Friday, June 04, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

China has ruled that evidence obtained through torture is inadmissible:

The top judicial and law enforcement bodies in China have issued new guidelines that seek to halt the use of torture in obtaining confessions or witness testimony, especially in death penalty cases.

The rules, announced Sunday, would nullify evidence gathered through violence or intimidation and give defendants the ability to challenge confessions presented during their trials.

In Turkey, a court has imposed severe penalties on officials who authorized torture.
The heavy sentences for nine prison and police officials for torture, leading in one case to death, is a momentous verdict that should signal a renewed effort by the Turkish government to end torture in custody, Human Rights Watch said today. The case is the first in which a Turkish court convicted a senior prison official for torture by guards under his command.
The Obama administration has extended more benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees:
"For far too long, many of our government's hard-working, dedicated [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] employees have been denied equal access to the basic rights and benefits their colleagues enjoy," Obama wrote in a memo to the heads of federal departments and agencies. "This kind of systemic inequality undermines the health, well-being, and security not just of our federal workforce, but also of their families and communities."
The Malawian men who were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor for the grievous crime of homosexuality have been pardoned and released:
Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were released late Saturday, hours after President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them without condition.

South Carolina has passed a law that reforms state sentencing guidelines:
South Carolina's Republican governor today signed off on a sentencing-reform law that passed the state's Republican-controlled legislature by a wide margin. It reduces sentences for some non-violent offenders while increasing them for certain violent ones and it improves post-release supervision. It also ends the ridiculous sentencing disparity between powdered and rock cocaine, ends mandatory minimum sentences for first-time drug possession and lets more inmates participate in work-release programmes. It is also projected to save the state $400m over the next five years—no small potatoes for a state looking at a billion-dollar shortfall.
Believe it or not, overwrought anti-immigrant narratives about violence along the US/Mexico border seem to be inaccurate:
It's one of the safest parts of America, and it's getting safer.

It's the U.S.-Mexico border, and even as politicians say more federal troops are needed to fight rising violence, government data obtained by The Associated Press show it actually isn't so dangerous after all.

The top four big cities in America with the lowest rates of violent crime are all in border states: San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin, according to a new FBI report. And an in-house Customs and Border Protection report shows that Border Patrol agents face far less danger than street cops in most U.S. cities.

New York has passed a bill of rights for domestic workers:
The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, just approved by the New York State Senate, gives nannies, housekeepers and other caregivers basic rights and safeguards against employer abuses. The provisions, which could impact some 200,000 workers, include overtime pay, vacation days, medical leave, advance notice of termination, and one precious day off each week.
The California Assembly has voted to ban plastic bags:
The state Assembly has passed legislation prohibiting California pharmacies and grocery, liquor, and convenience stores from using plastic bags. The bill also calls for customers to be charged for using store-issued paper bags.

Lawmakers say the purpose of the bill is to reduce the number of plastic bags headed for the landfill and to get rid of the bags that commonly end up in the ocean or riverways.

Hawaii has banned shark-fin soup:
Governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, has signed into law a ban on shark-fin soup beginning July 1st, 2011, according to Reuters. The soup is currently served in a number of Chinese restaurants in Hawaii, but the trade has decimated certain shark species due to overfishing.

Restaurants will be allowed to finish their inventory of shark fin, but after next July fines will run from a low of $5,000for a first offense to a high of $50,000 and up to a year in jail for the third offense.
A legal settlement requires the federal government to finalize ESA protections for seven penguin species:
The court-ordered settlement results from a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) challenging the Obama administration’s failure to finalize its determination that these penguins warrant Endangered Species Act protection due to threats from climate change and commercial fisheries.
The EPA has set new limits for sulfur dioxide:
USEPA has upgraded an outdated SO2 standard, which involved long term (daily) average concentration limits, to a short-term standard that better protects asthmatics, for example. By early 2013 expect enforcement to begin against a one-hour SO2 health standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb). Full implementation will take place over more than a decade, however.
Efforts to protect the Brazilian rainforest appear to be working:
Protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon are proving highly effective in reducing forest loss in Earth's largest rainforest, reports a new study based on analysis of deforestation trends in and around indigenous territories, parks, military holdings, and sustainable use reserves.
In Germany, unused cigarette machines are being repurposed to sell books:
The nifty machines feature a rotating selection of books of various genres, including graphic novels, travel guides, and poetry collections. Four euros (about $5 American dollars) will fetch you any available work, all written by local writers.
And US Army researchers seem to have found a treatment for the Ebola virus:

