Saturday, 5 November 2011

More than 2.5 million Muslims begin hajj rites

Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims move around the Kaaba, seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday. The annual Islamic pilgrimage draws 3 million visitors each year.
Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims move around the Kaaba, seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday. The annual Islamic pilgrimage draws 3 million visitors each year.
MECCA, Saudi Arabia - More than 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims on Friday began the rites of the annual hajj pilgrimage, leaving the holy city of Mecca for Mount Arafat, where the prophet Mohammed is believed to have delivered his final hajj sermon.
Dressed in white, they flooded the streets as they headed toward Mina, around 5 kilometers east of the holy mosque.
The day is known as Tarwiah (Watering) Day, as pilgrims traditionally watered their animals and stocked water for their trip to Mount Arafat, some 10 km further on.
Many pilgrims took buses, while others set off on foot for a village that comes to life for just five days a year.
Others were using the Mashair Railway, also known as Mecca Metro, to go to Mount Arafat and its surrounding plains, where they will gather for the Day of Arafat on Saturday. The Chinese-built railway will operate for the first time this year at its full capacity of 72,000 people an hour to ease congestions and prevent stampedes in which hundreds have been killed in past years.
The dual-track light railway connects the three holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Mount Arafat - areas that see massive congestion during the five-day pilgrimage. It will replace 30,000 cars previously used, said project director Fahd Abu-Tarbush.
"The train this year is restricted to the pilgrims coming from inside Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, as well as 200,000 pilgrims coming from South Asia," Tarbush told AFP.
"Mashair Railway will transport 500,000 pilgrims from Mina, passing by Muzdalifah, reaching to Arafat, in addition to 1 million pilgrims on the Tashreeq days", which are on the 11th, 12th and 13th of the Muslim month of Dhul Hijjah.
About 1.7 million Muslims descended on Mecca from around the world, while between 700,000 and 800,000 pilgrims are from inside Saudi Arabia. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be performed at least once in a lifetime by all those who are able to make the journey.

Several killed, 43 injured in British motorway pile-up

Emergency services continue to attend the scene of a multiple fatal collision near Junction 25 on the M5 motorway on November 5, 2011 near Taunton, England. At least 27 vehicles crashed on the northbound carriageway of the M5 near Taunton, causing several explosions. Police have confirmed that several people have been killed and 43 have been injured but emergency crews have as yet been unable to confirm cause of the crash. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

ICC anti-corruption chief insists illegal betting not endemic

                              Former Pakistan captain Butt arriving at Southwark Court for sentencing

Cricket's anti-corruption chief insists illegal betting is not endemic in the game, in the wake of three Pakistan players being jailed for spot-fixing.
Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir have been given prison terms for conspiring to bowl deliberate no-balls in a 2010 Test match against England.
Sir Ronnie Flannagan said: "It [corruption] is certainly not rampant in the world of cricket.
"I think it is engaged in by a tiny number of people."
Flannagan, who is the head of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, added: "The vast, vast majority of cricketers are wonderfully ethical people.
"It is only a tiny proportion of people, some of whom may have a pre-deposition to it and some who succumb to the evil advances of other people.
"My message to the followers of cricket is keep following, keep loving this wonderful game and don't be thinking that corruption is rampant within the game."
However, he also noted: "Sadly I wouldn't say the instances we have seen brought to justice are totally isolated.
"They indicate we must never be complacent and ever vigilant."
Butt, Asif and Amir were found guilty of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and were banned for five years in February by the ICC.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan has paid tribute to the work done by the ICC, but maintains the sport's governing body could do more, starting with lifetime bans for the trio.
Vaughan told BBC Radio 5 live: "I hope it sends a shockwave through the game and I'm delighted with the way it's been handled.
"I still believe there are more out there and more can be done to try and catch more than just the three we've seen in court over the last few weeks.
"You have to set a precedent. This is a shockwave because three guys are going behind bars but the [ICC] a few months ago could have banned these players for life.
"Mohammad Amir will be back playing in three-to-four years, back playing by the age of 23 or 24, and his signature will be sought after because he'll still be up there with the best bowlers in the world.
"The ICC do a decent job but they could do a lot more."
Test Match Special commentator Simon Hughes, the former Middlesex and Durham seam bowler, also criticised the ICC and believes the prison sentences could have been stronger.
Ex-Pakistan captain Butt has been jailed for 30 months with Asif, 28, receiving a one-year sentence and Amir, 19, six months.
Hughes said: "The sentences could have been harsher.
"What saddens me is that the ICC didn't take a stronger line when they had a chance.
"When they found these players guilty with their own investigation earlier in the year, they were only banned for five years.
"I don't understand that kind of logic. If you get caught doing anything like this you should be banned for life and the ICC should get a wake-up call themselves and be more pro-active in rooting out the problem because it won't go away without pro-active measures.
"Players are susceptible when they are young to being lured into this kind of thing, so [the ICC] have to get the message through when young."

