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November 27, 2007

Taking marriage private

Taking Marriage Private - New York Times

WHY do people — gay or straight — need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity.

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.

In 1215, the church decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church. But people who married illictly had the same rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce.

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices. In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed their match.

. . .

By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos. Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce.

Schoolteacher arrested in SUdan for naming teddybear "Mohammed"

BBC NEWS | World | Africa | 'Muhammad' teddy teacher arrested

A British schoolteacher has been arrested in Sudan accused of insulting Islam's Prophet, after she allowed her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

Colleagues of Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, said she made an "innocent mistake" by letting the six and seven-year-olds choose the name.

Ms Gibbons was arrested after several parents made complaints.

The BBC has learned the charge could lead to six months in jail, 40 lashes or a fine.

November 26, 2007

First female ongoing writer for Wonder Woman in 66 freakin' years

Wonder Woman (and Groo and Chakall) by Sergio Aragones...

What does a week's worth of food look like?

Pandagon :: Calorie-laden malnourishment :: November :: 2007

Click through for more.

Can a Texan shoot someone who breaks into his neighbor's house?

Texan who shot burglars - next door - hotly debated / Does the state's 'castle doctrine' apply to neighbors?

What do you think, dear readers?

When he saw two men pry into his neighbor's house with a crowbar this month, Joe Horn did what many people would do: He called 911.

But when police had not shown up by the time the suspects were about to leave, the 61-year-old retiree did something most people probably would not: He put down the phone, stepped outside with his shotgun and killed them.

"I'm not going to let them get away with this," Horn told the 911 dispatcher, who responded: "Property's not worth killing someone over."

Seconds later, the sound of a gun being loaded was captured on the 911 tape, followed by the warning: "Move (and) you're dead" and then three bursts of gunfire. Miguel DeJesus, 38, and Diego Ortiz, 30, died from their wounds. Both had small-time criminal histories.

November 20, 2007

Airplane de-icers are poorly trained, and given the answers to the test

The Denver Post - Travelers Advisory: Brian Maass gets airline de-icing scoop

Undercover camera work by a Channel 4 staffer reveals blatant cheating by an instructor for Servisair, one of the world's largest aviation ground service providers. The teacher spoon-feeds applicants the test answers, even telling them to get one answer wrong so as not to draw attention to their uniformly perfect scores. In fact, the applicants for these $13/hour jobs had little or no understanding of the de-icing process.

Servisair has been working out of DIA for two years, serving 22 airlines.

If you've ever sat on a runway watching ice build up on the plane's wings before takeoff, you'll relate.

What Maass' story uncovered isn't just cheating, it's cheating with potentially lethal consequences. Footage of the deadly Continental crash in Denver 20 years ago this month makes the point. Some 135 crashes in the U.S. since 1993 have been attributed to ice.

Lack of proofreading leads to invalidation of national reading test

For Want of a Proofreader, or at Least a Good One, a Reading Exam Is Lost - New York Times

In an episode that has embarrassed the Department of Education, thousands of flawed testing booklets forced the invalidation of United States reading scores on an international exam administered without major mishap in 56 other countries.

The contractor that printed the faulty exams for the government is reimbursing it $500,000, government officials said yesterday. But the department admitted it had not proofread the tests.

“I’m really upset about this,” said Mark Schneider, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics at the department. “It’s a big embarrassment.”

The problem came on a test known as the Program for International Student Assessment that allows students’ proficiency to be compared with that of their international peers. It was administered to 5,600 American 15-year-olds last fall, as well as to students in the 30 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and in 27 less developed countries. Scores are scheduled for release next month.