Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

A gay rights bill has passed in the Ohio House:

For the first time, a bill prohibiting employment or housing discrimination based on sexual orientation passed the Ohio House.

The bill, which has been introduced four times but has always stalled in committee, passed 56-38 and now goes to the state senate.
Meanwhile, the divorce rate in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, seems to have dropped pretty dramatically:
Provisional data from 2008 indicates that the Massachusetts divorce rate has dropped from 2.3 per thousand in 2007 down to about 2.0 per thousand for 2008. What does that mean? To get a sense of perspective consider that the last time the US national divorce rate was 2.0 per thousand (people) was 1940. You read that correctly. The Massachusetts divorce rate is now at about where the US divorce rate was the year before the United States entered World War Two.
I'm sure Maggie Gallagher will come up with a compelling explanation.

The Obama Administration has announced details of its plan to regulate GHG emissions from cars:
“The proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles under the Clean Air Act is a historic step in the fight to curb global warming,” said Vera Pardee, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Clean Air Act is our strongest and most successful tool for reducing air pollution and will now be put to work, together with our fuel-economy law, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect the air we breathe, and save consumers money.”

The proposal is the first time greenhouse gas emissions will be regulated under the Clean Air Act, and it will have a significant impact in slowing the rise of American emissions. But the proposed standards will still leave the United States far behind the vehicle standards already achieved by other countries – standards that are needed to avert dangerous, runaway global warming.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down an utterly deranged mine expansion plan:
The court ruled that the federal Bureau of Land Management had violated various federal laws in agreeing to trade public land with Asarco, which Asarco wanted as part of its expansion of its massive Ray Copper Mine in Arizona. The court held that the agency’s actions were “arbitrary and capricious” and that the agency had not taken the required “hard look” at the exchange’s environmental impacts, including comparing impacts to the land and resources with, vs. without, the exchange....

The lands subject to the exchange provide important habitat for rare plants and animals including desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, and many species of birds. If this proposed land exchange had been allowed to proceed, it would have essentially gutted the White Canyon Resource Conservation Area by allowing mining in a largely pristine place.
In related news, the Justice Department is investigating Gale Norton:
The Interior Department's Office of Inspector General began the investigation during the waning months of the George W. Bush administration and more recently made a formal criminal referral to the Justice Department. Norton is the first Bush official at the Cabinet secretary level to be the subject of a formal political corruption investigation.
The Interior Department is finally phasing out the disastrous "royalty in kind" program:
The scandal-ridden program that allows industry to provide oil and natural gas directly to the Interior Department in lieu of cash royalty payments will be killed, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today.

"The royalty-in-kind program has been a blemish, in my view, on this department," Salazar said at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing. "There were allegations of sex and drugs and a whole host of other inappropriate conduct. ... My decision is that it's time for us to end the royalty-in-kind program."
The Administration is also scrapping BushCo's smog regulations:
In a notice filed Wednesday in a federal appeals court, the Justice Department says there are concerns that the revision made by the Bush administration does not adhere to federal air pollution law. The Environmental Protection Agency will propose revised smog standards to protect health and the environment in late December.

'This is one of the most important protection measures we can take to safeguard our health and our environment,' said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a statement. 'Reconsidering these standards and ensuring acceptable levels of ground-level ozone could cut health care costs and make our cities healthier, safer places to live, work and play.'
Furthermore, over 100 of the world's largest investors are calling for a strong international agreement on climate change:
“We must chart a new course toward long-term, sustainable business practices,” said DiNapoli, head of the $116.5 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. “We cannot drag our feet on the issue of global climate change. I am deeply concerned about the investor risks climate change presents, and the human cost of inaction is unthinkable. As investors in the global economy, we can lead the way toward a future of lasting prosperity.”
Cheryl Rofer has written at length (and brilliantly, of course) on Obama's decision against placing new missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. Her observations are spread across several posts (with more to come, I'm sure), but here's one part that struck me:
Obama and Gates are playing a careful game. They are talking about missile defense without making the distinction between theater missile defense, which works, and national missile defense, which doesn’t. Let’s see if that shields them from the neoconservative incoming.
Also via Cheryl, Operation Rescue seems to be running out of money.
"We're now so broke (as the saying goes), we can't even pay attention," Newman wrote.