The all-American occupation In the US, the 'Occupy' movement is in line with a deep historical suspicion of Wall Street and the financial elite.

Occupy Wall Street, the ongoing demonstration-cum-sleep-in that began more than a month ago not far from the New York Stock Exchange - and has since spread like wildfire to cities around the country - may be a game-changer. If so, it couldn't be more appropriate or more in the American grain that, when the game changed, Wall Street was directly in the sights of the protesters.

The fact is that the end of the world as we've known it has been taking place all around us for some time. Until recently, however, thickets of political verbiage about cutting this and taxing that, about the glories of "job creators" and the need to preserve "the American dream", have obscured what was hiding in plain sight - that street of streets, known to generations of our ancestors as "the street of torments”.

After an absence of well over half a century, Wall Street is back, centre stage, as the preferred US icon of revulsion, a status it held for a fair share of our history. And we can thank a small bunch of campers in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park for hooking us up to a venerable tradition of resistance and rebellion.

Street of torments

Peering back at a largely forgotten terrain of struggle against "the Street", so full of sound and fury signifying quite a lot, it's astonishing - to a historian of Wall Street, at least - that the present movement didn't happen sooner. It's already hard to remember that only weeks ago, three years into the near shutdown of the world financial system and the Great Recession, an eerie unprotesting silence still blanketed the country.
Stories accumulated of Wall Street greed and arrogance, astonishing tales of incompetence and larceny. The economy slowed and stalled. People lost their homes and jobs. Poverty reached record levels. The political system proved as bankrupt as the big banks. Bipartisan consensus emerged - but only around the effort to save "too big to fail" financial goliaths, not the legions of victims their financial wilding had left in its wake.
The political class then prescribed what people already had plenty of: yet another dose of austerity, plus a faith-based belief in a "recovery" that, for 99 per cent of Americans, was never much more than an optical illusion. In those years, the hopes of ordinary people for a chance at a decent future withered, and bitterness set in. 

Strangely, however, popular resistance was hard to find. In the light of US history, this passivity was surpassingly odd.  From decades before the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century through the Great Depression, again and again Wall Street found itself in the crosshairs of an outraged citizenry - mobilised thanks to political parties, labour unions, or leagues of the unemployed. Such movements were filled with a polyglot mix of middle-class anti-trust reformers, bankrupted small businessmen, dispossessed farmers, tenants and sharecroppers, out-of-work labourers, and so many others.

If Occupy Wall Street signals the end of our own, atypical period of acquiescence, could a return to a version of "class warfare" that would, once upon a time, have been familiar to so many Americans be on the horizon? Finally!

What began as a relatively sparsely attended and impromptu affair has displayed a staying power and magnetic attractiveness that has taken the country, and above all the political class, by surprise. A recent rally of thousands in lower Manhattan, where demonstrators marched from the city's government centre to Zuccotti Park, the location of the "occupiers" encampment, was an extraordinarily diverse gathering by any measure of age, race or class. Community organisations, housing advocates, environmentalists, and even official delegations of trade unionists - not normally at ease hanging out with anarchists and hippies - gave the whole affair a social muscularity and reach that was exhilarating to experience.
Diversity, however, can cut both ways. Popular protest, to the degree that there's been much during the recent past - and mainly over the war in Iraq - has sometimes been criticised for the chaotic way it assembled a grab-bag of issues and enemies, diffuse and without focus. Occupy Wall Street embraces diverse multitudes but this time in the interest of convergence. In its targeting of "the street of torments", this protean uprising has, in fact, found common ground. To a historian's ear, this echoes loudly.

Karl Marx described high finance as "the Vatican of capitalism", its diktat to be obeyed without question. We've spent a long generation learning not to mention Marx in polite company, and not to use suspect and nasty phrases like "class warfare" or "the reserve army of labour", among many others. 

