Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

A nonprofit group called Homes for Our Troops builds free homes that are specially adapted for injured vets:

Sgt. Brian Fountaine was recovering in Walter Reed Army Medical Center when he got an unexpected visitor who offered to build him a house – free of charge. The visitor was John Gonsalves, founder of Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit group that builds houses for severely injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sergeant Fountaine, who lost both legs below the knees in Iraq, turned to his father after Mr. Gonsalves left and asked: "Is this guy for real?"

He is. This past weekend, Fountaine moved into a three-bedroom ranch here in Plymouth, Mass., completed with the help of hundreds of volunteers and donated building supplies and land.
Click here to donate, or to get involved.

A woman who was sentenced to be stoned to death has been released from an Iranian prison:
In mid-October 2007, the Head of the Judiciary sent Mokarrameh Ebrahimi's case to the Amnesty and Clemency Commission, who have now ordered her release. She is believed to have been pardoned by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Shadi Sadr, leader of the "Stop Stoning Forever" campaign, said, "It was a rare ruling… I cannot tell how the commission came up with this decision… But you cannot deny the role of public opinion and domestic and international pressures."
In China, meanwhile, 200,000 women will get a free screening for cervical cancer.
The "Prevention of Cervical Cancer" (PCC) program, approved by China's health ministry, will invest 200 million yuan (28.3 million U.S. dollars) in cash and equipment into promoting standard treatments of cervical diseases and setting up screening and treatment centers in the country.

If it goes ahead this will be the second stage of the program, and women from remote western regions will especially benefit from the project, according to the co-organizers, the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, the TCT Medical Company and the China Women Development Foundation.
A Wisconsin appeals court has upheld the punishment of a pharmacist who not only refused to fill a women’s contraceptive prescription, but also refused to transfer it to another pharmacy:
"Noesen abandoned even the steps necessary to perform in a minimally competent manner under any standard of care," the three-judge panel said. The decision upheld a ruling by Barron County Circuit Judge James Babler.
And Colorado’s senate has passed a bill that would prevent anti-abortion protesters from camping out in front of people's houses:
It would require that protesters have to keep walking along a route about 300 feet long. They wouldn't be able to camp out in front of a house and wouldn't be able to carry signs larger than 6 square feet.
The Kentucky legislature has killed a bill that would've blocked state agencies from providing health insurance to domestic partners. In related news, 54 percent of Vermont residents support same-sex marriage, which is an eight-percent increase over last year.

Yet another study indicates that organic crops are comparable in yield to conventional ones, despite the alarmist claims of conservatarian Chicken Littles:
In this research they found that: organic forage crops yielded as much or more dry matter as their conventional counterparts with quality sufficient to produce as much milk as the conventional systems; and organic grain crops: corn, soybean, and winter wheat produced 90% as well as their conventionally managed counterparts. In spite of some climatic differences and a large difference in soil drainage between the two sites, the relatively small difference in the way the cropping systems performed suggested that these results are widely applicable across prairie-derived soils in the U.S. upper Midwest.
Wal-Mart claims that it has decided to sell hormone-free milk exclusively:
The retailer said Thursday that its change was prompted by consumer demands. "Many Wal-Mart customers have expressed a desire for milk choices," the company's release said. The change means Wal-Mart's Great Value store brand milk will be rBST-free, as will milk offered at the company's Sam's Club warehouse locations.
Доверяй, но проверяй, as the saying is.

Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius has vetoed a truly noxious pro-coal bill:
The bill, approved by the Republican-dominated Kansas legislature, would have allowed Sunflower Electric Power Corp to add two 700-megawatt units at a facility in western Kansas.

Under the bill, lawmakers sought to strip the authority of the Kansas health and environment secretary, who turned down the $3.6 billion project last year because it would have produced more carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming.
A new type of window glass has remarkable insulating power:
[T]his new vacuum glass is as insulative as a thick insulated wall. Using the same principle as a vacuum thermos bottle, these glass panels essentially negate two principal modes of heat transfer, paving the way towards windows that actually supply thermal energy instead of leaking it.
A wolverine was spotted in Tahoe National Forest for the first time since 1922:
It’s important to researchers because the nearest population of wolverines is 900 miles away in Central Washington. That means the animal either migrated across an enormous distance or it’s part of a small group of native wolverines that somehow evaded detection for the better part of a century.
Nepal’s Indian rhinoceros population is increasing:
A healthier sex ratio as well as gradual improvements in habitat management have helped boost rhino numbers….Officials say the rhino rebound is also due to new anti-poaching measures implemented in the aftermath of the country's decade-long Maoist insurgency.

