Friday, October 30, 2009
The Obama administration has extended the Ryan White HIV/AIDS bill, and will lift the HIV Travel and Immigration Ban.
The legislation provides care, treatment and support services to nearly half a million people, most of whom are low-income.The House has passed an act aimed at reducing sexual assaults on cruise ships:
Obama also announced that the Department of Health and Human services has finally crafted a new regulation spelling the end to the HIV Travel and Immigration Ban....For 22 years, United States had one of the most restrictive policies on the immigration and travel of HIV-positive people in the world.
According to the bill, sexual and physical assaults have been the most prevalent crimes on cruise ships in the past five years. The bill would mandate that cruise vessel owners "maintain on the vessel adequate, in-date supplies of anti-retroviral medications and other medications designed to prevent sexually transmitted diseases after a sexual assault; equipment and materials for performing a medical examination in sexual assault cases to evaluate the patient for trauma, provide medical care, and preserve relevant medical evidence;" and provide free and immediate access to law enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the nearest US embassy, the Coast Guard, and sexual assault hotlines.California has restored funding for domestic violence shelters:
Schwarzenegger had cut the funding as a line item veto when he signed the state's budget back in July, but legislation signed into law Wednesday afternoon restores the funding using money from the Renewable Fuel and Technology Fund.A nationwide crackdown on child prostitution resulted in nearly 700 arrests and rescued more than 50 children:
Almost 1,600 agents and officers took part in the raids, which followed investigations in 36 cities, according to the FBI, local law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Included in the arrests were 60 suspected pimps, according to the FBI and local police officials. Authorities say the youngest victim was 10.(h/t: Cheryl Rofer.)
Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton has come out against police enforcement of immigration law.
Some in Los Angeles have asked why the LAPD doesn’t participate. My officers can’t prevent or solve crimes if victims or witnesses are unwilling to talk to us because of the fear of being deported.EBay has refused to allow supporters of Dr. George Tiller's murderer to run a benefit auction on his behalf:
Based on the details we know about the anticipated listings, we believe these would violate our policy regarding offensive material," the company said in a statement to The Kansas City Star. "EBay will not permit the items in question to be posted to the eBay site, and they will be removed if they are posted."Treehugger discusses a new zinc-air battery:
Not quite as impressive on paper as the lithium-air battery we wrote about (which claimed 10x more energy storage than regular lithium-ion), but it might turn out to be easier to take out of the lab and bring to market. ReVolt Technology, a company based in Staefa, Switzerland, claims that its Zinc-air battery can "store three times the energy of lithium ion batteries, by volume, while costing only half as much," and unlike other existing air batteries, this one would be rechargeable. It is planning to start by selling small ones for hearing aids and then progressively scale up to portable electronics and electric cars.Also at Treehugger, a hybrid car from 1916:
In a way, the Woods coupe was almost a full hybrid, in the sense that the electric motor could move the vehicle on its own (unlike most "assist" hybrids like the Honda Civic hybrid). The difference with a modern full hybrid (like the Prius) is that the this early hybrid couldn't use both sources of power at the same time (not to mention that regenerative braking was probably out of the question at the time).Obama is allocating $3.4 billion to smart-grid technology:
But one thing that this old school hybrid had that modern ones still don't is a plug! Batteries were no doubt charged from the grid and not by the gasoline engine (that would have required more mechanical complexity).
President Barack Obama today announced the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history, funding a broad range of technologies that will spur the nation’s transition to a smarter, stronger, more efficient and reliable electric system. The end result will promote energy-saving choices for consumers, increase efficiency, and foster the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and solar.Apropos of which, consider the microgrid:
The Smart Grid has officially stolen the cleantech spotlight this week, with the Department of Energy announcing the distribution of $3.4 billion in stimulus grants for utilities championing a cleaner, more efficient electrical grid. And this has set the stage for new, innovative grid ideas to gain some traction. One of the most promising: Microgrids, smaller-scale electrical systems spanning college campuses, municipalities and business parks, where energy is generated, stored and very closely managed on an intensely local level. And today, Pike Research released a report predicting microgrids to be a $2.1 billion market by 2015.A nonprofit group is turning shipping containers into clinics.
