Pic of the Day


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REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Wolf researcher Werner Freund bites into a deer cadaver next to a Mongolian wolf in an enclosure at Wolfspark Werner Freund, in Merzig in the German province of Saarland.

I have one old friend who I must send this to. He did the same while researching – and living with – wolves on an island in Michigan.

German legislators vote to make bestiality a misdemeanor


The only American politicians who consider this a high priority

Germany’s upper house of Parliament, the Bundesrat, voted Friday to criminalize for the first time “using an animal for personal sexual activities” and to punish offenders with fines of as much as $34,000. It was the final legislative hurdle for a bill the lower house passed in December.

The vote follows months of debate that pitted zoophiles against animal rights and protection advocates. Sexual mores seemed not to play a paramount role.

The ban, which carries only a misdemeanor charge, is an amendment to the country’s animal protection law, multifaceted legislation that, among other things, regulates animal testing and the sale of animals and prohibits animal abuse, including “using an animal for personal sexual activities or making them available to third parties for sexual activities and thereby forcing them to behave in ways that are inappropriate to their species.”

Zoophiles argue that their relationships with their pets, or “partners” as they prefer, are entirely mutual. Michael Kiok, a director of the advocacy group Zoophilic Engagement for Tolerance and Enlightenment, who now finds himself the de facto face of zoophilia in Germany, says animals are perfectly capable of expressing whether or not they desire sex.

Animal-rights groups have criticized men like Mr. Kiok, saying they put defenseless creatures in harm’s way.

The assorted and sundry tweaks of human sexuality never cease to amaze. Many of them are mirrored in other chordate species – and I doubt they get as excited, worried, philosophical or otherwise emotionally upset over discussion – or the acts themselves as do humans.

If something painful or too uncomfortable happens – well, you might get bit, I imagine.

Of course, outside of Texas sheepherders, I can’t imagine the question coming up in American politics. It’s that sophistication thingie, again.

Thanks, Honeyman

Green thumb? Washington state looks for pot consultant to aid entry to 21st Century

smoke

Wanted: A green thumb with extensive knowledge of the black, or at least gray, market.

As Washington state tries to figure out how to regulate its newly legal marijuana, officials are hiring an adviser on all things weed: how it’s best grown, dried, tested, labeled, packaged and cooked into brownies.

Sporting a mix of flannel, ponytails and suits, dozens of those angling for the job turned out Wednesday for a forum in Tacoma, several of them from out of state. The Liquor Control Board, the agency charged with developing rules for the marijuana industry, reserved a convention center hall for a state bidding expert to take questions about the position and the hiring process.

“Since it’s not unlikely with this audience, would a felony conviction preclude you from this contract?” asked Rose Habib, an analytical chemist from a marijuana testing lab in Missoula, Mont.

The answer: It depends. A pot-related conviction is probably fine, but a “heinous felony,” not so much, responded John Farley, a procurement coordinator with the Liquor Control Board.

Washington and Colorado this fall became the first states to pass laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and setting up systems of state-licensed growers, processors and retail stores where adults over 21 can walk in and buy up to an ounce of heavily taxed cannabis.

Both states are working to develop rules for the emerging pot industry. Up in the air is everything from how many growers and stores there should be, to how the marijuana should be tested to ensure people don’t get sick…

The board has advertised for consulting services in four categories. The first is “product and industry knowledge” and requires “at least three years of consulting experience relating to the knowledge of the cannabis industry, including but not limited to product growth, harvesting, packaging, product infusion and product safety.”

Other categories cover quality testing, including how to test for levels of THC, the compound that gets marijuana users high; statistical analysis of how much marijuana the state’s licensed growers should produce; and the development of regulations, a category that requires a “strong understanding of state, local or federal government processes,” with a law degree preferred.

Always a pleasure – albeit rare in the United States – to witness a government moving into the current century with all that entails. Scientific understanding, rejection of historical and legal stupidity, stepping forward to establish sound fiscal practices.

Someone send the federal government and our benighted political parties an email inviting them to try the same. We’ll invite the priests and pundits a century or two later.

More lessons about the failure of charter schools

The charter school movement gained a foothold in American education two decades ago partly by asserting that independently run, publicly financed schools would outperform traditional public schools if they were exempted from onerous regulations. The charter advocates also promised that unlike traditional schools, which were allowed to fail without consequence, charter schools would be rigorously reviewed and shut down when they failed to perform.

