Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

The Supreme Court has reinstated a law that forbids people who were convicted of domestic violence to possess guns:

The opinion was a defeat for gun rights supporters, who had challenged groups fighting domestic violence over which ex-felons should be allowed to buy and keep firearms.
The conservative response was swift and incoherent:
"Why are men with clean histories except for one domestic dispute punished like hardened criminals who mug strangers on the street?" wrote Phyllis Schlafly for the conservative Eagle Forum, which filed a legal brief with the high court supporting Hayes. "The answer is that the feminist agenda calls for domestic-violence laws to punish husbands and fathers above and beyond what can be proven in court under due-process procedures."
As Owen Josephus Roberts said to Pierce Butler, "Boo fucking hoo."

A new study confirms what all sane people already knew:
By providing millions of young and low-income women access to voluntary contraceptive services, the national family planning program prevents 1.94 million unintended pregnancies, including almost 400,000 teen pregnancies, each year. These pregnancies would result in 860,000 unintended births, 810,000 abortions and 270,000 miscarriages, according to a new Guttmacher Institute report.

Absent publicly funded family planning services, the U.S. abortion rate would be nearly two-thirds higher than it currently is, and nearly twice as high among poor women.

Publicly funded family planning services are highly cost-effective. More than nine in 10 women receiving them would be eligible for Medicaid-funded prenatal, delivery and postpartum care services if they became pregnant.Avoiding the significant costs associated with these unintended births saves taxpayers $4 for every $1 spent on family planning.
It looks as though Obama will rescind BushCo's last-minute anti-contraception ruling:
The Obama administration is moving to rescind a federal rule that reinforced protections for medical providers who refuse to perform abortions or other procedures on moral grounds, an official said Friday.

A Health and Human Services official said the administration will publish notice of its intentions early next week, and open a 30-day comment period for advocates, medical groups and the public.
Spain is taking steps towards reforming its insane abortion laws:
The government proposes to change the law to make abortion unconditionally available, but only up to a fixed stage of the pregnancy, as is the case in most European countries, which generally settle on a 12-week limit.
The Supreme Court has squelched a plan to trade credits for mercury emissions:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday effectively snuffed an industry-backed effort to allow the buying and selling of mercury emission credits, a plan critics derided as a multimillion-dollar giveaway to polluters.

The high court decided not to hear a Bush-era appeal, letting stand a lower court's ruling against the mercury trading concept. Public health and conservation groups said the Supreme Court's decision is important to South Carolina and other states with significant mercury contamination problems.
Thanks to a reversal of policy under the Obama administration, the UN has reached an agreement on reducing mercury pollution:
"This is great news for reducing mercury pollution around the world, and shows a commitment from the Obama Administration to international environmental issues," said Susan Egan Keane, policy analyst for NRDC.
At Grist, Bruce Nilles makes the essential point:
For too long we've heard the regulation nay-sayers use the excuse that whatever restrictions and regulations we introduce will only hurt the U.S. economically because China and India will not do the same. This mercury treaty shows the reality: If the U.S. acts first, then China and India will follow.

This bodes well for carbon legislation. The U.S. must act first on carbon regulation. China and India will follow our lead.
Incidentally, a staggering amount of China's emissions are based on Western demand:
Thirteen-and-a-half percent of China's 45 percent rise in greenhouse gas emissions between 2002 and 2005 can be attributed to export production for Western countries, reports a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. In other words, outsourcing of manufacturing by American and European firms accounted for a larger share of carbon dioxide emission growth than rising domestic consumption in China (which made of 7 percent of the figure).
There's more news on the EPA's looming regulation of CO2:
President Barack Obama's climate czar said the Environmental Protection Agency will soon determine that carbon-dioxide emissions represent a danger to the public and propose new rules to regulate emissions of the greenhouse gas from a range of industries.

Carol Browner, special adviser to the president on climate change and energy, said in an interview Sunday that the EPA is looking at a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that requires the agency to determine whether carbon dioxide endangers public health or welfare. And the agency "will make an endangerment finding," she said.
It sounds as though they'll be issuing some important "new" findings about soot, too:
Bush administration standards for pollutants like soot are “contrary to law and unsupported by adequately reasoned decisionmaking,” a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its standards for the pollutants, fine particulates, which are linked to premature death from lung cancer and heart disease and to other health problems including asthma.

