The IOC’s superwoman complex: how flawed sex-testing discriminates

From The Guardian UK:

Behind the IOC’s new policy on male-female testosterone levels is plain bias about what a female athlete should look like

and, Monday 2 July 2012

Last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) quietly dropped what may prove to be a bomb in the middle of the already explosive question of who can compete in women’s events in the 2012 London summer Games. The new sex-testing policy threatens to ban women whose bodies produce high levels of testosterone, what medicine calls hyperandrogenism.

In the interests of fairness, men with lower than normal levels will also be banned, or will be required to compete in the women’s divisions. The IOC has not yet clarified whether they will need to comply with women’s outfits.

OK, so we made up the part about men. But it would, indeed, make sense – that is, if anything in this policy made sense. The problem is that it doesn’t.

The new policy was expected, although the IOC has gone even further than last year’s policy adopted by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in scrutinizing and harassing women who, as all experts agree, have not cheated, and whose athletic performances are clearly within the range of their peer female athletes.

It’s downright chilling that instead of discouraging the abuse of hyperandrogenism charges to harass women athletes, the IOC has actually called for the National Olympic Committees to “actively investigate any perceived deviation in sex characteristics” (pdf) among female athletes. (The accompanying bland suggestion that sanctions “may” be imposed on anyone found to ask for an investigation of an athlete in bad faith is not reassuring.)

The IOC is charged with ensuring that women’s competitions are fair. We appreciate this responsibility, but strongly disagree with how they are discharging their duty.

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U.S. Banks Greatly Benefiting Off Colombian Cocaine Trade

From Huffington Post:


Even as their governments fighting it, Western businesses are benefiting from the Latin American drug trade.

More than 97 percent of the total street value of cocaine produced in Colombia — that’s billions of dollars — ends up in the hands of criminal groups in the U.S. and other first-world drug consuming countries, according to a study by two economists at the University of the Andes cited by the Guardian, and that money is laundered through banks. The study’s authors allege that Western financial regulators are hesitant to go after western banks for profiting off the drug trade.

The study highlights the tension between one set of countries — those that are leading the drug war charge, profiting off it the most and consuming many of the drugs produced — and another set of countries that are producing the drugs and getting hardest by the violence of the drug war. In one example of the tense relationship, the top three candidates for the Mexican presidency all said last month that they would shift the country’s drug strategy to focus more on reducing violence in Mexico and less on preventing drugs from entering the U.S., according to The New York Times.

The University of Andes study isn’t the first report of U.S. or European-based banks laundering money for illegal drug trafficking operations, though. Wachovia bank was found to have laundered billions of dollars of illegal drug money into the U.S. on behalf of a Mexican drug syndicate, according to various reports.

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After wettest June, UK braces for more rain

From The Guardian UK:

A month’s rain is expected to fall in the next two days over parts of the UK, with Friday likely to be the worst for widespread rain

Press Association, Wednesday 4 July 2012

A severe weather warning has been issued for parts of Britain, with almost a month’s rain expected to fall in two days.

The amber alert covers much of north-east England, where the Met Office has warned there could be flooding and disruption on Friday and Saturday.

More than 60mm (2.4in) of rain is expected to fall in 36 hours in some areas, approaching the usual 69.9mm (2.8in) UK average rainfall for the month of July. The average July rainfall for the north of England is 64.4mm (2.5in).

Rain is expected to fall in much of Britain on Friday, with less severe yellow warnings issued for eastern, northern and central areas of England and Wales, as well as parts of southern Scotland.

A Met Office spokesman said Friday’s rain would be “prolonged, quite persistent and heavy”.

He added: “This is likely to lead to surface water flooding, particularly in the amber area, where there is an increasing likelihood of river flooding.

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Climate Change: ‘This Is Just the Beginning

From Truth Dig:

By Amy Goodman
Posted on Jul 3, 2012

Evidence supporting the existence of climate change is pummeling the United States this summer, from the mountain wildfires of Colorado to the recent “derecho” storm that left at least 23 dead and 1.4 million people without power from Illinois to Virginia. The phrase “extreme weather” flashes across television screens from coast to coast, but its connection to climate change is consistently ignored, if not outright mocked. If our news media, including—or especially—the meteorologists, continue to ignore the essential link between extreme weather and climate change, then we as a nation, the greatest per capita polluters on the planet, may not act in time to avert even greater catastrophe.

