Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging


Niger has been convicted by an African regional court of failing to protect women from the slave trade:

The case against the state was brought with the help of British-based anti-slavery organisations as a test case to press African governments to stamp out slavery, which campaigners say is rife in some African countries, despite legal prohibitions. The court ordered Niger to pay 10 million CFA francs (£12,200) in damages. There is no right of appeal.
And, in an equally unprecedented case, Egypt has prosecuted a man who sexually abused a woman:
When Noha Rushdi Saleh went to a police station to press charges against a man who had repeatedly groped her on the street, she was turned away. The police said that if she wanted to file charges against the man she would have to bring him to the station herself. Saleh, 27, promptly returned to the scene and sat on the hood of the perpetrator's vehicle and argued with him until they went to a local station where he was charged with assault.

Her decision to press charges paid off Tuesday, when a Cairo court sentenced Sherif Goma'a to three years in prison with hard labor and fined him 5,001 Egyptian pounds ($895).
In related news, Los Angeles is taking tentative steps towards processing its untested rape kits:
Under the terms of the plan, which the City Council is expected to vote on today, the LAPD would allocate $700,000 to hire 16 more DNA analysts and support staff -- a boost of about 33% over current staffing. The city would also increase by $250,000 the funds earmarked to pay private laboratories that the LAPD hires to help with the daunting workload.
Connecticut's attorney general has advised justices of the peace that they have no legal right to refuse to marry same-sex couples:
In his legal opinion, Blumenthal also said that same-sex couples who have had civil unions are not required to dissolve those unions before marrying. He said that the state will continue to grant both same-sex marriages and civil unions under current law, and that Connecticut will recognize both out-of-state civil unions and same-sex marriages.
This, of course, is the Greatest Injustice Ever...at least to hear this schmuck tell it:
“For the attorney general to try to force this upon people, it’s discrimination in reverse,” Norwalk JP Nicholas Kydes told The Stamford Advocate. “It’s discrimination against people who view marriage as a bond between and man and a woman.”
Discrimination in reverse? Why, that almost sounds like anti-discrimination! As Cicero observed during his prosecution of Gaius Verres, "Boo fucking hoo."

Here's one of those ideas that's so obvious that it makes your brain ache:
The e-charkha is an ingenious update to India’s ubiquitous charkha [spinning wheel] that transforms the simple machine into a potentially significant source of energy for millions of struggling families in India. Designed by RS Hiremath, the e-charkha “not only produces yarn but also generates electricity using a maintenance free lead acid battery fixed at the bottom, which functions as an inverter.”

Also in India, power from rice husks:
HPS utilizes a proprietary technology to run 35-100 kilowatt mini power plants, delivering pay-for-use electricity to un-electrified villages in India's "Rice Belt." HPS' five pilot projects have become operationally profitable within six months, delivering sustainable, environmentally-friendly, low-cost energy that is dramatically improving the lives of rural Indians.
I agree with David Roberts that this quote from Obama is very heartening:
One of the most frustrating things over the last eight years has been the ability of George Bush to pile up debt and huge deficits and not have anything to show for it, right? So, if you're going to run deficit spending, then it better be in rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our sewer lines, our water system, laying broadband lines.

One of, I think, the most important infrastructure projects that we need is a whole new electricity grid. Because if we're going to be serious about renewable energy, I want to be able to get wind power from North Dakota to population centers, like Chicago. And we're going to have to have a smart grid if we want to use plug-in hybrids then we want to be able to have ordinary consumers sell back the electricity that's generated from those car batteries, back into the grid. That can create 5 million new jobs, just in new energy.
Sarah Palin, meanwhile, visited a solar panel manufacturer and used it as an opportunity to promote domestic drilling. The choice seems pretty clear to me.

Speaking of the election, this is a nice story:
About a month short of her 110th birthday, Amanda Jones – whose father spent some of his childhood as a slave – mailed in a ballot for the man who could be the first black president of the U.S. A life-long Democrat, Jones, who lives outside of Austin, first voted for president more than 60 years ago (for F.D.R.). Her father encouraged her to exercise her right, despite barriers preventing black people from voting – such as poll taxes and other means of voter suppression.
And speaking of voter suppression, Colorado citizens who'd been purged from the voter registration list will be allowed to vote:
Thousands of Colorado residents who had been scratched from voter registration rolls will be allowed to cast ballots on Election Day and their votes will be given special protection to ensure they are counted, following the resolution of a federal lawsuit filed against the state.
But wait...there's more!
In Michigan, a federal appeals court handed a similar victory to 5,500 people who had been thrown off the voter registration rolls....In a 2-1 ruling, the Cincinnati-based court said Michigan voters are properly registered when applications are approved and names are added to the rolls — not if they receive a card in the mail....

