Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

The Maine Senate has passed a marriage equality bill:

The legislation would repeal Maine’s 12-year-old so-called Defense of Marriage law, which bars same-sex marriage and make marriage gender-neutral. It also states that churches would not be compelled to conduct same-sex weddings if it would be inconsistent with their doctrine.
An arranged marriage between an eight-year-old girl and a 47-year-old man has been annulled by a Saudi judge:
Media reports say an arranged marriage between a Saudi girl aged eight and a man in his 50s has been annulled, in a case attracting worldwide criticism.

The Saudi Gazette says the divorce was agreed in an out-of-court settlement after a judge rejected two attempts to grant the girl a divorce....A new judge was appointed to oversee the case, who issued the annulment after the husband finally gave up his insistence that the marriage had been legal, reports say.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has closed a fishery in the Gulf of Mexico to protect sea turtles:
“Today is a great day for all who believe in protecting vulnerable sea turtles from unnecessary and illegal harm and ensuring their continued survival in the wild,” said Steve Roady, an attorney with Earthjustice. “We commend NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco for setting a new course for NMFS that relies on sound science to manage our oceans for the great benefit of our nation and local communities.”
Ken Salazar has rescinded most of the Bush's anti-ESA regulations:
Utilizing authority granted to him by Congress, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar rescinded a rule passed in the final days of the Bush administration that weakens the Endangered Species Act by exempting thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species Act. Salazar, however, did not take action to rescind a rule that sharply limits protections for the threatened polar bear despite having authority to rescind this rule as well.

“Secretary Salazar took an important step today toward restoring needed protections for endangered species,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “But he still needs to rescind the special rule for the polar bear, which amounts to a death sentence for the majestic bear because it exempts greenhouse gas emissions from regulation.”
Obama is also taking steps to overturn BushCo's irresponsible mining-waste rules:
The Obama administration on Monday took steps to cancel a Bush-era rule that made it easier for mountaintop mining operations to dump rock, dirt and other waste near streams.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the Justice Department would ask a U.S. district court to overturn the rule that went into effect in January, just before President Obama took office.
An important forest restoration project will soon begin in northern Arizona:
Representatives of the Grand Canyon Trust, Arizona Forest Restoration Products, and Center for Biological Diversity today signed a landmark agreement committing mutual support to a plan to safely restore beneficial fires and conserve biological diversity in northern Arizona ponderosa pine forests, the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world.

Following a century of ecological decline and decades of litigation, the agreement, in the form of a memorandum of understanding between the parties, marks a sea change in southwestern forest politics, focusing industry and conservation groups on a common goal of conserving species and ecosystems in a rapidly warming climate.
The EPA will withdraw the permit for a coal-fired power plant in New Mexico:
The agency’s issuance of a “prevention of significant deterioration” permit to the Desert Rock Energy Company is necessary for the power plant to proceed. Its withdrawal request continues a pattern of federal and state agencies, and power plant companies, delaying or canceling proposed coal-fired power plants around the country as concern grows for their environmental impacts and financial viability. Coal-fired power plants are the single greatest stationary source of carbon dioxide emissions in the nation, and their future has become uncertain as the federal government progresses toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Robotic animals are being deployed to catch poachers:
On a remote U.S. Forest Service road in Arizona a few years ago, the driver of a white minivan slowly rolls to a stop, sticks a rifle out the window, and starts firing at what look to be wild turkeys.

State officers hiding in nearby bushes emerge, running toward the vehicle and shouting: "Game and Fish Department! Cease fire! Put down your weapon!"

The driver speeds off, but is caught a short distance down the dirt road by another officer. The hunter is cited for discharging a weapon from a vehicle—a U.S. $500 fine.

Unbeknownst to the driver, the turkey is actually a robotic decoy designed to catch such outdoor outlaws. Other robots include swimming moose, white-tailed deer and black bear.
The UAE has established its first mountain wildlife reserve:
“Wadi Wurayah is of considerable ecological significance allowing among the rarest species found in the UAE, Arabian Peninsular and the world to survive this harsh climate,” said Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director the Emirates Wildlife Society-World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF), which helped with the park creation. “Over the past 3 years, we have revealed the presence of 12 species of mammals, 73 species of birds, 17 species of reptiles and amphibians, and one species of fish and 74 invertebrate families, of which 11 are new species for science.” In addition, 300 species of plants have been discovered in the park.
A palm oil company has withdrawn plans to turn Ivory Coast wetlands into an industrial plantation:
"Palmci has decided to abandon this project in the face of the refusal of certain NGOs to accept the coexistence of environmental preservation and the development of economic activity," the company said in a statement. Palmci claimed that abandonment of the project would lead to the loss of a potential 1,000 new jobs for plantation workers, 300 industrial positions, and an investment of 18 billion CFA francs (€27 million / $36 million).

