At long last, hate crime protections apply to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability:
To assure its passage after years of frustrated efforts, Democratic supporters attached the measure to a must-pass $680 billion defense policy bill the Senate approved 68-29. The House passed the defense bill earlier this month.Sheriff Joe Arpaio can no longer block inmates' access to abortion services:
Married women in Kuwait can now get passports without their husbands' permission:
Earlier this year, as part of a partial settlement in an ACLU lawsuit involving the right of women prisoners to obtain timely, safe and legal abortions, Arpaio agreed to follow a 2005 court order prohibiting Maricopa County correctional facilities from requiring inmates to obtain a court order before an abortion. However, in the course of settlement negotiations, Arpaio decided inmates must prepay transportation and security costs associated with obtaining the procedure. In his ruling today, Judge Robert H. Oberbilling of the Superior Court of Arizona indicated that requiring inmates to prepay security and transportation costs could be more onerous than the court order Sheriff Arpaio previously required.
"We are so pleased that Sheriff Arpaio can no longer pull a bait and switch by requiring women prisoners to pay transportation and security costs before obtaining an abortion," said Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project who argued the case today before the court. "Arpaio's new prepayment requirement was yet another way for him to do an end run around the law and to interfere with a woman's private decision about whether to end a pregnancy."
Kuwait's highest court granted women the right to obtain a passport without their husband's approval, the case's lawyer said Wednesday, in the latest stride for women's rights in this small oil-rich emirate.The Obama administration has ordered companies that received bailout money to cut executive compensation:
A federal judge has refused to dismiss war crimes charges against Blackwater:
The plan, for the 25 top earners at seven companies that received exceptional help, will on average cut total compensation this year by about 50 percent. The companies are Citigroup, Bank of America, American International Group, General Motors, Chrysler and the financing arms of the two automakers. Some executives, like the top traders at A.I.G., will face tight limits on their pay. In addition, the top-paid employees at all the affected companies will face new limits on their perks.
Judge Ellis, a Reagan appointee with a mixed record on national security issues, rejected several of the central arguments Blackwater made in its motion to dismiss, namely the company's contention that it cannot be sued by the Iraqis under US law and that the company should not be subjected to potential punitive damages in the cases. The Iraqi victims brought their suits under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows for litigation in US courts for violations of fundamental human rights committed overseas by individuals or corporations with a US presence. Ellis said that Blackwater's argument that it cannot be sued under the ATS is "unavailing," adding that corporations and individuals can both be held responsible for crimes and torts. He said bluntly that "claims alleging direct corporate liability for war crimes" are legitimate under the statute.H/t: elroon.
Pakistan is building eco-friendly, disaster-proof homes for the rural poor.
For Sat Bai, 43, moving to her new abode "will be like living in a mansion with a kitchen, verandah, bedrooms and even a latrine!" Used to defecating and bathing in the open, Bai said she found the idea of having a personal latrine the height of luxury.Bengali women and children are learning to detect arsenic in groundwater:
She is equally excited about the fact that "when you go inside the house, the green light coming from the conical roof makes me feel at peace. In the evening even the moonlight comes shining through the room."
The researchers give women and children information about how sediment traits like color and texture may indicate arsenic contamination. They also arm them with arsenic testing kits to use when wells are being drilled in their communities. If these water testing kits indicate high levels of arsenic, they can send a sample to a laboratory in the city for further testing before more contaminated water is distributed to the community. These tests are being done for both shallow and deep aquifers in those districts.The manufacturer of an inexpensive new solar lamp is hoping to make kerosene lanterns obsolete:
The Kiran - the lantern's proper name - needs 8 hours of sunlight for a full charge (or 4 hours plugged in to AC with a standard Nokia mobile phone adapter). A full charge will provide 8 hours of light on a low setting, which is good for walking outside or socializing, or 4 hours of light on the high setting, which is intended for working, studying and other activities that need bright light. The company also states that the lantern is at least four times brighter than a kerosene lantern, so users aren't giving up lighting quality for off-grid charging capabilities.Childhood vaccination is at an all-time high:
H/t: Cheryl Rofer, who also alerted me to this:
According to the report, 106 million infants were vaccinated against diseases such as measles and whooping cough in 2008—a record number. For the first time in decades, the number of children dying each year has fallen below 10 million, due in part to immunizations as well as factors such as clean water.
The American Geophysical Union, the American Chemical Society, and 16 other major science groups groups are urging Congress this morning to take action on carbon emissionsSan Francisco has enacted the country's first mandatory composting law:
San Francisco already diverts over 72% of its waste from landfills thanks to rigorous recycling efforts, and now the city is set to cut down on trash even more with the country’s first mandatory composting law, which took effect yesterday. Residents and businesses now have six weeks to start composting food waste, plant trimmings, and other items.Polar bears may possibly receive some sort of habitat protection, unless they don't:
Pursuant to a partial settlement in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Greenpeace, today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to designate more than 128 million acres (200,541 square miles) of coastal lands and waters along the north coast of Alaska as “critical habitat” for the polar bear. The habitat proposal, required under the Endangered Species Act, comes the same week that another Interior Department agency, the Minerals Management Service, approved oil-company plans for exploratory drilling in the polar bear’s habitat in the Beaufort Sea. Interior is considering a similar drilling proposal in the Chukchi Sea.The Buena Vista Lake Ornate Shrew may get some protection as well:
“If polar bears are to survive in a rapidly melting Arctic, we need to protect their critical habitat, not turn it into a polluted industrial zone,” said Brendan Cummings, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Interior Department is schizophrenic, declaring its intent to protect polar bear habitat in the Arctic, yet simultaneously sacrificing that habitat to feed our unsustainable addiction to oil.”
Responding to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today published a new critical habitat proposal for one of the most endangered mammals on the planet – the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew. The new proposal includes 4,649 acres of critical habitat – an increase of 55 times over a 2005 designation by the Bush administration, which included a meager, fragmented, and unsustainable 84 acres.Researchers have found 850 new species living underground in the Outback.
“If the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew is to avoid extinction, it needs a lot more than 84 acres of critical habitat,” said Ileene Anderson, biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Today’s proposal puts this charming little mammal on the road to recovery."
Until now, most of the continent's arid regions hadn't been explored by invertebrate experts, in part because the underground springs and microcaverns--some smaller than 0.4 inch (1 centimeter) wide--were thought to be devoid of life, said team member Steve Cooper of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide.You want more links, I suppose? Fine. Lost bridges of the Inca Empire. Vintage travel graphics. An interesting feature of our solar system (see also Man in Space). And Martian dust devil trails.
"We are only just beginning to discover in Australia that groundwater is not just an inert entity," Cooper said via email, "but is the host of many diverse ecosystems with an extraordinary array of previously unknown species."
Also: Shutter Maki. Photos by Tinyevilhog. The awful truth about Hexagonal London. Photos by Zoltán Vancsó. And the Van Gogh letter sketches.
Here's a short film, too.
(Photo at top by Michel Rajkovic.)