Sunday, June 22, 2008

Extremely long time no blog/News Roundup

My apologies, as I've been caught up in the Bar Ads Course/Convocation whirlwind.

Let's peruse the news, shall we?

Plutonium spill in Boulder, Colorado has spread (via Boing Boing)
Generally I'm skeptical of anti-nuclear fear-mongering, but I have to say I'm glad I don't live in Boulder this week. Notably, the plutonium was from a lab and not a power station. Also notably, Wikipedia states that plutonium is less toxic than a lot of things, and is in fact on par with lead.

Law 'to change' on witness rules (via BBC News)
The UK Government is flipping right out over a House of Lords ruling that quashed a conviction obtained through the use of anonymous evidence (Law Lords ruling is here). This is a no-win situation, of course: it is a foundational principle of the rule of law that one should be able to face one's accusers, but this allows witnesses to be intimidated out of giving their testimony. Actually, this reminds me of what we covered last week in the LSUC Skills and Professional Responsibility course, namely, positional versus interest-based bargaining. Not, the position would be that anonymous witnesses contravene the accused's right to a fair trial, and therefore should never be allowed. However, the interest behind that position is (a) to ensure that the witness is cross examined, and (b) to ensure a proper cross-examination to the witness, to divulge any conflict of interest (e.g., the witness has a hate on for the accused). I would think that proper weighting of testimony and judicial scrutiny of the potential anonymous witness would compensate the defence for whatever prejudice the anonymous witness caused. But then, I haven't read the full decision yet...

Paying off a debt with a daughter (via BBC News)
Afghan farmers have been forced to sell their own children to ward off debt collection, since their traditional crop of poppies has become illegal (and the illegality enforced). While the international heroin trade is obviously of major concern, you'd think that it would occur to someone that morphine is still widely used in medical situations (and is, in fact, under-distributed in many countries) and that a properly regulated poppy crop is what Afghanistan really needs. Poppies are apparently the ideal crop for the terrain, climate, and labour structure. Instead, farmers are joining the Taliban for the wages, in order to feed their families. Awesome.

And in not-exactly-news news, an excellent post by John Scalzi: Where It Began.

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