In times past, however, such phrases and the ideas that went with them struck our forebears as useful, even sometimes as true depictions of reality. They used them regularly, along with words like "plutocracy", "robber baron", and "ruling class", to identify the sources of economic exploitation and inequality that oppressed them, as well as to describe the political disenfranchisement they suffered and the subversion of democracy they experienced.
Never before, however, has "the Vatican of capitalism" captured quite so perfectly the specific nature of the oligarchy that's run the country for a generation and has now run it into the ground. Even political consultant and pundit James Carville, no Marxist he, confessed as much during the Clinton years when he said the bond market "intimidates everybody".

Perhaps that era of everyday intimidation is finally ending. Here are some of the signs of it - literally - from that march I attended: "Loan Sharks Ate My World" (illustrated with a reasonable facsimile of the Great White from Jaws), "End the Federal Reserve", "Wall Street Sold Out, Let's Not Bail-Out", "Kill the Over the Counter Derivative Market", "Wall Street Banks Madoff Well", "The Middle Class is Too Big To Fail", "Eat the Rich, Feed the Poor", "Greed is Killing the Earth". During the march, a pervasive chant - "We are the 99 per cent" - resoundingly reminded the bond market just how isolated and vulnerable it might become.
And it is in confronting this elemental, determining feature of our society's predicament, in gathering together all the multifarious manifestations of our general dilemma right there on "the street of torments", that Occupy Wall Street - even without a programme or clear set of demands, as so many observers lament - has achieved a giant leap backward, summoning up a history of opposition we would do well to recall today.

Our streets and Wall Street

One young woman at the demonstration held up a corrugated cardboard sign, roughly magic-markered with one word written three times: "system", "system", "system". That single word resonates historically, even if it sounds strange to our ears today. The indictment of presumptive elites, especially those housed on Wall Street, the conviction that the system over which they presided must be replaced by something more humane, was a robust feature of our country's political and cultural life for a century or more.

When in the years following the American revolution, Jeffersonian democrats raised alarms about the "moneycrats" and their counter-revolutionary intrigues - they meant Alexander Hamilton and his allies in particular - they were worried about the installation in the New World of a British system of merchant capitalism that would undo the democratic and egalitarian promise of the revolution.

When followers of Andrew Jackson inveighed against the Second Bank of the United States - otherwise known as "the Monster Bank" - they were up in arms against what they feared was the systematic monopolising of financial resources by a politically privileged elite. Just after the Civil War, the Farmer-Labour and Greenback political parties freed themselves of the two-party runaround, determined to mobilise independently to break the stranglehold on credit exercised by the big banks back East.
Later in the nineteenth century, populists decried the overweening power of the Wall Street "devil fish" (shades of Matt Taibbi's "giant vampire squid" metaphor for Goldman Sachs). Its tentacles, they insisted, not only reached into every part of the economy, but also corrupted churches, the press, and institutions of higher learning, destroyed the family, and suborned public officials from the president on down. When, during his campaign for the presidency in 1896, the populist-inspired "boy orator of the Platte" and Democratic Party candidate William Jennings Bryan vowed that mankind would not be "crucified on a cross of gold", he meant Wall Street - and everyone knew it.

Around the turn of the century, the anti-trust movement captured the imagination of small businessmen, consumers, and working people in towns and cities across the United States. The trust they worried most about was "the Money Trust". Captained by JP Morgan, "the financial Gorgon", the Money Trust was skewered in court and in print by future Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, subjected to withering congressional investigations, excoriated in the exposés of "muckraking" journalists, and depicted by cartoonists as a cabal of prehensile Visigoths in death-heads.

As the twentieth century began, progressive reformers in state houses and city halls, socialists in industrial cities and out on the prairies, strikebound workers from coast to coast, working-class feminists, anti-war activists, and numerous others were still vigorously condemning that same Money Trust for turning the whole country into a closely-held system of financial pillage, labour exploitation, and imperial adventuring abroad. As the movements made clear, everyone but Wall Street was suffering the consequences of a system of proliferating abuses perpetrated by "the Street".

The tradition the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have tapped into is a long and vibrant one that culminated during the Great Depression. Then as now, there was no question in the minds of "the 99 per cent" that Wall Street was principally to blame for the country's crisis (however much that verdict has since been challenged by disputatious academics).

Insurgencies by industrial workers, powerful third-party threats to replace capitalism with something else, rallies and marches of the unemployed, and, yes, occupations, even seizures of private property, foreclosures forestalled by infuriated neighbours, and a pervasive sense that the old order needed burying had a lasting effect. In response, the New Deal attempted to unhorse those whom President Franklin Roosevelt termed "economic royalists", who were growing rich off "other people's money" while the country suffered its worst trauma since the Civil War. "The Street" trembled.
"System, System, System": It would be foolish to make too much of a raggedy sign - or to leap to conclusions about just how lasting this Occupy Wall Street moment will be and just where (if anywhere) it's heading. It would be crazily optimistic to proclaim our own pitiful age of acquiescence ended.

