sex outside marriage is illegal but allowing thousands of unmarried couples to share hotel rooms won't do.

These inconsistencies in what's said and what actually happens 'won't do' not just for foreigners but also for Emiratis. Surely they want consistent laws and enforcement of them as much as, probably more than, foreigners do.

By all means have laws that reflect the country's culture, and expect people to obey them, but there has to be consistency. If not, there is confusion, there are charges of hypocrisy, there is cynicism.

As for the vacuum of information, that's simple.

When the laws and rules are clearly written it's the simplest thing in the world to distribute them to travel agents, tour operators, airlines and to give a leaflet to everyone passing through an Immigration desk.

I think this is an important column by Sultan and I hope it generates urgent debate that results in the ambiguity and increasing confusion being resolved. You can read it here.

Just In

As I was typing this an e-mail came in from a friend on a related subject so I thought I'd add it.

It's about ambiguity, confusion, statements and rethinks, and 'clarifications'.

According to Arabian Business, Dubai Municipality has issued a letter stating that the use of alcohol in the preparation and cooking of food, and the display and sale of food containing alcohol is 'strictly prohibited'.

Not surprisingly it caused mass confusion in the industry leading to officials to rethink the ban. They are now set to issue revised restrictions on Tuesday, sources said.

If it happened once it would be funny but it's become the standard way of doing things.

Here, read it for yourself, I'm tired...

Here it is.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Warning: This post contains pork

Dinner yesterday was the Westin Mina Seyahi buffet, which had something that we've never seen on a Dubai buffet before...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jail for 'planning to commit sin'

Dubai's in the news around the world again and it's on the subject of my recent posts, the laws and justice. Again.

This time the headline used most often is "Steamy text messages land couple in Dubai jail"

Text messages between the couple surfaced in a divorce lawsuit by the woman's estranged husband.

The court ruling said there was not enough evidence to determine whether the couple actually had an affair, but they were found guilty of 'planning to commit sin'.

Al Slammer for six months followed by deportation.

On appeal the sentence was reduced to three months and no deportation.

It's splashed all over the media all over the world - google it and you'll get thousands of websites.

And, of course, the story ends by reminding readers of previous cases.

Hoteliers here, already struggling with an oversupply of rooms and the worldwide recession, must be tearing their hair out.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A mockery of justice

On Sunday I posted about the British couple fined for drinking alcohol, in spite of the fact that alcohol is sold by both government and private companies and is purchased legally.

The other half of the story is that they received a jail sentence of one month for indecent behaviour. They were accused of kissing and touching in Bob's Easy Diner at JBR, which they deny. They're out on bail awaiting the appeal.

That's the part of the story that's been getting publicity around the world. Another own goal for Dubai tourism.

The target was 15 million tourists by 2015 if I remember correctly. But while one group of people are working to achieve that there are others generating millions of dollars worth of negative coverage because of these own goals.

Jail for having a poppy seed on your clothing. Deported for raising a finger. Report being raped and be charged with having illicit sex with your fiance. (BTW, the rape accusation was proved to be false).

Now kiss a friend and go to jail.

But there's a much more disturbing side to the latest story and that's the way the case proceeded. Justice has not been served.

It was a case of one word against another. A 'Yes you did. No I didn't' case.

An Emirati woman lodged a complaint that the couple were behaving indecently. They deny indecency and say they kissed on the cheek in a perfectly normal greeting.

I don't know what really happened. Nor did Public Prosecution or the court. That's the point about having a fair trial, the truth is supposed to be discovered.

But that didn't happen - the way the case proceeded really is indefensible.

The woman told police that she had seen the 'offence' while she told Public Prosecution that her children had seen it. To clear up the discrepancy PP phoned her three times, couldn't get an answer but went ahead with the charge anyway.

That can't be right.

The woman only gave a written statement and could not be questioned by the defence.

That can't be right.

The court was asked for the children to appear so that they could be questioned. The court turned down the request, saying that the woman's written statement was sufficient.

That can't be right.

It's a long way from justice if a person can be charged with and found guilty of an offence simply on the word of another person.

A couple of reports of the case:

Gulf News.
Daily Telegraph.

Another part of the fallout from these stories is the misinformation being spread by people with an agenda. I've posted about this pet hate of mine before. People adamantly presenting their opinions as facts without knowing, or bothering to research, the real facts. Many more of the great uninformed believe what they read, so misinformation and misunderstanding spreads.