With thousands of charter schools now operating in 40 states, and more coming online every day, neither of these promises has been kept. Despite a growing number of studies showing that charter schools are generally no better — and often are worse — than their traditional counterparts, the state and local agencies and organizations that grant the charters have been increasingly hesitant to shut down schools, even those that continue to perform abysmally for years on end.

If the movement is to maintain its credibility, the charter authorizers must shut down failed schools quickly and limit new charters to the most credible applicants, including operators who have a demonstrated record of success.

That is the clear message of continuing analysis from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, which tracks student performance in 25 states. In 2009, its large-scale study showed that only 17 percent of charter schools provided a better education than traditional schools, and 37 percent actually offered children a worse education.

A study released this week by the center suggests that the standards used by the charter authorizers to judge school performance are terribly weak.

It debunked the common notion that it takes a long time to tell whether a new school can improve student learning. In fact, the study notes, it is pretty clear after just three years which schools are going to be high performers and which of them will be mediocre. By that time, the charter authorizers should be putting troubled schools on notice that they might soon be closed. As the study notes: “For the majority of schools, poor first year performance will give way to poor second year performance. Once this has happened, the future is predictable and extremely bleak. For the students enrolled in these schools, this is a tragedy that must not be dismissed.”

With phonies like Jeb Bush pushing charter schools – online as well as brick-and-mortar – you can bet this will continue to be a favorite Republican path to doing away with publicly-available schooling for American children.

Yes, those who hate the idea of an educated working class will continue their crap, utilizing every avenue they can run down screaming – whether it’s school vouchers for private schools, the “wonders” of parochial schooling, on and on. The track record for the whole alternative notion remains the same. Dismal and dumber.

Dangerous gun myths – and dummies who believe every word!

UV_Guns_V3

The debate over what to do to reduce gun violence in America hit an absurd low point on Wednesday when a Senate witness tried to portray a proposed new ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines as some sort of sexist plot that would disproportionately hurt vulnerable women and their children.

The witness was Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women. She told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the limits on firepower proposed by Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, would harm women because an assault weapon “in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon.” She spoke of the “peace of mind” and “courage” a woman derives from “knowing she has a scary-looking gun” when she’s fighting violent criminals.

It is not at all clear where Ms. Trotter gained her insight into confrontations between women and heavily armed intruders, since it is not at all clear that sort of thing happens often. It is tempting to dismiss her notion that an AR-15 is a woman’s best friend as the kooky reflex response of someone ideologically opposed to gun control laws and who, in her case, has also been a vociferous opponent of the Violence Against Women Act, the 1994 law that assists women facing domestic violence.

But it is important to note that Ms. Trotter was chosen to testify by the committee’s Republican members, who will have a big say on what, if anything, Congress does on guns; and that her appearance before the committee was to give voice to the premise, however insupportable and dangerous it may be, that guns make women and children safer — and the more powerful the guns the better.

Ms. Trotter related the story of Sarah McKinley, an 18-year-old Oklahoma woman who shot and killed an intruder on New Year’s Eve 2011, when she was home alone with her baby. The story was telling, but not in the way she intended, as Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, pointed out. The woman was able to repel the intruder using an ordinary Remington 870 Express 12-gauge shotgun, which would not be banned under the proposed statute. She did not need a military-style weapon with a 30-round magazine…

But there is a more fundamental problem with the idea that guns actually protect the hearth and home. Guns rarely get used that way. In the 1990s, a team headed by Arthur Kellermann of Emory University looked at all injuries involving guns kept in the home in Memphis, Seattle and Galveston, Tex. They found that these weapons were fired far more often in accidents, criminal assaults, homicides or suicide attempts than in self-defense. For every instance in which a gun in the home was shot in self-defense, there were seven criminal assaults or homicides, four accidental shootings, and 11 attempted or successful suicides…

Regulating guns, on the other hand, can reduce that risk. An analysis by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that in states that required a background check for every handgun sale, women were killed by intimate partners at a much lower rate. Senator Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee chairman, has used this fact to press the case for universal background checks, to make sure that domestic abusers legally prohibited from having guns cannot get them.

Fools who believe that guns are essential to home defense and women’s safety are just that. True Believers. Myths should not be allowed to block the gun regulations the country has needed for a long time.