Still, it would be equally foolish to dismiss the powerful American tradition the demonstrators of this moment have tapped into. In the past, Wall Street has functioned as an icon of revulsion, inciting anger, stoking up energies, and summoning visions of a new world that might save the New World.

It is poised to play that role again. Remember this: In 1932, three years into the Great Depression, most Americans were more demoralised than mobilised. A few years later, all that had changed as "Our Street, Not Wall Street" came alive. The political class had to scurry to keep up. Occupy Wall Street may indeed prove the opening act in an unfolding drama of renewed resistance and rebellion against "the system".

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

9/11 Suspects' Attorneys Accuse Defense Department of Snooping on Correspondence

The military lawyers for the 9/11 suspects, in what is believed to be an unprecedented legal move, are accusing the Defense Department of sanctioning “practices that are unlawful” that will “effectively stall this case.”
In a letter to the head of detainee affairs obtained by Fox News, military attorneys for the 9/11 suspects, including the self-described architect of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as well as lawyers for other high-value detainees, claim that correspondence between the detainees and their attorneys is routinely opened, read and even confiscated by Defense Department officials.
“The policies and practices are unlawful and will effectively stall this case: these procedures violate attorney-client confidentiality privilege,” the letter says. And in what appears to be a thinly veiled critique of broader policy, the lawyers write, “A failure to act on this concern belies any claim to transparency and fairness.”
In the three-page letter, signed by nine military attorneys, Defense Department officials are scolded for allegedly ignoring rules laid out by the military commissions. The 9/11 case was first designated for a federal court trial in New York City two years ago, but it was ultimately sent back to the commissions by Attorney General Eric Holder in April after opposition by New York City officials, the public and some members of Congress.
More than a decade after the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans in the 9/11 attacks, there is still no public timetable for an arraignment at the Guantanamo Bay facility.
“The Military Commission Rules of Evidence, in Rule 502, specifically protect attorney-client privileged material from disclosure to anyone aside from the client and his legal team,” the lawyers state. While claiming the correspondence is not classified, the attorneys add that “Violations of attorney-client privilege are acutely egregious in the context of death penalty litigation, where the Supreme Court has long held that heightened Due Process applies.”
The letter says the lawyers first sought redress through the office that oversees the detention operation at the Navy base at Guantanamo – before taking the complaint to the senior Defense Department official responsible for detainee affairs.
“The problems with legal materials were brought to your direct attention more than five months ago, and again two weeks ago when you were copied on correspondence to (base officials)," it says. "We have received no response to any of our letters.”
A source familiar with the military lawyers' complaints told Fox News it was not about the 9/11 suspects mail because “nobody cares about the security of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s mail,” but the dispute framed a much larger issue -- in this case, the sanctity of a lawyer’s relationship with a client, even if the clients are some of the most hated men on the planet.
The lawyers complain that "counsel are in the untenable position of having either to violate professional ethical standards in order to communicate with our clients or cease communicating with our clients.”
Fox News is told that if there is no resolution, the military lawyers are laying the groundwork for a federal court action. The letter hints at that prospect: “Absent a meaningful response and the institution of remedies, the ongoing concern will be litigated to the fullest extent.”
While not familiar with the specifics of the complaint, a former Defense Department official told Fox News that there can be sound security reasons for the review of materials. Fox News sought comment from the media office responsible for the undersecretary of detainee affairs. The Defense Department media office was sent a copy of the letter, but there was no immediate response.