I came across a classic example relating to this latest case. It's under the headline: "A Kiss Before a Flogging: Western Couple Arrested for Kissing in Public In Dubai"

It went on to tell the readers that "Public flogging, beheadings are perfectly moral family entertainment in Dubai, but kissing is an outrage", a statement that's been deleted since comments pointed out it was pure fiction.

And this from a blogger who tells us in his bio that he is: "A professor...a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law. He has written over three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals..."

Don't believe me? Read it for yourself.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

VoIP - don't get too excited.

The TRA has announced an update on its VoIP policy, but I suggest we don't get too excited by it yet.

There's an immediate assumption that the cost of international calls will fall dramatically. For example, while EmBiz247 has good coverage it's under the headline: "New VoIP policy to shave call costs"

We can't assume that at all because charges are set by the operators, which have been named as Etisalat, Du and the satellite service providers Yahsat and Thuraya.

Although there may be slightly lower prices than we currently have I don't believe for one moment that they'll set prices down where providers like Skype have them for most of the world.

EmBiz247 in its information notes makes the point, correctly using the word 'may':

"There are many factors to be taken into consideration in determining the cost of long-distance rates. In addition, international VoIP calls may take place in a variety of scenarios, which will also influence the cost. There may be scenarios where international calls using VoIP Services may be more economical than current rates."

There's also the inevitable bureaucracy complicating the whole thing. The sort of red tape and jargon that causes confusion and creates unnecessary problems when new services are introduced.

And they're really talking about the technicalities rather than cost savings for companies and individuals.

For example Gulf News says: "Etisalat was quick to announce the details of its new VoIP solution for enterprise users" while Etisalat continues to talk in jargon rather than English with its statement: "...there is a significant opportunity for businesses to leverage the advantages of an integrated network and the convergence of voice and data through a VoIP solution."

Oh good, it's a solution.

And the TRA says: "The real attraction of VoIP lies in the fact that it enables true integrated services, location independent, with always-on capability and great flexibility."

I don't see anyone talking about reduced charges.

I haven't yet got my head around what we'll be getting or who will have access to it.

Here's the TRA again: "Closed groups or companies can make calls to their branches within the UAE as per the new policy and academic institutions for research purposes can utilise VoIP to contact international counterparts. This all has to be done within the framework provided by the licensee."

I'm going to wait for the clarifications and the clarifications of the clarifications.

EmBiz247 has the story here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

An inexplicable law

Making news internationally is another case of a British couple given a jail sentence followed by deportation for public indecency.

The UK coverage I've seen so far has been restrained, simply reporting the case and describing the morality laws as draconian.

The UK tabloid The Sun says the offence was "at the swish Jumeirah Beach Residence".

Well, if you think a burger joint like Bob's Easy Diner ('There ain't no finer diner') is swish I guess that's right.

Anyway, they'd been out for a few drinks and were in Bob's Easy Diner. Also there at 2am were an Emirati mother and her children. I wonder how old the children were, to be out at that time...

The mother complained to the police that her children, and then she, saw the couple kissing on the lips and touching each other.

Welcome to Al Slammer.

The couple claim they only kissed on the cheek, they're out on bail and are due in the Appeals Court next week.

That's background, I'm actually posting about the other half of the story, which is an inexplicable law.

The second offence, for which the court fined them Dh1,000 each, was for consuming alcohol.

I've posted about this law on previous occasions.

Not, you note, 'drunk & disorderly' but 'consuming alcohol'.

It's perfectly legal for Dubai Duty Free, liquor stores, hotel bars, clubs & restaurants to sell alcohol. And for Emirates Airline to serve it free of charge.

Both private and government organisations are involved in trading in alcohol.

But drinking it is illegal.

Could someone with a better legal brain than mine explain it to me.

Gulf News has the story here.
The Sun is here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Understated elegance

I spotted this elegant chair in a Satwa shop window.

The epitome of sophisticated design I thought.

I'm sorely tempted to buy it for my study back in Oz...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The roastery mystery

Yesterday I was wondering about the use of the word roastery in the name of a shop that isn't a roastery.

That was Queen Palace Flowers Roastery.

A mistranslation, I wondered?

El Shalab told us that the Arabic said mahmasa, meaning, yes, roastery.

So it wasn't a mistranslation.

Dave told us he'd checked it in Yellow Pages and they're listed as '"trader of coffee, confectionary, chocolate, flowers, plants and nuts".

