Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Hope Blogging

The EU is tightening export restrictions on materials used for capital punishment and torture:

As Catherine Ashton, High Representative for the Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission stated:

[T]he European Union opposes the death penalty under all circumstances. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states that no one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed. In this regard, the decision today contributes to the wider EU efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide.

Sodium thiopental, a chemical commonly used in the three-drug cocktail used in American lethal injection, can now only be exported from E.U. countries with prior authorization by national authorities. The decision will likely increase the difficulty faced by states of procuring the already scarce drug for use in their executions. In addition, the Commission announced that the import and export of electric shock sleeves and cuffs, instrumental in the use of the electric chair, are now wholly prohibited from import and export.

A federal judge has blocked several provisions of South Carolina's anti-immigrant law:

District Judge Richard Mark Gergel blocked three parts of the law, known both as SB20 and Act 69.

The first section blocked makes it a felony to transport or conceal a person "with intent to further that person's unlawful entry into the United States" or to help that person avoid apprehension.

A second section makes it unlawful for an adult to "fail to carry" an alien registration card or receipt.

And the final section blocked would have allowed local law enforcement with "reasonable suspicion" to detain any person the officers believe is in the United States illegally.

A U.S. appeals court has ruled that retaliation against whistleblowers is a RICO violation:
The court's opinion gives life to a provision in the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) that makes it a felony to retaliate against whistleblowers who provide information about corporate fraud to law enforcement officers.
The European Court of Justice has upheld the EU Aviation Directive:
The EU Aviation Directive, the world's only mandatory program to address emissions from aviation, will take effect in January 2012. Today’s decision is the suit’s final ruling in the Court of Justice, and the case will now return to the UK High Court, where airlines had originally brought the suit challenging UK regulations implementing the law . The UK High Court will implement the recommendations of the Court of Justice ruling.
Bank of America has generously agreed to pay out some money for something or other:

Hundreds of thousands of Black and Hispanic homeowners...were saddled with higher mortgage fees and interest rates during the housing boom than White borrowers, federal officials say.

Now, those borrowers may have a chance to get a part of that money back.

A $335 million settlement with Bank of America announced Wednesday is the largest fair-lending settlement in history.

Now let's never speak of it again.

The Kroger grocery chain claims that it will no longer carry Asia Pulp & Paper products:
"After an independent review, The Kroger Co. and its family of stores have decided to discontinue the sourcing of products from Asia Pulp & Paper," said a statement posted on the retailer's web site. "Kroger has informed APP of our concerns about the impact of their business operations on deforestation."
Behold the post-apocalyptic hellscape that is São Paulo, Brazil, five years after it defied God and Nature by banning advertising signage:
Within months, city authorities had removed tens of thousands of ads both big and small—much to the dismay of business owners, who said the ban would surely ruin them. Five years later, have all the businesses in São Paulo gone under? Hardly. In fact, most citizens and some advertising entities report being quite pleased with the now billboard-less city. A survey this year found that a 70 percent of residents say the Clean City Law has been "beneficial."
An Indian inventor has designed a new sanitary napkin for rural women:

When Arunachalam Muruganantham hit a wall in his research on creating a sanitary napkin for poor women, he decided to do what most men typically wouldn’t dream of. He wore one himself--for a whole week. Fashioning his own menstruating uterus by filling a bladder with goat’s blood, Muruganantham went about his life while wearing women’s underwear, occasionally squeezing the contraption to test out his latest iteration. It resulted in endless derision and almost destroyed his family. But no one is laughing at him anymore, as the sanitary napkin-making machine he went on to create is transforming the lives of rural women across India.

It's a fascinating story, so read the whole thing. (h/t: Peacay.)

Food aid organizations are increasingly sourcing local ingredients:
Andrew Young, co-founder of One Acre Fund, drives home the importance of this shift toward local ingredients, and of ultimately building agricultural capacity in regions facing food insecurity. For those who don't know it, One Acre Fund is working to create agricultural markets in Africa and in doing so, to develop a more sustainable solution to some of the problems that create the need for food aid in the first place. Here's what he tells the Guardian:

"Famine is preventable," said Young. "Every famine should be a blaring red siren, reminding us that we could prevent the next one. Africa has the capacity to be a food supplier to the rest of the world, if only we would invest in agriculture more."