When the agency embraced the standards in 2006, its own scientific staff rejected them as too lax. In Tuesday’s ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the agency “did not adequately explain” why the standards were adequate.
Speaking of soot and CO2, the Obama administration has withdrawn Bush-era leases for oil-shale development in the desert West:
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday reversed the Bush administration's move to open up tens of thousands of acres in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming to oil-shale development, the latest in a series of energy policy overhauls out of his department.

Salazar -- who as a senator was the most vocal opponent of the Bush administration's drive to open the region to shale development -- announced that the DOI is withdrawing the leases on federal land that were made available on Jan. 14, at least for now.
Obama also plans to bring back the Superfund tax:
The EPA budget proposal would restore excise taxes on oil and chemical producers to replenish the Superfund Trust Fund for hazardous-waste cleanup. The Superfund tax, which expired in 1995, would be reinstated sometime after 2011 “after the economy recovers,” according to the budget request. It would raise an estimated $6.6 billion by 2014.
I'm all for it, but I think we should call it a "savings account." How could anyone object to that?

Meanwhile, a communist front group calling itself the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is calling for adaptive response to climate change:
A report by the UK's Institution of Mechanical Engineers will next month call for governments to accept that climate change is now inevitable. Strategies must be put in place now to protect our infrastructure from its worst effects, alongside existing efforts to reduce emissions, it will argue.
Obama has appointed a well-qualified gay man to direct national AIDS policy:
President Barrack [sic] Obama on Thursday named Jeffrey S. Crowley, Senior Research Scholar at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, to be director of the Office of National AIDS Policy....Crowley has spent the last fourteen years working to improve access to health and social services for people living with HIV/AIDS, people with physical and mental disabilities, low-income individuals, and other vulnerable populations.
You can find more info on recent administration appointments here. Most of them strike me as excellent. I'm also impressed that Hillary Clinton has named Michael Posner as assistant Secretary of State:
Posner has a 30-year history involved in human rights work, with a focus on refugees' rights, the protection of and justice for torture victims as well as strengthening accountability for war crimes. He also helped found the Fair Labor Association, which promotes corporate accountability for working conditions in the apparel industry.
The Colorado state senate has approved a domestic partnership bill:
Despite a heated debate in which one Colorado state senator linked homosexuality to murder, the Senate has approved a domestic partner bill.

The legislation would make it easier for unmarried couples in Colorado, including gays and lesbians, to make medical decision for incapacitated partners and leave property to their partners.
The stimulus package will apparently improve COBRA health plans:
Since the bill was passed in 1985, the rule was, employers had to inform you of your right to extend your insurance after you leave. A right, mind you, that would cost you your entire premium, often to the tune of $400 a month or more. Now, thanks to the stimulus, employees’ premiums will go down by 65%.

Besides being a huge saving to those already enrolled, it will also likely increase the number of people who sign up in the first place....
Which reminds me...I didn't watch Bobby Jindal's response to Obama's stimulus speech, for the same reason that I wouldn't follow up a glass of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1904 by licking dried vomit off the sidewalk. But what I've heard of it, and heard from other Republicans since, brings a few thoughts to mind.

First, when you're reduced to sneering at volcano monitoring, it's a sign that you've been relying too heavily, and for too long, on public stupidity. Second, the positive reponse to Obama is not actually a function of his race, and it's therefore non-transferable to other men of color; genuflecting before gibbering oddballs like Jindal, and chanting "you be da man" at Michael Steele, will not bring your political apotheosis any nearer. Third, Obama may indeed turn out to be a pitiless Islamo-Hitler, but for now, people like him because he sounds like an adult and he gives them a certain amount of hope for the future. That being the case, prancing around screaming dingbat taunts like "porkulus!" is not an effective way to counter his proposals.

I offer this advice gratis and free of charge, in the sincere hope that it will not be taken. In other news, Al Gore, Sean Penn, and Susan Sarandon all agree that eating dogshit is stupid and dangerous. So don't do it, okay?

While we're on the topic of research that Republicans assume will sound like a waste of money to ignorant people, it seems that studying fruit flies actually has practical implications. Go figure!