Arsenal 0 - 0 Marseille

By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at Emirates Stadium

Arsenal failed to secure the win they needed to ensure qualification for the Champions League as they were held to a draw by Marseille at the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger decided to leave captain Robin van Persie on the bench despite his hat-trick in the 5-3 win at Chelsea on Saturday - and his inspiration was sorely missed as Arsenal struggled to make any impact on Marseille's defence.
The French side had early opportunities through Jordan and Andre Ayew, while Theo Walcott saw his effort well saved by Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda.
Otherwise it was a tale of attrition as the game deteriorated into deadlock and Van Persie - on as a substitute just after the hour - wasted a late opportunity to be Arsenal's match-winner once more when he saw his shot gratefully clutched by Mandanda.
Marseille looked delighted with the draw at the final whistle, but the result did not cause huge damage to Arsenal's chances of progress as they stay on top of Group F.
Arsenal had opportunities in the opening exchanges despite keeping Van Persie in reserve - but it was Marseille who posed the early threat as they carried out coach Didier Deschamps' orders to attack.
Jordan Ayew was not far away with a backheel at the near post before his brother Andre was narrowly off target at the conclusion of a composed Marseille build-up.
Arsenal finally hit their stride when Gervinho played an inviting pass into the path of Walcott but Mandanda crucially got fingertips to his low shot to divert it inches wide.
Marseille were not short of ambition when in possession and Loic Remy then gave Arsenal an anxious moment with an effort that beat Wojciech Szczesny but drifted to safety.
Arsenal were able to exert a measure of authority as the half progressed, with Gervinho's shot being blocked by Mandanda and Aaron Ramsey just taking too long over an opportunity in the box to allow the Marseille defence to clear the danger.
Wenger finally decided on a change just after the hour and predictably it was Van Persie who was introduced for Ju-Young Park, who had struggled to make any impact.
As the game suffered a sharp decline in quality, Wenger swiftly shuffled his side again, sending on Tomas Rosicky for Ramsey before replacing Gervinho with Andrey Arshavin.
Van Persie then had the opportunity to end the stalemate with 13 minutes left when he raced clear, but for once his touch let him down and he did not get enough height on his attempted chip to beat the advancing Mandanda.
It was Arsenal's final chance, leaving the Gunners to wait to seal qualification for the knockout phase.

Pakistan cricketers guilty of betting scam

Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif have been found guilty of their part in a "spot-fixing" scam after a trial at Southwark Crown Court.
Former captain Butt, 27, and fast bowler Asif, 28, were both found guilty of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments.
They plotted to deliberately bowl no-balls during a Lord's Test match against England last summer.
Another bowler, Mohammad Amir, admitted the charges prior to the trial.
The guilty pleas by the bowler, who was 18 when the scam took place, could not be reported before.
The jury was not told of these pleas.
BBC sport news correspondent James Pearce says all three are facing the prospect of jail terms.
Conspiracy to accept corrupt payments carries a maximum prison term of seven years.
Our correspondent also says the case "raises serious questions about the integrity of Test cricket".
A statement was read out by Amir's lawyer at the start of the trial, before any evidence had been heard.
He said: "Mohammad Amir accepts full responsibility for deliberately bowling two no-balls and, in due course, you will hear how this vulnerable 18-year-old boy was subjected to extreme pressure from those on whom he should have been able to rely.
"He recognises the damage his actions have caused Pakistan cricket."
Spot-betting involves gamblers staking money on the minutiae of sporting encounters such as the exact timing of the first throw-in during a football match or, as in this case, when a no-ball will be bowled.
After deliberating for nearly 17 hours, the jury unanimously convicted Butt and Asif of conspiracy to cheat.
Our correspondent said Butt's wife, Gul Hassan, had given birth to a baby boy one hour before he was found guilty.
The BBC's Aleem Maqbool, in Lahore, said the story was leading the national news in Pakistan and the four-week trial had been closely followed in the country.
Mohammad Amir Pakistan bowler Mohammad Amir pleaded guilty before the trial began
The judge, Mr Justice Cooke, extended bail for Butt and Asif until sentencing later this week.
'Rampant corruption'
They were charged after a tabloid newspaper alleged they took bribes to bowl deliberate no-balls.
The court heard the players, along with fast bowler Amir, conspired with UK-based sports agent Mazhar Majeed, 36, to fix parts of the Lord's Test last August.
Three intentional no-balls were delivered during the match between Pakistan and England from 26 to 29 August last year.
Prosecutors said Butt and Asif had been motivated by greed to "contaminate" a match watched by millions of people and "betray" their team, the Pakistan Cricket Board and the sport itself.
Aftab Jafferjee QC, for the prosecution, said the case "revealed a depressing tale of rampant corruption at the heart of international cricket".
Following the verdicts, Haroon Lorgat - chief executive of the International Cricket Council, the sport's governing body - issued a statement.
In it, he said: "We hope that this verdict is seen as a further warning to any individual who might, for whatever reason, be tempted to engage in corrupt activity within our sport."
He added that the ICC had a zero-tolerance attitude towards corruption and would use everything within its power to ensure that any suggestion of corrupt activity within cricket was "comprehensively investigated and, where appropriate, robustly prosecuted".
Sally Walsh, of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said the players had "brought shame on the cricket world" through their actions and "jeopardised the faith and admiration of cricket fans the world over".
She said their actions "went against everything expected of someone in their position and they failed to take into account their fans of all ages and nationalities when deciding to abandon the values of sportsmanship so unconditionally".
The senior lawyer added: "The jury has decided, after hearing all of the evidence, that what happened at the crease that day was criminal in the true sense of the word."
DCS Matt Horne, of the Metropolitan Police, said what had happened was "cheating, pure and simple".
"I think we all look forward to sport being played in its truest spirit as we go forward with these types of issues," he added.
DCS Horne also acknowledged the investigative journalism that led to the trial.
Mazher Mahmood, the former News of the World journalist who uncovered the betting scam, said: "It is a sad day for cricket but a good day for investigative journalism."
He said he hoped cricketing authorities would take the opportunity to tackle illegal gambling in the sport and do everything in their power to regain the cricket fans.
Meanwhile, former Pakistan cricket captain Asif Iqbal told BBC 5Live it was a "sad day for cricket" and said the case would send out a "huge message".
Angus Fraser, a former England fast bowler, said it could be a "watershed" for the game.
"It shows young cricketers that there is a consequence to their behaviour. In the past players have been banned and then they have come back," he told BBC 5Live.
"The International Cricket Council has got to support the players, see these signs and help them out of predicaments, but also see (that) if players do commit these offences they are punished severely."

