Religious Tribunals Rebuked in Canada
Women's rights activists scored a major victory in Canadian courts when the head of the province of Ontario rejected a proposal to allow Muslims the use of Sharia law in family disputes. Following protests in Canadian cities, as well as Paris, London and Vienna, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty ruled against the bid, telling the BBC that there should be "one law for all Ontarians."
Since 1991, Ontario has allowed Christian and Jewish-based tribunals to solve intra-family disputes on a voluntary basis. McGuinty plans to introduce legislation to ban all faith-based arbitration in the province. Critics of the Sharia law in Canada believe that the use of Islamic law could lead to discrimination against women. Homa Ar-Jomand, an activist and rally-organizer, told the BBC “[the voice of the protesters was] heard loud and clear, I thank the government for coming out with no faith-based arbitrations."
Flat Tax: Flat-Lined?
The flat tax, a radical reform in which everyone pays the same rate, with no “loopholes” or excuses, lost its once vaunted momentum in Germany this week when polls showed a dramatic plunge in voter support of its proponents.
Angela Merkel, the conservative candidate, and her Christian Democratic Union were favoured to win national elections on Sunday, until a 25 percent flat tax was mentioned last week as part of Merkels’ economic-reform proposals. For the first time, recent polls showed Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his left-wing allies “in a dead heat with [Merkel’s] conservative coalition.”
While more governments have been open to adopting the flat tax, its future very much depends on whether or not Merkel wins this Sunday’s vote. “A negative vote will probably prevent any other wealthy nation from bringing up the idea any time in the foreseeable future.”
One Potato, Two Potato
After three years of failed negotiations, the U.S. and North Korea have finally reached a provisional agreement regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, “promised to abandon efforts to produce nuclear weapons and re-admit international inspectors to its nuclear facilities” in exchange for “aid, diplomatic assurances and security guarantees” and consideration of its demands for a light-water nuclear reactor.
Many issues during the talks, however, were side-stepped, the most pointed one being the production of a light-water reactor (by the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, and Korea) that North Korea would use to produce electricity. Officials were evasive when it came to this “hot-potato issue,” stating the light-water reactor would come “at the appropriate time.” According to a senior American official, that meant only after North Korea rejoined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and re-admitted nuclear inspectors—goals it would not be able to achieve until first dismantling its nuclear program. Meanwhile, the possibility remains that North Korea will continue to insist on receiving the light-water reactor concession before pulling the plug on nuclear weapons production.
Despite the glaring inconsistencies of the agreement, Christopher Hill, the chief American negotiator, called the signing a “turning point.” He added, “We have to take the momentum of this agreement and see that it is implemented.”
Living and Dying at the Mercy of the UN
The United Nations plans to cut general food aid in Niger, which could lead to the ruin of already the world’s poorest country. The Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), an international humanitarian aid organization, argues that ending aid in the next few weeks would leave almost a million without food. The UN's World Food Program (WFP) is attempting the cut based on the fact that the food harvest begins one month from now. This reduction in aid, according to the WFP, would allow food distribution to be redirected and concentrated on the most needy areas. Food will not be withheld from the hungry. In addition, the WFP predicts the redirection would enable the high prices of food to drop.
However, critics believe that cutting the wide-scale distribution too soon could endanger the welfare of many, and that it would be more logical not to disrupt the market. The logistical problem with the WFP’s reorganization of the food market is that food must travel great distances and already a million have been without food for weeks. According to a recent survey conducted by the MSF, more than 40 people are dying each day because of food not reaching feeding centers.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Religious Tribunals Rebuked in Canada