Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

A new law in Wisconsin allows victims of domestic violence to get out of rental agreements without being penalized:

The law makes leases void if landlords punish tenants for calling police or emergency services. It also prohibits municipalities from enforcing ordinances that charge fees to property owners when tenants call police for help in domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking situations.
A bid to end affirmative action in Oklahoma has failed miserably:
The motion to withdraw the measure says backers do not believe that the number of signatures required to get on the ballot has been obtained. To get on the ballot, the petition would need 138,970 valid signatures.
There's more trouble brewing for Fred Phelps:
A federal court has ordered liens against the staunchly fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church, which recently lost a civil suit, The [Baltimore] Sun reported Monday.

Judge Richard D. Bennett of the U.S. district court of Maryland ordered church founder Fred Phelps and his two daughters to post cash bonds of $125,000 and $100,000 within the next 30 days. The judge also placed a lien on an office building owned by the elder Phelps that is worth $232,900. No money may be borrowed against the equity in the buildings, and no new mortgages can be issued on the property.
A federal judge has blocked a uranium mining operation near the Grand Canyon:
After a day-long hearing, a federal judge Friday evening issued an injunction against VANE Minerals and the Kaibab National Forest, halting uranium exploration on public lands within a few miles of Grand Canyon National Park.

“This order stops uranium exploration on the banks of a national treasure,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Forest Service had allowed drilling to begin while the case was pending, so the order comes as a major relief. We’re elated.”
Archaeologists from the United States, Israel, and Palestine are collaborating on historic preservation:
For the first time, the would-be peacemakers publicly revealed the fruits of their negotiations, and underlying research, to some 200 Israeli archaeologists during a four-hour presentation on Tuesday evening at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. The plan involves the return of artifacts and agreement on the protection of designated archaeological sites....

Boytner and Dodd share a long-standing interest in the connection between politics and archeology and, in the first two years of a five-year process beginning in 2002, they put together an electronic database of more than 1,500 sites and tens of thousands of artifacts that would fall into a legal limbo if and when the final boundaries are drawn between Israel and a Palestinian state.
Speaking of historic preservation, "Richard Moe, president of National Trust for Historic Preservation, argues that historic preservation has long been a tool with which to fight global warming":
This emphasis on new construction is completely wrong-headed. We can’t solve the problem by constructing more and more new buildings while ignoring the ones we already have. All green technology used in a new building represents a new impact on the environment. The greenest building is one that already exists.

The United States Energy Information Administration data suggest that buildings constructed before 1920 are actually more energy-efficient than buildings built at any time afterwards – except for those built after 2000. Furthermore, in 1999, the General Services Administration found that utility costs for historic buildings were 27 percent less than for more modern ones.
Things alerts me to Low-tech Magazine, which has won my antiquarian heart with an article recommending that you "turn off your flat screen television and get lost in 17th, 18th and 19th century optical entertainment." The revolution will not be televised; it'll be praxinoscopic!

A new water heater reportedly reduces energy consumption by means of a heat pump. That's interesting, but I was even more intrigued by this plea for help:
[W]hy doesn't my fridge connect to the outside world? In wintertime, there's plenty of cold air for free, just outside my window. In summertime, the hot air from the fridge's air pump gets recirculated into my already-overheated house. Seems like a problem looking for a solution. Any takers?
Seems like a good question to me....

Another day, another alleged breakthrough in solar panel design:
By using a popcorn-ball design -- tiny kernels clumped into much larger porous spheres -- researchers at the University of Washington are able to manipulate light and more than double the efficiency of converting solar energy to electricity.
Inhabitat discusses solar balloons:
These solar balloons are as low-impact as power plants get, since their infrastructure is composed entirely of a control panel, a helium supply cable, and a power cable. Residential possibilities abound, as Cory and Gurfil estimate that one or two balloons would fulfill the electrical needs for one home, and they have suggested that multiple balloons can be linked together to power apartments and communities.

The design is also ideal for a multitude of off-the-grid applications, with the potential to bring power to deserts, isolated islands, ocean-bound freighters, and heavily forested landscapes. Additionally, the balloons’ eminently deployable nature makes them perfect for disaster and emergency situations, since the balloons are quick to set up and can be delivered via air.

The Sietch Blog reports that big business is clamoring for "an eight-year extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit."
“We believe solar projects will become cost effective in the future without the federal tax credits,” said Edward Levin, vice president of global structure products at Morgan Stanley, “But the current federal tax incentives are still vital for industry growth and continued investor confidence. The tax incentives need to be extended to avoid a market interruption that could significantly set back U.S. solar development.”
No word yet on whether Levin reeks of patchouli or plays hackeysack. But it's looking as though his wish may be granted.

New York governor David Paterson says he will not allow an LNG terminal in Long Island Sound:
Gov. David Paterson said Thursday that New York won't approve plans for a $700 million liquefied natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound, a project supporters say would reduce utility bills but that critics say would be an environmental hazard and a possible terrorist target...."The fact is, Broadwater is behind us," Paterson said at a news conference at a state park along Long Island's north shore. A crowd of about 200 politicians, environmentalists and Long Island residents applauded.
The movement against animal confinement at factory farms is expanding:
Growing public awareness of the environmental, public health, and animal welfare challenges associated with animal confinement has lead several major grocery stores, fast food chains, and meat producers to phase out some of these practices. U.S. companies that have responded to consumer concern in recent years include Safeway, North America's third largest grocery retailer; leading pork producer Smithfield Foods; and hamburger giant Burger King.

