Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

Sorry to have been off-duty recently...real life intervened with a vengeance. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals will allow a class-action lawsuit to proceed against the Vatican:

A US appeals court has ruled that the Vatican can be sued for the sex abuse committed by US priests.

The Vatican had tried to block a class action lawsuit alleging that it orchestrated a cover-up of sexual abuse by clergy with the argument that it was protected by laws granting sovereign states immunity from most US civil proceedings.

Central to the case is a 1962 Vatican mandate unearthed in 2003 which outlined a policy of "strictest" secrecy regarding allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and threatened those who spoke out with excommunication.
That sounds like criminal conspiracy to me...but then, I've been told that I lack certain important traditional values.

Speaking of traditional values, the Taliban members who threw acid on a group of schoolgirls and their teachers have been arrested:
In announcing the arrests, officials in Kandahar said a high-ranking militant had paid the men to plan and carry out the attack. The payment, totaling about $2,000, was said to have taken the form of a bounty for each student or teacher they managed to burn.
Bank of America claims it will no longer fund mountaintop-removal mining:
Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.
(h/t: ErinPDX.)

In related news, HSBC claims it will stop funding deforestation, and consider cutting loans to producers of tar sands.
HSBC will also review lending to Canadian oil sands developers, on the grounds that tougher climate regulations may make such energy-intensive activities commercially unviable, it said on the day several banks signed up to a series of climate principles.

"The policy is under review," said Sullivan, referring to the bank's energy sector policy.

"We continue to review it. A carbon price can radically change the viability of oil sands projects. We look at carbon, water, biodiversity and social aspects."
The Bureau of Land Management has scaled back its plan to auction land-leases off to energy companies:
The Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday backed off from plans to auction more than a dozen leases to explore for oil and gas on the doorstep of several national parks, deflecting accusations by environmental groups that it was handing a "parting gift" to the energy industry before the Obama administration takes over.
And the Navy has downsized its underwater detonations:
Faced with a lawsuit, the U.S. Navy has finally agreed to dramatically scale back its use of explosives in the ecologically sensitive waters of Puget Sound, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and Wild Fish Conservancy. The two organizations sued the Navy earlier this year to stop needless damage to protected marine life from the Navy’s underwater demolitions training program....

These restrictions are in place only through December 31, 2009, however. Long-term safeguards for the naval explosives training program will likely be settled in the pending PEER/Wild Fish Conservancy suit.
This is fascinating:
Vivace is a new energy technology that gets its name from a phenomenon that engineers have been battling for 25 years. VIV (vortex induced vibrations) destroyed the Narrows Bridge in Washington State in 1940, and the Ferrybridge power station cooling towers in England in 1965. Ironically it is also the same phenomenon that allows schools of fish to swim as fast as they do. Now Dr. Michael M. Bernitsas and researchers at the University of Michigan are turning this ‘threat’ into a resource. Rather than suppressing VIV, Vivace actually creates and then harvests energy from VIV, and it does it all using slow water currents, a previously untapped source of sustainable energy.
Toshiba claims to have greatly improved the lithium-ion battery:
Toshiba has developed a new lithium-ion battery called SCiB (or Super Charge Ion Battery) which can charge to 90% capacity in 5 minutes. The life cycle of the new battery is more than 10 years even if it is rapidly charged and discharged many times. The battery is also mucher safer than other types of lithium ion batteries, which are potential fire hazards.
The article says they'll start manufacturing in March 2008, which I assume is a typo for March 2009. If so, it'll be a boon for Hawaii, which is planning to create an electric vehicle system, as befits a chain of tiny islands in the middle of the ocean:
The state is on board for a new plan that involves building an electric vehicle transportation system, complete with a slew of web-based battery recharging stations.

"The plan, the brainchild of the former Silicon Valley software executive Shai Agassi, is an effort to overcome the major hurdles to electric cars — slow battery recharging and limited availability."
Pruned reports on a plan for an outdoor theater that doubles as a rainwater harvesting system, or vice versa:
One can't imagine it functional during the wet season or even during the dry season if rain isn't particularly scarce.

