Panama Papers reveal offshore companies were bagmen for the world's spies

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What do you do if you're a spy and you want to make untraceable transfers of dirty money without having your funding of your country's nominal enemies exposed to the voters whose money you're spending? You hire Mossack Fonseca to open a numbered account in an offshore tax-haven, naturally. Read the rest

Women forbidden from entering Starbucks in Saudi Arabia

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The Starbucks café in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has a sign on the front door barring women from entering. Starbucks will accept their money, but only if the womens' "driver" places the order on their behalf.

From the Express Tribune:

The notice, in Arabic as well as English, reads, “Please no entry for ladies, only send your driver to order. Thank you.”

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the most influential law enforcing authority in the Kingdom, ordered the café’s management not to admit women, according to Emirates 24/7.

Starbucks issued the following statement:

Starbucks in Saudi Arabia adheres to the local customs by providing separate entrances for families as well as single people. All our stores provide equal amenities, service, menu, and seating to men, women and families. We are working as quickly as possible as we refurbish our Jarir store, so that we may again welcome all customers in accordance with local customs.

Fedor Selivanov / Shutterstock.com Read the rest

What was this Saudi prince doing with 2 tons of drugs on his private jet?

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In Saudi Arabia, drug smugglers are routinely executed. But it's hard to imagine that the Saudi prince, who is being held in Lebanon after officials found two tons of amphetamine stuffed in his private jet bound for Saudi Arabia, will receive any punishment beyond a stern talking to.

Image: Shutterstock Read the rest

BBC helps Saudis whitewash arms trade to Syrian jihadis

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The BBC quoted an anonymous Saudi source who insisted that the arms the country imports en masse from the UK are only funnelled to the good Syrian rebels and not the Al Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front. Read the rest

IMF: Cheap oil will bankrupt the Saudis in five years

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If oil stays below $50 a barrel for five years, the Saudis' cash reserve will be exhausted, and with it will also go the social stability that lavish spending for the Saudi elites brings. Read the rest

LA prosecutors won't charge Saudi sheik with multiple sexual assaults because “insufficient evidence”

Aerial view of the mansion where Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud was arrested

Prosecutors for the county of Los Angeles say they will not file charges against a Saudi prince recently arrested for sexual assault at a gated mansion on the edge of Beverly Hills.

A civil lawsuit filed in L.A. County Superior Court on Sept. 25 says he attacked multiple women inside the home for several days.

Read the rest

Saudi PR machine goes bigtime, hires top US muscle for charm offensive

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The Saudi royals -- you know, the charming people who exported intolerant, extremist Wahabiism and whose scions get to rape their US-based servants with impunity -- have hired the biggest, most ruthless PR firms in America to run their PR machine. Read the rest

Missing: Saudi prince accused of sexually abusing women held in his $37m Beverly Hills compound

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The 'despicable' Saudi prince accused of sexually assaulting 'multiple women' over 3 days in a $37 million Beverly Hills compound has disappeared. Read the rest

Saudi prince jailed in LA on sex crime charges, “bleeding woman screaming for help” survived

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Police were called to a gated property in the exclusive Los Angeles community of Beverly Glen today “after a caretaker at the home reported a disturbance.” A man identified as 28-year-old prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud was arrested on suspicion of forced oral copulation of an adult.

An LAPD spokesperson said that a diplomatic liason desk determined that Al-Saud does not have immunity in this case. He is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 19.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Neighbor Tennyson Collins said a resident reported seeing a bleeding woman scream for help as she tried to scale the property’s 8-foot-high wall Wednesday afternoon.

When Collins drove home from work after 1:30 p.m., police followed his car through the gates and onto the property, which he described as a compound. The website Zillow valued the 22,000-square-foot property at $37 million.

"Saudi prince arrested at L.A. compound for alleged sex crime" [LA Times/Joe Serna]

Read the rest

Over 60 dead after crane collapse in Mecca's Grand Mosque

Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque
Images and video in this post contain graphic images of death, and may be disturbing.

Rainbow-hating Saudi authorities jail school administrator over “Emblem Of Homosexuality”

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Anything remotely gay is a Very Bad Crime in Saudi Arabia.

Unaccompanied women banned from Saudi hospitals

Saudi Arabia's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice has banned women from visiting hospitals without male guardians, reports Arab News. Read the rest

Saudi Arabian women tracked at the border with system that SMSes their husbands when they leave the country

Saudi authorities have rolled out an electronic surveillance system for women, which tracks their movements and alerts their husbands by SMS when they attempt to leave the country.

The husband, who was travelling with his wife, received a text message from the immigration authorities informing him that his wife had left the international airport in Riyadh.

“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said columnist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Women are not allowed to leave the kingdom without permission from their male guardian, who must give his consent by signing what is known as the “yellow sheet” at the airport or border.

Saudi Arabia implements electronic tracking system for women (via /.) Read the rest

Sorcerer executed

A man found in possession of books and talismans was beheaded earlier today in Saudi Arabia. [BBC] Read the rest

Interpol accused after Saudi Arabia arrests journalist over Muhammad tweet

Saudi Arabia is reported to have used Interpol's "red notice" system to locate and arrest journalist Hamza Kashgari, 23, (image at left) over tweets perceived as an insult to the Prophet Muhammad.

The international police organization denies involvement.

On the day observed as the Prophet's birthday, Kashgari published three tweets that described an imaginary meeting with the Prophet.

The one that caused all the hysteria (including "arrest him!" campaigns on Facebook and Twitter):

"I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don't understand about you … I will not pray for you."

[translation via AFP].

Kashgari later apologized, removed the tweets, then fled the country as calls for his arrest grew.

More from the Guardian:

Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport "following a request made to us by Interpol" the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities. Interpol later denied that its notice system had been involved in the arrest of Kashgari.

A spokesperson said: "The assertion that Saudi Arabia used Interpol's system in this case is wholly misleading and erroneous."

Kashgari's tweets are said to be blasphemy, and blasphemy is punishable by execution in Saudi Arabia. Read the rest