Saudi Arabia appoints female minister

Encouraging news from the kingdom:

An expert on girls' education became Saudi Arabia's first woman minister on Saturday as part of a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle by King Abdullah that swept aside several bastions of ultra-conservatism.

Nora bint Abdullah al-Fayez, a US-educated former teacher, was made deputy education minister in charge of a new department for female students, a significant breakthrough in a country where women are not allowed to drive.

Abdullah also sacked the head of Saudi Arabia's despicable Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the religious police who once prevented a group of girls from escaping a school fire because they were improperly dressed. It's about time. We can only hope the beatdowns will continue until the commission is dismantled entirely.


Reporters not welcome at Mugabe's getaway pad

After what happened to two Times reporters looking into Robert Mugabe's investments in East Asia, you might want to think twice about dropping in on his new place in Hong Kong (shown above) unannounced:

The throat of Colin Galloway, a 46-year-old reporter, was gripped and bruised by a man in his thirties who lifted him off his feet. Galloway was later examined under police supervision at hospital.

Tim O’Rourke, 45, was grabbed by the neck in his second bruising encounter involving the Mugabes in Hong Kong. Last month Grace Mugabe flew at him with her fists after repeatedly punching another Sunday Times photographer in the face in an incident that attracted worldwide publicity.

As odious as I find the idea of Mugabe living out his last days in luxury after what he's done and continues to do to his long-suffering country, some sort of Idi Amin-type arrangement in which he steps down in return for immunity in China might be the least worst scenario right now.

Photo: MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images