In honor of the International Year of Chemistry, a nice analysis of why people fear “chemicals” out of proportion to actual risk, and why no amount of haughty rationalization is likely to change that. (Via Deborah Blum)
World-beating tax-cheats Ikea have a reputation for being a great employer in Sweden; but in America, their first factory is a model sweatshop, with rock-bottom wages, mandatory overtime, abusive vacation policies, and forced reeducation meetings for employees who support forming a union:
Some of the Virginia plant’s 335 workers are trying to form a union. The International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said a majority of eligible employees had signed cards expressing interest.
In response, the factory — part of Ikea’s manufacturing subsidiary, Swedwood — hired the law firm Jackson Lewis, which has made its reputation keeping unions out of companies. Workers said Swedwood officials required employees to attend meetings at which management discouraged union membership…
Laborers in Swedwood plants in Sweden produce bookcases and tables similar to those manufactured in Danville. The big difference is that the Europeans enjoy a minimum wage of about $19 an hour and a government-mandated five weeks of paid vacation. Full-time employees in Danville start at $8 an hour with 12 vacation days — eight of them on dates determined by the company.
What’s more, as many as one-third of the workers at the Danville plant have been drawn from local temporary-staffing agencies. These workers receive even lower wages and no benefits, employees said.
(Image: Midnight at the Glassworks: Lewis Wickes Hine/Wikimedia/Library of Congress [Public Domain])
Canada’s left-leaning New Democratic Party have unveiled their Internet campaign promises for this election; they’re a stark contrast to the Tories, who’ve vowed to re-engineer Canada’s network to make it easier to spy on Canadians without a court order. Instead, the NDP promises to extend broadband (wired and wireless) across the nation, to force the CRTC (the national telcoms regulator) to be more responsive to consumer interests, and to enshrine net neutrality (a term coined by Canadian Tim Wu!) into law.
* We will apply the proceeds from the advanced wireless spectrum auction to ensure all Canadians, no matter where they live, will have quality high-speed broadband internet access;
* We will expect the major internet carriers to contribute financially to this goal;
* We will rescind the 2006 Conservative industry-oriented directive to the CRTC and direct the regulator to stand up for the public interest, not just the major telecommunications companies;
* We will enshrine “net neutrality” in law, end price gouging and “net throttling,” with clear rules for Internet Service Providers (ISPs), enforced by the CRTC;
* We will prohibit all forms of usage-based billing (UBB) by Internet Service Providers (ISPs);
* We will introduce a bill on copyright reform to ensure that Canada complies with its international treaty obligations, while balancing consumers’ and creators’ rights.
The plot thickens for Kathy Nickolaus, the Waukesha, Wisconsin county clerk who used her own home-brewed voting software to miraculously discover 14,000 votes for her former boss, Tea Party-favored Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. Yes, former boss — Nickolaus worked under Prosser at the disgraced Assembly Republican Caucus, who were exposed while illegally conducting secret campaigns for Republican legislative candidates. What’s more, Nickolaus is something of an old hand when it comes to voting irregularities:
In 2006, Nickolaus, who was elected Waukesha County clerk in 2002, was criticized for posting election returns that temporarily skewed results of a Republican primary for the 97th Assembly District. At the time, Nickolaus told reporters some returns from the city of Waukesha were entered in the wrong column.
And last summer, the Waukesha County Board ordered an internal audit of her office, citing concerns Nickolaus was secretive and refusing to cooperate with the county’s technical staff in a security review of the computerized election system.
Some officials also were critical of Nickolaus’ decision to stop posting municipal results to save time. Auditors who looked at the Waukesha County system found 26 of 62 counties surveyed also did not post local results — a step that might have revealed the missing Brookfield numbers.
Michael Geist has timely analysis of the Canadian Conservative party’s campaign promise to pass a massive “crime and justice” bill within 100 days, if re-elected. The bill — which has never been debated or had hearings or public consultation — includes massive, extrajudicial bulk surveillance over Canadians’ use of the Internet.
More important than process is the substance of the proposals that have the potential to fundamentally reshape the Internet in Canada. The bills contain a three-pronged approach focused on information disclosure, mandated surveillance technologies, and new police powers.
The first prong mandates the disclosure of Internet provider customer information without court oversight.
