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David A. Andelman: The Stoning of Neda S.

If you’d like to know the kind of people who voted for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran, there’s no better example than the villagers—the husband, his sons, and the citizens—of the remote stone-walled hamlet of Kupayeh who populate the vivid, at times horrifying, film called “The Stoning of Soraya M.” Opening Friday across the United States, its arrival could not come at a more opportune moment, for gathered within this tale are all the characters whose today’s real-life homologues are parading across the world’s television screens (at least those outside Iran, where anything remotely accurate is being purged). There’s Ayatollah Ali Khameini, masquerading as the venal, crooked mullah of the village, newly released from a felony stretch he was serving in jail after the Shah was overthrown and Islamic justice returned with the arrival of Ayatollah Khomeini. Clearly, he sees the Koran he clutches in his crooked paw as his path to wealth, power, and, whenever he can, illicit sex extorted from any woman who seems sufficiently vulnerable or gullible. There’s Ahmadinejad, in the form of Kupayeh’s mean-spirited, opportunistic mayor with a vicious streak—frightened of his own shadow and so easily intimidated by the local mullah and a husband who by day serves as a prison guard with all the lethal tools of power at his control and at night pursues the 14-year-old daughter of a death-row inmate.

Michael Deibert: The Final Testament of Rodrigo Rosenberg

“Good afternoon,” the video begins, featuring a man in a drab suit directly addressing the camera. “My name is Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano, and unfortunately, if you are watching the message, it is because I was assassinated by President Álvaro Colom.” So begins the final testimony of Guatemalan attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg, who was shot and killed on Sunday in the country’s capital, Guatemala City. In the video, which was recorded only days before his slaying, Rosenberg goes on to accuse not only the Guatemalan president of complicity in his yet-to-come demise, but also the president’s wife, Sandra Colom; the president's private secretary, Gustavo Alejos; and a businessman, Gregorio Valdez. Rosenberg, a respected lawyer, states in the video that he will be killed because of his professional work on behalf of Guatemalan businessman Khalil Musa and his daughter, Marjorie Musa, both of whom were gunned down in Guatemala in March. Rosenberg states that the elder Musa was unaware, when named by Colom to the board of directors of Guatemala’s Banco de Desarrollo Rural S.A. (Rural Development Bank, popularly known as Banrural), that the body was being used as a center for the laundering of drug profits, the deviation of public funds, the siphoning off of state coffers on behalf of the president’s wife, and other nefarious activities.

Jonathan Power: Where To Go on Holiday.... Travel Tips from a "Mad Dad"

My eighteen-year-old daughter asked me recently about where she can safely travel when she finishes school in June and starts a three-month holiday before going to university in September. “The Muslim countries or Japan,” I replied. She was quite taken aback. At school her friends talk about the United States, Australia, Thailand, or South America. But I emphatically said, “no, I don't want you to go there,” and then explained why her mother and I felt so strongly. I pulled out the figures from the new 2009 United Nations World Development Report, which compares murder rates from all the countries.  Every country—apart from those in the European Union—measure rape, theft, break-ins, and other crimes in different ways. Some figures are accurate, some seem like they've been drawn out of a hat. But most countries report their murder rate pretty accurately. There may be under-counting  in places with civil strive, as in Sri Lanka, where murder and the killings of war can blur into each other. Yet, even in most difficult cases, like Russia, press reports can help balance the official figures. To cut a long story short, I would gladly let her go to Egypt, which has the world's lowest murder rate—at 0.4 per 100,000 population, although Japan  closely follows at 0.5. Other Muslim, mainly Arab, countries follow next, all with less than 1 murder per 100,000 people: the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai and Oman at 0.6;  Saudi Arabia at 0.9; Bahrain at 1; and Jordan at 0.9. Indonesia, with all its political troubles, has but 1.1 murders per 100,000 citizens. Outside the Arab countries, the Scandinavian countries are the safest. Norway and Denmark come in at 0.8 and Iceland at 1. Sweden breaks the Scandinavian success rate with a poor 2.4, but in Europe, Holland and Ireland score well too. So, daughter: there's the list that I approve—and that your mother has been persuaded to approve. Ironically, for us, many of countries with high murder rates are of a Christian heritage—the United States at 5.6 murders per 100,000; Mexico at 13; Russia at 19.9; South Africa at 47.5; and Colombia at a staggering 62.7. We can put India on the positive side of the ledger: it's a big, very diverse country, and parts of it, like West Bengal and its capital, Calcutta, are very safe despite its rating of 3.7 murders per 100,000 population. You might argue that I've underestimated, bent, or stretched the statistics—everyone knows there have been many killings of tourists in Egypt—because I'm not including terrorist killings. Egypt although, I admit, has real risks. So let's strike that out. (It reminds me of Northern Ireland during the "troubles," when it had the lowest crime rate in Europe but the fighting was pretty horrendous.) Your “mad dad” has been to them all, I know, but journalists are stupid and take too many risks.



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