Mounting legislation is forcing companies to curtail confinement as well. The E.U. voted to ban veal cages, breeding pig crates, and windowless "battery cages" for hens, and the laws first went into effect last year. A campaign is now under way in the largest U.S. agricultural state, California, to hold an animal welfare referendum during the November election. A handful of other U.S. states have passed bans on veal and pregnant sow crates, but the California initiative would make it the first to outlaw all three confinement practices.
There's talk in the UK of requiring magazines to inform readers when photos of models have been airbrushed:
Following the British Fashion Council's Model Health Inquiry last December, which questioned the part airbrushed images play in perpetuating an "unachievable aesthetic," digitally enhanced images — in other words, airbrushing — are set for some closer inspection. The U.K.'s Periodical Publishers Association said Tuesday it will set up a working group with the BFC and London magazine editors to discuss the use of digital enhancements in fashion photography.
AIDG Blog tells you everything you ever wanted to know about dry toilets. AfriGadget explains the benefits of the Universal Nut Sheller. And a centuries-old Amazonian farming technique may turn out to be very timely:
Fifteen hundred years ago, tribes people from the central Amazon basin mixed their soil with charcoal derived from animal bone and tree bark. Today, at the site of this charcoal deposit, scientists have found some of the richest, most fertile soil in the world. Now this ancient, remarkably simple farming technique seems far ahead of the curve, holding promise as a carbon-negative strategy to rein in world hunger as well as greenhouse gases....

They also suggest that this so-called “biochar” profoundly enhances the natural carbon seizing ability of soil. Dubbed “black gold agriculture,” scientists say this “revolutionary” farming technique can provide a cheap, straight-forward strategy to reduce greenhouse gases by trapping them in charcoal-laced soil.
The Memphis Zoo has successfully bred the critically endangered Mississippi gopher frog:
Using in-vitro fertilization techniques learned while breeding Wyoming toads in 2004, the zoo has produced 93 Mississippi gopher tadpoles, a number nearly matching the 100 frogs still living in the wild.

Scientists are setting up a global system of hydrophones to monitor ocean noises, and protect whales and other marine mammals.
“The ocean is a noisy place,” said Sofie Van Parijs, marine mammal acoustician at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and a project scientist. “It’s full of natural sounds and those from human activities, and there is substantial evidence that the level of man-made noise is rising. Marine mammals and many fishes are highly dependent on sound for communication, navigation, foraging and predator avoidance. We need to understand how these animals, especially endangered and protected species, are impacted by sounds from many sources to be able to better manage and protect these living resources.”
A massive new survey of Madagascar wildlife is expected to aid conservation efforts:
The study is unprecedented in terms of not only the number of species examined (some 2,315 species in six groups), but also because of the project’s scale and resolution. The biodiversity, climate and habitat of the entire 226,657 square-mile island, which is nearly a third larger than the state of California, were examined....

“While some of the key areas of biodiversity are under protection, many are not. This study will help direct conservation plans to help protect the most species possible, with special consideration given to those animals and plants that are most endangered,” said the study’s lead co-author Dr. Claire Kremen, an associate conservationist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and UC Berkeley assistant professor.
Four Legs Good informs me that short-snouted seahorses are living in the Thames estuary, which is a sign that clean-up efforts have been successful:
The seahorses were discovered during surveys over the past 18 months, but this was kept secret until yesterday, as the seahorses were not fully protected until then.

Short-snouted and long-snouted seahorses now have full legal protection from being killed, caught or disturbed.

Canada is creating a new national park comprising 1.9 million acres:
Naats'ihch'oh, which means "stands like a porcupine" in the language of the local Dene aboriginal people, is an important habitat for grizzly bear, Dall's sheep and woodland caribou.
Ask for it by name.

CKR was kind enough to send me an interesting article on the insecticide DEET:
[B]y pinpointing DEET's molecular target in insects, researchers at Rockefeller University have definitively shown that the widely used bug repellent acts like a chemical cloak, masking human odors that blood-feeding insects find attractive.

The research, which will be published in the March 13 issue of Science Express, now makes it possible not only to systematically improve upon the repellent properties of DEET but also to make it a safer chemical.
CKR also brings us some truly shocking news: a new study suggests that spending money to help other people is more rewarding than spending it on oneself:
Losing both the pleasure of sharing with others and the warmth of identifying with our nation could be part of the uneasiness people express in agreeing with the pollsters’ “the nation is on the wrong track.” We have been told for so long now that keeping as much of our money as possible is the best of all possible worlds, that it’s likely that these losses would be unarticulated. But the Science article points to a need to help others that is deeply embedded in our nature.
Wine may protect against dementia, so drink up (and pour one for me while you're at it...this is thirsty work!).

The photo at the top is from a Flickr set by Susan Bein. Her other sets are stunning too...especially Ghost Towns of Eastern Oregon (via Lens Culture).

Furthermore: A survey of Russian nuclear research facilities. Documentary films on American folk traditions at, featuring footage of Othar Turner and Peg Leg Sam Jackson. Vintage cartoon sounds at Retronomatopeya (via Coudal, if memory serves).

A talking scarecrow from 1931. The sounds of cotton machinery. Gorgeous maps of the Martian canals at BibliOdyssey. The exciting world of date nails. And an amazing collection of Movie Title Screens (this link is definitely via Coudal).

Last, a solar eclipse, filmed in 1925 from a dirigible.


CKR said...

Y'know, I'm wondering whether it's fair to call people like Fred Phelps fundamentalists. His schtick really has little to do with religion; it's pure homophobia, and even that word seems too mild.

For all the grief the fundies have brought us, most of them are far from Phelps's degree of hate. So it seems not quite fair to tar them with Fred Phelps.

Might be better to call him what he is: a homophobe hate-crimer.

Phila said...

Yeah, I can see that. Phelps really is a category unto himself.

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