Newman told The Associated Press in an interview after the mailing that the group has only four paid employees left, compared to nine a year ago. The group typically has an annual budget of $600,000, but donations this year have been down 30 to 40 percent. Newman, who earns $60,000 annually, said he hasn't been paid in two months.
Croatia and Hungary are planning to create a huge biodiversity reserve:
Croatia and Hungary signed today a declaration to establish a Trans-Boundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that will protect their shared biodiversity hotspot along the Mura, Drava and Danube Rivers. This paves the way to create Europe’s largest river protection area.
Brazil claims that it will ban sugarcane plantations from the Amazon and other sensitive locations:
Brazil will restrict sugarcane plantations for ethanol production from the Amazon, the Pantanal, and other ecologically-sensitive areas under a plan announced Thursday by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's administration, reports the Associated Press.

Environment Minister Carlos Minc said the proposal, which will be voted on by Congress next year, would limit sugar growing to an area of 66 million hectares (163 million acres), or 7.5 percent of Brazil.
The Japanese town of Taiji, which is infamous for its annual dolphin slaughter, has suspended this year's "festivities":
While Japan officially declares that the move had nothing to do with the protests, an official at the Taiji fisheries association, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Thursday that the decision was made partly in response to the international outcry created by "The Cove."
The Fiji petrel has been observed and photographed at sea for the first time:
First recorded in 1855 from one specimen found on Gau Island, Fiji, the rare seabird disappeared from scientific view for 130 years. Beginning in 1984 a handful of 'grounded' Fiji petrels Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi were found after landing on village roofs in Gau, but this is the first observation of the bird in its element: at sea.

Photograph: H Shirihai/The Tubenoses Project/BirdLife International

A black coral forest has been found in Italy:
Italian researchers said they've found one of the largest forests of rare black coral in the world, but for fear of tipping off plunderers, they're keeping the location a secret. Not only is it home to black coral, but also another coral species never before studied in the wild.
Intel has launched a new application called Progress Through Processors, which allows you to "donate" unused computer processing power to climate modeling and AIDS and malaria research.
The application will activate only when your PC's performance is not being fully utilized. When your computer usage demands more processor power, the Progress Thru Processors application defers and sits idle until spare processing capabilities become available again.
The fine science blogger, exemplary human being, and semi-occasional Bouphonia commenter GrrlScientist (Devorah Bennu) is angling to become the official blogger for an upcoming Antarctic expedition. I think she's the perfect choice, and I insist that you all join me in voting for her here. (You have to register first, but it's pretty quick and painless...and I say this as an expert procrastinator and all-around lollygagger.) Once you've registered, you can go directly to her voting page by clicking here. Be advised that I'm not asking with this; I'm telling. So hop to it.

Speaking of Antarctica, the photo at the top is by David Burdeny. You can, and must, see more of his work here; it's absolutely breathtaking. If you scroll past the text that follows the photos, you can see his equally evocative "Shoreline Series."

And that's not all! Penguin Science Fiction (via things). Neon Theatres of the Midwest (via Plep). Bioluminescent insects. Furniture based on acoustic patterns from the streets of Cairo. And a fascinating archive detailing right-wing attacks on Sarah Lawrence College during the McCarthy era.

Temperature maps of the moon. Photos of Mongolia. A close-up view of the balloon flower. A geological map of Ganymede. The center of Globular Cluster Omega Centauri. Géométrie (1923). And via Neatorama, photographs of electricity by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Termites on Liebig cards. More Liebig cards. Vintage bookmarks. Some sentiment cards. And some puzzle cards.

Last, thousands of Vaux swifts entering a chimney...a spectacle I was pleased to view in person a few nights ago.


The Kenosha Kid said...

This Sarah Lawrence College graduate thanks you for this edition of Friday Hope Blogging.

charley said...

best blog on the internet.

P. Drāno said...

What he said.

four legs good said...

The photograph IS stunning. Thanks.

And seems like a whole lot of the good news is the Obama administration dismantling Bush Admin garbage.

that's change I like

Anonymous said...

Some weeks Hope Blogging is all that keeps me going.

Anthony McCarthy, the tech-feckless