"Stability and peace in our land will not come from the barrel of a gun, because peace without justice is an impossibility."
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The Dark Side of the Moon
Yesterday, the first total solar eclipse in years swept northeast across the globe, shadowing everything from Brazil to Mongolia. In this rare alignment, the only visible part of the sun was its corona, the barely visible extended atmosphere that glowed a dull yellow during the eclipse.
The umbra, or darkest part of the moon's shadow, followed a "path of totality" meaning that the sun's rays were completely blocked. The outer part of the shadow created by the moon, or the penumbra, did not completely block the sun's rays, so areas covered by the penumbra only experienced partial darkness.
One of the best locations to view the eclipse was in Libya, where the eclipse lasted for over four minutes. The last total solar eclipse was in November 2003, best viewed from Antarctica, but yesterday's eclipse occurred over highly populated areas such as Ghana, Libya, Syria and Turkey, where schools closed to watch the eclipse.
Total eclipses are rare because they require that the orbits of the sun, moon and earth line up exactly, with the moon obscuring the sun completely. The next total solar eclipse will occur August 1, 2008.
India’s Sex Selection Curbed
A doctor and his assistant were sentenced to jail Tuesday for disclosing the gender of a fetus, a practice that has led to the selective abortion of millions of females in India. Dr. Sabani and his assistant, Kartar Singh, were caught during a sting operation. Sabani was secretly videotaped telling one woman that she was carrying a “female fetus and it would be taken care of.”
Under Indian law, ultrasound tests on a pregnant woman done specifically to determine the gender of the fetus are illegal, but convictions are rare due to corrupt officials and slow judicial processes.
A study published in the medical journal Lancet in January estimated that as many as 10 million female fetuses might have been aborted in India in the last 20 years because of a traditional Indian preference for sons. Since daughters will eventually belong to the family of their future husband, expenditure on them is considered to only benefit others.
With ultrasound equipment more widely available and affordable to clinics, the Indian cultural preference for sons has distorted the sex ratio across the nation. In 1991, there were about 945 girls born per 1,000 boys, but this dropped to 927 by 2001, according to the national census.
Athough abortion is legal in India, aborting on grounds of the sex of the fetus is not.
France's Black Tuesday
In France, protests against the controversial new youth employment law continue. The employment contract law—called the CPE—makes it easier for employees to fire workers under 26 years of age at any time during a two year trial period. Government officials say that the new policy will encourage employers to hire young people; the protesters claim that the law will erode job stability.
More than 1 million students and unionized workers took to the Parisian streets on Tuesday. While police estimated 1,055,000 people took part in the protests, the organizers asserted the number of protesters was closer to three million. The initially peaceful protests turned into chaos when troublemakers, known as “smashers,” hurled at riot police anything from rocks and cans to bottles and bicycles. The police, in turn, responded with tear gas and water cannon.
The vast majority of protest chants and banners were not directed at the job-contract law, but at France’s Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, and his Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who called on the police to “arrest as many hooligans and thugs” as possible. De Villepin himself made it clear that he would not withdraw the law, telling the parliament that he would “convince all of France with [his] actions that the future can be better than the present.” In contrast, union leader Bernard Thibault declared: “For us there is just one outcome and that is the withdrawal of this reform.”
-In England, in the 1880's, “pants” was considered a dirty word.
-America once issued a 5-cent bill.
-It's against the law to slam your car door in Switzerland.
-A company in Taiwan makes dinnerware out of wheat, so you can eat your plates.