Thursday, January 10, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

Congress seems to have thwarted BushCo's attempt to privatize thousands of environmental protection jobs:

Buried in the new budget bill is a complete ban on further activities directed toward outsourcing any Forest Service jobs. That legislation also severely limits any outsourcing-related activities within the Interior Department to $3.5 million to complete ongoing studies....

“Congress just put a bullet into the heart of the Bush administration’s strategy to commercialize resource management,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whoseorganization has campaigned against the Competitive Sourcing Initiative since 2002.
In related news, the administration has decided not to appeal a court decision that overturned new forest management rules, which, believe it or not, would've made logging easier and public input harder:
The Justice Department notified the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week that it was withdrawing its appeal, saying that the other parties, including the timber industry, would do likewise.

"We are glad the Bush administration has thrown in the towel," said Trent Orr, an attorney for Earthjustice, one of the environmental advocacy groups that had challenged the new forest management rules in court.
China has announced that it will ban plastic bags:
This new law could have a considerably positive environmental impact, given that Chinese citizens "use as many as 3 billion plastic bags a day." The law is part of a larger campaign to fight "white pollution" in China, which includes other forms of rampant plastic and styrofoam use as well. This bold and surprising move demonstrates that the Chinese government is starting to take pollution concerns seriously.
Australia is following suit. Also in China, activists have compelled the government to relocate a chemical plant:
The decision, hailed as a milestone for China's environmental and democratic movements, follows the release of an environmental-impact assessment of the project at a public hearing in December. The relocation is even more surprising given that sources close to central government reveal the plant had been given the go-ahead because of the special relationship between Chen Youhao — the plant's Taiwanese investor and a fugitive of Taiwan — and some of China's top party leaders.

“This is the first time public opinion was properly expressed through official channels and had an impact on government policies,” says Liu Jianqiang, a Beijing-based environment writer who is a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. Some commentators regard the orchestrated incident as the most significant public event in China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square student demonstration that was so brutally suppressed.
Andrew Dessler makes a point so obvious that it's easy to overlook: If the consensus on anthropogenic climate change is driven by the lust for research grants, as denialists claim, then why is the consensus that the science is pretty much settled?
[I]t should be obvious that the scientific community would be better off saying we're not sure that climate change is caused by humans: "It might be human-induced, but it might not be. What we really need is more money for models, satellites, and analysis."
After reading this, all the pieces fell into place; I suddenly realized that the denialists are part of the conspiracy they've been attacking. Sure, a couple of 'em may've started out as honest skeptics, but like everyone else who dabbles in atmospheric science, they were eventually pulled into a maelstrom of corruption from which no deliverance is conceivable. Battle ye not with Algore, lest ye become Algore!

Speaking of self-defeat, the wife of the founder of the Ozarks Minutemen is in a bit of trouble:
The wife of an Ozarks Minutemen founder has been charged with filing a false report after investigators determined her story about being raped and shot by three Hispanic men was untrue.
And Oral Roberts U. continues to implode:
Benny Hinn and I.V. Hilliard resigned as regents, where they were involved in making major school decisions, university spokesman Jeremy Burton said Thursday....Hinn and Dollar are among six televangelists being investigated by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley to determine if the high-profile preachers violated their organizations’ tax-exempt status by living lavishly on the backs of small donors.
South Carolina's State Board of Education has rejected a creationist challenge to a standard biology textbook:
Today, in a stunning reversal of votes, the State Board of Education approved the Miller/Levine Biology Textbook that was under scrutiny. The vote went from 9-7 (vote in December) in favor of dropping the Miller/Levine textbook to 10-6 in favor of keeping the textbook on the list. This is a major victory for science education in the palmetto state.
A Swedish office will allegedly be warmed by the body heat of commuters:
Real estate firm Jernhusen AB believes the system can provide about 15 percent of the heating needed for a 13-storey building being built next to the Central Station in the Swedish capital.
There's also talk of using body heat to power cellphones.

