The Obama administration has stripped Sheriff Joe Arpaio of his authority to "enforce" immigration laws by harassing people with dark skin:
Under an agreement involving local enforcement of federal immigration law, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies will no longer have the authority to arrest suspected illegal immigrants in the streets in the course of their duty....
Human-rights activists have said Mr. Arpaio's officers engaged in racial profiling and found pretexts, such as broken tail lights, to arrest undocumented residents of the Phoenix area. The Department of Justice is investigating whether officers used skin color as a pretense to stop Hispanics.
The House has passed a bill that will make it a federal crime to assault people because of their gender or sexual orientation:
With expected passage by the Senate, federal prosecutors will for the first time be able to intervene in cases of violence perpetrated against gays.
Civil rights groups and their Democratic allies have been trying for more than a decade to broaden the reach of hate crimes law. This time it appears they will succeed. The measure is attached to a must-pass $680 billion defense policy bill and President Barack Obama – unlike President George W. Bush – is a strong supporter. The House passed the defense bill 281-146, with 15 Democrats and 131 Republicans in opposition.
Obama has directed the federal government to cut GHG emissions:
The new executive order, signed by the president, mandates agencies across the federal government to "measure, manage, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions toward agency-defined targets," the White House said in a statement.
Other environmental measures such as reducing petroleum use in vehicle fleets by 30 percent by 2020, improving efficiency of water usage by 2020, and increasing rates of recycling by 2015 were also included in the order.
The Interior Department has found that most Bush-era energy leases are invalid:
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday that only 17 of 77 oil and gas leases on Utah public lands that the Bush administration auctioned off in December were valid and that his agency would prevent development on the remaining parcels, at least in the near future....Apple is the latest company to pull out of the US Chamber of Commerce over its stance on climate change:
Salazar revoked most of the leases upon entering office and said his staff would study which were appropriate. On Thursday, he said the review found that few were.
Apple has become the latest in a growing list of companies to quit the US Chamber of Commerce over its policies on climate change. In a letter to the chamber president, Thomas Donohue, Apple's Catherine Novelli said she was frustrated by the hard-line stance the organisation had taken against the Environmental Protection Agency and draft climate legislation now before the Senate.
Novelli did not sugarcoat the exit. "We strongly object to the chamber's recent comments opposing the EPA's effort to limit greenhouse gases," she wrote in the letter, released yesterday, adding: "Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the chamber at odds with us in this effort." The company's departure is effective immediately.
A plan is underway to transform abandoned and contaminated industrial sites into wind and solar farms:
President Obama and Congress are pushing to identify thousands of contaminated landfills and abandoned mines that could be repurposed to house wind farms, solar arrays and geothermal power plants.
Using already disturbed lands would help avoid conflicts between renewable energy developers and environmental groups concerned about impacts to wildlife habitat....Known as "brownfields," old industrial sites and landfills that have been cleaned to a certain standard often languish for years waiting redevelopment. Most are already connected to the electric power grid, eliminating the need to build miles of costly transmission lines across pristine lands to bring the power to market.
Inhabitat describes a low-temperature Stirling engine that will allegedly work well in colder climates:
The new SolarHeart engine will be integrated into Cool Energy’s SolarFlow system, which will work to convert low temperature solar light and waste heat into storable electricity for homes and small buildings. Each installation will emit zero pollution, reducing household emissions by up to 6 tons of carbon dioxide per year.A federal judge has issued an injunction against drilling in a wildlife refuge, partially because of its effect on the natural soundscape:
Moreover, the ability for the engine to run on any heat source, including waste heat, is especially noteworthy. This means that the system could also be used in combination with industrial factories and diesel generators, capturing any waste heat that is generated and essentially recycling it to create clean energy for the local grid. Cool Energy says that the application of these systems in remote locations has an estimated energy gain of 20% and a payback period as short as one year.
In his ruling, Judge Miller noted that the refuge not only contains important wetland habitat for wildlife and fish, but is also a "large expanse of undeveloped land with a significant sense of place and quiet.” Subsequent developments related to this case will be watched with great interest. If drilling activities on federal lands were to be severely constrained in order to protect natural soundscapes, there would be far-reaching consequences. The economic, political, and social impacts would be especially profound in Utah, western Colorado, Wyoming, and other regions of the country where national forests and wildlife refuges with important hydrocarbon deposits lie cheek-by-jowl with national parks. Environmentalists campaigning to prevent oil and gas drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR) would also regard a greater federal commitment to soundscape protection as another arrow in their quiver.
The green sturgeon has won crucial habitat protections under the Endangered Species Act:
The National Marine Fisheries Service today announced that areas of river, estuarine, bay, and coastal marine habitats in California, Oregon, and Washington will be protected as critical habitat for the southern population of the green sturgeon, an imperiled migratory fish that has survived since the Pleistocene.
Habitat for Alaskan sea otters will also be protected:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 5,855 square miles of nearshore waters along the Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea, and Alaska Peninsula as critical habitat for threatened sea otters in southwest Alaska. Today’s action comes under court order resulting from a lawsuit against the Service by the Center for Biological Diversity.
An extremely rare lemur has been found in Madagascar:
A scientific expedition has found one of the Madagascar's rarest lemurs in a region where it was once thought to be extinct, report conservationists.
“This is an extraordinary success for our efforts to save the species,” said Dr Jonah Ratsimbazafy of GERP, a Malagasy primate organization. “It should put nature conservation back on the agenda in Madagascar, after recent lawlessness and a surge in illegal logging within national parks, which risked annihilating previous conservation successes”.
Four major cattle producers have agreed to a moratorium on beef raised on newly clearcut rainforest:
The agreement is significant because cattle ranching is the single largest driver of Amazon destruction: 80 percent of deforested land ends up as cattle pasture. Ranching is also Brazil's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is an important step in the fight to stop the destruction of one of the world’s most critical rainforests and vital to helping tackle climate change,” said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon campaign director.
The US has incinerated its two-millionth chemical munition:
That leaves only 1,440,021 chemical munitions and/or ton containers to go, including the two ACWA sites (Colorado and Kentucky). If you leave those two sites out (due to an OSD acquisition decision, the incineration sites were separated from the neutralization sites), that's only 558,159 munitions/ton containers to go into the furnaces by 2012-2013. CMA has also had the distinction of having exactly zero chemical agent incidents that resulted in agent escaping into the local community.Via Cheryl Rofer, who also has some positive thoughts on Obama's Nobel prize (which have caused me to rethink my initial cynicism about the award).
An Aimless Walk. The Same Color Illusion. Return to Malibou Lake (via Neatorama). Book covers from Weimar Berlin.
Typographic town logos. Handmade flash cards. Photos by Phil Bergerson. Weird islands by Jean de Bosschère and weird airships by Karl Hans (Joachim) Janke.
A Japanese ferris wheel from 1907, and other animated stereoimages. The Armillery Sphere. Scanned maps of North America, with zooming capabilities. Atlas Coelestis. And the Star Trails Pool.
As long as you're here, you may as well watch this.
(Illustration at top: "Imagen de la Tierra" by Antonio Tápies.)