The company did not cite the recent sharp decline in palm oil prices as a factor. Palm oil prices are down more than 40 percent from their peak in March 2008.
Spain's enormous solar-thermal tower is now operational:
Over the course of the testing period, PS20 surpassed the predicted power output, thus further validating the high potential of power tower technology.
PS20 is the world's second power tower plant in commercial use.
The Sietch Blog discusses the Obama administration's programs for science education. These two are particularly appealing, in my view:
Focused Research in K-12 Science Education Strategies and Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers: will address how students learn about science and technology, evaluating immediate challenges in primary and secondary schools and envisioning science education as it could be in future decades. It will assess what works and why, enable enhanced learning in the K-12 setting on topics relating to clean energy, and consider new and innovative ways to communicate the challenges and promise of clean energy....

Education in Complex Interrelationships: to enable education in computationally-enabled modeling of complex interrelationships among energy systems, environmental and economic impacts, and human factors.These group-funded efforts will be co-located at university high-end computational facilities to foster cyber-enabled learning skills for conducting complex modeling and analysis.
Students at the University of Michigan have come up with a cheap, reliable surgical lamp:
Let’s say you’re in surgery, having a life-saving operation, and the power cuts out. Then imagine it stays out for a few hours, days, or even weeks—a not-infrequent occurrence in countries with crappy infrastructure. A team of engineering graduate and undergraduate students at University of Michigan has a great idea: A surgical lamp for use in developing countries where the power-grid’s unreliability poses serious threats to doctors’ abilities to properly treat patients.

The hook? It’s cheap to make (pie pan, bike brake, LED), and runs on batteries. And since it was designed by engineering folk, it actually works really well, and meets western-grade standards of reliability. It’s currently being tried out in Uganda.
The Irish government has rejected e-voting in favor of paper ballots:
Ireland's decision that it can't bear the continued costs of e-voting is merely the latest in an ongoing string of such decisions, in which states like Ohio and Florida have said that it's just too expensive to limp along with what is, in essence, a failed, poorly planned, large-scale IT infrastructure deployment.
Revere discusses the positive side of the H1N1 outbreak:
There is a tendency to be preoccupied with the latest in fast moving events, but I want to pause for a moment to make a point that has been lost in the discussion: we are witnessing a medical science landmark. Never before have we watched a flu outbreak of global dimensions unfold in real time. Nor have we ever had the opportunity to alter the course of such an outbreak....[W]e are compiling extremely valuable information about the dynamics of influenza disease spread, information that will pay off in future planning and preparedness activities.
European researchers claim to have developed a new interface that will simplify access to digital sound archives:
{T]he system functions go further. “Of course, nobody just wants to find a piece of music. They want to play around with it, too, so we developed a series of tools that allow users to manipulate the sounds in a wide variety of useful ways,” explains Joshua Reiss, coordinator of the Easaier project.

The Easaier system, for example, will allow students to slow down playback without altering the pitch. It will also allow them to separate specific instruments from a piece, and they can play back the piece an octave higher or lower, to hear how that affects it.

What’s more, there are tools that can be used with speech, as well as a novel presentation of multimedia material, such as sound-source separation, equalisation and noise-reduction algorithms, and methods to synchronise video and audio streams in real time.
You're expecting a collection of random links, I suppose? Fine.

Historical documents relating to May Day. An interactive map of library cats. Vintage Expo pavilion brochures (via things). BibliOdyssey surveys The World Around Us.

Details of boats. Images of Finland. Hints on How to Play at Home. And via Plep, a series of reflections in waterdrops.

When Mice Collide. An owl visitation. A collection of Seeds for the South. The Victorian Studio Portrait Photograph Collection. Building the Tyne Bridge. Inside breaking waves.

And just for a change, an animated film.

(Image at top: "Chinese Kite Frame" by Thomas Smillie, circa 1906. Via Luminous Lint.)


Larkspur said...

OMG, the Victorian Studio Portrait link - I think I fell in love with a dozen beautiful young women, unnamed but irreplaceable, and long gone from the world.

Anonymous said...

Thank fuck for Phila and Friday Hope Blogging.

And, when better days dawn, when the working class of the world has won its deliverance then too humanity will probably celebrate May Day in honor of the bitter struggles and the many sufferings of the past.Let's dare to hope.