Afghanistan worst place for women — India made the top five!

Targeted violence against female public officials, dismal healthcare and desperate poverty make Afghanistan the world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a woman, according to a global survey…

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan, India and Somalia feature in descending order after Afghanistan in the list of the five worst states, the poll among gender experts shows.

The appearance of India, a country rapidly developing into an economic super-power, was unexpected. It is ranked as extremely hazardous because of the subcontinent’s high level of female infanticide and sex trafficking.

Others were less surprised to be on the list. Informed about her country’s inclusion, Somalia’s women’s minister, Maryan Qasim, responded: “I thought Somalia would be first on the list, not fifth…”

India is the fourth most dangerous country. “India’s central bureau of investigation estimated that in 2009 about 90% of trafficking took place within the country and that there were some 3 million prostitutes, of which about 40% were children,” the survey found.

Forced marriage and forced labour trafficking add to the dangers for women. “Up to 50 million girls are thought to be ‘missing’ over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide,”, the UN population fund says, because parents prefer to have young boys rather than girls…

Monique Villa, the chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said: “Hidden dangers – like a lack of education or terrible access to healthcare – are as deadly, if not more so, than physical dangers like rape and murder which usually grab the headlines…

Empowering women tackles the very roots of poverty. In the developing world when a woman works, her children are better fed and better educated because they spend their money for their family…”

Each country was also ranked in terms of six risk factors including: health, discrimination and lack of access to resources, cultural and religious practices, sexual violence, human trafficking and conflict-related violence.

RTFA for details on each. The core study is available here [.pdf].

I’ve only featured the inclusion of India in this post because – as the article noted – it was the only surprise in the group.

What could possibly be left for crooks with no conscience to steal?

Arielle Levin, Jamie Babcock and Tosha M. Fugett

Three South Jersey women were arrested after the owner of a Philadelphia scrap yard reported receiving a large number of military grave markers.

He notified Cinnaminson’s Lakeview Cemetery, which contacted Cinnaminson Township police.

Recovered were 380 markers and flower urns taken from the veterans’ graves dating from the Civil War to the Persian Gulf war.

Similar thefts have plagued cemeteries in Cherry Hill, Pennsauken, Bellmawr, Edgewater Park, and Riverside, so Cinnaminson informed police in those towns of the arrests…

Cinnaminson detectives used video of the transactions and a license-plate number to help identify the suspects.

Charged with theft and fencing stolen property were Arielle K. Levin, 19, of Palmyra; Jamie L. Babcock, 27, of Bellmawr; and Tosha M. Fugett, 25, of Riverside.

They were being held in Burlington County Jail on $20,000 cash bail each, according to police.

Throw away the key!

Scott’s Miracle-Gro turns from weed killer to growing killer weed

The people at Miracle-Gro are going to start marketing to marijuana farmers, reasoning that they need fertilizer, too.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting:

In an unlikely move for the head of a major company, Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. Chief Executive Jim Hagedorn said he is exploring targeting medical marijuana as well as other niches to help boost sales at his lawn and garden company.

“I want to target the pot market,” Mr. Hagedorn said in an interview. “There’s no good reason we haven’t.”

Sales at Scotts rose 5% last year to $2.9 billion. But the Marysville, Ohio, company relies on sales at three key retailers—Home Depot Inc., Lowe’s Cos. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.—for nearly two-thirds of its revenue. With consumers still cautious about spending, the retailers aren’t building new stores as quickly as they used to, making growth for suppliers like Scotts harder to come by. Against that backdrop, Mr. Hagedorn has pushed his regional sales presidents to look for smaller pockets of growth, such as the marijuana market, that together could produce a noticeable bump in sales.

NPR is reporting:

The medical marijuana market will reach $1.7 billion in sales this year, the story says. Scotts-Miracle Gro’s annual sales are $2.9 billion.

So on the face of it, marijuana growers can’t add much to the company’s revenues. Of course, there’s clearly a very large non-medical-marijuana industry in this country that the company could also sell into.

Overdue. Get the fracking politicians out of the simplest of homegrown relaxation therapies. Tax it. Regulate it – as little as possible. Let’s get on with the real world, please.

India can’t seem to find a good professional hangman

Mammu Singh – one of the last and best – retired, now deceased

India has 1.2 billion people, among them bankers, gurus, rag pickers, billionaires, snake charmers, software engineers, lentil farmers, rickshaw drivers, Maoist rebels, Bollywood movie stars and Vedic scholars, to name a few. Humanity runneth over. Except in one profession: India is searching for a hangman.