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction Friday that keeps early voting centers open in the Democratic strongholds of Gary, Hammond and East Chicago....The Court of Appeals rejected Republican arguments that state law required an unanimous decision by the election board to open the satellite centers.
In New York, the attorney general is taking steps to reduce corruption in wind-farm siting (a problem I previously discussed here).
New York's Attorney General launched an ethics code on Thursday that seeks to fight dirty business in the state's emerging wind power farm business....[R]esidents have charged that wind power companies have intimidated them and given gifts to officials in an effort to locate wind farms.

The code is a result of Cuomo's investigation into dozens of complaints from throughout the state.
In California, a new solar thermal plant was constructed in a mere seven months:
Ausra’s Bakersfield plant is expected to generate 5MW of electricity (enough to power 3,500 homes), and it is an exciting a proof of concept for a much larger 177MW facility set to open in 2010 in San Luis Obispo that will power more than 120,000 homes.

Ausra’s solar-thermal plants employ a technology called Compact Linear Fresnel Reflectors. The process use mirrors to focus the sun’s heat upon tubes of water, creating steam that is used to drive power turbines to generate electricity. Unlike wind and photovoltaic systems, solar thermal plants are capable of storing heat for times when power is needed, and the steam produced can also used for other applications.
And in Europe, those crazy Europeans have the crazy European idea of building some sort of centrally planned collectivist solar grid thing, which'll undoubtedly serve as a Trojan Horse for their larger goal of seizing our guns and teaching oral sex techniques to our preschoolers.
The Europeans are serious about nanotechnology to wean countries off using fossil fuels in the next century. There´s considerable interest in setting up a solar grid that is global because the sun consistently shines on some part of the planet.

The technologies European scientists say are going to dominate the sustainable energy sector include Dye Sensitized solar Cells (DSCs) and biomimetics. These two technologies are popular because they show great promise for capturing or storing solar energy. At the same time, nanocatalysis already has begun to churn out efficient methods for energy-saving industrial processes convincingly.
I don't know about you, but I'm going to put on a bowtie, turn on every light in the house, and smoke three cigars at once. Those Yurpeens ain't the boss of me!

They are the boss of deep-sea fishers, however:
Europe's exotic deepwater fish, some of which can live up to 150 years, won more protection from the European Union on Monday as fisheries ministers agreed to hefty quota cuts for the next two years.
An elephant poacher in Cameroon has been jailed:
“We welcome this new verdict and hope it will deter other poachers and their accomplices from decimating wildlife and above all protect rare and vital species from extinction for the benefit of the people around Korup National Park and mankind as a whole,” said Dr Martin Tchamba, Technical Manager, WWF-Cameroon.
The US has taken steps to protect a couple of rare corals:
In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, elkhorn and staghorn corals in 2006 became the first species to be protected under the Endangered Species Act due to the threat of global warming and ocean acidification.
No word yet from the thinktank boys on whether this will lead to a new Stone Age and a human life expectancy of 23 years. But common sense says that if that doesn't do it, this will:
The United States, Mexico, and Canada will work together to conserve the vaquita, the world's smallest, and most endangered, species of cetacean.

The governments will fund research and work with fishermen in the upper Gulf of California to eliminate the use of fine-mesh gill nets and other fishing practices that threaten the species, which is estimated to number around 150 individuals. A U.S. vessel is already laying out a network of acoustic monitoring devices to track the porpoise in the Gulf.
A critically endangered bat has made a remarkable recovery:
Down from a handful of individuals in 1989, the Pemba flying fox population on the island of Pemba, off the coast of Tanzania, now stands at more than 22,000. The recovery owes to the efforts of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Department of Commercial Crops, Fruits and Forestry (DCCFF) which established new reserves to protect critical habitat for the species and launched local education initiatives to raise awareness of its plight and reduce hunting. Today local residents take pride in protecting the charismatic species, which is endemic to the island and is one of Africa's largest bat species (with a wingspan of five-and-a-half feet).

