At the same time, it will open yet another wild frontier in the far far north, with nations fighting each other over fishing boundaries—not to mention environmentalists trying to save the poles from marine pollution, and pirates skulking behind ice floes to prey on unarmed passing ships. Both Russia and Canada consider their northern sea routes as national territory, but the U.S. views them as international waterways.

The U.S. Navy is worried that it can't police this new Arctic route. A study by the Office of Naval Research points out that policing the area will be difficult because there are no good communications satellites in orbit that cover the North Pole.

The area of the Arctic pack ice is diminishing at the rate of 3 to 4 percent every 10 years, according to Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University. Submarine data show that the Arctic ice thickness in the central Arctic and Eurasian Basin in summer has diminished by a staggering 40 percent in the past 30 years, and some scientists expect that winter ice will be gone from the Barents Sea by 2030 to 2050 and summer ice from the entire Arctic by the 2080s.

There's No Safe Sex in Muslim Nigeria
Hanging Judges

A regional tribal government in northern Nigeria has grudgingly relented, in the face of enormous public protests, and spared the life of a 35-year-old divorced woman who had been sentenced to death by stoning under strict Muslim law. Her crime was having sex with a man. In the eyes of the religious court, she committed adultery even though she was divorced. At the same time, another court of Muslim clerics in the same area doomed Amina Lawal, another divorced woman who had a baby. She was sentenced to being buried up to the shoulders and then stoned to death. And that sentence stands.

Religious courts are superseding civil sectarian justice in several African nations, as Muslim orthodoxy creeps in from Asia. Of course, the Taliban notoriously treated women harshly. And just recently there was an outcry at the shocking beheading of three men who a Saudi Arabian court said violated religious law simply by having gay sex.

Across North Africa, holy men are busy lopping off hands and arms for minor offenses, and are hanging men and stoning women to death. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in northern Nigeria, where fundamentalist Muslims are having a field day straightening out straying parishioners.

The Muslim court that sentenced Safiyatu Husaini to be stoned did show mercy by allowing her to wean her eight-month-old girl and stay home with her family before the sentence is exacted.

Residents in her village of Tungan Tudu, in the state of Sokoto, first reported the case to the police when they discovered that Husaini was pregnant. The man in the case, 60-year-old Yahaya Abubakar, a cousin of Husaini, got off; he was acquitted by Judge Alhaji Muhammad Bello Sanyinlawal. Three local cops testified that the cousins had sex three times, but the judge threw out their testimony because under religious law, there have to be four witnesses, the BBC reports. During the trial, the court was packed to overflowing, while Husaini sat in the dock, nursing her squalling baby.

Sokoto is one of more than a dozen states in predominantly Islamic northern Nigeria that have adopted Shariah, the Muslim code, in the past two years. A teenage mother received 80 lashes for committing adultery, and an elderly man was sentenced to be stoned to death because he sodomized a minor. Two people convicted of stealing had their hands cut off. Hundreds have been killed in fighting between Christians and Muslims in the area.

The Husaini case has shocked Europe—in Spain alone, 650,000 signatures have been collected against killing her. The Nigerian government, which oversaw installation of the Muslim code, now says it is unconstitutional.

In yet another case involving a woman, Bariya Ibrahim Magazu was found guilty of having sex outside marriage and bringing false charges against the men she allegedly had sex with. The merciful court reduced the sentence to 100 lashes, which she suffered this past January.

It could have been worse. In another recent case in the Sudan, two hapless defendants were sentenced to amputation of their right hands, followed by death by hanging.


An "innovation which nobody has managed to achieve during the past century." —Iraqi press review of The Fortified Castle, a new novel by Saddam Hussein Source: BBC

Additional reporting: Gabrielle Jackson, Meritxell Mir, and Michael Ridley

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