Since microgrids operate on their own, without being hooked into one of the larger national grids, there are less likely to be disruptions due to peak demand or excessive power loads. They are easier to repair and easier to automate with demand response or conservation programs. For example, it is much easier to make a difference with smart refrigerators (that only make ice during off-peak hours) on a microgrid, than on a larger scale.
[A] new non-profit initiative called Containers 2 Clinics is creating modular health care clinics for developing countries. To do so, they are rescuing shipping containers and then outfitting them with all the necessary equipment to treat women and children....It's hard to believe, but apparently the United States used less water in 2005 than it did in 1975:
C2C will also be a vital part of a data collection system to capture health and epidemiological data to gain a better understanding of disease vector control. Staff for the clinics will be found within the local community and job training will be provided by C2C. The clinic model also includes a low-cost pharmacy for medicine and essential health commodities, which will help provide revenue for the clinics as well as a chance for local entrepreneurship.
According to a new U.S. Geological Survey report, the U S is using less water now than during the peak years of 1975 and 1980, despite a 30 percent population increase during the same time period....The declines are attributed to the increased use of more efficient irrigation systems and alternative technologies at power plants.Cambodia is creating a new wilderness reserve:
Cambodia's Royal Government's Council of Ministers has declared the creation of the Seima Protection Forest, a 1,100 square miles (2,849 square kilometers) park home to tigers, elephants, and endangered primates. The park's creation was developed in part by the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) "Carbon for Conservation" program, which intends to protect high-biodiversity ecosystems while raising funds through carbon sequestration schemes such as Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).The off-road racing industry has suffered another blow:
The Eldorado National Forest has withdrawn its approval of a five-year special event permit for dirt bike “enduro” races in the Rock Creek Recreational Trails Area in response to an appeal by the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation and the Center for Biological Diversity. Advocates for quiet recreation, clean water, and wildlife habitat challenged the permit for failing to provide adequate environmental review of impacts to soil, water and air quality, riparian habitats, and imperiled species, including the California red-legged frog and western pond turtle.A group called Republicans for Environmental Protection has created an ad that criticizes the oil industry's attack on Lindsey Graham:
Republicans for Environmental Protection began running television ads on October 30 across South Carolina supporting U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham for his strong leadership on energy and climate change....And during the congressional investigation into the coal industry's forged anti-climate legislation letters, Rep. Jay Inslee pointed out that Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner are liars.
The ad features State Senator John Courson, a Columbia Republican representing Lexington and Richland Counties, who calls oil companies and other special interests on the carpet for their misleading ads attacking Senator Graham.
They purported to quote a scientist named Ken Caldeira from Stanford who’s one of the predominant researchers in ocean acidification to suggest that Dr. Caldeira didn’t think we should control CO2. Which is an absolute deception. Dr. Caldeira I’ve spoken to personally. He’s told me we have to solve ocean acidification. You can’t solve ocean acidification without controlling CO2 and yet people are still trying to write books to deceive the American public. And we ought to blow the whistle on them, we’re blowing the whistle on one today, we’ll continue to do it, because ultimately science is going to triumph in this discussion.In addition: Absolutely Nothing. A cosmic jewel box. A gallery of human expressions. Twenty circular snapshots. And via things, architectural fantasies by Iakov Chernikhov.
Synthetica, An Invented Land (and other maps). A new panoramic view of the Milky Way. Illustrations by Max Gschwind. Spirit photographs by William Hope. And bug trails.
Photos by E.B. Thompson. Illustrations from Der Orchideengarten. David Harvey's lectures on Capital. Assorted street posters. Examples of phototelegraphy. Mapping book censorship. And a album by Constance Sackville West (I could've sworn I posted this before, but it doesn't turn up in a search of the site).
Here's a movie for you, as well.
(Photo at top: "Stopwatch (2.5x)" by Dr. Rebekah R. Helton, 2009.)
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Steve Levitt explains economics:
Our question, at noted above, is what is the cheapest, fastest way to quickly cool the Earth. Like every question we tackle in Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, we approach the question like economists, using data and logic to conclude that the answer to that question is geo-engineering....And ocean acidification:
"Of course, ocean acidification is an important issue. Now, there are ways to deal with ocean acidification, right, it's actually, that's actually, we know exactly how to un-acidifiy the oceans, is to pour a bunch of base into it, so, so if that turns out to be an incredibly big problem, then we can deal with that."(Photo by Rakka.)
