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Which microlender makes the best use of my $20?

» Slate: Which microlender makes the best use of my $20? is a good rundown of the strengths and weaknesses of 6 microloan charities. In November, Cool Tools founder Kevin Kelly offered his own rundown of microlenders [ 03/15/07 ]

Why Bush v. Gore should not disappear into a legal memory hole

» Bush v. Gore has started to disappear into a legal memory hole—and why it should not.

The heart of Bush v. Gore’s analysis was its holding that the recount was unacceptable because the standards for vote counting varied from county to county. "Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms," the court declared, "the state may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another." If this equal protection principle is taken seriously, if it was not just a pretext to put a preferred candidate in the White House, it should mean that states cannot provide some voters better voting machines, shorter lines, or more lenient standards for when their provisional ballots get counted — precisely the system that exists across the country right now.

  [ 08/17/06 ]

New bill designed to get fresh produce into neighborhood bodegas

» Proposed federal law would help corner stores stock and sell healthy food.

The "Bodegas as Catalysts for Healthy Living Act", introduced into the House in late July by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)...refers to a small business grants help bodegas stock produce and market healthy items, as well as funding local education campaigns to spur purchases. In tackling the issue of access, the bill addresses one of the most salient critiques one can launch at food gurus like Alice Waters and Michael Pollan: That for many Americans, the issue isn't about finding a locally grown, organic apple. It's about finding an edible apple, period.

Of course, Waters and Pollan are all about local access to food for all, so just dismiss that particular straw man as a writer's flourish. Read it anyway.  [ 08/17/06 ]

The Gates Foundation and the Buffett Billons: Complicated

» Bill Gates’s Charity Races to Spend Buffett Billions. The rule is, they have to spend every nickel to get the next year's allotment. And that's a lot of money.  [ 08/16/06 ]

Are US contracters in Iraq using forced labor?

» In June, the US State Department released its Trafficking in Persons Report for 2006. One paragraph from the State Department report caught the eye of the folks at Free the Slaves:

A recent DOD investigation...identified a number of abuses, some of them considered widespread, committed by DOD contractors or subcontractors of third country national (TCN) workers in Iraq. Some of these abuses are indicative of trafficking in persons....

It sounds incredible, but this is from the US State Department itself. Do read the Chicago Tribune articles listed here to draw your own conclusions about what is happening, and whether the US is doing enough to prevent the use of forced labor by DOD contracters.

Then there's this, from May of this year: "For security reasons, the new embassy is being built entirely by imported labor. The contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co., which was linked to human-trafficking allegations by a Chicago Tribune investigation last year, has hired a workforce of 900 mostly Asian workers who live on the site."

Free the Slaves has begun investigating these charges, and are compiling their findings on a new blog(1) Comments  / [ 08/09/06 ]

Anthony Kennedy charges the Bar Association to sell justice to the world

» Dahlia Lithwick: Anthony Kennedy's surprising charge to the American Bar Association. "He wants to define 'rule of law' so we can start to peddle the concept worldwide. It is not enough to sell the world on the U.S. Constitution, he says. That is merely a set of 'negative commands.'"  [ 08/09/06 ]

Guatanamo tactics were apparently derived from SERE training

» An Army document proves that Guantánamo interrogators were taught by instructors from a military school that trains U.S. soldiers how to resist torture. The most enlightening part of this article is the description of mock prison camps in the "Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape" (SERE) school, from a retired Army Ranger who passed the course in 1994. American soldiers are subjected to a variety of abuses in an attempt to prepare them for possible capture by the enemy.

In addition to sexual humiliation, psychological duress is a big part of the program and comes in a variety of flavors, including an overall assault on a soldier's values. Mock interrogators desecrated an American flag, stepped on a copy of the Constitution, and "kicked the Bible around," the Ranger said -- an echo of the abuse of the Koran alleged at Guantánamo. Soldiers were ridiculed for their lack of knowledge of the Constitution and U.S. history. "They begin to preach propaganda and attack your institutional base," the Ranger said. "Everything about SERE school is a mind f***."

