Intersections


Click to watch the video

Pakistani-American artist Anila Quayyum Agha uses light and cast shadow to transform Rice Gallery into a sacred space of her own making that is open to all.

“Intersections” is inspired by Agha’s seminal experience of exclusion as a woman from Mosques, a space of community and creativity, while growing up in Pakistan. The wooden frieze emulates a pattern from the Alhambra, a palace where Islamic and Western discourses met and co-existed in harmony, and serves as a metaphor of union.

An art form I actually have some experience with. Never on this scale. Beautiful.

Original score by Mark Walley. Visit RiceGallery.org. Learn more about the artist at AnilaAgha.com. Learn more about the filmmakers at WalleyFilms.com.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Colorado rain-barrel bill passes House committee

rain barrel

For the second year in a row, a legislative storm is brewing in Colorado over who legally owns drops of rain.

A bill that would allow gardeners to store 110 gallons of runoff from their roof in up to two rain barrels passed on a 10-2 bipartisan vote in a House committee Monday. Republicans in the state Senate let a similar bill expire without a vote on the chamber floor at the end of last year’s session.

Opponents cited state water law that says rainfall must be allowed to move unabated back into the ecosystem to feed aquifers and reservoirs for those who hold expensive water rights.

In theory, proponents say, when the rainwater goes on gardens or lawns, it would then return to the larger environment. In the bargain, rain-barrel users would get a sense of how little it rains in Colorado and how much water they use on their property…

Colorado is the only state that bans rain barrels and is one of just four states that restrict so-called rainwater harvesting, joined by Arizona, Oklahoma and Utah, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute and chairman of the Colorado State University Water Center, said an experiment showed no detectable impact on downstream runoff. Nearly all of it is absorbed in the soil, just as it would if it was not captured.

CSU is neutral on the bill, he said.

Phew. The opposition to this bill really is dedicated to 17th Century politics as much as 19th Century ideology. Science has nothing to do with their opposition. It’s strictly ancient water rights law which often has nothing to do with reality.

Here in New Mexico we don’t specialize in being up-to-date about a whole bunch or science and law. But, even here we separate groundwater, surface water and rain water. The last-named being easiest to regulate. The state encourages using rain barrels to water your garden, etc..

We have four converted 220-litre food grade converted olive oil barrels. Filling and emptying is erratic and obviously dependent on simple factors like precipitation year-round. We get a fair amount of use for soaking tree dishes, etc., from snow melt, as well as watering the garden summertime.

Ehud Olmert is the first Israeli Prime Minister sentenced to prison

Olmert enters prison
Click to enlargeOlmert on the leftMoti Milrod

Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert started serving a 19-month prison sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice on Monday, becoming the first Israeli premier to be imprisoned and capping a years-long legal saga that forced him to resign in 2009…

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say this about George W Bush? Trouble is – even the anti-government Tea Party-types won’t join the campaign. Ideology still overrules any sense of fighting for justice.

Georgia homophobes want Christian sharia — 400 companies ready to say “Goodbye”

A coalition of more than 400 companies is openly opposing a Georgia “religious liberty” bill that is rapidly heading toward passage, with at least one major company already leaving the state over the proposal.

The proposed law would allow both individuals and organizations to refuse to conduct business with or otherwise discriminate against anyone whose marriage they find counters their religious beliefs. It also protects individuals from existing nondiscrimination laws in Atlanta and elsewhere.

A similar bill was dismissed last year, but the speed at which this year’s version…is moving has raised serious concerns among state lawmakers, business owners, the faith community and activists.

The bill passed both the House and, in a different form, the Senate this month. The most recent version bars the government from taking “adverse action” against a person or faith-based organization that “believes, speaks, or acts in accordance” with the religious belief that “marriage should only be between a man and a woman”.

Telecom startup 373k announced it would to relocate from Decatur, Georgia, to Nevada immediately after the Georgia senate voted in favor of the measure last week…

Based on the over 500 emails he’s received from members of his district and elsewhere, House Representative Taylor Bennett agrees there’s “overwhelming opposition” to the proposed law.

Just in the last week, roughly 100 businesses have joined a coalition of what is now over 400 companies opposing the religious freedom bill. The group Georgia Prospers, of which Moore is a member, includes a range of businesses – from Fortune 500 companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot to smaller ones across the state – in support of “treating all Georgians and visitors fairly”.

Several have cited fears that Georgia will suffer lost revenue, as in Indiana where public disdain for a similar bill, before it even became law, is said to have cost the state $60m. Atlanta’s chamber of commerce and visitors’ bureau produced separate studies citing a potential loss of $1bn to $2bn if the bill passes without civil rights protections.

The religious community is also represented among the many in opposition to the law. Nearly 300 clergy members in the state spoke out this week against the “overly broad, discriminatory” proposal.

This is part of the same range of defenses erected and attempted early days of the civil rights movement. Hard-core bigots can always rely on their officially religious peers to support any rejection of the rest of the nation moving forward. They get what they deserve when the civil portion of the United States decides to boycott backwards ideology and reactionary behavior.

I would be no more likely to support a business or social endeavor in a state with laws like this than I would have to deal with comparable bodies in apartheid South Africa BITD.

Want to go back to 19th Century bigotry – then you deserve a 19th Century income.

Drug bans are ineffective – Kofi Annan

In my experience, good public policy is best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked, or not. Policy based on common assumptions and popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions.