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Free Speech Is Good; Just Don't Say Anything We Dislike.Then, David French complains that Prof. Gerald Horne has dared to write the following intolerable words:
While I do see some analytical differences between, say, Thomas Jefferson and Stalin, these are not completely outrageous questions. I probably would've mentioned the oppression and massacre of America's native population, but even without invoking that
Jonathan Brent expresses surprise — if not shock and disgust — at what he sees as the rehabilitation of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in contemporary Russia ("Postmodern Stalinism," The Chronicle Review, September 25).
Pray tell: Is there an analytical difference between the phenomenon he perceives and the glorification and hagiography that bedeck the slaveholding "founding fathers" of his own United States (not to mention those that founded the settler colonies upon which this slaveholding republic was based)? Or is the difference that in this latter case, after all, we are discussing the brutalization of only Africans, and in the former case, non-Africans — and we all know that the lives of one are worth more than the lives of the other? Or is the difference that Stalin's rule lasted 30-odd years while North American enslavement was a process that stretched over centuries?
Maybe that's why French's post is titled "Words Fail": rather than trying to devise a logical argument for the brand of smug relativism favored by his ideological goon squad, French prefers to act as though the correctness of his views, like God's love, is too boundless and pure to be communicated in mere words. If you have to ask for an explanation, you've already damned yourself, and can be consigned to the same mental dustbin as the brutes who got in the way of our forefathers' bullets while trying to thwart what James Madison called "the benevolent plans which have been so meritoriously applied to the conversion of our aboriginal neighbors from the degradation and wretchedness of savage life."
The really nice thing is that French ends by saying, in regards to Prof. Horne, "Citizens of Texas, I present . . . your tax dollars at work." It almost sounds as though he's unhappy with free speech, just because someone happened to write a letter he disliked. Perhaps his colleague George Leef will explain that this is not how the Founding Fathers intended things to work (except for the ones who supported the Sedition Act of 1798, of course).
(Illustration: "Newes from America. The figure of the Indians' fort or palizado in New England and the manor of the destroying it by Captayne Underhill and Captayne Mason," 1638. Via Mashantucket Pequot Museum Libraries & Archives.)
Friday, October 23, 2009
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.)
Friday, October 16, 2009
The fruits are ripe, dipped in fire,
Cooked and sampled on earth. And there's a law,
That things crawl off in the manner of Ceratosoma miamiranum,
Prophetically, dreaming on the hills of heaven.
And there is much that needs to be retained,
Like a load of wood on the shoulders.
But the pathways are dangerous.
The captured elements and ancient laws of earth
Run astray like horses. There is a constant yearning
For all that is unconfined. But much needs
To be retained. And loyalty is required.
Yet we mustn't look forwards or backwards.
We should let ourselves be cradled
As if on a boat rocking on a lake.
(Photo by Nemo's great uncle.)
California will recognize gay marriages performed in other states:
Couples legally married in other states before Proposition 8 was approved last November will be considered legally married in California. In addition, couples legally married in other states after the measure was approved will not be considered married in California but will be afforded "the same legal protections available to couples that enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships in other states," Schwarzenegger wrote in his signing message. "In short, this measure honors the will of the People in enacting Proposition 8 while providing important protections to those unions legally entered into in other states," the governor wrote.Though you wouldn't necessarily know it from watching the news, evangelicals are increasingly supportive of LGBT equality:
In the most recent national survey done by the Pew Research Center, more Americans than ever recorded (57 percent) support civil unions.A new study suggests that sheltering the homeless saves taxpayers money:
Thirty-nine percent of this support comes from white evangelicals, and even though that’s not a majority, it shows there are definite inroads being made into that community....
In a recent survey during the 2008 presidential election cycle, 58 percent of young white evangelicals supported some form of legal recognition of gay partnerships, whether in the form of civil unions or marriage. Twenty-six percent supported full marriage rights.