Mayor Bloomberg intends to make part of midtown Manhattan car-free:
The city plans to close several blocks of Broadway to vehicle traffic through Times Square and Herald Square, an experiment that would turn swaths of the Great White Way into pedestrian malls and continue Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s effort to reduce traffic congestion in Midtown.
In related news, San Francisco is still considering restricting traffic on Market Street.

A new type of window glass could reduce the need for air conditioning:
The electrochromic windows and skylights sense the change in surrounding temperature, and respond accordingly to save energy. If it's warm, the windows darken to keep the building cool. When it's cool, the windows appear clear again. The technology aims to reduce the need for air conditioning, which is notoriously energy-inefficient and increasingly costly.
I don't normally cite individual green homes here, but this ranch in New Mexico is too gorgeous to ignore:
The home is constructed using traditional rammed earth construction and Autoclaved Aerated Concrete, both of which help the home naturally respond to environmental conditions. A storm and gray water collection system help the family conserve and efficiently use water both inside and outside for native landscaping. The home itself is very energy efficient, and is powered by a pole-mounted 4.5 kW photovoltaic system with battery storage as well as a solar hot water heating system.
On a somewhat larger scale, PG&E plans to generate 500MW of solar power in California.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said Tuesday that it would spend $1.5 billion of ratepayers' money to add 500 megawatts of photovoltaic power in California, one of the largest such deals in the country.

Plans call for the San Francisco utility to invest at least half of that in solar panels placed on commercial rooftops and on ground-mounted modules that PG&E would own and operate. The other half is earmarked for long-term contracts with private-sector solar companies.
Tom Philpott recommends a daring new method of cooking pasta:
Turns out, you don't need "lots of water" for pasta -- two quarts will do.... can put the pasta in the water before it boils; while it's cold, in fact...The more water you use, the more energy it takes to reach and maintain a boil. So less water means less energy -- and, well, less water wasted.
A strange new fish has been discovered:
Like other frogfish — a subset of anglerfish — H. psychedelica has leglike fins on both sides of its body....Each time the fish strike the seabed, for instance, they push off with their fins and expel water from tiny gill openings to jet themselves forward. That and an off-centered tail cause them to bounce around in a bizarre, chaotic manner.

Mark Erdman, a senior adviser to the Conservation International's marine program, said, "I think people thought frogfishes were relatively well known, and to get a new one like this is really quiet spectacular....It's a stunning animal."
The world's rarest cheetah has been photographed for the first time:
“This is an incredibly rare and elusive subspecies of cheetah and current population estimates, which stand at less than 250 mature individuals, are based on guesswork,” says Farid Belbachir, who is implementing the field survey. “This study is helping us to turn a corner in our understanding, providing us with information about population numbers, movement and ecology.”
Photo by Farid Belbachir

And a new species of butterfly has been found in the UK's Natural History Museum:
The Magdalena Valley Ringlet, from the Madalena valleys in Colombia, was uncovered by curator Blanca Huertas after she compared its unusually hairy mouthparts with a recently-found wild specimen.

“The collections here are a treasure trove to be explored,” said Huertas, whose find had hidden in the collection for 90 years.
(h/t: peacay.)

A bull is saving Kenya's drylands by teaching other cows to eat invasive prickly pears:
During the drought of 1999 - 2000 grassy fields were reduced to bare earth and cows had nothing left to eat were dying of starvation leading to widespread famine. The story goes that one farmer persuaded his bull to eat the leaves after he had burned off the thorns. Opuntia are 80% water and if one can get past the thorns, the plant is quite nutritious . The other starving cows watched the bull and then followed suit thus saving the herd and the farmer who has never looked back. The thorns are burnt off using wood from another nasty invasive species, Prosopis juliflora - making this an eco-friendly project all round.

As part of RAE’s rehabilitation of Baringo’s drylands, and to make multiply the value of mwalimu bull to other farmers RAE bought the bull and during droughts, Mwalimu goes from one homestead to another teaching herds of cattle how to eat Opuntia, thereby saving hundreds of cattle and people from starvation.
Also from AfriGadget, a personal power generator:
“This is basically a dynamo which is being driven as a result of friction between the ground and the blocks. The small yellowish blocks (these are covered by rubber in the real commercial product) rotate as you pull it. They are designed to rotate even on bumpy run even roads. We have tested it on moist lawn and have worked. It is very smooth so much that you basically don’t feel any disturbance as you move along.