We imagined a most terrible enemy, then, in a time of great fear, modeled ourselves on that creature. It's almost literary in its tragedy. (4) Comments  / [ 06/30/06 ]

Dems grow a teeny-weeny spine

» Oh, it's about time. Democrats vow to block Congressional pay raise until the minimum wage is increased. I didn't think they had it in them.   [ 06/28/06 ]

Was the 2004 Election Stolen? Was, too

» Ernest Partridge argues that Salon's rebuttal to evidence of fraudulent behavior in the 2004 election ignores most of the charges made.

Manjoo complains that Kennedy commits "numerous errors of interpretation and ... deliberate omission of key bits of data." But "the whole story" cannot be told in the allowed space. Even so, with his 206 endnotes, RFK makes a valiant attempt. More telling are Manjoo's omissions. [...] I found at least twenty key elements of Kennedy's case for fraud that were totally ignored by Manjoo.

  [ 06/15/06 ]

Was the 2004 Election Stolen? Yes.

» Must-read article of the year: Was the 2004 Election Stolen?. "Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen. You look at the turnout and votes in individual precincts, compared to the historic patterns in those counties, and you can tell where the discrepancies are. They stand out like a sore thumb." Lou Harris, the father of modern political polling.  [ 06/05/06 ]

Was the 2004 election stolen? No.

» Over at Salon, Farhad Manjoo says No, it wasn't. You'd better read them both and see where you think the preponderance of evidence lies..  [ 06/05/06 ]

The Caliphate would unite world Muslims

» The Caliphate: One nation, under Allah, with 1.5 billion Muslims [ 05/23/06 ]

Moroccon female preachers designed to stem extremism

» Morocco has just graduated its first team of women preachers to be deployed as a vanguard in its fight against any slide towards Islamic extremism. [ 05/23/06 ]

The Yemeni poet who sells peace to his people

» In poetry-loving Yemen, tribal bard takes on Al Qaeda - with his verse. "Other countries fight terrorism with guns and bombs, but in Yemen we use poetry. Through my poetry I can convince people of the need for peace who would never be convinced by laws or by force." Amin al-Mashreqi, a Yemeni poet who is fighting Islamic militancy with poetry.  [ 05/15/06 ]

US government: 'Taliban is not a terrorist organization'

» CSM: The US does not consider the Taliban to be terrorists. "The Afghan Taliban is better organized today than it was in 2001. They have more recruits [and they] have been able to take advantage of the lawlessness, the criminal gangs, and the corruption in the government." Kathy Gannon, the former Associated Press bureau chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan. (1) Comments  / [ 05/03/06 ]

Gardening at Gitmo

» Gardening at Gitmo. (via rc3oi [ 05/02/06 ]

Happy International Workers Day

» Happy International Worker's Day.  (1) Comments  / [ 05/01/06 ]

Is the US already in Iran?

» I sure hope this isn't true. Is Covert Military Action in Iran 'Under the CNN Line'?

COL. SAM GARDINER: Well, the evidence is beginning to accumulate that a decision has already been made to use military force in Iran. Now, let me do a historical thing, and then I’ll tell you what the current evidence is. We now know that the decision and the actual actions to bomb Iraq occurred in July of 2002, before we ever had a U.N. resolution or before the Congress ever authorized it. It was an operation called Southern Focus, and the only guidance that the military — or the guidance that the military had from Rumsfeld was keep it below the CNN line. His specific words. The evidence that we’ve already —
AMY GOODMAN: Keep it below what?
COL. SAM GARDINER: The CNN line. In other words, I don’t want this to appear on CNN, okay? That was his guidance to the military, you can begin to bomb Iraq, but don’t let it appear on CNN.