The four-year study followed four homeless people while they lived on the streets and later as they found stable housing. Researchers concluded that taxpayers could save $20,000 a year per person in public services.California is finally easing restrictions on greywater use:
[T]he new standards allow homeowners to use up to 250 gallons of greywater per day on their landscaping without a permit, if they follow a list of 12 do's and don'ts. Arizona set the national precedent for relaxed greywater rules in 2001, and New Mexico and Texas soon followed suit.In related news, Los Angeles has approved waterless urinals for use in all buildings.
A new power station could link the nation's electrical grids:
Currently, the US is sub-divided into three electrical grids (East, West, and Texas). This means that electricity produced in one of the grids cannot be transmitted to the other grids. For example, solar power from Arizona cannot reach Oklahoma, wind power from Texas cannot be used in the East, and so on. But this could change if the "Tres Amigas" project for a superstation connecting the three grids in Clovis, New Mexico, goes ahead. This could be a good thing for renewable energy, though problems are also on the horizon....An Italian firm will use weather satellite data to improve the siting of solar power plants, and monitor their performance:
This would be good for renewable energy because it would increase the number of potential buyers. For example, if the wind is blowing hard in Texas and there is a surplus of wind power, it could be sold to the Eastern grid at a better price than the local market where supply is temporarily outpacing demand.
This information assists to determine the best sites for new PV plants, as well as how much electricity they will produce yearly. This helps to decide precisely how large the plants have to be for a given use, optimising investment and improving solar power economy.The Daily Climate has an interesting article on a pilot who uses small plane flights to promote environmental awareness:
The second development uses Meteosat data to monitor if the solar cells are working properly all the time, by comparing in real-time the actual production of electricity to what can be expected from the amount of available sunshine.
A sense of scale is central to Gordon's mission, what he has dubbed "conservation flying." For more than 20 years, Gordon has piloted Pipers and Cessnas, single engines and turboprops across the western United States to provide people with a pilot's-eye view of changing landscapes – a view that won't come into focus through the windshield of a pickup truck.ORVs will no longer be allowed in the Tellico River watershed:
That awareness of scale, over both time and vast distances, is what gives Gordon – and his many passengers – the ability to piece together a startling and disturbing picture. Whether it's clear-cut forests in the Pacific Northwest, coal bed methane development in Wyoming, pine beetle blight across the Western Slope of Colorado, giant open-pit gold mines in Nevada, scars from a decades-long natural gas boom in New Mexico or melting Montana glaciers, his vantage point connects the disparate dots that reveal a tattered Western tapestry.
Conservation groups concerned about water quality in the Tellico River watershed in national forests in North Carolina and Tennessee from a degraded off-road vehicle (ORV) area hailed the final decision announced today by the U.S. Forest Service as a win-win approach to resolving the problem. The agency will close most trails in the Tellico area and invest substantial resources to restore those lands, and convert the remaining ORV trails to forest roads for public access for other types of recreation. ORV use will no longer be allowed anywhere in the area.Congress has scrapped a plan to build more fencing along the Mexican border:
Congress has stripped a provision from a Department of Homeland Security appropriation bill that would have required 300 more miles of tall fencing along the Mexican border, saying the money needed to build the barrier would be better spent on alternative security measures.(h/t: Southern Beale.)
It was another bad week for the US Chamber of Commerce:
The much beleaguered U.S. Chamber of Commerce is having another bad PR week after Mother Jones revealed yesterday that they have inflated their membership numbers and that the holding company owned by multi-billionaire Ronald Perelman is thinking of leaving the Chamber because of their policy on climate change action.A bird that was thought to be extinct has been rediscovered:
Known to science only by two specimens described in 1900, a critically endangered crow has re-emerged on a remote, mountainous Indonesian island thanks in part to a Michigan State University scientist.Ireland will ban GM crops:
The Banggai Crow was believed by many to be extinct until Indonesian biologists finally secured two new specimens on Peleng Island in 2007....A photo of the Banggai Crow debuts this week in volume 14 of the influential Handbook of the Birds of the World.