There's another one too:

I looked in and they sell flowers, pots and vases, wickerwork baskets, chocolates...

I'm still trying to work out why they call themselves 'roastery'.

Maybe because they roast the nuts and the coffee...?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Multi-vehicle pile up

One dead and up to forty injured when between twenty and thirty vehicles crashed this morning.

It happened on the Jebel Ali-Lehbab Road when a bus crashed into a truck, another truck crashed into the bus and the pile up began.

Police say tailgating and the fog were responsible.

I disagree. The fog was not responsible, irresponsible dangerous driving was responsible.

As a result, the driver of the bus is dead and four other people are seriously injured. A further eight have 'moderate' injuries, whatever that means.

Yesterday I said that on my early drive I didn't see bad or dangerous driving in the fog. It was a one-off, an abberation. Later in the morning I did see my share of morons.

This morning I was almost wiped out twice in five kilometres.

A Landcruiser coming straight into the roundabout I was on, the driver not aware because he was too busy chatting on his mobile phone.

Then one of those ridiculous huge Ford pickup trucks, speeding in the overtaking lane, the driver deciding at the last second to turn off right. That meant swerving across in front of me to do it. Another coat of paint and he'd have hit my front end.

Gulf News and The National are both carrying the story.
Gulf News.
The National.

The things you see...

A flowers roastery.

I'm obviously missing something, but I can't work out what it is.

A mistranslation perhaps?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Wet air

The humidity's kicked in again, making the roads even more dangerous than usual.

There wasn't much traffic on my 7.30 drive this morning and, apart from a black Land Rover Sport (what else!) that couldn't stay within the lane markers, the road etiquette was pretty good.

No hazard lights flashing, most vehicles with dimmed headlights on, I didn't see dangerous speeding and, remarkably, I didn't see any drivers on their mobile phone.

On another trip at 10.30am, with the fog just about gone, it was different. I saw several drivers on mobiles, one tailgater in my boot, speeding on Al Wasl Road and SZR.

Monday, March 08, 2010

This really makes me angry.

There was the worst kind of tragic event in Melbourne a few days ago when a three year old child was found dead, dumped at the roadside twenty kilometres from his home.

He was a little boy called Gurshan Singh, who happened to be Indian and who was on holiday in Oz with his parents. Dad went out, mum was in the shower and it's thought the little boy wandered out through the front door.

Police said he was fully clothed, there were no signs of injury. A post mortem didn't reveal a cause of death, toxicology and forensic tests were being done and the investigation continued.

In spite of that the screams of racism began immediately.

To see the extent of the utter stupidity and bigotry of so many people, look at just one newspaper, the UK's Daily Mail.

The paper headlined the story with a racism slant:

"Murder of Indian boy, 3, in Australia sparks diplomatic row after spate of racist attacks"

That had the brainless bigots rushing from under their rocks.

Remember, little Gurshan Singh's body had only just been found, no cause of death had been established, he had no injuries, police had just begun their investigation.

A selection of the comments to the Mail's story:

"Racists killing three year olds? Sick and deeply disturbing." Alan, Planet Reality

"This has been happening for the past year! I'm a British born Indian and every time there is a racist attack on an Indian Student it is widely reported on the Indian news channel

A few weeks ago another Indian student in Australia was burnt alive in a racist attack."
shania, London.

(Actually Shania, an Indian couple has been charged with that murder. Don't let the facts get in the way of your bigotry though).

"How can someone's hatred of a race be so great as to kill an innocent 3 year old boy." Nat, London

"HOW can anyone do this? When will people realise we are essentially all the same. Skin colour? So what, there is just no excuse for racism these days" karen n, manchester

"Has Australia failed to embrace diversity more than any other country. Australia will have problems to attract visitors if these issues are not tackled promptly." Romi May, Handsworth

"I have always said Auustralia has concentrated racism." Mukeye, TO

"Perhaps the Aussies need to remember that they are in fact ALL immigrants!" Shorty, Suffolk

"Seriously , both America and Australia have massive problems related to self worth and hatred of ethnic minorities" john, China

"It never ceases to amaze me when I hear of racist attacks in these countries when the original inhabitants of those countries were blacks or dark skinned." ira, FL USA

People with more sense responded to the stupidity of such comments to say that the cause of death and, if it was murder, the motive had not been established.