And bee populations are faring well in Ohio:
As many as 85 percent of the honey bees across the state survived the winter, experts estimate. That's a big change from this time last year, when beekeepers opened their hives to find that a cold snap and a mysterious disease had killed off 72 percent of Ohio bees.
Four Legs Good took considerable pains to inform me that a massive reforestation project is underway in Texas:
The project involves taking highly disturbed areas — places where trees were cleared to convert land for grazing and agricultural purposes — and returning them to how they looked hundreds of years ago. In all, officials expect to plant 55,000 loblolly pine trees on 118 acres this year, and then repeat the process in another part of the park next year.
A far more ambitious project in Costa Rica seems to have some hope of succeeding:
Does the experiment's success mean that rainforests will one day flourish again? Fully rescuing a rainforest may take hundreds of years, if it can be done at all.

"The potential for the forest being able to come back is debatable," Leopold says, but the results are promising.

"I'm surprised," he said. "We're getting an impressive growth of new forest species." After only ten years, plots that began with a few species are now lush forests of hundreds. Who knows what the next few decades - or centuries - might bring?
Progress is also being made in Tanzania:
Degraded land in western Tanzania is gradually being reclaimed — two decades after work began to rehabilitate the declining ecosystems....

The most successful of these has been the use of the Ngitili system. Ngitili requires large areas of land to be left fallow, leaving vegetation to be nurtured over the rainy season. This ensures that there is adequate feed available for the animals during the drier months.

Economists estimate that more than 800 villages in western Tanzania are now using variations of the Ngitili system and, consequently, a positive impact on local incomes has been seen.
I was intrigued by this story about a Brazilian car wash that uses no water:
This company began using a native Brazilian wax to clean cars spotless without the use of water. The benefits? They create "live" capital by insisting on operating under the law, ther system has saved

millions of gallons of water, and their impressive sales have encouraged them to expand overseas and into other services.
Rumor has it that copper surfaces can reduce hospital infections:
Copper reduces the lifespan of infection-causing organisms, which can linger on hospital doorknobs and bed rails for days, to a mere couple hours. While scientists aren't sure how the metal works, they are taking note.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently approved five copper alloy products as "anti-microbial," which will be fabricated into numerous products, including intravenous poles, hand rails and shower heads.
Somalia is officially polio-free:
Somalia has not reported a case since 25 March 2007, a landmark moment in the intensified eradication effort launched last year to wipe out the disease in the remaining few strongholds.
The century-old Detroit Electric will be manufactured anew:
This 100 year-old antique electric car will be available in early 2009 from ZAP and China Youngman Automotive Group, proving once and for all that there is no such thing as a new idea. The Detroit Electric is considered to be the most popular electric car in history — and was produced by the Anderson Electric Car Company in 1907 (production ran from 1907 to 1939). This cute little EV could go fo 130 miles on one charge, and had a top speed of about 32km/h. Famous Detroit Electric owners included Thomas Edison, Charles Proteus Steinmetz and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Speaking of Edison, it turns out that he was not the first person to record sound:
The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable — converted from squiggles on paper to sound — by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.
Click here to listen to this 148-year-old performance.

A British artist has installed a number of pianos in public places, with charming results:
The piano in the Erdington suburb of Birmingham is one of 15 which have just appeared, unguarded, across the city. There is one in the Rag Market, and one outside Cadbury World. There is another at Colmore junior school, where a teacher was persuaded into an impromptu recital dressed in white gown with veil fluttering in the icy wind. She had been on her way to her wedding.
There are glad tidings from The Bioscope:
The Scottish Screen Archive has released some 1,000 film clips on its impressively-redesigned site....look out for Lord and Lady Overtoun’s Visit to Mcindoe’s Show (1906), a rare early film of the outside of a fairground bioscope show; Dr Macintyre’s X-Ray Film (1896/1909), examples of the X-ray cinematography of Dr John Macintyre....
Click through to get the links.

Coconino World has plenty of heart-quickening graphics from Die Muskete, circa 1909.

You may want to turn out your lights tomorrow. Today, you can ponder Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. And The Othmer Library of Chemical History. And Christian Houge's Isolation and Arctic Technology.

You never know when The Registry of Mushrooms in Works of Art might come in handy, so please do make a note of it. But don't let it distract you from more pressing concerns, like this enormous and staggeringly beautiful collection of cigarette cards, sorted by subject matter:

Or the eerie pollen photomicrographs at Heliotown.

Last, a brief demonstration of fluid mechanics.

(Photo at top: "Blackbird Aviary" by Olivia Parker.)


Willendorf Venus said...

Thank you for this. And for doing this every week. You are a busy man, but still find time to find positive and beautiful and mysterious things to share. I really appreciate it.

Phila said...

Thanks, WV. It's hard to express how much comments like this mean to me.

Commenter Without Qualities said...

Hear hear, WV. I was seized by fear that the Bouphonia hiatus might have become permanent, and was in serious Hope Friday withdrawal. Welcome back, Phila!