The agreement specifies that the Government will "Declare the Republic of Ireland a GM-Free Zone, free from the cultivation of all GM plants". The official text also states "To optimise Ireland's competitive advantage as a GM-Free country, we will introduce a voluntary GM-Free logo for use in all relevant product labeling and advertising, similar to a scheme recently introduced in Germany."Baltimore's public school system has embraced Meatless Mondays:
The Baltimore City Public School system is about to become the first fully Meatless Monday school system in the U.S. They’re joining a growing international movement of individuals, organizations, communities and cities making the commitment to lower meat consumption and enjoy a plant-based diet on Mondays.Inhabitat discusses Vienna's reuse of 19th-century gasometers:
The 80,000 young people BCPS serves will begin each week with a Meatless Monday menu. And that’s not all. The school system has introduced a wide variety of projects to ensure its students eat and learn about healthy, environmentally friendly choices. BCPS has teemed up with local farmers and distributors to provide students fresh, locally raised fruits, vegetables and milk. They’ve also introduced Great Kids Farm, a 33-acre teaching farm, home to chickens, goats and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Educators on the farm teach kids and adults how to produce home-grown fresh food, even in an urban setting. BCPS is also in the process of developing gardens for each of the system’s 200 schools.
In 1896 the Viennese authorities decided to invest in large-scale gas and electric utilities, so they constructed what became Europe’s largest gas plant. After nearly a century long run the plant was decommissioned, and left behind were four massive gasometers. These incredible structures were cast off, but a recent revitalization project led by Jean Nouvel, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Manfred Wehdorn, and Wilhelm Holzbauer have transformed these four tanks into spectacular and thriving communities.This is long overdue:
Today the gasometers form a unique city center all their own, with a strong sense of community given its abundant housing and diversity of destinations.
It took a failed nuclear inspection, two missile trucks crashing, and junior officers literally dozing off with launch codes. But finally, the Air Force has canned Col. Christopher Ayres, the leader of the bumbling 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.So is this:
In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) proposed an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR "if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court."And this is pretty amazing:
The amendment passed by a 68-30 vote. Jones commented: "It means the world to me. It means that every tear shed to go public and repeat my story over and over again to make a difference for other women was worth it."
A breakthrough discovery by scientists from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL, may lead to a new treatment for Alzheimer's Disease that actually removes amyloid plaques—considered a hallmark of the disease—from patients' brains. This discovery, published online in The FASEB Journal, is based on the unexpected finding that when the brain's immune cells (microglia) are activated by the interleukin-6 protein (IL-6), they actually remove plaques instead of causing them or making them worse.Also: This Man (via Coudal). The Virtual Dime Museum. More pictures of icebergs. Art by Josef Lada. Photos by Constantine Manos (via wood s lot). The Museum of British Folklore. A close-up view of the chrysanthemum.
Furthermore: Pygmy hippos. A timely Venn diagram. Kite aerial photography by Matthias Grimm. The winners of the 2009 Small World photomicrography contest. Vintage photographic backdrops. And photos by Vivian Maier (via Lilian Nattel).
In summation: Life on White. Symbolism of the Crinoline. Examples of Japanese threadballs (you'll find many more here). Fifty years of space exploration. Art by Amy Bennett. And spiderweb decorations.
And, naturally, a short film.
(Photo at top: "Stars Over Easter Island" by Stéphane Guisard.)
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Over at Phi Beta Cons, David French discusses creationism, evolution, and related stuff about things. The occasion of his remarks is an interesting article detailing conflicts at Christian colleges "between those Christian biologists who...believe that God created the heavens and earth through evolutionary processes, those who believe in a six-24-hour-day creation and a 'young earth,' and those who fall somewhere in between." (Believe it or not, some Christian college professors can actually lose their jobs for teaching standard biology; I thought only intelligent design theorists suffered that sort of persecution.)
French's basic position is that religious schools are not obliged to hire professors who believe in evolution. Which is quite true. But somehow, he gets from there to here:
In many ways, the community of Christian schools represents a "marketplace of ideas" far more open than the parallel community of secular schools — where ideological orthodoxy is rigidly enforced not just within but among the institutions.Amen, brother! Christian schools are at liberty to teach that God created the cosmos in six days, or six years, or six millennia, or whatever: Thus do a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend. But secular schools are prejudiced in favor of dreary dogmas like descent with modification, and an earth that's older than 7,000 years. And where's the fun in that?
It sounds as though French would like to see colleges teach different versions of biology. Yale could focus on neo-Lamarckism, MIT on evo-devo, Patrick Henry on craniometry and psychometrics, and so forth. (As for community colleges, they can teach whatever theories are popular in their respective locales. After all, the customer is always right!)