At normal walking speeds we have gotten more than 2 watts which is more than enough for running cell phones or radios. I envision that people will attach this to themselves and walk with it - or even attach it to an ox-cart, a skating board, bike, etc.”

The public will have open access to data from a new ecological monitoring system:
Since 1991 raw data from Hubble have been made publicly available for use by professional researchers, educators, and citizen scientists via an online catalog.

"The public can access [the data] and do their own research," said Hubble spokesperson Ray Villard. "They paid for it. They deserve it."

A similar open-access model is key to the National Ecological Network Observatory, or NEON, a new program set to be up and running by 2016. NEON will link together already existing field stations across the U.S. that are using planes and orbiters, ground-level sensors, and human-run labs to monitor activity in the wild.
Whole Foods has banned unsustainably harvested palm oil from its products:
America's largest organic grocer has announced its products will no longer use palm oil sourced from unsustainable producers, reports the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), an activist group that has led a campaign against destructive palm oil production. The move adds pressure on the palm oil industry to develop an effective and credible certification system for palm oil.
Scientists researching muscular dystrophy have made an important discovery:
After genetically correcting the mice with the new dystrophin gene, Duan's team discovered that the missing nNOS was now restored in the dystrophic muscle. The mice that received the new gene did not experience muscle damage or fatigue following exercise.

"With this new discovery, we've solved a longstanding mystery of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy," Duan said. "This will change the way we approach gene therapy for DMD patients in the future. With this study, we have finally found the genetic material that can fully restore all the functions required for correcting a dystrophic muscle and turning it into a normal muscle."
Now, let us proceed. Lost Labor: Images of Vanished American Workers 1900-1980 (via wood s lot, although I have a nagging feeling that I've linked to this site before). Light pillars. The wide world of TV test cards. And a selection of the lesbian pulp novels that will soon be required reading in America's grade schools.

Sparkler art. Harry Bertoia's sound sculptures. Incredible images of abandoned substations and power plants. A newish issue of Polar Inertia. And a primer on La Géométrie.

A collection of the earliest recorded sounds, including an 1878 phonautogram of the Metropolitan Elevated Railroad from 40 feet away. Melbourne's Joost Greenhouse. Together at last: Lulin and Saturn. Pictures of Small Town, USA (via Plep). Also from Plep, Signs of Africa.

Last, a tour of Trindad, circa 1938.

(Image at top: "Sheep in the Warm Sun" by Mary Newcomb, 1970.)


proNoun trouble said...

Very much enjoyed this. Thanks!

Phila said...

You're very welcome!

Wayne said...

It's been far too long since I've expressed my admiration for Friday Hope Blogging, Phila. It's especially inexcusable since I've scarfed up the writing every week for jebus knows how long. Thank you for it, and for the piquantcy.

I especially enjoyed this sweetmeat:

"I didn't watch Bobby Jindal's response to Obama's stimulus speech, for the same reason that I wouldn't follow up a glass of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1904 by licking dried vomit off the sidewalk."

Well. How can anyone out do that. Well done, as always.

Karin said...

In other good news, Binyam Mohamed has been released from Guantanamo and arrived back in London on Monday; Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri is out of the legal black home and into a civilian criminal court.

Phila said...

Always good to hear from you, Wayne!

And thanks for the info, Karin.

Karin said...

Oops, 'legal black hole', I meant to say.

Beth in VA said...

Got here from an Eschaton link. Loved this Friday Hope Blogging post! I've got more hope today, thanks!

Jazzbumpa said...

I'm especially looking forward to a renaissance in lesbian pulp novels. Actually, my favorite writer of hard edged crime fiction (the Matt Scudder series), Lawrence Block started out writing soft core lesbian porn.

Not sure how a guy goes about that . . .

WV: prutstra. Somehow, it seems strangley appropriate.

vkdir said...

do you have any links or more info on 'lesbian pulp novels' as required reading?

Phila said...

do you have any links or more info on 'lesbian pulp novels' as required reading?

No. But that just proves that the powers that be are hiding their true intentions.

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