Monday, December 13, 2010

Link of the month: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)

The OCC was established in 1863 as a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and is headed by the Comptroller, who is appointed by the President.
The main purpose of the OCC is to provide regulations and supervision of the charters to all national banks. Therefore the website allows the researcher not only to access pending and recently enacted legislation, but to explore law and licensing documents providing guidance, establishing precedents and court documents of interest. In addition one may check if any national bank or foreign branch has ever been under scrutiny by the OCC.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Link of the month - Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)

With the latest salmonella scare out in the media I had to look for reliable information to appease the hypochondriac inside me; and I found it in the Food and Safety Inspection Service, the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This website is a one-stop-shop for anything food safety related and it is responsible for ensuring the safety of the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products. The site not only contains all regulations, directives and notices in this area, but as well recalls, fact sheets covering everything from safe food handling to advice for at-risk population groups, and the possibility to sign up for an emails alert for future recalls.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Germany’s Federal Convention to elect new President

On Wednesday, June 30th, the German Federal Assembly is going to elect a new President. The election comes after the previous President, Horst Koehler, unexpectedly resigned in late May. President Koehler was very popular among German citizens, but had received growing criticism from the reigning conservative government for his remarks about the involvement of the German armed forces in Afghanistan and the status and prestige of politicians. In a climate of unjustified criticism and plain backstabbing he did what he felt was the only thing he could do, resign. That left everyone stunned (including Chancellor Merkel) and presidential candidates had to be found, as according to Art. 54 (4) the Basic Law (commonly referred to as the German Constitution) the new President has to be elected within 30 days after the President leaves office.

The three candidates on the slate are Christian Wulff, Joachim Gauck and Luc Jochimsen. Merkel's governing coalition presented Christian Wulff who is currently minister president of the state of Lower Saxony, as its candidate. Wulff is one of the rather plain and unimpressive career politicians who nevertheless managed to get ahead in party politics (maybe because he is so unimpressive). That he was nominated by the CDU, one of the governing parties, is seen as a strategic move by Chancellor Merkel as she is well aware, that Wulff not only disagrees with her in many areas but more importantly will do anything to discredit her. If he gets elected however he will be “out of the way” and can’t cause further trouble.

His main opponent is Joachim Gauck, a pastor from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), who was once the first Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Archives, and is widely favored by the public as well as the opposition. To nominate Gauck was a surprising move by the Socialdemocratic Party as well as the Greens. While he is a well known human rights activist, he described himself as a “liberal conservative” and would have wanted to be the candidate of the CDU.

The third candidate is Luc Jochimsen. Before her retirement in 2002 she was an accomplished journalist and documentary director. Since then she became an outspoken proponent of the GDR and declared that it was not “a state of injustice”. Jochimsen never lived in the GDR and why she believes she can voice such an opinion is a miracle (not only to me).

The German people have no say in Wednesday's vote; the federal president will be elected by a federal assembly, which includes 1,244 lawmakers. Merkel's governing coalition has a slim majority in the convention and usually the members are expected to vote with the party that selected them for participation, but a number of high ranking personalities suggested that no one should be “forced” to vote according to party lines. It is very likely though, that everyone will vote as they are told and Wulff will be elected in the first round.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Link of the Month - Bureau of Justice Statistics

Looking for criminal justice statistics can be very challenging but luckily there is the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) that was established in 1979 and is the primary course for criminal justice statistics in the United States. Its mission is to collect, analyze and publish information on crime and its victim, criminal offenders and the judicial operations at all government levels.
The site offers access to the online version of the sourcebook of criminal statistics, as well as searching abilities of the BJS data collection which provides not only the collected data itself, but as well a comprehensive overview of the survey instruments.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Link of the Month - Eurostat

With this month downgrading by Standard & Poor of Greece and Spain I was looking for an authoritative tool to research the economy of European Countries (and to figure out who might be next). The tool I found was Eurostat. Eurostat is the statistics office by the European Union located in Luxembourg. According to the website, “its task is to provide the European Union with statistics at European level that enable comparisons between countries and regions”.
Take a look for yourself.
(Btw, I think Italy is a “good” candidate)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Link of the Month - Dictionary of the German Parliament

From time to time I translate legal documents from German into English or English into German. Usually I rely on my one and only "Rechtsenglisch" dictionary, but more often than not I can't find exactly what I'm looking for. That's when the terminology database of the German Bundestag come in handy. It offers political, legal, and scientific translations for from German into English, French, and the other way around. Once you are on the main page select in the upper right corner the language combination and continue on the following page with an entry of the search term. The search screen appears rudimentary but once I tried it I was surprised by the depth of it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

