Having been chased from my house and trapped in traffic by a dreadful storm, I only have a couple of hours to throw this week's edition together. Please adjust your expectations accordingly!
Danger Room reports that "the Army has destroyed the last TMU-28B spray tank in its chemical weapons stockpile":
The Umatilla Chemical Depot had held 156 of the tanks and began the destruction campaign on November 23, 2007. Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah had held 862 of the Cold War-era dispersal devices, which were destroyed in 2004-2005.A federal judge has restricted the Navy's use of sonar:
"The court is persuaded that the (protection) scheme proposed by the Navy is grossly inadequate to protect marine mammals from debilitating levels of sonar exposure," Marie-Cooper wrote in her ruling.Oregon now requires health insurance plans to cover birth control and other prescription drugs:
The measure, which Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) signed into law in May 2007, also requires hospitals to inform sexual assault survivors about emergency contraception and make it available upon request.An absolutely demented energy project in Southern California has suffered a serious setback:
State and federal agencies have dealt a stunning blow to San Diego Gas and Electric’s proposed Sunrise Powerlink transmission line project with the release of a draft report that identifies local electricity generation as a far superior alternative to the Powerlink....While we bicker over dead-end projects like Powerlink, a Dutch company harvests heat from asphalt:
“This could be a death blow for SDG&E’s project,” said David Hogan, conservation manager at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The report confirms that the wasteful Powerlink would result in tremendous harm to nature, people, and property. Now is the best opportunity for the public to get involved and help hammer the last nails in the coffin of this terrible project.”
Solar energy collected from a 200-yard stretch of road and a small parking lot helps heat a 70-unit four-story apartment building in the northern village of Avenhorn. An industrial park of some 160,000 square feet in the nearby city of Hoorn is kept warm in winter with the help of heat stored during the summer from 36,000 square feet of pavement. The runways of a Dutch air force base in the south supply heat for its hangar. And all that under normally cloudy Dutch skies, with only a few days a year of truly sweltering temperatures.And German scientists claim to have found a way to supply the entire country with renewable energy:
In an ongoing experiment called the KombiKraftwerk....they link 36 biogas plants, wind, solar and hydropower installations in a distributed network to show that no matter what the weather, or what time of day it is, germany could get all its energy from renewable power.And an electric airplane takes a test flight over France.
Several far richer outfits, mainly in the USA, are working on similar power packs but so far none have got off the ground. Lavrand told me that they started the project quietly 18 months ago, partly financed by donations from aerospace groups.That said, we're not completely out of ideas:
United Technologies Corp.'s Hamilton Sundstrand unit, is teaming with US Renewables Group to commercialize a solar-power plant that will use molten salt to store the sun's heat and release it in a controlled manner for steady steam turbine power generation.China has apparently decided not to dam Tiger Leaping Gorge, a scenic site on the Yangtze River:
China has abandoned controversial plans to build a huge dam which would have submerged one of the country's most renowned tourist areas and forced the relocation of 100,000 residents in the south-western province of Yunnan.Meanwhile, India plans to subsidize new solar power plants.
Andrew Dessler continues to profile the Inhofe 400, with amusing results. And Congress has declined to approve Bush's renomination of a particularly ghastly recess appointment:
Richard Stickler appears to be out as the Bush administration’s top mine safety regulator. Earlier this week, Stickler’s biography was removed from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s Web site.Matt Hidek has written an interesting post on security and urban planning, which I hope I'll have time to discuss in more depth later. For now, this is the part I find intriguing:
While claiming to “secure” everyday life in the city, urban security systems clearly intrude upon the would-be privacy of people. We must ask ourselves how effective these systems can be, and if they are worth both the financial and societal expense. If integrated intelligence systems in Iraq cannot stop the destructive effect of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), how can we expect them to work at home?....With this in mind, it's interesting to read Buffalo mayor Byron Brown's thoughts on the anti-urban bias of American politics:
As this debate continues we must remember that despite today’s ongoing political rhetoric, communities can never be truly protected. This means that we can fight for the abandonment of the current urban fortification strategy, which is unevenly oriented towards protecting economic lifelines, and for a more holistic approach.
It's a sensible, almost self-evident point. Mayor Brown also called out a race / class dynamic that shapes the way presidential candidates talk about cities. To many Americans, "urban" is code for poor people and minorities -- not often popular topics in the heartland.Archaeologists are increasingly using satellites to detect traces of ancient structures:
Sensitive detectors, on satellites or aircraft, can reveal slight differences in ground cover through tiny variations in temperature. So if a region contains more stone, water or wood than its surrounds, it will stand out in a multi-spectral image."Dust from curious near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon seems to fall from the constellation Gemini in this fisheye skyview. The composite image was recorded over four December nights (12-15) just last year from Ludanyhalaszi, Hungary. Of course, the streaks are meteor trails from the annual Geminids meteor shower. The work of astronomer Erno Berko, the finished picture combines 113 different frames and captures 123 separate meteors." (Via NASA.)
In August 2007, an international team of researchers used these methods to peel back the ground cover in Cambodia and reveal intricate waterworks around the famous temples of Angkor Wat, the capital of the Khmer empire that flourished between in the ninth and 14th century.
Last, a very quick collection of links.
Photo postcards by Henry M. Beach.
Astonishing Colour Pictures of the Great War.
Nora , the Piano-Playing Cat.
San Fernando Valley Alphabet.
Finland's Unnamed Islands (via things).
(Illustration at top by Max Ernst.)