One of the world’s deadliest pathogens, which gives its victims a gruesomely bloody exit, might finally be contained. After decades of unsuccessful research, a collaboration based out of the Army’s labs at Fort Detrick, Maryland has devised an experimental injection that cures the Ebola virus by targeting its genetic material.

The injection uses a novel technique, called RNA interference, to stop viral cells from replicating. Scientists packaged RNA snippets into particles that were then injected into four rhesus monkeys, who’d been infected with a dose of Ebola that was 30,000 times more potent than the virus’ most lethal strain, which already has a measly 10 percent survival rate. The snippets latched onto key viral proteins, and cured all four monkeys after a week of daily injections.

Heart and Soul Nebulas in Infrared. The City, seen as an Arboreal Necropolis. A collision with Jupiter. A 600-year-old window. And what may be the world's oldest rock art:

The Sun Shines & The Igloo Melts. Canvassing for suffrage. "A cinema excursion in the great black metropolis of New York," courtesy of British Pathe's Twitter feed, courtesy of The Bioscope. Soviet soft drink labels. And the Digital Archive of Šechtl & Voseček Studios.

Elk rescue in Estonia. Masters of architectural photography. Redesigned BP logos. Vintage computers. Vintage roman policier covers. A field guide to Mimpish Squinnies. Romanticism and landscape design. And Found Functions.

And a movie, obviously.

UPDATE: I decided to replace Len Lye's The Birth of the Robot with the film above, because it occurred to me that most of my readers are probably not in the mood for animated petro-triumphalist propaganda right now, no matter how visually interesting it is.

(Image at top: "Ice and Sea" by Sidney Nolan, 1964.)


Rmj said...

And what may be the world's oldest rock art:

I think I still have that album cover....

Anonymous said...

Good choice of movie, though I have to say I was hoping the man would turn green and the dogs would settle down instead of eating him up.

Phila said...

Good choice of movie, though I have to say I was hoping the man would turn green and the dogs would settle down instead of eating him up.

East German cartoons weren't big on happy endings, for some reason. Almost all the ones I've seen are pretty dour.

ellroon said...

Animated petro-triumphalist propaganda is my forte....

Tacitus Voltaire said...

/ pedant on

"petro-" is a greek root meaning, of course, 'rock'. the term petroleum translates to 'rock oil'

since we are talking about rock art and petro-triumphalism in the same post, arrant pedants like myself can disingenuously claim to be confused

also, too, you get extra pedant points if you pronounce it "pee-dant"

/ pedant off

Phila said...


True enough. On the other hand, terms like petro-dollars, petrocracy, petro-fiefdom etc. are pretty common in journalism and academia, and who am I to gainsay newly minted tradition?

Besides, "oleo-triumphalist" doesn't sound as good. (Although oleocracy does have a nice ring to it, I have to admit.)

Rmj said...

Besides, "oleo-triumphalist" doesn't sound as good. (Although oleocracy does have a nice ring to it, I have to admit.)

I can't believe it's not butter!

Tacitus Voltaire said...

oh, i don't know - "oleo-triumphalism"
is kinda growing on me

or spreading...

and, you have to admit that introducing an oleaginous texture into the rhetoric is more than appropriate

xan said...

Entry for next week (if you haven't already had it; I have gotten behind in reading thanks to new job): Big Blue Butterfly, extinct in Britain since 1979, is making a comeback. Apparently it was really pining for the fjords... :)

charley said...

that was even better than the angriest dog.

and i am sure you are aware, the angriest dog was very angry.

he didn't die til he finally broke his leash.

oh lord, how long?

chris said...

Come back, Phila! You've hit the bigtime!

And I'm jonesin' pretty bad for my Friday fix.

Hope you're OK.