"Less than twenty years ago this bat looked set to disappear off the face of the planet forever. Thanks to the enthusiasm of local people, FFI's ongoing conservation efforts have managed to claw this species back from the brink of extinction," said Joy Juma, FFI East Africa Programme Assistant.
Costa Rica has banned the logging of a tree that houses the endangered great green macaw:
Costa Rica's high court has prohibited the cutting of a certain species of tree, in part because a highly endangered type of parrot uses the tree almost exclusively for nesting.

With one decision, the Sala IV constitutional court protected the mountain almond tree and the great green macaw, specifically in a sprawling area in northern Costa Rica. However, the court also ordered the Ministerio de Ambiente y EnergĂ­a to spread the word to all its regional officials, thus protecting the tree throughout the country. The Sala IV also ordered the environmental courts to monitor compliance with the decision.

Efforts are underway to rid the world (though not, perhaps, the world's bioweapons labs) of a dangerous parasitic disease:
"I'm in a very lucky position that a lot of people dream and talk about, but virtually nobody reaches," said Professor Lightowlers. "This disease has been identified as one that could be eradicated from the globe, so this is a very significant hurdle which means the end is well and truly in sight."

Five field trials were carried out in Peru, Cameroon, Mexico and Honduras between 2006 and 2008. All five trials achieved greater than 99% success.

The field trials have proved so successful that the team has been asked to provide 210,000 doses of the vaccine for a separate US$15.7m project funded by the Gates Foundation in Northern Peru, with the first of these doses arriving next week.
And in the Gambia, the incidence of malaria has dropped dramatically:
At each of the four sites with complete slide examination records, they found that the proportions of malaria-positive slides had decreased by 82%, 85%, 73% and 50% respectively between 2003 and 2007. Meanwhile, during the same period at the three sites with complete admission records, the proportions of malaria admissions fell by 74%, 69% and 27%. Proportions of deaths attributed to malaria in two hospitals fell by more than 90%.
Will I link to an exhibition of photos relating to ghosts, apparitions, angels, spiritual visitations and views of the future? As someone or other once said, you betcha!

Other fish in the same barrel: Pinhole snapshots by Guillaume Zuili. Attentional landscapes by Odette England. And Tokyo Stories, "an exceptional exhibition of close to 100 rare prints, [that] reveals the multiple faces of Tokyo from the 1930s until the present day through the works of three of Japan’s leading photographers: Hiroshi Hamaya, Tadahiko Hayashi and Shigeichi Nagano."


Also: Abandoned sound mirrors, echoed in the works of Yvette Molina. The roadside art of Alabama (via Plep). And some Hallowe'en photos by Phyllis Galembo.


And finally, by popular demand, the highlights of Zagreb.



(Image at top: "Untitled (After Caspar David Friedrich)" by Gottfried Helnwein, 1998.)

8 comments:

peacay said...

re: the electricity grid / deficit / energy independence

One wonders whether BO is going to go all out with some early depressing speeches next year about the total lifestyle changes that people will need to be making. I know he liberally splashes around the ideas of 'difficult road ahead' and the somesuch but, naturally, he has kept within the bounds of electorally successful commentary up to this point.

Green cars, sure, that's a little thing to be getting on with, but resocialising everyone to reject Mcmansions etc etc and reduce their individual C-footprint is where the real difficulties lie I suspect.

I remember seeing his list of priorities and thought they were in an interesting order. Umm... was it war, energy, medical insurance, in that order? In any event, if he thinks the road to victory in the election was difficult, he ain't seen nothin' yet. (thank gawD it's him that will be driving the bus, though)

[Why is it that I feel Palin becomes more rather than less scary as time goes on? Embarrassment and mockery are not the social tools for idiots in public they once were, eh?]

Phila said...

but resocialising everyone to reject Mcmansions etc etc and reduce their individual C-footprint is where the real difficulties lie I suspect.

Absolutely. And I remain unconvinced that Obama is up to the task.

Then again, I never believed he had a hope in hell of winning, and it's quite possible he'll surprise me again. I'm pretty awestruck by his political skill at this point. What he'll choose to do with it is another question entirely.