The Madison, WI School Board has rejected a plan to start a sex-segregated charter school:

The proposal was defeated largely on grounds that the school was to use non-union teachers with little school board oversight. Although those issues predominated at the hearing, the ACLU of Wisconsin made sure that the school board could not ignore the gender equality issues.
Teh Gays have graciously apologized for ruining former Minnesota Senate majority leader Amy Koch's marriage by forcing her into an adulterous relationship:

We are ashamed of ourselves for causing you to have what the media refers to as an “illicit affair” with your staffer, and we also extend our deepest apologies to him and to his wife. These recent events have made it quite clear that our gay and lesbian tactics have gone too far, affecting even the most respectful of our society.
Edward Wegman's plagiarism made it into The Scientist's list of 2011's top five science scandals:
A controversial climate change paper was retracted when it was found to contain passages lifted from other sources, including Wikipedia. The paper, published by climate change skeptic Edward Wegman of George Mason University in Computational Statistics and Data Analysis in 2008, showed that climatology is an inbred field where most researchers collaborate with and review each other’s work. But a resourceful blogger uncovered evidence of plagiarism, and the journal retracted the paper, which was cited 8 times, in May.
Wegman stands a very good chance of improving his showing in 2012:
From the 2006 Wegman report to Congress, up to this year’s “Colour Theory and Design”, so much of Wegman and Said’s recent work demonstrates extreme reliance on unattributed antecedents, as well as numerous errors and incompetent analysis.

2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the Luddite revolts. Luddites at 200 is planning appropriate celebrations:
[B]eing a luddite today means being a sceptic about the dogma of technology as progress, not about denying the real benefits of some technologies. It means insisting that the crucial decisions about which technologies are developed are made democratically, not just imposed by corporations and technocratic elites. And it means standing up for our own ideas of what progress really is.
I hereby endorse this event and/or product. Speaking of which, I complained some years ago about the common pejorative use of the term "Luddite" on the left; I included an 1819 quote from William Cobbett that bears repeating here:
Society ought not to exist, if not for the benefit of the whole. It is and must be against the law of nature, if it exists for the benefit of the few and for the misery of the many. I say, then, distinctly, that a society, in which the common labourer...cannot secure a sufficiency of food and raiment, is a society which ought not to exist; a society contrary to the law of nature; a society whose compact is dissolved.
Roll over Charles Fort, and tell William R. Corliss the news:

A large metallic ball fell out of the sky on a remote grassland in Namibia, prompting baffled authorities to contact NASA and the European space agency.

The hollow ball with a circumference of 1.1 metres (43 inches) was found near a village in the north of the country some 750 kilometres (480 miles) from the capital Windhoek, according to police forensics director Paul Ludik.

Metal prices being what they are, it may be time to mine the Super-Sargasso.

A public service announcement: Please be aware, this holiday season, that It's a Wonderful Life has some plot holes:
Well I like the movie except the angel is shown as a namby pamby when in reality they are awesome powerful beings. Also in reality the Building and Loan should have turned the corner with its success and been much more profitable. Oh, the plot holes!
I look forward to John Aglialoro's remake, in which Clarence will incinerate that whore Violet Bick with divine laser beams that come shooting out of his eyes.

All I want for Christmas: Drawing and optical devices. The Arctic Soundscape Project. Something I didn't realize I was nostalgic for until now: 1970s Estes catalogs (via Coudal). A ball of confusion. Scenes from the life of the pygmy hippo. A hummingbird in the rain. Archie out of context. Racing numbers. The East German Cinema Blog. And images from the Beazley Archive.

(Painting at top: "Miner and Dog" by Sidney Nolan, 1973.)


Makarios said...

Best wishes of the season to you!


Phila said...

Thanks! And likewise.

chris said...

Thanks, Phila.

Happy New Year!