Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

A week in which Ted Stevens is indicted for corruption ought to be cheery enough for anyone...but as I've said before, there's no harm in gilding the lily.

One of Stevens' many pet peeves was the Cape Wind project, which, by an amazing coincidence, has scored yet another legal victory:

The Pawa law firm and the Global Warming Legal Action Project have scored a major victory in the Cape Wind case. Today the Energy Facilities Siting Board (”EFSB”) rejected nearly all of the arguments by the opponents of Cape Wind to dismiss the EFSB case filed by Cape Wind.
I'm thinking it may be time for Stevens to get himself a new tie.

Fifty Catholic organizations have asked the Pope to lift the church's ban on contraception:
The open letter to the Pope, published in Italy's Corriere della Sera, noted, "When Pope Paul VI cemented the Catholic hierarchy's ban on contraception in 1968, he overrode the findings of a group of experts he had himself chosen." Today, experts and Catholics around the world oppose the ban.

"Humanae Vitae continues to be a source of great conflict and division in the church. Catholics and non-Catholics alike continue to feel the impact of the Catholic hierarchy's devastating policy," the letter states, noting, "The impact of the ban has been particularly disastrous in the global south, and because the Catholic hierarchy holds significant sway over many national family planning policies, it obstructs the implementation of good public health policies on family planning and HIV prevention."
Pacific Gas and Electric has pledged that it will donate $250,000 to defeat California's Proposition 8, which would amend the state constitution to make same-sex marriage illegal:
Company officials also indicated they would attempt to garner support from other companies to defeat the anti-gay measure by assembling a business advisory council on the matter.
A federal judge has ruled that a Florida school must allow students to form a Gay-Straight Alliance:
Students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate," Judge K. Michael Moore said in his written ruling.
In other legal news, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that "aliens challenging deportation cannot be imprisoned for long periods without a bail hearing."

Pwoje Espwa has been helping Haitians to make charcoal briquettes out of vegetable waste:
We use the stalks of corn along with vertiver and end up with this which lasts longer than regular charcoal. It is economical and ecological as we don’t contribute to the huge problem of deforestation here....The idea is based on Doctor Amy Smith’s (MIT) D-Lab work. We now have a team of 16 working on making these briquettes and freeing us from super-expensive propane and regular charcoal.
Link via AIDG Blog. There's more on briquette-making at AfriGadget.

Academic institutions are working to find and save ancient documents in Timbuktu:
An astonishing project is underway in Timbuktu, Mali, one of the world's poorest countries. On the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, experts are opening an enchanted Aladdin's Cave, filled with hundreds of thousands of ancient documents.

The Ahmed Baba Library alone contains more than 20,000 manuscripts, including works on herbal medicine and mathematics, yellowed volumes of poetry, music and Islamic law. Some are adorned with gilded letters, while others are written in the language of the Tuareg tribes. The contents remain a mystery.

Manuscript hunters are now scouring the environs of Timbuktu, descending into dark, clay basements and climbing up into attics. Twenty-four family-owned collections have already been discovered in the area.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is reviewing its logging contracts:
Many contracts are expected to be cancelled outright by a review panel made up of government officials and independent experts.

"What I'm hoping for is fewer concessions. What I'm hoping for is more revenues for the state. What I'm hoping for is better management of the forestry sector," Environment Minister Jose Endundu told reporters on Wednesday.
They'll definitely want to take a close look at this one:
A major European logging company is using an elaborate profit-laundering system to smuggle timber revenue out of Africa and avoid paying taxes to the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo, alleges a new report published by Greenpeace.