  [ 04/20/06 ]

The Magdalene program

» The Reverend Becca Stevens has created an amazingly successful program to change the lives of women with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse by treating them like precious objects. "I wanted to treat people with dignity and respect, to have a lovely place where women could feel the extravagance of being loved, and that they are worth something." The Reverend Becca Stevens, founder of the Magdalene community.  [ 04/20/06 ]

Combatants for Peace

» Former Palestinian and Israeli fighters have joined together to create a new organization called Combatants for Peace. After being kept secret for a year, the group makes its public debut in Jerusalem April 10, which coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover and Palestinian Prisoners Day. "It's a paradox. You hear a man talking about how he shot, killed, damaged your neighbor's house. But you feel empathy for him. You realize that we are all from the same background, but just from different sides. The soldier wanted to protect his people, and so did we. But we've all discovered we were wrong in how we did it." Bassam Aramin, one of the Palestinian co-creators of Combatants for Peace. (1) Comments  / [ 04/07/06 ]

Building a Better Anti-War Machine

» Former Chief UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter on designing for success: The Art of War for the Anti-War movement. "It is high time for the anti-war movement to take a collective look in the mirror, and be honest about what they see. A poorly organized, chaotic, and indeed often anarchic conglomeration of egos, pet projects and idealism that barely constitutes a 'movement,' let alone a winning cause. [...] In order to even have a chance of prevailing with the American people, the anti-war movement is going to need much more than just good ideals and values. It needs to start thinking like a warrior would, in full recognition that we as a nation are engaged in a life-or-death struggle of competing ideologies with those who promote war as an American value and virtue." (via rc3oi [ 04/07/06 ]

What comes around....

» Returning favor, Indonesians aid Katrina's victims. "I was nervous about coming because I thought that Americans were mean to everyone. But everybody has been so nice and they want us to feel good here." Triayu Prastiwi Kodrat, a relief worker with Church World Service-Indonesia.  [ 04/04/06 ]

Afghanistan Apostasy

» Why Afghanistan should not have dismissed the apostasy case. (via dm [ 04/03/06 ]

NYT: Trachoma

» The New York Times continues its excellent series on nearly-eradicated diseases with a look at Trachoma [ 04/03/06 ]

Children Tackle Water Crisis

» While bureaucrats struggle to find solutions at the World Water Forum, a parallel Children's Water Forum is bringing together young people from around the world who have addressed local water shortages with their own creative solutions — like the 13-year-old from Nepal who leads a club that helps communities pay for toilets with microfinancing. "There's no diplomacy in their dialogue. It's all very direct and very honest." Vanessa Tobin, chief of UNICEF's water and sanitation section, on the young people's interactions with delegates.  [ 03/23/06 ]

Reflect Circles for Participatory Community Development

» This is neat: In 60 countries around the world, Reflect circles are providing members of poor communities with a structure to cooperatively tackle development projects and in the process, to advance their education. It's participatory community development! "In the Reflect methodology, a group identifies a community problem — AIDS, sexual violence, poverty, or some other ill — and then decides how to help solve it. The education comes subtly. Maybe the group decides it wants to improve members' writing ability to draft petitions. Or perhaps it aims at better math skills to run the business side of a community garden."  [ 03/22/06 ]

Abu Ghraib Outrage

» A Little Weekend Reading and Reflecting: It's hard to look at the Abu Ghraib pictures, but I feel that we Americans have a duty to know what has been done and is being done in our name. Even if you can't bear to click through the thumbnails to see the full-sized images, at least read the accompanying articles that explain what happened, and the events surrounding the abuse. Jeanne d'Arc has looked at all of them, and she has some very thoughtful observations on how these soldiers got from who they were to who they became. She's quite honestly much more empathetic and forgiving than I think I can be.

I can't even imagine the kind of rhetoric that would be flying around if the prisoners in these photographs were Americans being held by any other nation at all. So it's important to know what, exactly, happened. I am ashamed and outraged that this was done by our people on our behalf. That each of these abuses was done in proxy for me. And that those responsible are still in office and on the job. (via rc3oi [ 03/17/06 ]

Palestine's Radical Matriarch

» The revolutionary matriarch of Hamas. Mariam Farhat, who lost 3 militant sons in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has recently been elected to the Palestinian legislative council. She now hopes to enforce stricter Islamic practices in her state, and to resist the Israeli occupation by any means necessary. Moderate Muslims are not so sure. "People are so willing to die for this, and then these people become untouchable and much like a taboo. I think we can bring her down to earth by having her in parliament." Eyad Serraj, the head of the Gaza Community Mental Health Center.  [ 03/15/06 ]