So Shania came back screeching:

"To all of you saying this is isn't racist, YOU CLEARLY DO NOT KNOW THE FULL STORY!!!!!!!! I have been following the series of attacks this is just one of them. What about the attacks targeting Indians specifically from India??? you cannot say that is purely coincidence

I am not saying all Australians are racists but to dismiss this as not racism is noting but sheer ignorance."
shania, London

Shania knows what's going on, she's absolutely positive. And anyone who doesn't agree with her is showing their sheer ignorance.


And another bigot, the oxymoronically named 'truthspeaker' from Newcastle has the answer to it all:

"When will the authorities just admit that this is what happens when you try and force people together from very different races."

None of them are prepared to wait for the facts to emerge before shouting their version of the truth. They're not interested in the facts because they may contradict their bigotry.

The police carried out their investigation. Here's today's news:

"Toddler's death: housemate charged

A 23-YEAR-OLD Indian national has been charged with manslaughter due to criminal negligence following the death of three-year-old Gurshan Singh Channa.

Gursewak Dhillon, a taxi driver who is in Australia on a student's visa, was refused bail in an out-of-sessions hearing.

Dhillon had made admissions to police that he had placed the child in the boot of a car while the youngster was unconscious and had driven him to Oaklands Junction near Melbourne Airport and placed him by the roadside."

In the light of that, Shania, Alan, Nat, Karen N, Romi May, Mukeye, Shorty, John, Ira and the rest of you, would you care to add to your original comments?

You'll find the Daily Mail stupidity here and today's report on the arrest of Gursewak Dhillon here.

And my 'racism' tag has some previous posts on the subject of attacks on Indians in Australia.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Melbourne looks like Sharjah...

Sharjah in particular was badly affected by the rain we had last week and there was plenty of criticism of the drainage system.

A bit unfair because floods from unusually heavy rain don't just happen here - back in Oz, Melbourne was under water from a summer storm yesterday.

The centre of the city looked like this:

Photo: Jay Town The Australian

And the main railway station:

Photo: Rob Leeson The Australian

The storm lasted about half an hour and included golf ball size hailstones. It basically brought the city to a halt.

Over the border in my home state the problem is a little different:

"There has been a spate of snake bites across NSW, with five people being taken to hospital in separate incidents."

All five were bitten by poisonous snakes but are in a stable condition after treatment.

I loved the final word from a NSW ambulance spokeswoman, who " warned people who come across a snake to leave it alone and walk away."

Too right.

Photos of the Melbourne storm are here.
Snakebite story is here.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Friday, March 05, 2010

Twenty seven million flowers

Dubai Municipality say they planted twenty seven million flowering plants in the city last year.

Driving around you obviously see that a huge number of plants are put in and then pulled out as they die off, but an average of a million every couple of weeks is staggering.

It's generally reported that we in Dubai are amongst the world's highest users of water, but I wonder where we stand if the water used for irrigation is taken out of the equation.

My guess is that the total amount of water used is divided by the population number, and I can't find a breakdown of usage by sector. The relatively large amount of landscaping, parks, greenery, flowers across the city must take a large part of the total I would have thought.

Most of the flower beds have the efficient drip-watering system, but there's a lot of wastage with the sprinkler system used for the grassy areas - this morning Al Sufouh Road was awash with water from the grass sprinklers.

Perhaps we individual users aren't as wasteful as the reports suggest.

If you're in the business maybe you could give us some facts on the breakdown of usage...

I read the press release from DM this morning, when I also received an e-mail from our neighbour back in Oz which was also about landscaping.

It included a photograph of some of the flowering shrubs, or trees, in our back garden.

They're tibouchinas, which we put in when they were only about sixty centimetres tall about ten years ago.

Pretty aren't they.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Media freedom and standards hit the wall

There's an outspoken column in Gulf News today about the state of the media in the UAE.

Abu Dhabi Editor Abdullah Rasheed doesn't mince his words, giving a real serve to a whole range of people and organisations.

It's quite a piece.

The heading is "The ceiling of press freedom in UAE is falling"

The thrust of the column is that "Press freedom is deteriorating and freedom of expression is in increasing danger" and he points the finger at those he believes responsible.

He includes the Federal National Council, the National Media Council, which he says are both guilty of not protecting journalists, laws and government/official bodies are criticised, he's particularly harsh on media owners and managers, and he says that journalists are not doing their job.