Danzer Group, a German-owned and Swiss-based logging firm, has swindled the governments out of 7.8 million euros in tax revenue, says the report.
An endangered fruit bat was born in the Bronx Zoo:
Rodriguez bats have a wingspan of about 3 feet and are among the largest bats in the world. They are listed as critically endangered with only an estimated 5,000 individuals left in the wild. There are about 350 individuals in zoos world-wide.
Photo by Julie Larsen Maher

A new type of concrete allegedly sucks CO2 out of the air. If this is actually true, we're all gonna die, 'cause -- all together now -- CO2 is life!:
As concrete is used more than any other man made material on earth, (the Chinese alone consume 40%!), and concrete is responsible for upwards of 5% of global CO2 emissions, any amount of increase carbon storage in concrete would make a difference. So if Carbon Sense can really deliver as they say it can in Technology Review, the process “has the potential to sequester or avoid 20% of all cement-industry carbon dioxide emissions.”
TerraCycle makes things out of garbage, and packages them in containers made from garbage. As you might imagine, their work is easier if they can get the garbage they need before it winds up in a landfill. Accordingly, they're willing to pay cold hard cash for every cookie wrapper, drink pouch, soda bottle, and used cork you can send 'em. Click here to get involved.

Los Angeles is the latest city to ban plastic bags:
LA consumers use some 2.3 billion bags. Only about 5 percent of those plastic bags are recycled, leaving the remainder to swirl in the winds and tides posing a hazard to wildlife and humans. The city is also stepping it up with a ban on Styrofoam at city facilities by 2009.
Zoologists are using tangles of barbed wire and mp3s of bird calls in an attempt to save the cactus wren:
Setting an iPod to coastal cactus wren, the scientists will broadcast a series of "char, char, char" notes. If they are lucky, a brown-and-white bird will flit out of the brush and perhaps make the tangle of piping and barbed wire its home. Olson's fake cholla are part of a last-ditch effort to save the coastal cactus wren. It's a manmade solution to a manmade problem -- frequent wildland fires.
Photo by Jarek Tuszynski

Graffiti for Butterflies alerts migrating monarch butterflies to the presence of urban food sources:
Monarchs regularly pass through wide swathes of human settlement as they migrate each year from wintering sites in Mexico to summering grounds in the United States and Canada. GFB is the equivalent of a fast-food sign on a highway, advertising rest stops (waystations) to monarchs traveling through the area.
Link via things.

Almost 180,000 square miles of the Bering Sea will be protected from bottom trawling:
The National Marine Fisheries Service announced Friday that nearly 180,000 square miles of the Bering Sea will be closed to destructive bottom trawling to protect important seafloor habitats and marine life effective August 25, 2008. These in-the-water protections reflect an approach first developed by Oceana, and supported by local communities and other conservation organizations, that freezes the current area, or "footprint," where trawling already occurs in the Bering Sea and prevents trawlers from expanding into previously untrawled areas.
AfriGadget discusses keyhole gardens:
Keyhole gardens are a technique used to grow vegetables in a dry climate. They are actually a special form of raised bed gardens: circular waist high raised beds with a path to the center. Walled in by stones, there’s a basket made from sticks and straw in the center that holds manure and other organic kitchen waste for compost.

Oregon's Sandy River is responding well to the demolition of Marmot Dam:
Some had worried that sediment piled behind the dam would suffocate salmon and block tributaries downstream. It did nothing of the sort. In fact, the river has since digested the equivalent of about 150 Olympic-size swimming pools full of sediment -- without a hiccup....

Scientists were especially impressed with how rapidly the river scoured the sediment away. Some models predicted the river would need two to five years to carry off half the sediment pile, but it did so in months.
(Link via ErinPDX, a fellow member of the Eschatonian Dam-Haters Club.)

Light rail is expanding in the Southwest:
[W]hen Phoenix opens its first light-rail line, this station will anchor a huge regional transit system that will stretch north to Glendale and east to Mesa and Tempe. It's a $1.4 billion, 20-mile catapult into transit — no other light-rail system in the country has been so large right from its inception.
10.3 billion trips were taken on public transportation last year — the highest number in more than 50 years. By far the biggest increase was in the number of trips on light rail, which saw more than a 10 percent jump in ridership. Several cities' light-rail and streetcar systems grew even faster. Baltimore, Minneapolis, St. Louis and San Francisco all experienced significant growth in passenger loads.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains how the Great Allegheny Passageway -- a hiking and biking trail -- has revitalized nearby communities:
An economic impact study conducted in 2007 determined the trail is generating $12.5 million in revenue and pouring more than $3 million in wages into trail-side communities.
After decades of preferring ideology to innovation, American utilities are visiting Germany to get a refresher course in the utterly fucking obvious:
Several major U.S. utility companies may accelerate plans to integrate solar power into their electricity mix following a fact-finding trip to Germany.

