26 December 2007

Don't Pick on Texas

The New York Times wants to pick on Texas as the state with the most executions this year.


They should turn their attention to Saudi Arabia who has no problem with swinging the sword. As of the beginning of December, they have executed 152 people - a new record.

Veils Are Worn by Criminals, Too!

From the Gulf News:

"Dubai Police recovered from Iraq more than Dh2 million ($500,000) worth of luxury cars stolen from various car rental agencies in Dubai, said a senior official at Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department.
According to records, a veiled woman used forged passports to rent the cars and paid the rent amount in cash on specified periods with the help of her brother. The woman then exported the cars to Iraq.
The official said the stolen cars were recovered with the help of Iraqi authorities. Attempts are on to bring back other cars stolen from other emirates, said the official

Do you think she would have done this had she NOT been wearing a veil. And the other question you have to ask is, if it's that easy to get stolen cars into Iraq, from a country that does not share a border with Iraq, think how easy can it be to smuggle weapons or IEDs from Iran!

24 December 2007

Bahrain not immune, either

Bahrain has been hit by rioting in majority Shiite areas for a fifth consecutive day in demonstrations that have seen the death of one protester, press reports said on Sunday.
Security forces have fired teargas and rubber bullets in Shiite villages in disturbances that erupted following the death on Monday of a young protester after a demonstration organised by the opposition, the reports said.
The 22-year-old man died in hospital after being taken ill at his home after the protest at Jid Hafs, during which he inhaled teargas, an opposition activist told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Security sources cited by the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said the man had died of natural causes and that an investigation had been launched into his death...
Monday's protest was staged by Shiites -- the majority in the small Sunni Muslim-ruled Gulf monarchy -- seeking compensation for what they said were human rights violations between 1980 and 1990.

21 December 2007

Life in the Emirates


Something is Rotten in Dubai

Recent news item. Since when is untreated sewage not a health hazard? Would you want to pay a couple of million dollars and have the 'hood smell like a cess pit? Dubai may be building fast, but its infrastructure is being stretched to its limits. Electricity, sewage, water and transportation cannot handle the demands being placed on them.

Stink caused by poor water quality, not toxic waste
By Emmanuelle Landais, Staff Reporter, Gulf News
Published: December 19, 2007, 23:54

(Dubai) Residents of some of Dubai's most luxurious housing estates may be complaining of a foul stench around their homes, but it's not because of industrial waste, says the head of the environmental protection and safety department at Dubai Municipality. Redha Salman said that toxic waste is delivered by special companies in tankers to the Jebel Ali hazardous waste site and chances of any toxic material entering the sewage treatment network are slim.
He was commenting on complaints by residents of Arabian Ranches, the Meadows and the Greens of a foul stench coming sprinklers. The irrigation and drainage department attributed the source of the odour to toxic materials that may have entered the water treatment plant.
Salman disagrees, however, saying that as the sewage treatment plant is currently treating a quantity of sewage four times above its capacity, the issue is a temporary problem.
"With four times the load of sewerage than the plant is designed to treat, there is a problem with the odour. The retention time is shortened and the sewerage is being processed faster," he said. "The water is not reaching the quality it should to reduce the odour."
He added that residents should not fear the irrigation water is a health hazard, as it is being checked. "The odour is a nuisance but it is not a chemical problem. If not in contact with the public, it should be ok. The irrigation water is used for landscaping along the city's roads mainly. It is up to developers if they use the water for residential areas," said Salman.
Disinfectant is being used to neutralise the odours and the smell should subside in the coming days, according to the irrigation department.
The water is not reaching the quality it should to reduce the odour."

20 December 2007

Blood Money

Executives and managers in US industry are usually exempt from personal liability or criminal prosecution. Sure, there are some US environmental laws that allow personal prosecution, but the use of them against an individual is rare. The notice below was circulated via email to expats in the UAE. It should send chills down the spine of any expat in a position of responsibility. (The exchange rate is about 4 Dirhams to the dollar)

The payment of blood money is common in Sharia Law. It is a payment made to the family of the deceased to pay for the taking of a life.