I just wrote a long, disjointed piece on "resocialising everyone to reject Mcmansions." A tall order, definitely.

[Why is it that I feel Palin becomes more rather than less scary as time goes on?

'Cause you're sane? Whatever happens with this election, the fact that she's a plausible candidate is deeply disturbing. No matter who wins, I think the next four years will be amazingly ugly even by American standards.

charley said...

thanx for the pix.

those pinhole snaps were amazing.

sarah and barack debating in 2012, and she wins.

it could happen, only in america.

peacay said...

I confess to having read the Echidne post beforehand. I was thinking 'broad' rather than disjointed. Nothing is unconnected of course, but between urban planning, sociopolitical psychology and the founding tenets of capitalism (banking and real estate), I, uh, wasn't sure where to pivot ;- )

One of our Prime Ministers in the '90s, Paul Keating, (although he may have been treasurer at the time) announced at the release of some particularly unwelcome economic figures that "this is the recession we had to have" and has been pilloried for it, off and on, ever since.

I mention this because the present circumstances with respect to the economic decline may in fact offer the best opportunity for progress on some of the big fronts, eg. reducing individual c-footprints, rise of alternative fuel industries, fixing or at least improving the grid &c.

If the decline in demand and the credit squeeze lead to massive or least widespread dislocation (as it appears to be doing, although not on the 1929-30 scale to be sure) then, while the injection of federal capital into alternative energies may well have been - depending on one's level of cynicism - simply a political move on BO's part to shore up the lefty base, it may actually be about to manifest in the only environment, economically speaking, where it could have a significant impact. An impact wider than the mere injection of capital and provision of employment I mean. Market forces may well follow the govt. lead if smokestack industries feel the pinch and see an opportunity opening. No doubt this is all accidental, but it will be interesting to look back in a few years time, if, say, there is some marked progress, and speculate as to whether the policies suited the circumstances or the reverse.

I'm open-minded about BO. I think, at heart, anybody who aspires to the job of prezz is fairly twisted, just on basic principles, so my expectations are always tempered. I do think his ability to inspire and his cool demeanour are sufficient characteristics to be at least mildly optimistic.

(speaking of disjointed. aarrgh.)

Phila said...

I confess to having read the Echidne post beforehand. I was thinking 'broad' rather than disjointed. Nothing is unconnected of course, but between urban planning, sociopolitical psychology and the founding tenets of capitalism (banking and real estate), I, uh, wasn't sure where to pivot ;- )

Me neither. I'd been working on a different angle the previous weekend, but then several semi-related stories popped up at once, so I figured I'd either have to toss it out there as-is and see what people had to say, or scrap it entirely.

In a way, there's a bit of self-reproach involved in that piece, because I tend to daydream about similar issues, and I am (or try to be) paranoid about the element of escapism in theory.

Geoff Managh once asked whether H.G. Wells' novels might ultimately be better textbooks for architectural theory than "A Thousand Plateaus." My answer: a resounding yes.

I mention this because the present circumstances with respect to the economic decline may in fact offer the best opportunity for progress on some of the big fronts, eg. reducing individual c-footprints, rise of alternative fuel industries, fixing or at least improving the grid &c.

I think it does, but that's precisely why it's somewhat unlikely to happen, IMO...at least in this country, where reactionaries are extremely good at destroying or diverting any momentum for change.

It can be done, all the same, but it'll take leadership and public involvement of a kind I've only read about.

I'm open-minded about BO. I think, at heart, anybody who aspires to the job of prezz is fairly twisted, just on basic principles, so my expectations are always tempered. I do think his ability to inspire and his cool demeanour are sufficient characteristics to be at least mildly optimistic.

That's my position exactly, on presidents and on Obama. I haven't been a passionate supporter by any means, and I've even been pretty hostile at times. But despite all that, I've come to accept that there's a real chance that he could accomplish some incredible things. Though I have to add that at this point, I feel like any progress is basically miraculous.

Sam Brand said...

hey, who painted that top iceberg work?

thanks!?

Sam Brand said...

hey there, who painted that top freaky jagged iceberg?

thanks!?

Phila said...

Sam,

Gottfried Helnwein. It's based on painting by Casper David Friedrich.