I'm as committed to problematizing exclusivist metanarratives and delegitimating monologic desire as the next gink. And yet, I can't quite manage to take French's brand of cultural pluralism seriously. Although I don't know where he stands on ebonics, I remember that conservatives tended to be very upset by the idea that anyone would dream of teaching it. And I've read Phi Beta Cons regularly enough to know that its authors will often cast aspersions on a given college simply by noting that it offers a course in Latina/o studies or postcolonial literature.
Apparently, it'd be intellectually healthy for evolutionary biology to fracture into five thousand bickering splinter groups...but God forbid anyone should suggest that there's more to studying literature than defending the reputation of Teh World's Greatest Authors against the upstart claims of ethnic arrivistes. Certain fields need more orthodoxy, not less, and the folks at PBC know 'em when they see 'em.
Here's a theory you've probably never heard before. According to French, schools that teach young-earth creationism are still teaching students what they need to know about evolutionary biology, if only to reveal it as a snare and a delusion:
I would be surprised if the principles of evolutionary biology were not taught even at schools dominated by a "young Earth" viewpoint. Professors know evolutionary biology and students learn it. They may learn it from a critical standpoint, but they still learn it.If a teacher were to tell me, on the authority of Lord Kelvin, that airplanes can't fly because they're too heavy, I don't think I could say that I'd learned the basic principles of aviation. Putting that little detail aside, I'm sure French would be just as happy to apply this clever argument to, say, the Marxist critique of imperialism: Students may be learning about the Spanish-American War from a "critical standpoint," but they're still learning about it! And if David Horowitz doesn't like it, he's cordially invited to go fuck himself.
And another thing:
I hate the use of the term "literal" or "literalist" when describing those who believe the Bible is God's word. I have never in my entire life met any single person who believed there was no metaphor in the Bible. So, the actual debate within orthodox Christianity is not between "literalists" and others; it's between those who disagree over the meaning and intent of words, when both sides believe those are the words God intended to use.He's right, in the trivial sense that no one takes every word of the Bible literally. Most of the people who claim that the universe was really created in six days, and that Eve was really fashioned from Adam's rib, are still able to recognize suggestions like "go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor" as confoundingly polyvalent metaphors.
But he's wrong in the context of his own goddamn post, since the conflict he's discussing is not "within orthodox Christianity," but between scientists and young-earth creationists. And since the latter treat the Bible's account of Creation and the Flood as actual events whose traces are detectable by science, calling them "literalists" seems pretty reasonable. So there.
As for the strife at Christian colleges, we can only hope that it'll be resolved amicably once the Conservative Bible is wrested at last from the world of Ideal Forms.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
At the risk of seeming immodest, I've always had a moderate talent for sarcasm. When Bush invaded Iraq, for example, I was quick to say, "Oh sure...that'll work."
But I'm a babe in arms next to David Harsanyi:
How can Americans be expected to wrestle with the myriad dangers that confront them each day? Insalubrious cereal? Unregulated garage sales? Pools of death? Sometimes it's too much to process.Believe it or not, this veritable pyroclastic flow of snark is his response to the news that General Mills will no longer be able to make false claims about the health benefits of Cheerios.
You know what we desperately are crying out for? An army of crusading federal regulatory agents with unfettered power. Who else has the fortitude and foresight to keep us all safe?
I am grateful that one courageous soul finally has stood up to the menacing influence of Big Cereal. Yes, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg has had enough of deceitful infiltration of Cheerios, demanding that General Mills cease and desist a marketing campaign that peddles the fallacious claim that the oat-based cereal can lower cholesterol.The proposition that we are all less free because General Mills can no longer lie to us about Cheerios is somewhat counterintuitive, and it's fascinating to watch Harsanyi try to defend it.
Why stop with oats? Trix are not only for kids, you know. Lucky Charms are nowhere close to being "magically" delicious.Good point...except that you can't really compare these branding slogans to specific, demonstrably false scientific claims. Calling a breakfast cereal "delicious," or claiming that kids love it, is permissible. Saying that it's "nutritious," or "part of a balanced breakfast" is also permissible, even though it's arguably misleading. But claiming that your particular formulation of oat hulls, sawdust, and carnauba wax will cure the Watery Gripes is another matter entirely, and even in my darkest moods I believe that most American consumers -- even conservative ones -- are still able to make this distinction. (The ones who can't, meanwhile, are the best possible argument for enforcing federal laws against false advertising.)