Nowhere is this divorce between rhetoric and reality more evident than in the formulation of global drug policies, where too often emotions and ideology rather than evidence have prevailed.

Take the case of the medical use of cannabis. By looking carefully at the evidence from the United States, we now know that legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes has not, as opponents argued, led to an increase in its use by teenagers. By contrast, there has been a near tripling of American deaths from heroin overdoses between 2010 and 2013, even though the law and its severe punishments remain unchanged…

Globally, the “war on drugs” has not succeeded. Some estimate that enforcing global prohibition costs at least $100 billion a year, but as many as 300 million people now use drugs worldwide, contributing to a global illicit market with a turnover of $330 billion a year, one of the largest commodity markets in the world…

I believe that drugs have destroyed many lives, but wrong government policies have destroyed many more. We all want to protect our families from the potential harm of drugs. But if our children do develop a drug problem, surely we will want them cared for as patients in need of treatment and not branded as criminals…

The tendency in many parts of the world to stigmatize and incarcerate drug users has prevented many from seeking medical treatment. In what other areas of public health do we criminalize patients in need of help? Punitive measures have sent many people to prison, where their drug use has worsened. A criminal record for a young person for a minor drug offence can be a far greater threat to their well-being than occasional drug use.

The original intent of drug policy, according to the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs, was to protect the “health and welfare of mankind.” We need to refocus international and national policy on this key objective.

Kofi Annan details his arguments in this essay. A worthy read. He concludes with four regulatory steps – starting with decriminalization. He also reaches out to nations whose change to sensible policies have resulted logically in some solutions, a healthier context, success. He suggests they have a responsibility to lobby foot-draggers like the United States. They should be advocating wholesale in bodies like the United Nations.

Israeli airline asked her to change seats – must not offend an Orthodox male

Renee Rabinowitz is a sharp-witted retired lawyer with a Ph.D. in educational psychology, who escaped the Nazis in Europe as a child. Now she is about to become a test case in the battle over religion and gender in Israel’s public spaces — and the skies above — as the plaintiff in a lawsuit accusing El Al, the national airline, of discrimination.

Ms. Rabinowitz was comfortably settled into her aisle seat in the business-class section on El Al Flight 028 from Newark to Tel Aviv in December when, as she put it, “this rather distinguished-looking man in Hasidic or Haredi garb, I’d guess around 50 or so, shows up.”

The man was assigned the window seat in her row. But, like many ultra-Orthodox male passengers, he did not want to sit next to a woman, seeing even inadvertent contact with the opposite sex as verboten under the strictest interpretation of Jewish law. Soon, Ms. Rabinowitz said, a flight attendant offered her a “better” seat, up front, closer to first class.

Reluctantly, Ms. Rabinowitz, an impeccably groomed 81-year-old grandmother who walks with a cane because of bad knees, agreed.

“Despite all my accomplishments — and my age is also an accomplishment — I felt minimized,” she recalled in a recent interview…

Now, a liberal advocacy group that had spent two years searching for a test case on switching seats plans to sue the blue-and-white flag carrier on Ms. Rabinowitz’s behalf in a Tel Aviv court next week.

“We needed a case of a flight attendant being actively involved,” explained the group’s director, Anat Hoffman, “to show that El Al has internalized the commandment, ‘I cannot sit next to a woman…’ ”

❝ “When did modesty become the sum and end all of being a Jewish woman?” Ms. Rabinowitz asked. Citing examples like the biblical warrior Deborah, the matriarch Sarah and Queen Esther, she noted: “Our heroes in history were not modest little women.”

I have no notion of how Israeli courts will rule. That nation’s relationship with state religion is obviously very different from the United States. As are many other countries with official state religions. There are standards for international commerce and travel and I believe – at a minimum – segregated flight isn’t allowable.

Maybe not.

Condom wars between China and Japan


Quick quality control check at Daming

The latest battle in Sino-Japanese relations is playing out in the bedroom, with the holy grail being the thickness of a condom.

Or rather, whose condom is thinner.

On Monday, a court in Guangzhou’s Yuexiu District ruled that Japanese condom company Okamoto must immediately stop advertising its condoms as the world’s thinnest and remove condom packages that say as much from stores, according to the state-run China News Service.

The court said Okamoto’s behavior “violated the principle of honesty for business operators and negatively affected the competitiveness” of Aoni condoms, which are made by Guangzhou Daming United Rubber Products, a Chinese condom maker that filed the lawsuit.

Okamoto’s condom sales have skyrocketed recently, in part due to increasing numbers of Chinese tourists traveling to Japan and bringing the ultrathin condoms home.

Daming, a company founded in 1992 that says it has sold 7 billion condoms, filed the lawsuit against Okamoto in September 2014, after the Guinness World Records verified in December 2013 that Daming’s Aoni condom was indeed the thinnest latex winner. The Aoni has an average thickness of 0.036 mm, while Okamoto’s clocks in at 0.038 mm, according to the Guinness World Records.

“We accept the decision and have no plans to appeal it,” an Okamoto spokesman said…

The court has ordered Okamoto to pay a compensation of just one yuan to Daming, a request that Daming proposed in its lawsuit, indicating that the alleged violation likely had little impact on the Chinese company’s business.

Erm, OK. The least likely popular tastes concern food and sex. Especially national differences.

Cripes, I just remembered past dealings in my own working life – with Okamoto Riken. And some pretty salacious tales involving how and why they brought the bicycle company Zebra-Kenko to the United States, BITD.

Har!