The article below shows that safety on work sites is entering a new phase

(Dubai) Two men, one British and one Egyptian, were convicted yesterday for wrongfully causing the death of two labourers at construction site near Dubai Marina. They both received a one-month prison sentence and were fined dhs500 each.
The Court of Appeal in Dubai was told that two Indian labourers were killed as they plummeted more than 60 metres to the ground following an accident at their work site. The men had been in a cradle carrying them to the top of a building when a cement block fell from a crane and severed the cables securing the cradle at around the 18th floor.
Both men died instantly from massive injuries. An eyewitness told the court that although they alerted police and ambulances to the scene, nothing could be done for either man. A safety expert who testified to the court said the labourers had not been wearing safety harnesses at the time of the accident which may have prevented their deaths.
One of the men convicted yesterday is a British safety director for a construction company while the Egyptian convicted alongside him was the labourer’s supervisor, the court was told. The men were originally cleared of the offence at the Court of First Instance.
Both of the men found guilty in court were also ordered to pay dhs120,000 each to the relatives of the dead men.

Can you answer “YES” to these questions?
- Are you sure that the people on your work site are in compliance with the safety requirements today?
- Will your work team be in compliance when you leave the work area?
- Will your supervisors, foreman, performing parties ensure that all controls are in place before work commences?
- Did you attend a Toolbox or Job Start Meeting this morning?

19 December 2007

Dubai Factotems

  • Posted speed limit is 120 km/hr. Practical limit and posted limit in Abu Dhabi is 160 km/hr. That's 96 MPH for the engineers in the audience.
  • If you exceed the speed limit by more than 50 km/hr, your car will be confiscated.
  • The son-in-law of one of the sheikhs was killed in an accident involving a semi trying to pass another one. The result was a law banning the practice of trucks passing trucks and immediate deportation of the driver doing it. (it's nice to live in a benevolent dictatorship sometimes. Don't you wish they had that law in the US?)
  • Inflation is hitting the Emirates. Housing costs have gone up 50% in the past two years. It is no longer a cheap place to live and, with the dollar weak against the pound, British expats are feeling the pinch when they are paid in dollars.
  • I watched a crew putting in landscaping along the highway this morning. They had to add a layer of loam. It was delivered in man-handleable size sacks as opposed to the dump truck load. The laborers were placing it sack by sack. That's what you can do when labor is cheap.
  • And is it cheap! Labor costs about $167/month for a laborer to work 6.5 days a week, 12 hours per day and share a room with 8 of his buddies. Laws are being enacted to limit habitation to 6 per room with a minimum of 2 sq meters for each man.
  • There are as many tower cranes in Dubai as there are in the rest of the world. Work goes on 24/7.
  • There is chart on the wall at the urinal. You use it gauge your level of dehydration based upon the color of your pee.
  • Motto above entrance to the Dubai jail: "Human before Place" I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.
  • The Middle East uses about 20% of the worlds supply of rebar. They expect that to increase at 9% a year until 2010.
  • Its probably a good thing that we didn't let Dubai Ports take over ports in the US. I've been here about 2 weeks and just got my pass for the port and free trade zone. In the meantime, I have travelled freely in and out and the same is true for my driver. So much for security. And the nuclear carrier USS Nimitz was in port as well!
  • Safety sign in fab yard: "Do you realize how important your hands are to your quality of life?" Probably more true than they realize for all those sigle status laborers packed 6 and 8 to a room.
  • It's amazing how little contact you have with Arabs over here. I met at least one. He was a grizzled old taxi driver but other than that, you interface almost exclusively with Indians and Phillipinos.
  • Visibility here is as bad a LA. Rarely is it above 4 miles. The sky has a continuous brown haze from the dust.
  • I don't see the attraction of this place as a beach resort: It's too hot to enjoy the beach, there is no breeze unless its a hot one, there is no blue sky and no white clouds. Why bother? But I guess if you come from Scotland, you think you have found paradise.
  • Swimming pools here need to have chillers or the water will be bath temperature within a few days.
  • News Item: "India is to cease granting emigration clearance to women under 30 seeking employment overseas as housemaids. The move, designed to stop the trafficking of its women for prostitution, will cover 17 countries including the United Arab Emirates." Now I know why the cleaning staff in the hotel is all male.

Eid animal costs

My embedded reporter forwards this price list from Dubai (and here you thought going to the store for a Christmas turkey was a big deal, and aren't you happy the USDA does all this for you) for the upcoming Eid celebration:

With the Muslim celebration of Eid and the start of the Haj, thousands of goats are about to be put to the knife and sacrificed in a ceremony that remembers Abraham (Ibrahim) sacrificing his son. My question is: where is PETA while all this is going on?
The price list for sacrificial animals is attached; one
dirham equals about $0.27. Looks like the slaughter cost of the big camel is a good deal. And I wonder what the differences are between a Saudi sheep, an Emirati sheep, and a Paki sheep?