A British hotel chain is building a recyclable hotel:
Budget hotel operator Travelodge said on Tuesday the steel modules could be dismantled if necessary at the end of the 120-room hotel's life and moved elsewhere -- and that the model could ultimately be used to build temporary hotels for sporting events or festivals.
Scientific American "proposes a massive, far-reaching plan to get solar power generating 69 percent of America’s electricity 35 percent of our total energy by 2050, thus replacing all of our foreign oil needs and slashing global warming emissions." It's worth a read.

New York City claims it will stop sourcing hardwoods from the Amazon:
In a meeting with representatives of environmental groups Rainforest Relief and New York Climate Action Group, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe unveiled a plan to phase out the use of hardwoods logged from the rainforests of the Amazon, which the agency uses for benches, boardwalks and the decking of bridges in the thousands of parks and areas overseen by the department.
Also in NYC, deaths from HIV have dropped dramatically:
Between 2005 and 2006, death from HIV fell almost 15 percent, from 1,419 to 1,209, reflecting the lowest numbers since 1984 when 952 deaths from AIDS were recorded citywide.
Revere discusses a promising new test for influenza-like illnesses:
nstead of using tissue culture to isolate a virus, the new test uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify any viral genetic material present and then employs identifiable beads coated with material specific to particular viral sequences to identify which viral genetic sequence was amplified. This eliminates both tissue culture and separate tests for each of the viruses, cutting total time down to about 6 hours instead of days....

This particular test could conceivably be part of a screen for an emerging pandemic not involving H1 or H3 subtypes. In addition, it is just the leading edge of more routine use of multiplex viral diagnostic tests. Once they are more widely employed we can expect to learn a great deal about the epidemiology of ILIs during the typical "flu season."
There's also word of a breakthrough in avian flu research:
This new paradigm should help researchers develop a better way to track the evolution of avian flu leading to human adaptation, Sasisekharan said. Now, they know to look for avian viruses that have evolved the ability to bind to umbrella-shaped alpha 2-6 receptors.

That knowledge could help them create vaccines tailored to combat a potential pandemic. Similarly, these findings will help in the development of more effective strategies for seasonal flu, which still is a leading cause of death.
In other medical news, researchers may have found a viable replacement for the problematic Dryvax smallpox vaccine.

Strictly No Photography is a site compiling "pictures taken where you are not allowed to take them." And Paleo-Future provides "a look into the future that never was," as thus:
Doubtless some day the operators will have to meet the problem of increased fuel costs, for consumption of gasoline cannot go on forever at the present rate. But the day seems far distant when curtailment will be necessary - so far distant that no one save a few scientists and government conservation people are giving it any thought.
(Both links via things).

You don't know all you should about Crossbill vocabulary. Or orgasm schematics.

Rosemarie fiore creates what she calls firework drawings from the residue of exploded fireworks. Here's a sample.

Furthermore: Shanghai cigarette cards. And a fine collection of photos, maps, and ephemera from Pantufla, organized by decade.

Last, some incredible time-lapse animations of heavenly bodies. And The Peleliu Project, a haunting photo series by James Fee.

(Photo at top: "A sprawling island universe, IC 342 would be a prominent galaxy in our night sky, but it is almost hidden from view behind the veil of stars, gas and dust clouds in the plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Similar in size to other large, bright spiral galaxies IC 342 is a mere 7 million light-years distant in the long-necked, northern constellation of the Giraffe (Camelopardalis). Even though IC 342's light is dimmed by intervening cosmic clouds, this remarkably sharp telescopic image traces the galaxy's own obscuring dust, blue star clusters, and glowing pink star forming regions along spiral arms that wind far from the galaxy's core." Via NASA.)


Woody (Tokin' Lib'rul/Rogue Scholar & O'erall Helluvafella!) said...

those peleliu fotos are wonderful...have i told you i really appreciate you site? I do...excellent work here, throughout...

Phila said...

Thanks, Woody!