Uzbekistan has abolished the death penalty:
The trend towards total abolition of the death penalty has continued with Uzbekistan becoming the latest country to put an end to executions.The Jordanian parliament is attempting to address domestic violence:
From 1 January 2008, it becomes the 135th country in the world to abolish the death penalty in law or practice.
The draft law, which still needs to be approved by the Senate before taking effect, imposes stiff penalties on violators, ranging from hefty fines to imprisonment of up to six months.Meanwhile, in the Land of the Free, an attempt by fundamentalist groups to overturn the Student Civil Rights Act, which protects LGBT teens from discrimination, has failed:
The bill also gives the authorities the power to detain perpetrators of domestic violence for 24 hours "in order to protect the victim" and the court has the right to bar perpetrators from approaching "safe houses" where victims are sheltered in order to guarantee their safety.
Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, said...."Despite their vicious attack, Californians stood with us and said 'no' to turning back the clock on civil rights and protecting all youth from discrimination in our schools."Pam Spaulding reports that "NJ Congressman Rush Holt has introduced a bill to help voting districts that want to either go with paper ballots or auditable machines for the 2008 election to fund the switchover in time."
The bill, dubbed the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008, seeks to fix what many critics fear is a potential problem with paperless electronic voting machines — a lack of voter-verified paper records.Thanks largely to pressure from ten veterans' groups, the VA will get $3.7 billion in emergency funding:
Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the emergency funds were needed because the veterans budget proposed by the president would have underfunded the Veterans Affairs Department at a time when there was a need to expand mental health care, improve treatment for traumatic brain injuries and reverse a claims backlog.Billboards are getting increasingly unpopular. Oklahoma City and Wyoming, MI are considering restricting them dramatically, and in Arizona, astronomers are doing their best to fight light pollution from digital billboards.
"This could not be allowed to happen," said Akaka, who wrote to the president urging him to release the extra money. "I am relieved that he has seen fit to do so."
"The state is magical in terms of its clear night skies but we're concerned this kind of outdoor lighting will make it harder for the state's observatories to do their work," said Richard Green, director of the Large Binocular Telescope observatory in Tucson.Last year, California gave taxpayers the chance to donate automatically to a sea otter preservation fund, by checking a box on their state income tax form; this program has raised $255,000, so far:
“Last year, Californians showed just how committed they are to the conservation of sea otters,” said Jim Curland marine program associate for Defenders of Wildlife. “The tax check-off gives people a great way to play a direct role in the recovery efforts for sea otters.”
The Sietch Blog reports on a bicycle that doubles as a water pump, purifier, and storage tank:
A peristaltic pump attached to the pedal crank draws water from a large tank, through a carbon filter, to a smaller clean tank. The clean tank is removable and closed for contamination-free home storage and use. A clutch engages and disengages the drive belt from the pedal crank, enabling the rider to filter the water while traveling or while stationary.Sierra Leone has halted timber exports:
Sierra Leone's government has banned the exportation of timber after "indiscriminate destruction" by Chinese and other foreign businessmen, a senior official said on Monday.David Roberts notes that Xcel Energy will spend $100 million to build a smart-grid city:
A smart grid would allow Xcel to charge higher rates during peak usage hours and lower rates during off-peak hours. Consumers could lower their monthly bills by performing power-consuming tasks, such as running the dishwasher, during off-peak hours.In related news, Google is investing $10 million in a solar-thermal company:
"That's a pretty good way to take care of capacity issues," said Jon Caldara, president of Golden-based think tank Independence Institute. "I'm not a big fan of Xcel, but on this one, I think they're taking a step in the right direction."
Xcel plans to install in-home control devices in the smart-grid city to automate home energy use. The city would be outfitted with infrastructure to support renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. The city would also feature plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles that charge and discharge to the grid.
To serve the renewable electricity needs of utility-scale energy providers, eSolar has developed a market disrupting solar thermal power plant technology. Generation can be scaled from 25 MW to over 500 MW at energy prices competitive with traditional fossil fuels.It often happens that air conditioners are used on very sunny days, so it makes sense to have them run off the grid on solar power. A Spanish company seems to have invented a small air conditioner that does just that:
From an operation point of view it is very simple: you put hot water in, you get cold water out, which you can run to a conventional fancoil. The hot water in can come from any source, but evacuated tube collectors, which used to be very expensive, are pretty affordable now.Illinois farmers are taking a stand against a nightmare plan to build a pipeline from Albertan oil sand fields to Texas:
Several farmers are standing in Enbridge's way, however, refusing to let the company build the pipeline through their land. At a public meeting, Bob Kelly, 81, called Enbridge "highway robbers." He said there is no way he will allow the company to tear up farmland that has been in his family for 125 years. "It's not for sale at any price," he said.Not all farmers agree, of course:
"It should be seen as progress to bring some crude oil down here to central Illinois," said John Gramm, 76, of Gridley. "It's good for business and labor, and it makes us less dependent on foreign oil."The GOP needs to run this man for president, if you ask me.
Onwards and upwards. First off, ten minutes or so of ambient audio from Antigua, via AIDG Blog.
Next, condom envelopes from the 1930s and 1940s, via Coudal.
And some close-up views of sweets, sweet wrappers and candy.
From there, we'll proceed in an orderly fashion to James A. Scott Collection, which comprises before and after photographs of San Francisco, and the Willard E. Worden Glass Plate Negative Collection (both via Plep).
BibliOdyssey has a typically dazzling post on The Fugitive Beauties of Hexandria. National Geographic investigates The Emptied Prairie and finds "a sense of things ebbing" (recommended soundtrack: Extreme close up recording of a stem cell harvesting machine).
You'll find a couple of entertaining Laulupidu videos at WhirledView. (Also, check out the letter CKR sent to the presidential candidates on the bloggers' nuclear strategy consensus statement. Not sure what will come of this, but it strikes me as a shrewd and potentially very powerful use of the blogosphere as a sort of decentralized thinktank.)
Last, "Danse Macabre," a short film from 1922.
(Photo at top: "Dissin's Guest House, Washington, D.C. 1942" by Esther Bubley, via wood s lot).