Saturday, November 22, 2008

Uproar in Maine over Obama assassination sign

Passions flared in a Maine town on Thursday over a sign in a store asking customers to place bets on an assassination of President-elect Barack Obama.

The Town Council in Standish condemned the sign on Thursday in a 6-0 vote and declared it reprehensible at a meeting where some residents defended the store owner, saying he had a right to free speech even if in bad taste, local authorities said.

"The town of Standish condemns in the strongest terms any such alleged activity calling for violence against any individual no matter their position, race or ethnicity," said the resolution posted on the town's website.

The sign in the Oak Hill General Store asked customers to place a $1 bet on the date of Obama's assassination, and said "Let's hope someone wins," the Portland Press Herald reported. It was called the "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool."

The store in the town of 9,285 people in southwest Maine has remained closed since reports of the sign appeared in the media on Sunday.

About 80 people attended the meeting, including some who defended the store owner, said town clerk Mary Chapman.

"There were folks on both sides of the issue," Chapman said in a telephone interview. "People were passionate of their opinion but very respectful of others."

Obama's historic election victory as the nation's first black president has sparked racist incidents nationwide, according to groups that monitor hate crimes.

Obama, an Illinois senator, won the November 4 presidential contest in Maine over Republic Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Report: U.S. Power Will Fade By 2025

Analysts gazing into what amounts to an intelligence-based crystal ball see a future world marked by dwindling resources, more people and diminished power for the United States, as CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports.

The grim assessment, entitled "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World", comes from the National Intelligence Council, an independent government body. The report concludes that by 2025, "The U.S. will remain the single most important actor but will be less dominant."

There'll be challenges on all fronts. Climate changes from global warming will lead to shortages of food and water in dozens of countries. That, coupled with a projected population spike of 1.2 billion people worldwide could lead to wars over increasingly scarce resources.

Thomas Fingar, Chairman of the National Intelligence Council predicts water shortages, disruptions to delicate agricultural patterns, continued unrest in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and the continued emergence of China as America's greatest economic rival.

"China will have the world's second largest economy," the report says, "and will be a leading military power."

But conventional military strength will be less important. The new threats will come from hackers and cyber-terrorists, criminal gangs and other rogue groups.

Terrorism will remain. But the report suggests that al Qaeda's influence in the Arab world is in decline and the group may "decay sooner than many people think."

"The killing of innocents, the killing of Muslims [by al Qaeda] is turning off more people than it is turning on," Fingar says.

Still, other extremist groups may be ready to step in, and analysts warn that an increased availability of nuclear weapons and materials could present an even more lethal threat.
The report also suggests that global warming could boost Russia's growing economy by extending growing seasons and allowing easier access to far north oil fields. And it says that the U.S. dollar will continue to weaken and fall from favor as a top world currency.

Of course, these projections are hardly certain. Analysts note that most past attempts to look ahead have been turned out to be wrong. But the report is aimed at starting the policy dialogue as a new Administration maps its strategy.

400 teens arrested for flirting in Cairo

EGYPTIAN police have rounded up hundreds of teenage boys in Cairo in a day-long crackdown on sexual harassment.

"We have arrested a large number of boys who were flirting with girls," Cairo's police director Faruq Lashin said.

About 400 teenagers, aged between 15 and 17, were arrested on Wednesday and will be brought before a judge, he said.

Police targeted teenagers in front of schools, universities and along the Nile's banks, he said.

The teenagers were expected to be fined, a police official said.

Women's rights groups in Egypt have long campaigned against sexual harassment and assault in Cairo, accusing police of ignoring the phenomenon.

On Monday, a Cairo court jailed a teenager for one year for sexually assaulting two women.

Another teenager, a 17 year old, is facing trial on the same charge.

At least 34 men were arrested after they allegedly assaulted women in an affluent Cairo neighbourhood during a Muslim holiday in January.

Such convictions are relatively rare in Egypt, which does not have a law defining sexual harassment, but a court in October sentenced a man to three years in jail for groping a woman.

Women's rights activists welcomed that ruling and said it was unprecedented in Egypt.

The Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights (ECWR) issued a survey this summer saying 83 per cent of Egyptian women and 98 per cent of foreign women in Egypt had experienced sexual harassment.

The study said only 12 per cent of the 2500 women who reported cases of sexual harassment to ECWR went to the police with their complaint.