Weeks 2 and 3 of the Failed Obama Presidency® have been something of a mixed bag.
On the one hand, the gutters did not run red with the blood of guillotined plutocrats, and the abolition of the rule of capital seems as far away as ever.
On the other hand, the Administration did cancel drilling leases in Utah:
Scolding the Bush administration for rushing in its final days to drill near treasured Utah national parks, President Barack Obama's new Interior secretary Wednesday shelved oil and gas leases sold during a chaotic December auction.It also reauthorized and expanded SCHIP:
No child in America should be receiving his or her primary care in the emergency room in the middle of the night. No child should be falling behind at school because he can't hear the teacher or see the blackboard. I refuse to accept that millions of our children fail to reach their full potential because we fail to meet their basic needs. In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to tradeoffs or negotiations, and health care for our children is one of those obligations.And banned commercial fishing in 200,000 square miles of the Arctic:
Federal fisheries managers have voted to bar all commercial fishing in U.S. waters from north of the Bering Strait and east to the Canadian border in light of the rapid climate changes that are transforming the Arctic.And nominated a respected marine biologist with an excellent track record to head the NOAA:
In a unanimous vote yesterday, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council ruled that scientists and policymakers need to better assess how global warming is affecting the region before allowing fishing on stocks such as Arctic cod, saffron cod and snow crab.
[Jane] Lubchenco is a different breed of scientist, one as comfortable testifying to Congress as she is conducting research in the field. For years she's been a clear-voiced advocate for marine protection and for addressing the impact of carbon emissions on ocean ecosystems. She helped found the COMPASS program, an effort to help scientists better communicate their messages to the media, politicians, and the public.And filed a lawsuit againt Westar Energy for violating the Clean Air Act:
Her leadership, coupled with President Obama's much-heralded "return of science" to the executive branch, could give NOAA a newly prominent role in the work to address climate change.
Asked whether the federal government is revving up its investigations into clean air violations against utilities, Andrew Ames, an EPA spokesman in Washington, declined to comment, saying that an agency news release speaks for itself.And ordered the DoE to draft new energy-efficiency standards:
President Obama ordered the Energy Department on Thursday to immediately draft long-overdue standards to make a variety of appliances and light bulbs more energy efficient. Over the last three decades, Congress has demanded stricter efficiency standards on 30 categories of products, as varied as residential air-conditioners and industrial boilers. But successive administrations have failed to write regulations to enforce the laws, even when ordered to by the courts.And rehired a woman whom Monica Goodling fired from the DoJ because of rumors that she was a lesbian:
The Justice Department’s already reforming itself in the post-Bush administration era. In addition to Eric Holder’s confirmation this week, the department rehired Leslie Hagen, a woman who was fired over rumors that she was a lesbian.In India, meanwhile, undereducated women who excel at the traditional art of henna tattoos are being tutored in computer animation:
"Technology for the People" trains those skilled at drawing Henna tattoos to create designs. It also sends their work to production companies.The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Portugal violated the rights of Women on Waves:
Until now, the future for 20-year-old Rubeena consisted only of marriage. Now she wants to prove to everyone she can be an animator.
The project aims to help women earn money and lift them out of poverty using technology - which has enjoyed a boom in and around Hyberabad.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled today that article 10, that guarantees the freedom of expression, was violated when the Portuguese government send warships to prevent the Women on Waves ship from entering Portugal in 2004. With a ship, Women on Waves sails to countries where abortion is illegal. After sailing to international waters, early medical abortions can be provided safely and legally. National penal legislation, and thus also abortion laws, extends only to territorial waters; outside that 12-miles radius the law of the country where the ship is registered applies. Women on Waves’ mission is to prevent unsafe abortions and empower women to exercise their human right to physical and mental autonomy.Seventy-five countries have signed on to a new clean energy agency:
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the first multinational agency focused solely on spreading clean energy across the globe, officially launched this week.In the United States, wind industry jobs now outnumber coal mining jobs:
The expectations are that the agency will help governments and private industry to expand renewable energy installments throughout the industrialized world, where investments are already on the rise, while also assist the developing world acquire the expertise to establish its own clean energy industries.
According to a report released by the American Wind Energy Association, wind energy jobs increased 70 percent to 85,000 in 2008, 4,000 more workers than are employed in coaling mining (based of Department of Energy figures).And the coal industry continues to suffer serious setbacks:
Michigan’s Governor Granholm announced sweeping new energy policies that prioritize clean energy before coal....[A]ll new coal plants in the state will have to go back to the drawing board while officials decide if they are the best option for Michigan.Gainesville, Florida has approved a feed-in tariff for solar power generated by consumers:
Michigan is not alone; Georgia legislators have proposed a bill that would put a hold on new coal plant construction in the state, preventing the state from being locked into a dirty energy source before fully evaluating the alternatives. The bill also includes a groundbreaking provision that would prevent coal plants in Georgia from burning coal mined using devastating mountaintop removal techniques.
