May 31st, 2009 by ravi
Executive welfare under TARP

Hampton Roads Bankshares [2] of Virginia, which received $80.3 million of TARP money last year, announced [3] last week that its CEO was retiring. On Friday, the bank disclosed [4] that in addition to a full slate of retirement benefits, the exec will be paid $1.3 million for “consulting duties.”

Jack Gibson, the departing CEO, evidently doesn’t think he’ll be working too hard consulting. “I can think of no better time to fulfill my personal goal of early retirement,” he said in a press release [3] announcing his exit. “It is well known within the company that I would like to retire by age 60, and I’m almost there.” During the period of his three-year consulting gig, the bank has also agreed to cover his membership dues at a local country club.

The $1.3 million that Gibson will receive roughly matches the total amount he received in salary over the last three years as CEO ($1.4 million).

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May 24th, 2009 by ravi
Bilkis Bano
Vinay Lal:

So wherein lies Bilkis Bano’s achievement? If one is called to admire her sense of justice and ability to persevere in the face of nearly insurmountable odds, it should not merely be from some sentimental notion of the ‘power of the wretched’ or even from the idea, which has little basis in life as such, that justice always prevails. Indeed, though it was Mumbai Sessions Judge U.D. Salve who vindicated Bilkis, the victims of the Bombay riots of 1992 still await justice. Nevertheless, to gauge just how monumental is her achievement, we must weigh it against the fact that the middle class in Gujarat has yet again voted into power a man who must be viewed as one of the chief instigators of the killings of 2002 that took the lives of over 2000 Muslims and left tens of thousands more homeless. If Gujarat’s chilling endorsement of brute authoritarianism, and some will say fascism, puts India to eternal shame, Bilkis Bano’s courage, dedication to the truth, and faith in the judicial system offer a faint glimmer of hope that Indian democracy is not entirely moribund. Bilkis’s husband and lawyers stood by her through thick and thin, but the greater marvel is that she sustained her faith in the Constitution of India over six long years, and that too at a time when the middle class has all but jettisoned the document and its promises of equality and justice. The middle class endorsement of Rang de Basanti, a film that repudiates the political even as it celebrates a crude notion of vigilante justice, stands in stark contrast to Bilkis’s extraordinary embrace of the spirit of the Indian Constitution. The award of the Bharat Ratna to Bilkis Bano would not only honor her indomitable spirit and courage but may perhaps help to usher in a new era of political and ethical awareness.

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May 24th, 2009 by ravi
Ashish Nandy on Nazism and European violence

[VL is Vinay Lal]

VL: Then you would surely disagree fundamentally with the continued attempts of most European and American historians to describe Nazism as an aberration within European history itself?

AN: The industrialized, scientized, technological violence Europe had tried outside Europe. In Europe, there was at most you could say trench warfare, but that was not self-conscious. Even in World War I, the killings in places like Flanders were not self-conscious exercises, as was Nazism; outside Europe it was often a self-conscious enterprise. Nazis, with Teutonic thoroughness, brought that experience to work within Europe; they applied to Europe what Europe had done outside Europe.

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May 17th, 2009 by ravi
Primitive porn
An ivory statuette of a well-endowed woman discovered in Germany suggests that humanity’s earliest art might have been of the erotic variety. Digging in a cave near Stuttgart last fall, University of Tübingen archaeologist Nicholas Conard unearthed what he says is the most ancient representation of a human female yet found–and, at more than 35,000 years old, one of the oldest sculptures ever discovered.

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May 15th, 2009 by ravi
Jesse Ventura wants an hour with Cheney and a waterboard

It’s drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning… I’ll put it to you this way: You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

(via my friend Michael P)

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May 15th, 2009 by ravi
From corporate welfare to corporate charity!

The reality is that much of the money loaned to Chrylser before and during its bankruptcy process won’t be recovered, said an administration official, speaking for the Auto Task Force, which is a joint effort of the White House and Treasury. (We tried to get the official to speak for attribution, but the official declined.) The face value of the $4 billion loan approved by the Bush administration will be by and large written off during the bankruptcy process, according to the official and Chrysler’s bankruptcy filings. The administration has also pledged to give Chrysler up to $3 billion to keep the company afloat during restructuring.

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May 15th, 2009 by ravi
More snaps from Abu Ghraib

Click on link for entire set. Fortunately Bush, sorry make that Obama, is working to block their release.

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May 15th, 2009 by ravi
ACLU = one trick pony?

Mr Skumanick offered the Tunkhannock pupils in question, around 20 of them, a six-month education programme to learn more about the consequences of their actions – and to help them avoid a child pornography charge.

Three girls – and their parents – refused to sign up, and are now suing Mr Skumanick with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

This relates to “sexting” (the sharing of semi-nude or nude photography over SMS, etc)

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May 13th, 2009 by ravi
Massimo Pigliucci on epigenetics

But why, you may ask, is an evolutionary biologist interested in epigenetics? Because a subset of epigenetic effects turns out to be heritable across generations. This means that there is something else other than classical genes (i.e., sequences of DNA) that both carries information and is passed from one generation to the next. This is big news for biologists (though the suspicion had been around for a while), because it suddenly broadens and complicates — possibly dramatically — our concept of inheritance, with a wide range of consequences for how we understand evolution. After all, the natural variation among organisms so crucial for natural selection to work had been assumed until recently to originate only from changes in gene sequences.

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May 12th, 2009 by ravi
Survey says…

In Britain, the report found that more than three-quarters of Muslims identified with the country and its institutions – far more even than the general population did.

But whereas the vast majority of British Muslims (82%) felt Muslims were loyal citizens, the general public remained suspicious of them.

In Germany, 40% of Muslims identified with the country against 32% of the wider public.

German Muslims were also found far more likely than the general public to have confidence in the judicial system, financial institutions and the honesty of elections.

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