Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

Having written and deleted three ill-tempered preambles detailing my massive problems with the theory and practice of American liberalism, and suggesting that the trouble with our elected officials is not that they don't represent us, but that they represent too many of us too well -- particularly when they throw in the towel preemptively, after a meager effort, and pat themselves on the back for it -- I'll forego editorializing entirely and get straight to the good news.

Washington DC has decided that gay people have the same rights as everyone else.

The city council passed the measure Tuesday to legalize same-sex marriage in the city. Congress has final say over D.C.'s laws, however, so the mayor's signature doesn't mean the bill immediately becomes law.
New York is coming to a similar realization about transgendered people:
New York Governor David A. Paterson issued an executive order extending anti-discrimination policies to gender identity for state employees Wednesday.

“Governor Paterson has taken significant action to advance equality for all New York state employees,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “The ability to provide for our families is non-negotiable. We applaud Governor Paterson for his commitment to the LGBT community and look forward to working with fair-minded New York legislators to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act which will protect private employees.”
The FY2010 Omnibus Spending Bill contains some good provisions:
The legislation eliminates traditional sources of funding for abstinence-only programs and instead provides funding for "a new evidence-based teenage pregnancy prevention initiative." The bill calls for $114.5 million to be appropriated for the new programs, which will include age appropriate and medically accurate information on both contraception and abstinence....

The District of Columbia also made major gains with the passage of the bill. A provision that would eliminate a long-time prohibition on using DC-raised monies for abortion assistance within the District is in the final legislation as well as a provision overturning a ban on medical marijuana in the District.
Blog of Rights has more. It's worth noting that the bill also eases restrictions on needle exchange programs.

Uganda has banned female genital mutilation:
Female genital mutilation has been outlawed in Uganda under a bill passed unanimously by the Parliament, lawmakers said.

Ugandans convicted of the practice, also known as female circumcision, face up to 10 years in prison. If a girl dies from the surgery, which involves cutting off the clitoris to reduce sexual feeling, convicted offenders would be sentenced to life in prison.
The United States is speeding up the patent process for green technology:
Green technology patents will see a year shaved off the average forty month wait time to approve new patents in the US. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is implementing a one-year pilot program to push green technology patent applications through the process more quickly, so that the technologies can reach the market faster.
Honolulu will use seawater to cool its buildings:
Frigid seawater pumped in from the ocean’s depths will soon help cool more than half of the buildings in Honolulu’s downtown. Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning LLC, which is undertaking the $240 million project, expects its technology to cut the Hawaiian city’s air conditioning electricity usage by up to 75 percent while slashing carbon emissions and the use of ozone-depleting refrigerants.
A plan to open Vermont state land to off-road vehicles has been blocked:
The rejection of the rule was based solely on procedural grounds and did not tackle substantive issues such as the environmental impacts of ATVs or the impact on other users of public lands. Still, one of the fatal flaws in the rule, according to the committee, was that it failed to provide any scientific information or support for allowing ATVs on state lands. The provision of scientific background is a requirement of any new administrative rule.
The world's largest solar office building has opened in China:
he design of the new building is based on the sun dial and “underlines the urgency of seeking renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels.” Aside from the obvious sustainable nature of the solar panel – clad exterior, other green features include advanced roof and wall insulation practices resulting in an energy savings of 30% more than the national standard. In addition, the external structure of the building used a mere 1% of the amount of steel used to construct the Bird’s Nest.
A famous Nevada brothel has inadvertently aided efforts to restore the Truckee River floodplain:
The tax woes of the Mustang Ranch, the first licensed brothel in the United States, may prove an boon to the Nature Conservancy's efforts to restore the Truckee River in Nevada, the New York Times reported this week, saying that "like many acts of salvation, this one has its roots deep in sin."

The brothel's original high-desert location, a 420-acre site eight miles east of Reno and 300 yards from the riverbank, was confiscated by the Internal Revenue Service a few years ago. While the working women continue to ply their trade a few miles downriver, the old property is being restored to floodplain. The river had been straightened and widened by the Army Corps of Engineers half a century ago to reduce flood risks to Reno's growing population.
A new process extracts lithium from geothermal wastewater:
We need electric vehicles to curb our thirst for oil, but there’s a problem: EV’s generally use lots of lithium in their batteries, and that’s another limited resource. Now Simbol Mining thinks it has a partial solution in a new technique that extracts battery lithium from the wastewater of geothermal plants.

Currently, most lithium is sourced from soil or dried brine in a water-intensive process. But Simbol’s technique uses water that is already being extracted for geothermal energy. The technique, which Simbol hopes to use in the geothermal and lithium-rich waters in California’s underground Salton Sea, pulls lithium ions out of the water and into a lithium chloride compound that can be mixed with sodium carbonate for shipping. Heat from the water helps power the process.
A substitute for tropical wood could help to save the rainforests.
Kebony, a Norwegian company, has developed a process to make softwoods similar to tropical hardwoods without the use of chemicals. The product, also called Kebony, stops softwood from rotting by treating it with a chemical-free process that involves sugarcane waste, pressurizing, and heating. The process makes softwood that is actually harder than tropical hardwoods and resistant to fungi and insects. Since the wood only needs to be treated once, it is cheaper than soft woods over the long run that need to be treated throughout their lifetime, each treatment releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.
And there's good news about the ongoing arms talks between the US and Russia.
The new version of Start would require each side to reduce deployed strategic nuclear warheads to roughly 1,600, down from 2,200, according to a senior American official. It would also force each side to reduce its strategic bombers and land- and sea-based missiles to below 800, down from the old limit of 1,600.
Furthermore: Ten environmental wins. The return of the repressed. Old tickets. Saturn's hexagon. Microscope slides by W. White. Images of Eritrea (via Coudal). Vintage storefronts (likewise).

Ainu Komonjo. Alternative global mapping techniques. Acoustic listening devices. A close-up view of a hybrid foamflower. A fireball over the Mojave Desert. And ice storms.

Also, a short film for someone sweet.

Last, thanks for rising to the occasion last week! Marvelous stuff, and I really appreciated it. (Of course, you're more than welcome to post positive stories this week, too. Or any other.)

(Photo at top: "General view towards Merok, Geiranger Fjord, Norway" between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Via the Library of Congress.)


Anonymous said...

Nice post - thanks

res ipsa loquitur said...

The government once again appears to be back in the business of attempting to enforce anti-trust laws (see e.g., this week's Intel news), swine flu is waning, and Judith Warner is leaving the NYT blogs and landing on the op-ed page in January.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

maestro, a little blogwhoring music, please - something pleasant and fun to help us forget our troubles and cares on a cold friday night...

annette hanshaw, harry reser's syncopaters, and baby rose marie all do their versions of

don't be like that!

Phila said...

annette hanshaw, harry reser's syncopaters, and baby rose marie all do their versions of

don't be like that!

Great! The Annette Hanshaw version is one of my favorites of hers, along with the Hawaiian version of "Get Out and Get Under the Moon."

Anonymous said...

Very nice. Thank you.

Phila said...

Very nice. Thank you.


liliannattel said...

I'm glad you're back. Relief on your behalf and it made my Saturday morning more peaceful (kids bouncing off the walls, first day of holiday, we're off to skate).

Andy G. said...

My wife and I just oohed and ahhed over those ice storm pics. Wonderful.

Phila said...

Thanks, Lillian. You're very kind, and I'm glad to be of service!