Of course, there's a simple solution: build a floating stage.
Yet another organic crop has dramatically outperformed its conventional competitor:
In 2002 researchers from the Agricultural Research Service transitioned half of a conventional pecan orchard in Comanche County, in north-central Texas, into a certified-organic-managed system. Scientist Joe Bradford started by balancing the nutrients and biology of the soil in the hopes that improving soil health would in turn improve tree health, allowing the trees to become naturally resistant to disease and pests. Up to 15 soil treatments were applied, including poultry litter and compost, rock minerals, mycorrhizal fungi, and nutrients including iron, zinc, copper and manganese.

Pests were controlled by introducing Trichogramma wasps, which prevent pecan casebearer moth larvae from developing, and by spraying the trees with spinosad, an organic insecticide naturally derived from a bacterium found in soil.

The result? The yields of the organic half of the orchard have outperformed the conventional half over the past five years.

What's more, U.S. farmers produce 90 percent of the world's pecans, so this research could have a significant impact on the entire pecan industry, potentially leading to an industry-wide movement toward organic practices.
In California, restrictions on lead hunting ammunition have been extended:
After the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other groups filed suit, the state Legislature responded by providing substantial protections for the bird through the Ridley-Tree Condor Conservation Act, which limits the use of lead ammunition throughout much of the condors’ range. Today’s settlement with the California Department of Fish and Game and the California Fish and Game Commission extends these protections by eliminating lead ammunition for depredation hunting. The Commission has also agreed to consider prescribing a similar ban on lead ammunition for the hunting of small mammals that are part of the condors’ diet, such as jackrabbits and opossums. The settlement still requires court approval.
The endangered white sturgeon is rebounding, somewhat:
Once plentiful in the river, the sturgeon population had dropped below 40,000, and scientists were unable to explain the die-offs of mostly female fish.

That's when an alliance of government agencies, environmentalists, aboriginal groups, and commercial and recreational fishers came together to save the sturgeon, spurring a robust recovery of the lower Fraser River population.

Recent estimates show the population has increased to about 50,000 fish.
Several prominent Hong Kong chefs have agreed to abide by the Sustainable Seafood Initiative:
Three renowned Hong Kong chefs have been named WWF Ocean Friendly Chefs and will design menus featuring sustainable seafood species recommended by WWF's Seafood Guide. The chefs are Lau Chun from Yellow Door Kitchen, Margaret Xu from Yin Yang Fresh HK Cuisine and Jacky Yu from Xiyan.

Hong Kong residents are some of the largest consumers of seafood per capita in the world. According to the Hong Kong Ecological Footprint Report 2008, the huge demand for seafood is contributing the depletion and overexploitation of fish stocks around the world.
A rare monkey colony has been discovered in Vietnam:
After showing archival TV footage of a critically endangered species of primate to local villagers, conservationists have discovered a previously unknown population of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey in a remote forested area of northern Vietnam. The find the offers new hope for the species, which is down to 200 individuals in two of Vietnam's northern-most provinces — Tuyen Quang and Ha Giang.

Following up on 2007 surveys of communities near the Chinese border which suggested the presence of the distinctive primate following TV broadcast of nature programming showing the species, scientists from Fauna & Flora International (FFI) observed 15-20 individuals in a small forest patch in Quan Ba District, Ha Giang Province. The group including three infants, indicating that this is a breeding population. Local reports suggest there may also be another group in a nearby area.

Officials in El Paso are asking Obama to scuttle plans for a border fence:
Elected officials in El Paso want President-elect Barack Obama to drop plans to build hundreds of miles of fence along the U.S. border with Mexico. Details are in a three-page letter today to Obama.