More than 2,000 heat records were broken last week around the U.S. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the government agency that tracks the data, reported that the spring of 2012 “marked the largest temperature departure from average of any season on record for the contiguous United States.” These record temperatures in May, NOAA says, “have been so dramatically different that they establish a new ‘neighborhood’ apart from the historical year-to-date temperatures.”

In Colorado, at least seven major wildfires are burning at the time of this writing. The Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs destroyed 347 homes and killed at least two people. The High Park fire farther north burned 259 homes and killed one. While officially “contained” now, that fire won’t go out, according to Colorado’s Office of Emergency Management, until an “act of nature such as prolonged rain or snowfall.” The “derecho” storm system is another example. “Derecho” is Spanish for “straight ahead,” and that is what the storm did, forming near Chicago and blasting east, leaving a trail of death, destruction and downed power lines.

Add drought to fire and violent thunderstorms. According to Dr. Jeff Masters, one of the few meteorologists who frequently makes the connection between extreme weather and climate change, “across the entire Continental U.S., 72 percent of the land area was classified as being in dry or drought conditions” last week. “We’re going to be seeing a lot more weather like this, a lot more impacts like we’re seeing from this series of heat waves, fires and storms. … This is just the beginning.”

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Why Americans should work less – the way Germans do

From The Guardian UK:

There is a solution to unemployment: if we worked the same shorter hours as Germany, we’d eliminate joblessness overnight, Tuesday 3 July 2012

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman and Richard Layard, a distinguished British economist, took the lead last week in drafting a sign-on “Manifesto for Economic Common Sense”, condemning the turn toward austerity in many countries. This manifesto seems destined to garner tens or even hundreds of thousands of signatures, including mine.

While the basic logic of the manifesto is solid, there is an important aspect to the argument that is overlooked. We can deal with unemployment every bit as effectively by having people work fewer hours, as we can by increasing demand.

The most important point to realize is that the problem facing wealthy countries at the moment is not that we are poor, as the stern proponents of austerity insist. The problem is that we are wealthy. We have tens of millions of people unemployed precisely because we can meet current demand without needing their labor.

This was the incredible absurdity of the misery that we and other countries endured during the Great Depression, and which Keynes sought to explain in The General Theory. The world did not suddenly turn poor in 1929, following the collapse of the stock market. Our workers had the ability to produce just as many goods and services the day after the collapse as the day before; the problem was that after the crash, there was a lack of demand for these goods and services.

The result of this lack of demand was a decade of double-digit unemployment in the United States. The spending programs of the New Deal helped to alleviate the impact of the downturn, but because of the deficit hawks of that era, Roosevelt never could spend enough to bring the economy back to full employment – at least until the second world war made deficits irrelevant.

This is the same story we face today. The US and European economies were close to full employment in 2007 due to demand created by housing bubbles in the United States and across much of Europe. These bubbles then burst, substantially reducing demand. As Krugman and Layard point out in their statement, one remedy for this loss of demand is for government to fill the gap. If the private sector is not prepared to spend enough to bring the economy to full employment, then the government can engage in deficit spending to make up the shortfall.

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Why Europe’s Laws On Vacations Are Better Than Your Wildest Dreams (and How Badly Americans Get Screwed)

From Alternet:

We work ourselves to death, while people in other countries take holidays, get family leave and have paid sick time during vacations.

By Les Leopold
July 4, 2012

Imagine this: You work 25 hours a week at the McDonald’s in Cairo, New York, and have finally earned two weeks of paid vacation. You set out on a bike trip. On the first day in the saddle, you hit a pothole and crash, cracking your collar bone. You sit on your couch for the rest of your vacation watching the Tour de France. Tough luck.

Unless you worked for McDonald’s in Europe. If you did, you would be entitled to a fully paid do-over, according to a June 21 ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the highest court in Europe (whose rulings must be followed by all member states). This court ruled that all European workers are entitled to their full vacation after they have healed:

“A worker who becomes unfit during his paid annual leave, is entitled at a later point to a period of leave of the same duration as that of his sick leave.”

This means that European workers can take their paid sick leave during their paid vacations, and take their vacations all over again, and guess what? American corporations who do business in Europe, like McDonalds, have to pay for it!

And the comparisons between American and European workplaces get worse: Not only do American corporations with operations in Europe have to provide their workers with paid sick leave during worker vacations, but also, by law they have to provide paid vacations in the first place, which in most countries amounts to a month or more.

In the U.S. there is no legal obligation at all. If you get a paid vacation it’s either because the company “gave” it to you or because you achieved it through collective bargaining. Here’s a table comparing developed nations by statutory minimum annual leave and paid public holidays. Read ‘em and weep.

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