Paul Frijters at Club Troppo has an interesting notion that political parties should be considered the same as temp agencies:

What do I mean by this? Simple, the main role of political parties is to organise temporary political jobs for its members: political parties ‘deliver’ thousands of mayors, councillers, ministers, lobbyists, MPs, select committee members, etc. Political parties are an intermediary between a whole layer of temporary political jobs and the people who want those jobs. In short, they are temp agencies for managerial political jobs. There is nothing wrong with this reality, but there is something wrong with judging temp agencies just by its corporate image.

Over at CNN's Global Public Square, Matthew P. Goodman and Michael J. Green are pushing for Japan to join the Trans Pacific Partnership:

The decision to push to join TPP marks a major milestone for Japan. It should be a catalyst for the structural reforms the country so badly needs to raise productivity and growth in the face of a declining workforce. Japan’s urban consumers may no longer need to pay 8 times the world price for rice to protect a dwindling farm population. The market opening and strengthened rules under a TPP agreement will give Japanese exporters new opportunities in growing Asia-Pacific markets. Estimates are that TPP entry could raise Japanese GDP by 0.5 percent per annum.

Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International has a horrific piece about a river in Syria:

Virtually every day this past week I have been getting early morning phone calls informing me of more bodies in the river – two on Sunday, four on Monday, seven on Tuesday, three on Wednesday…

All eventually float to the same spot in the Bustan al-Qasr district of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, under the control of opposition forces but just a few hundred meters downstream from an area held by government troops.

It is too dangerous to try to recover the bodies at the point where they first appear – it’s too close to the government-controlled zone and right in the line of their sniper fire. Instead, local volunteers wait for the bodies to float another 300 meters or so downstream where they can be retrieved more safely.

The Economist's language blog is spreading the incredibly vexatious story of the “language police” in Quebec

It began, as do many things these days, with a tweet. On February 19th, Massimo Lecas, co-owner of an Italian restaurant, Buonanotte, in Montreal, wrote that he had received a letter from the office warning him that there were too many Italian words (such as “pasta”) on his menu. This was a violation of Quebec’s language charter, he was told, and if they were not changed to the French equivalents (pâtes in the case of pasta) he would face a fine.

Andrew Rowell at the Development Policy blog is highlighting the costs (both economic and social) of domestic violence:

Clearly there are challenges, and ethical issues, in putting a dollar figure on such a complex issue. The study developed a framework for calculating costs at the individual, family, community and macro levels of marital domestic violence. This approach captured social costs, including physical and mental insecurity, decreased confidence, absenteeism and dissolution of marriage, among others. It captured physical/mental health costs, including increases in stress related injuries, pain, injury, illness and disability. It also addressed time costs, for recovery, for attending court, for hiding under protection, and the direct monetary costs for courts, police, hospitals and at the national level for prevention campaigns.

The study found that when all quantifiable costs were considered, the total cost of domestic violence in Bangladesh in 2010 equated to over 143 billion taka (over USD 1.8 billion at current exchange rates). This amounted to 2.05% of GDP, or the equivalent of 12.65% of government spending that year. This cost to the nation was close to the total government expenditure for the health and nutrition sector in Bangladesh that year. The majority of this cost is borne by survivors and their families, competing with vital expenditure needs for food and education.

972mag has pictures and details of the 'hundreds' of Women who turned up at the Western Wall to protest prohibitions on Women wearing prayer garments and reading from the Torah at the holy site:

According to the regulations at the Western Wall, as determined by its chief rabbi, and backed by the state authorities (the legal issues are a bit more complex and nuanced – to read more, click here) women are prohibited from wearing tefillin (phylacteries) or tallitot (prayer shawl) or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall. Women of the Wall have been protesting this practice for over two decades.