Imagining a New Gilded Age

» What a new 'Gilded Age' may bring. It's interesting that the future imagined here is reactionary and intolerant, whereas the last Gilded Age led to widespread support for unionization and the Progressive Movement. The chart at the end really illustrates the wealth trend. "The richest of the rich, the top 1/1,000th, enjoyed a 497 percent gain in wage and salary income between 1972 and 2001. Those at the 99th percentile, who made an average $1.7 million per year in 2001, enjoyed a mere 181 percent gain."  [ 03/09/06 ]

Bringing Human RIghts to Foreign Policy

» After Christian groups noticed the success of the Jewish community in helping Soviet Jews, they turned their attention to an effort that is now bearing fruit: the evangelization of US foreign policy. "A 20-year civil war [in Sudan] actually ended in large part due to the activism of evangelicals and their alliance with others, including Jewish groups. It's an unheralded story, but it's also a historical fact." Allen Hertzke, author of Freeing God's Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights [ 03/06/06 ]

Guantanamo = Bush Administration Lawlessness

» If only we could get them interested in human rights at home. "Unfortunately, I think the government's right; it's a correct reading of the law. The law says you can't torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can't enforce that law in the courts." Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. (via b&s, who has much more here [ 03/06/06 ]

Open Source Architecture

» Cameron Sinclair is an architect whose unorthodox organization, Architecture for Humanity, shuns television coverage, refuses to put AFH or donor names on the buildings he builds, and makes his building designs available to anyone who asks, for free. "People don't realize that the largest humanitarian group in the world is the US military. They do more help around the world than most people realize. Where's the PR for that?" Cameron Sinclair, architect and founder of Architecture for Humanity.

This year, TED is granting him $100,000 and the chance to present one wish to conference attendees: To build community that actively embraces open source design to create innovative and sustainable design to improve living standards for all [ 02/24/06 ]

The Power Law Rules Social Problems

» A Little Weekend Reading: Malcolm Gladwell reflects on homelessness, pollution, and bad cops and the problems of the power law. (via jc)   [ 02/10/06 ]

Turbans = Terrorism

» When you're trying to shoot down a proposed congressional bill that would require you to disclose any harmful side effects of your product, what's the best way to ignite public indignation and rally support? Put your Congressman in a turban. "We’re not even pro-regulation on most vitamins and supplements, but Christ almighty, if this is the response of the vitamin industry to self-policing maybe we should be."  [ 02/01/06 ]

US Legacy Healthcare & Reform

» The Economist: Desperate measures: America's health-care crisis is a terrific explanation of the US legacy healthcare system and current proposals for reform.

This system is a legacy of the second world war, when firms, hamstrung by wage controls, used health insurance as a way to lure in workers. It means that, according to census figures, around 174m Americans get health coverage from their own, their spouse's or their parents' employer. Another 27m buy health insurance individually, for which they do not get a tax subsidy. The government picks up the tab for 40m elderly and disabled Americans (through Medicare) and about 38m poor (through the state-federal Medicaid scheme). That leaves around 46m uninsured, though many of these, whether students or workers, go without insurance by choice. In practice, they get emergency care at hospitals, which is paid for by higher premiums for everyone else.

(via rw [ 01/27/06 ]

High tide floats all yachts

» A new study shows that in 38 states, during last 20 years the incomes of the top fifth of families grew faster than those of the bottom fifth.

[W]hen wealthier families see their incomes rise at a faster pace than everyone else, their spending can create what [Cornell economist Robert Frank] calls an "expenditure cascade." That is, the demand for bigger and better homes or safer cars can create new standards for those lower down on the economic scale.
But since their incomes aren't growing as fast, they have a hard time keeping up, leading to what Frank calls "welfare loss." For example, as home prices rise, it becomes harder to afford a home in a neighborhood with good public schools.

  [ 01/27/06 ]



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