Prices for various animals:
UAE sheep and goat: Dh800 to Dh2,000 per animal
Saudi Arabian sheep: Dh2,000 to Dh50,000 per animal
Indian/Pakistani sheep: Dh800 to Dh1,200 per animal
Somali cows: Dh1,800 to Dh3,000 per animal

"Everybody should bring animals to abattoirs for slaughter in accordance with regulations and to ensure public health and hygiene," according to local authorities.

Prices for slaughtering:
Small animals: Dh15; Cutting: Dh10
Calf: Dh30; Cutting: Dh20
Medium size cow: Dh40; Cutting: Dh25.
Big cow: Dh45; Cutting: Dh30
Small camel: Dh60; Cutting: Dh35
Big camel: Dh65; Cutting: Dh35

How to select your Eid animal:
Animals should be well nourished
Do not buy lame animals
The skin texture of a healthy animal is smooth and shiny; it should be free of wounds
Check the animal: head, eyes, mouth, and feet
The eyes should be clear and it should be breathing free
There should be not be any discharge from the nose
Tongue and lips should be free of wounds
There should be no signs of diarrhea
Check its body temperature
Don't buy an animal if its dung contains traces of blood

18 December 2007

A Canuck lucks out

From our embedded reporter, this link:

Canadian jailed in drug case in Dubai is pardoned by ruler of the emirate
By Abdul Latheef, The Canadian Press
A Canadian sentenced in Dubai earlier this year to four years in prison on drug charges has been pardoned by the ruler of the emirate, raising hopes that he could be back in Canada to spend the holiday season with family and friends.
Bert Tatham, 35, of Vancouver, was among hundreds of prisoners pardoned by Sheik Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum as part of an Eid amnesty, a court source in the United Arab Emirates told The Canadian Press on Monday.
Tatham's family confirmed that they have been told he has been pardoned.
Tatham is a former United Nations worker who was returning to Canada from Afghanistan when he was arrested. He was employed in Afghanistan by an American company hired by the U.S. State Department.
The official news agency WAM reported earlier Monday that Sheik Mohammad, who is also the prime minister of the U.A.E, had pardoned 377 inmates of Dubai prisons.
Tatham was arrested April 23 at Dubai International Airport during a stopover after being caught with 0.6 grams of hashish and two poppy bulbs. He was sentenced to four years in jail June 19.
At the time, the judge said Tatham must serve his full sentence.
It is common for rulers of the Gulf countries to declare amnesties during Islamic festivals and Eid al-Adha is celebrated this week.
Eid is a major occasion when families spend time together and the official announcement stressed this by saying the pardon will enable the inmates "spend the Eid holidays with their families."
It was not immediately clear when Tatham would be released from jail. But WAM quoted Dubai's attorney general Essam Al Hemeidan as saying that "the Prosecutors' Chamber will take the necessary steps in co-ordination with the Dubai police to release the inmates."
Meanwhile, Tatham's family friends in Canada welcomed the news.
A note published in a website devoted to freeing Tatham said they were hoping to have him around for Christmas.
"We were able to confirm that Bert is on this release list," said a note on freebert.ca from a family member. "We are working to determine how fast we can get him out of there. We will only believe it once his planes wheels are off the ground."
"This is such great news," another person wrote. "Merry Christmas, Tatham family."
Tatham's mother, Louise Tatham, confirmed the report her son had been pardoned in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press from Duntroon, Ontario. She said she had been notified by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, but declined to comment any further.
Tatham was en route to Canada from the Afghan city of Kandahar, where he worked as an advisor to Afghan government's poppy elimination program.
The program aims to convince Afghan farmers to stop growing poppies, which are used for production of opium and then heroin.
During his trial, Tatham's lawyer said traces of hashish found in his urine were inhaled by Tatham as "second-hand smoke." Hashish is produced from marijuana plants rather than opium poppies.
As for the poppy bulbs, the lawyer said Tatham was taking them to Canada "for experiments and education."

However, a reader of the story said (and I would tend to agree): "Hmmm. Tatham was working for an American company hired by the United States State Department. And he was bringing back two poppy bulbs - seeds for new plants - and hashish "for experiments" in Canada?! Anybody else see the logical problem here? Further, if it was legitimate, why didn't he just mail the bulbs to a certified lab? It's clear he intended to grow his own opiate poppies. RCMP should arrest his ass for attempting to import a narcotic substance for purposes of cultivation."