International Women’s Day in Brazil

Another country that observes the IWD is Brazil. Up to today women are given roses on that day accompanied by congratulations. In the last couple of years though this custom has caused feminists to refuse the roses and demand “equal pay, more presentation in politics and less violence” instead.
Domestic violence continues to be a huge problem in Brazil. In a 2006 report on Human Rights it was pointed out, that although the government tripled the punishment for family violence and spousal abuse, the problem remains widespread. Among other interesting information the same report contains facts about (un)equal pay, maternity leave and the number of women in government positions.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

International Women’s Day in Russia

The IWD was considered an important event in Russia, respectively the Soviet Union, and designated as a national holiday (and still is).

It was first celebrated 1913 on the eve of the First World War when Women and Men protested for peace and better working conditions. With the end of the war, millions of Russian soldiers dead, Russian Women in 1917 chose to strike for “bread and peace”. This strike started on February 23 on the Julian calendar (March 8 in the Gregorian calendar) and within the next couple of days more and more women and men joined in. The Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional government granted women the right to vote.

Due to these events as well as discussion beforehand the IWD was moved to March 8th and has been celebrated on these days since 1918.

Monday, February 22, 2010

International Women’s Day

While 2011 will be the 100th year of celebrating the International Women’s day, this March 8th, 2010 will actually be the 100th time it is observed. In honor of this day I will feature a couple of countries who observes the IWD over the next 2 weeks.

For starters some historic background:

Women have been protesting for better working conditions and equal pay since the mid 19th century, but the first organized protest took place on March 8, 1908. On this day so-called “garment worker” (women working in the textile and clothing factories) marched through New York City demanding a shortened work day, better pay, the right to vote and an abolishment of child labor. The slogan "Bread and Roses" was adopted, with bread symbolizing economic security and roses a better quality of life.
Two years later an international women’s rights conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, and at this conference the German socialist Clara Zetkin suggested the institution of an International Women’s Day to support the garment workers movement. This proposal was approved undisputed by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, including the first three women elected to the parliament of Finland. The following spring of 1911 women and men rallied in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland to celebrate the first International Women’s Day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Link of the month - NIST

My website of the month is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

The NIST was founded in 1901 and is a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Its mission is the promotion of “U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life”. NIST scientists have earned three Nobel prizes over the past eleven years, and the $64 billion market of emissions trading is based on collaboration between the NIST and EPA.

The NIST home page is rather busy looking, but it contains valuable links that allow internet research covering a number of different interests. Here one can find documentation about measurements, technology services, and standard reference materials for the U.S. industry, e.g. introductions and information about building and fire codes, and the cyber security programs that are provided by the NIST.

Within this NIST page one can find the Virtual Library

The Virtual Library offers access to the online catalog, e-journals, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standards, and a reference shelf. The IEEE standards can be searched by the number, industry and numerical listing, and although the entire contents of the standards is only available for IEEE members and institutional subscribers, the table of contents and a summary can be accessed easily. Additionally the NIST Virtual Library allows full text access to all articles of the “Journal of Research of NIST” since 1982. Issued six times a year, the journal covers a broad range of subjects with major emphasis on measurement methodology and the basic technology underlying standardization.

Lisbon Treaty now in effect

After 8 years in the making, December 1st 2009 marked the date when the Lisbon Treaty (finally) came into force and with it the attempt to streamline the EU institutions and strengthen democracy within the Union. Some of the most important changes are:
• A politician chosen to be president of the European Council for two-and-a-half years, replacing the current system where countries take turns at being president for six months.
• A smaller European Commission, with fewer commissioners than there are member states, from 2014.
• A redistribution of voting weights between the member states, phased in between 2014 and 2017 - qualified majority voting based on a "double majority" of 55% of member states, accounting for 65% of the EU's population.
• New powers for the European Commission, European Parliament and European Court of Justice, for example in the field of justice and home affairs.
• Removal of national vetoes in a number of areas, including fighting climate change, energy security and emergency aid. Unanimity will still be required in the areas of tax, foreign policy, defense and social security.
While critics say that the Lisbon Treaty threatens national sovereignty the overall response has been positive and deemed a necessary step in the unification of Europe.
For more information on the Lisbon Treaty check out the Treaty web site on