Gaza ‘Arab Idol’ star becomes symbol of Palestinian unity

Updated 21 June 2013
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Gaza ‘Arab Idol’ star becomes symbol of Palestinian unity

GAZA: Palestinian fans and big business are rallying behind a 22-year-old singer from the Gaza Strip in a final push to vote him the next “Arab Idol” in a TV talent contest choosing a winner in Beirut tomorrow.
Mohammed Assaf is the first Palestinian to qualify for Arab Idol, the Middle East’s version of American Idol, in which contestants perform for judges and voting viewers.
His potent mix of good looks and emotional lyrics about ancestral Palestinian lands have helped to turn the young man from Gaza’s Khan Younes refugee camp into a star and symbol of unity for Palestinians plagued by deep internal divisions.
Voting in the pan-Arab competition is done through text messages. To encourage support for Assaf, one of three finalists, two Palestinian cellular telephone companies have cut their rates for ballots cast for him.
The Bank of Palestine is throwing money into the campaign, promising to match up to 350,000 texted votes — each one costs 1.50 shekels ($ .40) — for Assaf. It has placed billboards with his picture at major intersections in Gaza and the West Bank.
“Vote and the Bank of Palestine votes with you,” says a radio and television commercial broadcast in the Palestinian territories, where Assaf’s songs blare constantly from vehicles.
President Mahmoud Abbas has spoken to Assaf by phone and instructed Palestinian embassies abroad to urge expatriates to vote for him, calling the singer “the pride of the Palestinian and Arab nation.”
Egyptian Ahmed Jamal and a Syrian woman, Farah Youssef, are also finalists in the contest broadcast.
To keep the votes for Assaf coming, the Palestinian cellular operator Jawwal is offering cash prizes of up to $ 10,000 for customers who text in the highest number of ballots.
Some cafes in the West Bank city of Ramallah are offering to text a vote for every cup of coffee that customers order.
“By voting for Assaf, we are voting for Palestine, for us,” read a typical entry on his Facebook fan pages.
Huge celebrations are likely on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza if he wins.


Japan worker’s pay docked for taking lunch 3 minutes early

Updated 21 June 2018
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Japan worker’s pay docked for taking lunch 3 minutes early

TOKYO: A Japanese city official has been reprimanded and fined for repeatedly leaving his desk during work hours — but only for around three minutes to buy lunch.
The official, who works at the waterworks bureau in the western city of Kobe, began his designated lunch break early 26 times over the space of seven months, according to a city spokesman.
“The lunch break is from noon to 1 pm. He left his desk before the break,” the spokesman said on Thursday.
The official, 64, had half a day’s pay docked as punishment and the bosses called a news conference to apologize.
“It’s deeply regrettable that this misconduct took place. We’re sorry,” a bureau official told reporters, bowing deeply.
The worker was in violation of a public service law stating that officials have to concentrate on their jobs, according to the bureau.
The news sparked a heated debate on Japanese social media, with many defending the official.
“It’s sheer madness. It’s crazy. What about leaving your desk to smoke?” said one Twitter user.
“Is this a bad joke? Does this mean we cannot even go to the bathroom?” said another.
The city had previously suspended another official in February for a month after he had left his office numerous times to buy a ready-made lunch box during work hours.
The official was absent a total of 55 hours over six months, according to the city.