Maybe they were there for the shopping

On the one hand there are the censors in the University of Manchester Student Union, and on the other hand there are seven scholars of religion who have offered to take 100 lashes apiece in Raif’s place.

[T]hat is the proposal which seven members of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom have made to the government of Saudi Arabia, in the hope that Raif Badawi, a young Saudi blogger who has already endured 50 strokes, will be spared further suffering.

The signatories wrote in their personal capacities to the Saudi ambassador in Washington, DC, about a case which has focused attention on the uniquely harsh way in which the kingdom deals with religious and philosophical dissent. In a letter dated January 20th, they noted that Saudi Arabia had participated in a vast gathering of world leaders and ordinary people in Paris, who had come together to defend free speech and protest against the terrorist attacks of the preceding days. The signatories asked how that could be reconciled with the cruel way that Mr Badawi, the founder of a liberal web forum, is being treated.

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What next, grilling?

Wow. This is one I couldn’t have imagined if I’d tried for a week. (That’s a silly hypothetical really, because I get bored with trying after about ten seconds so I stop. But if I had tried…) Gwyneth Paltrow says women and others in possession of a uterus should steam their innards. Yes steam them. Squat over some steam and let it scour out the uterus. Jen Gunter has the story.

On today’s episode of ask the experts we pit the gynecologic advice of Gwyneth Paltrow, a consciously uncoupled actress and self-professed lifestyle expert who dabbles in vaginal health, against that of yours truly, a board certified OB/GYN who has completed a 5 year OB/GYN residency and a fellowship in infectious diseases and is an expert in vulvovaginal disorders.

Ms. Paltrow, recommends a V-steam. Her words:  “You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al. It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels. If you’re in LA, you have to do it.”

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Common goals

Does the Obama administration give a shit about Raif Badawi? No. It gives a shit about “stability” in the region.

That’s stability of torture, obliteration of women, and zero freedom of inquiry and expression.

Today as in years past, Americans value their ties with Saudi leaders, working closely with them on counterterrorism and intelligence issues.

Not everything is perfect, though.

The Saudis wish US officials would push harder for Syria President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, for instance. But overall, the US and Saudi Arabia have a shared history – and common goals.

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Meet at the Curzon Street entrance

English PEN reminds us that it’s holding a vigil for Raif every Friday.

According to an update issued by our colleagues at Amnesty International (26 January):

‘Although Raif Badawi’s scheduled public flogging on Friday 23 January was not carried out, the prison doctor who examined Raif Badawi that morning argued he was fit to be flogged. This is in direct contradiction to the recommendation of a medical committee only two days earlier. He continues to be at risk of receiving the remaining 950 lashes.’

English PEN is in regular contact with Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who remains gravely concerned for his well-being. She is extremely grateful for PEN’s ongoing support and has urged us to keep fighting.

What can “fit to be flogged” mean other than “he will die slowly rather than quickly”?

Please join us and Index on Censorship for our third vigil this Friday, 30 January, from 9am. Activists are asked to meet at the Curzon Street entrance to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mayfair, London (note: the postal address of the Embassy is 30-32 Charles Street).

Stop the torture, you fiends.

What to admire

The BBC says people in Saudi-family Arabia mostly don’t care about Michelle Obama’s daring to appear in public without her head bandaged.

Although some foreign media reported a big social media controversy, an Arabic hashtag that translates as “Michelle Obama with no headscarf” or “Michelle Obama immodesty” was in fact tweeted about 2,500 times – not a small number, but not overwhelming in a country with a relatively high Twitter following. [Read more…]

On the job training

King Salman is kicking off his new job with allowing a beheading to proceed.

Well, to be fair, I don’t know of Obama’s intervening in any executions either.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud has already overseen his first beheading just days after succeeding his brother, ignoring widespread claims that the case against the man was weak.

The controversial killing of Moussa al-Zahrani came shortly before President Barack Obama arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday to pay respects to the late King Abdullah. [Read more…]