Here's a flavour of what he says:

"At long last, the Federal National Council (FNC) will finally hold a session [today] to discuss the media, having postponed four consecutive sessions for no apparent reason.

It is no secret that one of the main obstacles facing the media and journalists is the total inability of the FNC to protect journalists from the mistreatment they face.

Our newspapers are hardly given the freedom to tackle most issues and bring to light social, political, economic and even sports stories.

There isn't enough protection provided to journalists and self-censorship is practised by our newspapers to avoid angering official bodies and to please the government.

Adding to their woes, journalists battle to get even the simplest information due to the non-co-operation of most official bodies which is another issue that the NMC did nothing about. On this issue, the NMC has taken the side of the government bodies, as if it is totally unconcerned with media affairs.

No official is ready to respond to a journalist, and no spokesperson provides information for any ministry or government body. The title of official spokesperson means nothing, because the spokesperson thinks he is a high-ranking official and that journalists are inferior to him, and accordingly declines to co-operate with them."

Newspapers aren't spared, from top to bottom:

"Journalists are no longer doing their duty, meaning that the press is no longer monitoring the performance of government.

Some newspapers even indulge in hypocrisy to please officials and the bodies they represent, and there is also full subordination to advertisers.

Mismanagement and confusion abound in most media outlets, as a result of the lack of experience of the people running them, from editors to editors-in-chief.

Some newspapers are run by people who care only about their own interests, at the expense of the public interest."

He talks about the pointlessness of it, given our access to the internet and all the news that it contains. And how in view of that we need a strong independent media here to discuss the issues facing the country. He also complains about the decreasing number of Emirati journalists.

It's by far the strongest piece I've seen on the standard of journalism, the incompetence of media companies, the lack of transparency from government, the lack of media freedom.

I'd be interested to know if anything similar is appearing in the Arabic media.

Read the full column here.

Ibn Battuta Water Park

The last couple of days have given us a look as far from the popular image of a desert city you can imagine.

Just a word of warning - I had to go into Ibn Battuta Mall earlier and there's an awful lot of water around.

It's not impassable but there's plenty of evidence of the amount of rain we've had overnight and through the morning and you need to take extra care driving.

Tankers and pumps are working on it and it looks as though the rain may be easing off so I guess they'll have it clear before too long.

Inside the car park there's a few centimetre of water to wade though so don't wear your best shoes if you're going there today.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Not all was what we needed

I said yesterday that the rain was just what we needed.

Not all the results of it were what we needed though.

It certainly cleared the dust from the air and washed the place down, but it also had some tragic effects.

At Global Village a woman was killed and a man badly injured by a falling sign at the Indian Pavilion. And in Sharjah three men were electrocuted, one who touched a metal pole on the side of a flooded road and two others by coming into contact with water charged with electricity.

There was plenty of chaos on the roads, especially in and to Sharjah, which seems to have been the worst hit emirate. A colleague of Mrs Seabee left work in Dubai at 6pm and didn't arrive home in Sharjah until five hours later.

Dubai police say there were 170 road accidents during the first hours of the heavy rains that lashed the country on Saturday night. There were 21 classified as serious, 16 moderate and 133 minor accidents. The Command & Control room apparently received 3,415 phone calls, presumably most not about traffic problems.

Talking of the weather, parts of western Europe have also been hit by wild storms. At least thirteen people are reported dead, most from drowning.

We get these problems in Oz too. A couple of times falling branches have brought a power line down outside our house, leaving the live cable lying across the road. People act quickly, whoever spots it first sets up a warning of some sort and alerts all the neighbours. State Emergency Service crews are quick on the scene and fortunately there hasn't been a tragedy.

We had a tsunami alert there for the east coast as a result of the Chile earthquake, as did the whole Pacific rim. Beaches were cleared but the surge came a little later than predicted and met the outgoing tide. That took the sting out of the incoming water so the tsunami fizzled out.

Sea levels did rise and there was a small tsunami wave, and now the oceanographers are coming under attack for overstating the danger. I have to agree with the comment from the Hawaii Tsunami Warning Centre though:

" It's a key point to remember that we cannot under-warn. Failure to warn is not an option for us. We cannot have a situation that we thought was no problem and then it's devastating."

Looking out of my window now it's sunny and calm with the leaves not moving on the trees. However, the weather bureau says we can expect unsettled weather with gusty winds and heavy rain for the next couple of days.

Reports I've referred to:

Results of UAE weather.
Tsunami alert.