Monday, 31 October 2011

UNESCO approves Palestinian membership bid. UN cultural body admits Palestine as full member despite US threat to cut off tens of millions of dollars in funding.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) voted on Monday to admit Palestine as a member, a move which is likely to cause the US government to cut off tens of millions of dollars in annual funding to the body.
The Palestinian bid received 107 "yes" votes during a UNESCO meeting in Paris, with 14 countries voting against and 52 abstaining, enough to satisfy a two-thirds majority of those countries present and voting.
The decision grants full membership to Palestine, which allows it to register certain sites, like the Church of the Nativity, in UNESCO's World Heritage register.
It is a small victory for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which filed a bid last month for full membership at the UN.
The bid has been stalled for weeks at the UN Security Council, and will likely face a US veto when it comes to a vote.
The "yes" vote at UNESCO will add at least symbolic weight to the PLO's argument that the UN should recognise a Palestinian state.
"It's good news. It's another step in the right direction," said Husam Zomlot, a PLO member and former ambassador.

"We're marching towards full status in the international system. UNESCO is a very important organisation."
Israel was quick to criticise the decision: Nimrod Barkan, the Israeli representative to UNESCO, called the vote "tragic for the idea of UNESCO".

US funding cut?
Israel voted against the measure, as did the US, Canada and several European countries, including Germany. The UK abstained, while France voted in favour.
Ahmed Yousef, a Hamas official and the deputy foreign minister in Gaza, called it a "great achievement" and said the vote "shows that Israel and America are not dictating politics to the world anymore".
Mouin Rabbani, an analyst at the Institute for Palestinian Studies in Amman, said the vote would make it harder for those countries to successfully oppose Palestinian efforts for recognition.
"What they're doing is developing leverage over the Americans, the Europeans, the Israelis, so these parties begin to take them more seriously," Rabbani said.
The vote will almost certainly trigger a US law, passed in 1990, which bars the US from funding any UN agency "which accords the Palestine Liberation Organisation the same standing as member states".

The US provides about $80m per year, or 22 per cent of the agency's total budget.
David Killion, the US representative at UNESCO, said the decision would "complicate our ability to support UNESCO," and reiterated the Obama adminstration's past criticism of Palestinian bids for UN recognition.
"The only way forward to the Palestinian state we seek is through negotiations," Killion said. "We believe efforts such as what we have seen today are counterproductive."
The president can often override such laws with a so-called "national security waiver"; these waivers allow the PLO to maintain a mission in Washington, for example, despite a 1987 law barring it.
But the 1990 law on UN funding, and a similar measure passed in 1994, do not provide the option of a waiver.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the US state department, would not say whether the US was pressuring Congress to issue such a waiver.
"We are not going to create a Palestinian state at UNESCO," Nuland said last week. "There are consequences if UNESCO votes in this direction."
The European Union tried to stop the PLO bid by offering them limited membership on UNESCO's executive committee, and funds to renovate the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.
The PLO rejected that offer, with one official telling the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that "the EU [was] trying to tempt us with money to sell our principles".