- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Algorithms to battle fraud in vote tally

KABUL | In a largely illiterate country where donkeys delivered ballots to remote areas, Afghan officials say they are confident that algorithms, double-blind computer entries and other modern methods will catch 90 percent of the fraud from last week’s presidential election.

Accusations of ballot-box stuffing and voter intimidation have streamed in to the independent Electoral Complaints Commission since Thursday’s vote — most of them filed by President Hamid Karzai’s main rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

Ajmal Amin Rabmal, one of three experts overseeing the commission’s computer monitoring, said he’s confident his team can spot fraud cases, using techniques that hardly fit the image of a country where ballots were marked with the candidates’ faces and symbols to help the 75 percent of Afghans who can’t read and write.


Caning delayed for beer drinker

KUALA LUMPUR | The first woman in Muslim-majority Malaysia to face caning for drinking beer was reprieved Monday because of the holy month of Ramadan. Her family said she would rather get the thrashing with a rattan cane now and put the ordeal behind her.

Islamic officials had taken Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32-year-old mother of two, into custody and were driving her to a women’s prison for the caning when they abruptly turned around and sent her back to her family home in northern Malaysia.

“She feels like a football being kicked around,” Miss Kartika’s father, Shukarno Abdul Muttalib, told the Associated Press. “She’s so exhausted and unhappy with the delay. She would prefer to just receive the six strokes and have everything finished.”

Amnesty International, Malaysian lawyers and some politicians have condemned the sentence, while other critics have warned it would tarnish Malaysia’s image as a moderate country.


Israelis, Arabs battle near border

JERUSALEM | Three Palestinians and an Israeli were wounded Monday in violence on the Gaza-Israel border, according to officials from both sides.

Israeli military said soldiers opened fire on a group of suspicious Palestinians across the border in northern Gaza. Palestinian Health Ministry official Moaiya Hassanain said two men were brought to hospitals, and the military said a man was taken to Israel for treatment.

Later, Palestinians fired two mortar shells from Gaza, Israeli rescue services and the military said, slightly wounding a soldier.

Border incidents between Hamas-ruled Gaza and Israel have been relatively infrequent in recent weeks.


Dead bodies litter the streets

MINGORA | Nearly three months after Pakistan’s military retook the Swat Valley from the Taliban, bloodied corpses are still turning up on the streets. This time, the victims are suspected militants — and the killers are reported to be security forces.

The army and the police deny the accusations, which the leading Pakistani human rights watchdog says are credible.

The killings are a sign of the troubles still facing the valley, even as U.S. officials cite the offensive — which is now winding down — as a success in Islamabad’s campaign against al Qaeda and Taliban militants threatening Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The bloodshed comes as many of the 2 million people who fled the fighting are now returning to rebuild their lives. Last week, two suicide blasts rocked the main town of Mingora in another deadly reminder of the threat the militants still pose.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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