Twenty-three electric utilities were represented on the trip to Germany, the world's leading producer and installer of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells. All of them may now advance solar projects in the United States, a trip leader said, further expanding a growing solar market.
Great idea! Wish I'd thought of that.

In related news, San Francisco's Grace Cathedral is switching over to solar power:
The state-of-the-art photovoltaic system would be designed and supplied by SolarCity, a company with a vast experience of solar system design and installation. A partnership between the cathedral and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) would be instrumental in financing the entire project. The Pacific Gas and Electric would provide $65,000 for the purchase and installation of the photovoltaic. It was the hard work of Reverend Canon Sally Bingham, the president of California Interfaith Power and Light that initiated the deal between Grace Cathedral and PG&E.
A Japanese company is manufacturing pholtovoltaic windowpanes that provide enough power to run a computer or charge a cell phone.
The windows are not quite as cheap as one would hope, each square meter will set you back around $1900. However, each window will generate around 70 watts per square meter, which can be delivered via a USB cable to your device. As an added bonus, the tint created by the embedded photovoltaics means that the windows will let less heat and sunlight into your house and help save more energy (and money) for cooling your house down.
Spain hopes to put 1 million electric vehicles on its roads by 2014:
The Plan, which Spain’s Council of Ministers are expected to approve August 1, will be enacted this year and carry on through 2011. Spain will save between 5.8 and 6.4 million tons of oil over the three-year period as a result, according to industry ministry estimates.
Toronto will pay its citizens for coming up with innovative approaches to reducing the city's greenhouse emissions:
The city’s mayor, David Miller, indicated that Toronto needs all the help it can get to achieve its ambitious plans. The mayor was quoted in the Toronto Star commenting that “the plan’s success depends on residents creating change.”
Speaking of Toronto, here are some Canadian Landscapes. And here's a nice photo by Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn of the Milky Way over Ontario.

See also Moon Games.

You might want to take a look at this nice collection of photos by Leon Lewandowski (see also here). And ponder the imaginary state of Winnemac.

If you think campaign ads are bad now, get a load of this 1952 offering from Adlai Stevenson (via Good):

I highly recommend opening this video in three windows at once, so that the soundtracks overlap. calls itself "the camel hub of the Web." You can decide for yourself whether it's earned the right to make this claim, and announce your determination in Victorian back slang.

I'm shocked to learn that computers are now capable of making Garfield funny. Surely the Singularity is near!

Last, The Bioscope has helpfully compiled a list of silent film collections online, which includes two archives that were new and thrilling to me. australian screen "is a look at the Australian film and television industry, from its earliest days to the present." WildFilmHistory "is a fascinating online guide to the pioneering people and landmark productions behind one hundred years of wildlife filmmaking."

Apropos of which, here's "Rough Sea at Dover," from 1895.

(Photo at top by Galina Lukyanov, via wood s lot.)


Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar /Helluvafella!) said...

This is the best half-hour on the blogs on ANY Friday, phila...

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar /Helluvafella!) said...

Btw, Phila, if you don't already know of it, search "Blue Bear Denver" images...

Phila said...

Thanks, WGG!

Hadn't seen that photo, so thanks for that too....

MikeJ said...

Sorry to come to the comments so late, but I was amused by the judge in the gay/straight alliance case. The bit about not leaving their rights at the schoolhouse gate was a direct quote from Tinker v Des Moines, a supreme court case that said students could protest the Viet Nam war.

In other words, he told the school, "don't bother appealing this, it's settled law, and you'll lose."

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