Brazil is dramatically increasing the availability of contraceptives:
As part of a new fight against Brazil's sky-high number of unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions, the country's most populous state is offering "morning after" contraceptive pills at metro stops and 90 percent off contraceptive pills at pharmacies.The Boy Scouts, as a private organization, have the right to discriminate against gays and the insufficiently religious, according to the Supreme Court. You’d think that’d make ‘em happy as clams, but in an act of true perversity, they insist that their bigotry must be subsidized by the very people it designates as second-class citizens.
And that's not all. Federal Health officials are offering to train teachers to give sex education and offering condoms to pupils. And the Health Ministry wants men to take more responsibility and is offering free vasectomies.
The city of Philadelphia begs to differ:
Citing a local 1982 "fair practices" law, the city solicitor has given the Scouts until Dec. 3 to renounce its policy of excluding homosexuals or forfeit the grand, Beaux-Arts building it has rented from the city for $1 a year since 1928.A spokesman for the Boy Scouts points out that they're required by the organization's national charter to discriminate. That being the case, it sounds like they’d better pony up the dough, and be grateful the city’s not demanding 25 years’ worth of back rent.
"While we respect the right of the Boy Scouts to prohibit participation in its activities by homosexuals," the solicitor, Romulo Diaz, said last week in an interview, "we will not subsidize that discrimination by passing on the costs to the people of Philadelphia."
In wholly unrelated news, "the Jesuit order of Roman Catholic priests agreed to a $50 million settlement with 110 Eskimo victims of alleged sexual abuse."
The Center for Biological Diversity has won yet another victory against BushCo:
The Bush administration has agreed to a court settlement, finalized November 19th, requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review the environmental hazards of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides and revise, as necessary, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for these two dangerous pollutants under the Clean Air Act.CBD does great and difficult work, year after year; you could do worse than send ‘em a donation.
An effort is underway to gather data on the one billion people of whom there no official records. One could argue that this has some troubling implications – practically and philosophically - but it still seems worthy of mention here:
One important outcome of this enterprise it that it will provide new accurate data for the international aid community and private enterprises looking to do business with the poor, often limited so far to demographic data based on 10-year old surveys. International and local NGOs will also benefit some better leverage from this. The social impact of the initiative is expected to be huge: increased employment, revenue flow to the community, access to critical social services and technology skills while lifting community morale.By an odd coincidence, one billion is also thought to be the number of people without reliable electricity. A new lamp built around a recycled cell-phone charger could change that:
It is a simple, inexpensive, sustainable alternative to kerosene lamps. The key components are a recycled cell phone charger, a set of rechargeable batteries, and very efficient LED lights. When power is available, it charges the batteries; when light is needed the batteries can provide up to 40 hours of continuous use.Triple Pundit reports on the astonishing Tate Ambient Power Module:
The Tate Ambient Power Module, patented by Joseph Tate of California, converts radio-wave energy (manmade and natural) into energy that can be used by small appliances such as smoke detectors and clock radios.And the Naib reports on inflatable cars; unfortunately, the Robert Crumb cartoon I need to illustrate this concept is packed away in my storage space, along with the rest of my books.
A huge new rainforest preserve has been set aside in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
U.S. agencies, conservation groups and the Congolese government have come together to set aside 11,803 square miles of tropical rain forest, the U.S.-based Bonobo Conservation Initiative said in a statement issued this week. The area amounts to just over 1 percent of vast Congo but that means a park larger than the state of Massachusetts.A new earth observation system may reduce cyclone deaths:
"The Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) will help drive further improvements in, and integration of Earth observations instruments, models and early-warning systems," said Achache.In related news, storm surge maps from LSU helped Bangladesh to save the lives of coastal residents:
"The end result should be -- and must be -- a continuing downward trend in the death toll from cyclones."
Early on the morning of Nov. 16, Cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh and showed no mercy. The death toll continues to rise even today. Hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless. But, nearly 24 hours in advance of the storm, Hassan Mashriqui, assistant extension professor of coastal engineering with LSU, the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program, gave Bangladesh emergency officials storm surge maps so detailed that area agencies were able to take action, saving countless lives.A new type of trawling net may reduce bycatch:
This year’s winning solution, the "Eliminator”, is an innovative device that captures haddock while reducing the accidental netting, or bycatch, of other marine species.Furthermore:
Diego Gonzalez Zevallos, a marine biologist at the Centro Nacional Patagónico in Argentina, studied the accidental death of seabirds as they dive for food and are struck by trawling cables and dragged under the water and drown. His device, a simple plastic cone is likely to dramatically reduce seabird deaths, while not affecting the profitability for fishermen.At Grist, Andrew Dessler describes his attempt to find a climate skeptic who’d be willing to visit his classroom and talk to his students. You'll never guess what happens.
A new study suggests that renewable energy is a better option than coal for Nevada:
Renewable power paired with a more aggressive energy efficiency program will mean 'Lower costs and lower risks for ratepayers and probably will produce a higher number of job opportunities for Nevadans,' Ernie Niemi, ECONorthwest analyst and primary author of the report, said during a Tuesday telephone press conference.The EU is considering a ban on GM corn:
European Union environmental officials have determined that two kinds of genetically modified corn could harm butterflies, affect food chains and disturb life in rivers and streams, and they have proposed a ban on the sale of the seeds, which are made by DuPont Pioneer, Dow Agrosciences and Syngenta. The preliminary decisions are circulating within the European Commission, which has the final say.There are encouraging prospects for removing endocrine disruptors from water:
"No single process was able to remove absolutely every chemical," says Shane Snyder, an environmental toxicologist at the Southern Nevada Water Authority and lead author of the study. "The findings demonstrate, though, that certain processes can greatly reduce the concentration of many classes of contaminants, while others have little impact on removal."The study was funded by the drinking-water industry, and is definitely reflects their perspective. Given those caveats, though, the findings are pretty interesting.
All of the above is really just an excuse to promote The Wooden Library in Alnarp.
Each "book" describes a certain tree species and is made out of the actual wood (the "covers"). The spine is covered by the bark, where mosses and lichens from the same tree are arranged. "Books" of shrubs are covered with mosses with split branches on both covers and spines.
Link via wood s lot.
Anything else I link to will probably seem anti-climactic. All the same, I have to recommend the photos of Peter Merts.
And The Super Bolide of September 13, 2007, a movie from Heliotown (see also Ashcraft's Catalog of Fireballs, Meteors and Space Dust).
And, finally, this lovely footage of San Francisco's Ocean Beach in 1903, which I dedicate to someone very sweet:
(Illustration at top via the ESA: “This image shows a simulated view of Earth as seen from the position of Rosetta, just before the spacecraft's closest approach to Earth. It was acquired on 13 November 2007 at 20:30 CET using the WAC with a red filter.”