FREEDOM OF SPEECH: The Monitor's Robert Marquand went to the city of Shijiazhuang, China, to follow up on a tip that there would be a demonstration over corrupt city officials. That story didn't pan out. But what he found instead surprised him: people willing to talk openly about China's politics (page 7).
"People were warmer, more interested in talking to a foreigner about politics than I had assumed," he says. That wasn't universally true. "There's still a reluctance to discuss political leaders in front of others. There's a fear that what you say might get back to party officials and could cost you your job or brand you as a troublemaker. But for the most part, that has changed. I found people willing to talk to me about the economy in the street. Certainly, there was a lot more openness here than in Beijing."
David Clark Scott
NO WOMEN ALLOWED: No, this isn't about the Augusta National Golf Club. Rather, tribal elders in a conservative district in Pakistan's northwestern frontier warned women not to get involved in Thursday's national elections, threatening to fine and burn down the homes of any family that allows its women to vote.
The Associated Press reports that council elders said it was un-Islamic and against their traditions for women to vote. They warned candidates that if they attempted to court women voters, they would be fined too.
A local government official said the elders' ruling had no legal merit, and that the government would take action against anyone trying to tamper with a free vote. "Nobody has the right to stop women from voting," he said. The tribal regions enjoy semi-autonomy, with law enforced by councils of tribal elders. While the councils are given wide latitude, they must also adhere to federal laws.