On Monday the electric cooperative behind the Highwood coal-fired power plant in Montana announced that it was giving up on coal and going with a clean mix of wind and natural gas.
That decision comes on the heels of the Air Force’s finding that a new liquid coal plant planned for Malmstrom Air Force Base, also in Montana, was “not viable.’
Under the program, electric customers who generate electricity from solar panels sell all of the electricity they generate back into the grid and are paid a fixed, above market-rate price for it. The costs of administering the program, and encouraging greater adoption of solar power are spread across all consumers of electricity.Inhabitat reports on a cardboard computer tower:
Biasci’s design approaches the problem of e-waste head-on by calling for a computer case made from recycled and easily recyclable materials. The Cardboard Case comes complete with case panels, spots for cable connectors and ports, and interior slots for holding computer components. It is also easily customizable, offering a fun added incentive to consumers.
A new biomass charcoal heater could reduce energy costs in rural Japan and elsewhere:
In the study, Amit Suri, Masayuki Horio and colleagues note that about 67 percent of Japan is covered with forests, with that biomass the nation's most abundant renewable energy source. Wider use of biomass could tap that sustainable source of fuel and by their calculations cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by 4.46 million tons.Also in Japan, a new method of demolition reduces air pollution and makes it easier to recycle building materials:
Using waste biomass charcoal, their heater recorded a thermal efficiency of 60-81 percent, compared to an efficiency of 46-54 percent of current biomass stoves in Turkey and the U.S.
The support pillars of a building’s lowermost floor are replaced with a series of jacks until the entire weight of the building rests on them. Next, workers come in, smash the interior, remove the walls and cart the rubble away for recycling. Finally, the building is lowered to the ground, one story shorter than before. And then the process is repeated.Here's a time-lapse video of the process.
In Kansas, a student group is helping bars to recycle their glass:
Saturday morning, Andrew Stanley and fellow students took 145 pounds of glass to be recycled at the 12th and Haskell Bargain Center. All 145 pounds came from Wilde’s Chateau 24, 2412 Iowa, and were the result of one Friday night of business.Ten new species of amphibian have been found in Colombia:
“That would all have been thrown away without us,” Stanley said. “And that’s just one night...."
During start-up efforts, Stanley said he estimated group members called 30 bars around Lawrence and asked them if they recycled glass. None of them did.
The "new" amphibians included spiky-skinned, orange-legged rain frog, three poison dart frogs and three glass frogs, named for their transparent skin.
A South American tree produces a mosquito repellent that's allegedly more effective than DEET:
The authors, led by Aijun Zhang of the USDA's Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory, found that isolongifolenone deters the biting of the mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Anopheles stephensi "more effectively than the widely used synthetic chemical repellent N,N-diethyl-3-methyl benzamide (DEET) in laboratory bioassays" and repels blacklegged ticks and lone star ticks "as effectively as DEET".It seems that butterflies have tiny solar collectors on their wings:
The discovery that butterfly wings have scales that act as tiny solar collectors has led scientists in China and Japan to design a more efficient solar cell that could be used for powering homes, businesses, and other applications in the future.Speaking of butterflies, this is pretty amazing:
With cohesive hierarchical societies and a number of communication techniques, ants have been able to conquer a wide variety of ecosystems with great success. However, according to a recent paper in Science ants’ highly structured society comes with a price. A number of insects have evolved means to covertly infiltrate the ants’ society and live off their work and bounty by closely mimicking various ant communication methods. While scientists believe that these parasitical insects largely mimic ant communications like chemical exchange and physical contact—such as touching antennae—the study, however, discovered a butterfly which succeeds in infiltrating the highest echelons of ant society by vocalizing like a queen.Onwards and upwards! The Museum of Found Photographs (via Plep). The Magnitogorsk Metal Kombinat. The pleasures and pains of Stoopnocracy. And, inevitably, The Book of Eclipses.
The Kinetoscope of Time. A stellar nursery. Worldwide field recordings made with mobile phones; you can listen, or upload your own. Typographical art by Tauba Auerbach. And a small but rewarding gallery of found typography.
Also: You can now go underwater with Google Earth, while listening to the sounds of Slovenian cicadas and glancing from time to time at these beautiful typewriter ribbon tins.
You may as well watch this, while you're at it.
(Photo at top: "With the Clarity of Architects [The American Typologies]" by Pine & Woods, 2006.)