Usually, India would not need one, given the rarity of executions. The last was in 2004. But in May, India’s president unexpectedly rejected a last-chance mercy petition from a convicted murderer in the Himalayan state of Assam. Prison officials, compelled to act, issued a call for a hangman…

The nation’s handful of known hangmen had either died, retired or disappeared. The situation was not too surprising, given the ambivalence within the Indian criminal justice system about executions. Capital punishment was codified during British rule, with hanging as the chosen method, but recent decades of litigating and legislating limited the actual practice to “the rarest of rare cases.”

Today, even prison officials encourage death row inmates to draft appeals. “At times, we also help the person draft the petition,” said K. V. Reddy, president of the All-India Prison Officers Association, who opposes capital punishment. “Normally, everybody sympathizes with a person who has spent a number of years in prison…”

It seemed the search had reached a dead end, at least figuratively. Then Mammu Singh’s eldest son, Pawan Kumar, decided to enter the family business. Ten days after his father’s death, Mr. Kumar applied for government certification as a hangman.

“I just want to continue the family legacy,” Mr. Kumar said recently, inside the tiny room where he lives inside a low-income housing complex. “I’m the fourth generation. You don’t see many volunteers coming forward. I’m serving my country.”

The pay is not very good for hangmen, partly because of the paucity of hangings, but also because the job is considered contract work. Still, Mr. Kumar works as a hawker, selling clothes from the back of his bicycle, and he welcomed the possibility of a $75 monthly retainer for being a hangman.

The workload could increase in the future. India has put to death at least 50 convicts since becoming an independent nation in 1947. And the trends suggest that the number of people convicted on capital charges could rise. Nationally, India had 345 people on death row by the end of 2008, according to national crime statistics…

Mr. Kumar…has been invited for an interview with prison officials this month.

My feelings are always mixed over capital punishment. Years ago it was demonstrated that it served little to deter capital crimes. And it costs more – generally – to deal with the sum of appeals generated by a death penalty. But, I can’t help feeling it is just compensation to the body politic for some crimes.

DOJ puts three more Wall Street Wizards away for insider trading

Zvi Goffer – nicknamed “octopussy”

Three former securities traders were convicted on Monday on all counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit insider trading on pending mergers, in another victory for prosecutors in their probe of suspicious trading on Wall Street.

Brothers Zvi Goffer and Emanuel Goffer and a third trader, Michael Kimelman, their former partner at trading firm Incremental Capital LLC, chose to go to trial when dozens of other defendants in the broad probe have pleaded guilty…

The central defendant in the government’s probe is Galleon Group hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam, who was convicted last month of insider-related charges, also in Manhattan federal court.

With Monday’s verdicts, every defendant who was arrested in October and November 2009 in the Galleon probe has been convicted. One man remains at large.

A jury convicted Zvi Goffer, 34, a former Galleon Group trader, of two counts of conspiracy and 12 counts of securities fraud for activities between 2007 and 2009.

Prosecutors said he was a ringleader who paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to two Ropes & Gray lawyers to learn what corporate deals the law firm was working on. The lawyers, Arthur Cutillo and Brien Santarlas, have pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

Emanuel Goffer, 32, was convicted on one conspiracy charge and two securities fraud counts. Michael Kimelman, 40, was found guilty of conspiracy and two counts of securities fraud. Kimelman had rejected a plea deal soon before the trial began on May 16.

“We will continue to work tirelessly with our partners at the FBI to root out corporate corruption on Wall Street and to hold privileged professionals who gallop over the line accountable for their actions,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement…

Every generation or so, there are lessons to be taught about insider trading, said Brian Quinn, assistant professor of law at Boston College…

“It is incredible to me every time I read these transcripts that people realize they are violating the law, but think no one is watching,” he said.

During most of the Bush years and probably a chunk of those preceding you pretty much could count on little oversight, even less enforcement and a slap on the wrist from the SEC and the Department of Justice.

No one was watching. Or listening.

Satellite images before and after Springfield tornado

Before the tornado

After – showing tornado track

Satellites provide a lot of useful information and the Landsat 5 satellite captured an image of the long damage track created on June 1, 2011 when a tornado tracked from Springfield to Sturbridge, Mass. An earlier image is now available from 2010 that enables people to more clearly see the damage path the June 2011 twister created on its eastward track.

A Landsat 5 satellite image from October 8, 2010 has been released from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that shows the area between Springfield and Sturbridge, Mass. where the tornado touched down.