Authorities from El Paso argue that the fence, a project approved by Congress in 2006, was ill-conceived and is an irresponsible expense.
Two years after Sao Paulo banned billboards, the city seems to be somewhat nicer.
Nowhere is that more evident than along Florêncio de Abreu Street. Since about 1900, this narrow road has been one of the main routes into the city center, and coffee merchants and other rich businessmen built homes and shops there in the Art Nouveau or Art Deco style of the time.

Today it seems every second building has been refurbished or spruced up, and the façades with dates etched into the stonework, the narrow verandas with their greenery and the unmistakable Art Deco porticoes and windows are visible again. Intricate stonework, engraved and stained-glass windows and wrought-iron balconies that were destroyed or became dilapidated through years of neglect are newly resplendent. "This building is 100 years old, and we did it up so it was as it was meant to be," Adeilson Souza, the owner of a store selling gardening equipment, says of the restored Art Nouveau fronting. "You can see the details that were once covered by signs and wires and all sorts of mess. We even left the color the same as the original. This street used to be so ugly, but it is much, much nicer now. There's no comparison with before."
London is recycling subway cars as artists' studios:
Located on top of an old brick warehouse in Shoreditch, London, Village Underground provides affordable studio space for young artists (around 15 pounds per week). The subway cars act as working spaces for the artists, while a lower-level restored warehouse is used to host events and exhibit the artists’ works.

The four subway vehicles that make up the village were purchased for a grand total of 200 pounds each. They were then moved on top of the warehouse, and retrofitted to create a working space. The seats inside the carriages were removed, but everything else remains as is (one can even go into the cabin to play around with all the buttons and levers).
A new study suggests that smallpox vaccination can remain effective for many decades:
"We found that vaccinated subjects maintain what appear to be protective levels of neutralizing antibodies to vaccinia indefinitely and do not require booster vaccinations even if they are many decades removed from primary vaccination. These data imply that limited supplies of vaccine can be more usefully applied to individuals who have never been vaccinated, primarily individuals born after 1972."
Revere is pleased by the coming change of leadership for an important NIH post:
While this is not a Presidential appointment, per se, like Obama's cabinet and staff appointments it is characterized by high competence and a pragmatic a straightforward character. I know her primarily through scientific relationships, where she is enormously productive of work of high importance in the field. Her specialty involves dioxins and the biology of the dioxin receptor and more recently flame retardants, a growing concern in environmental health.
Last but not least: Beautiful drawings of roots and trunks. Beautiful educational titles produced by the WPA (viva socialist tyranny!). And beautiful images of lamps in natural settings by Rune Guneriussen.

Also: A survey of terrifying viewing platforms. Flickr's Phillumeny pool. A Chaffinch Map of Scotland. "[A]n educational film which was produced in 1963 by the film department of Swiss pharmaceutical company order to demonstrate the hallucinogenic effects of mescaline and hashish," starring Henri Michaux. The BookScans Database. And a collection of cartoon particles.

The earliest known lolcat, from 1905. The Transparent City. And, via Coudal, Alec Soth's Sleeping by the Mississippi, a rather stark photoset that should appeal to fans of William Eggleston.

I'll leave you with this cheery little song.

(Photo at top by Johann Fournier, via wood s lot.)


P. Drāno said...

Thanks once again for this bounty.
The bookscans is a keeper. Have you come across "Paperbacks, U.S.A.", by Piet Schreuders?

Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

This site rocks!
Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Ch. 1 is online!

four legs good said...

Okay, that talking guitar was really creepy.

peacay said...

That Fournier pic reminds me of some of the photogravure work by Robert & Shana Parke-Harrison, which I'm sure you know.

Because they are infused with so much potential energy, I am attempting to attach a dynamo to your postings and, with any luck, I shall report back soon to advise that your pixels are now lighting my neighbourhood. Thank you squire!

xan said...

and it does it all using slow water currents, a previously untapped source of sustainable energy.

My first thought was, d'oh, they have reinvented the mill?

second thought was, um, it's probably something a little more complicated than that so I should keep my mouf shut.

glad you're back, Hope and Nudibranches are the high point of the week. :)

Pablo said...

You're posts are worth waiting for.


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