The second prong requires Internet providers to dramatically re-work their networks to allow for real-time surveillance. The bill sets out detailed capability requirements that will eventually apply to all Canadian Internet providers. These include the power to intercept communications, to isolate the communications to a particular individual, and to engage in multiple simultaneous interceptions.
Having obtained customer information without court oversight and mandated Internet surveillance capabilities, the third prong creates a several new police powers designed to obtain access to the surveillance data.
Crystal transcribed a number of “boys’” and “girls’” toy commercials and made word-clouds out of the result. The difference is stark and immediately visible.
The City of Ely Community College in Cambridgeshire, England has decided to restore discipline to its student body by nonsensically conflating genuinely disruptive behavior (talking in class) with mere individualism (wearing mismatched socks or brightly colored hair-bobbles). School principal Catherine Jenkinson-Dix is hell bent on producing a generation of young Britons who can’t tell the difference between cooperating with your peers and blind conformity — just what the future needs (assuming that the future won’t require any original thought).
Nonetheless, some shocked parents are attacking the new rules and accusing Ms. Jenkinson-Dix of turning the school into a “prison.”
“I’m absolutely appalled. They are wrecking pupils’ education and turning it into a prison,” Amanda King, 34, who pulled her 12-year-old son Ben and daughter Shannon, 14, out of classes, told the Cambridge News.
“Staff are nit-picking for everything -for behaviour, for what they wear. Apparently they are not allowed to wear any accessories or even coats in school now.”
Another mother, who asked not to be named, said, “Yes, children should be taught to respect their teachers but to punish them for wearing bright hair bobbles or having their mobile phones is petty. I’m not happy about the new rules at all.”
“As we get women access to education and birth control, as there’s a focus on human rights, the birth rate is leveling out. It’s a great success story, actually. Sustainability is about consumption, not population. Indonesia has a high birth rate, but Indonesia is not going to push the world into runaway global warming. Not unless they all start consuming the way we do.” — Ted Nace, author and environmental activist, during a Conference on World Affairs panel that asked, “Can Science Feed the Growing Global Population?”
I’ve recently lent my support to Worldreader, an innovative nonprofit program that distributes ebook readers to children in the developing world and then exposes them to a large library of donated texts from writers from across the world, as well as newspapers and other materials. I was delighted to give them access to all my books (of course), and put them in touch with a large group of other kids’ and young adult writers who were happy to do the same (including my hero Daniel Pinkwater, who travelled in and wrote about Kenya and has a real love of Africa).
WR: What advice do you have for kids in developing countries who are just beginning to read and only have recently gotten access to books because of technology advancements?
Cory: I have a couple of pieces of advice about reading. One is that the most dangerous thing in the world is someone who has only read one book. The great thing about reading is that you can triangulate your ideas among lots of different authors, different times, or different place. When you read widely and broadly it shows you that everything is relative. It shows that there is a lot of ways of looking at things, and often times, problems can become solutions if looked at creatively.
The other piece of advice I would give them about reading electronically is to not allow their collections to be tied to one device or platform. Devices come and go, but data can live forever. The only way you can maintain access to them is if you insist on the ability and the right to move the books into any format or any platform you want to.
The Chinese General Bureau of Radio, Film and Television has prohibited new science fiction TV dramas, following a vogue for shows where modern Chinese people travel to ancient China and discover that it’s not a bad place to be (this having some counter-revolutionary subtext). They’ve also prohibited production of “the Four Great Classical Novels”, (“the four novels commonly counted by scholars to be the greatest and most influential of classical Chinese fiction”), on the grounds that the widespread adaptations of them take too many liberties with the original texts.
From the end of last year, the time-travel themed drama is becoming more and more popular. Most of these time-travel dramas are based on real historical stories but with many newly added, and usually exaggerated elements to make it funny and more attractive. Nothing is off limits in this television genre. While some find it hilarious, others think the exaggeration and even ridiculous elements added into the story is a real source of annoyance and is a disrespectful for history.
The authority’s decision was made on the Television Director Committee Meeting on April 1st. – but obviously it’s not a prank to fans of the drama genre. The authority has a good reason to go against the genre. “The time-travel drama is becoming a hot theme for TV and films. But its content and the exaggerated performance style are questionable. Many stories are totally made-up and are made to strain for an effect of novelty. The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore.”
(via Making Light)