Harsanyi also takes a delicious swipe at teh PC Thought Police, by pretending -- just for laughs! -- that Lucky the Leprechaun is a stereotypical drunken Irishman, and therefore qualifies as a form of hate speech (or would, if white people weren't such good sports about stuff like that).
That's absurd, granted. But is it really more absurd than any other complaint about racial stereotyping...or false advertising, for that matter? I mean, when you stop and think about it?
Maybe Harsanyi's goal is simply to remind readers that they're angry about the government's "preferential" treatment of minorities, in hopes that this will color their reading of the Cheerios story, and keep them from wondering whether General Mills actually has a right to mislead health-conscious consumers with whatever mountebank nonsense it pleases.
Whatever the case, the gist of Harsanyi's column is that there's a right to mislead, but no right to be told the truth. If you've been wondering what a healthcare system based on the glibertarian ideal of "consumer choice" would look like, this should give you a pretty clear idea.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
All around the world, winter is drawing nigh. Earth shrouds herself in sables, and Jack Frost is nipping at noses from Vladivostok to South Sulawesi. Which makes you wonder: How can the planet be warming if there's snow in the American Midwest in October?
At least, that's what you wonder if you're Phil Brennan.
Okay. Let's get this straight once and for all: There is no such thing as global warming.To say nothing of the past week. While the world's climatologists toyed with orgone accumulators and daphnomancy, Brennan went out and did hisself some old-fashioned down-home honest-to-God research. For instance, he visited Ice Age Now -- a bleeding-edge climatology blog owned and operated by a former architect (and current bio-evolutionistic researchologist) named Robert W. Felix -- on the theory that it might offer some evidence against AGW.
For the past decade, global temperatures have been falling....
His hunch paid off handsomely, because in less time than it takes you to say "ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase," he'd uncovered these shocking suppressed data:
It snowed during the past weekend as far south as Colorado....In the past, early snows in Nebraska have always signified either a new Ice Age or God's judgment against lingerie boutiques in Omaha. This year is probably no exception, as any dispassionate observer must admit.
Record-breaking 17 inches of snow in North Platte, NE — 10 Oct 09
That's global warming? C'mon now, let's get serious.Getting serious isn't just a matter of scolding climate scientists for their faulty grasp of climate science. It's also a matter of trusting in the tender mercies of Nature, which would never allow humanity to do itself any really serious injury.
Barack Obama and the warmist fools want to wreck our economy by actions designed to stop the planet from getting warmer and make it colder — a job Mother Nature herself is doing.So there's no such thing as global warming, and in any case Mother Nature has stopped the globe from warming by arranging for an ice age. Surely this is the best of all possible worlds!
Or it would be, if it weren't for the warmists, who are interfering with this wholesome natural process by trying to "ban" carbon dioxide, even though it's a scientific fact that CO2 is already at the lowest level since the Primatene Epoch and if it falls much lower...well, I'll let Dr. Tim Ball explain:
CO2 is not a pollutant, but the most important gas because without it plants don't survive. No plants, no oxygen therefore no life at all. At 385 ppm it is at the lowest level in 600 million years and to reduce it puts the plants in jeopardy. At 250 ppm they weaken and begin to die. At 150 ppm most are dead.Most plants dead! Is that really what you want? If not, I implore you to leave your lights burning 'round the clock, and take the longest possible route when you drive anywhere. Sure, it may cost you a little extra money in the short term, but future generations will thank you.
Don't go thinking Mother Nature can save the plants as easily as she reversed that recent warming trend, either. This is our fight, and we need to get busy. Ball says we should be aiming for about 1200 ppm; that's what commercial greenhouses favor, and they must be doing something right or they'd go out of business.
Although it's necessary to maintain four-digit levels of CO2 in greenhouses -- and by extension, in our atmosphere -- you can't really call CO2 a greenhouse gas. You also need to realize that our good earth is not encumbered by some sort of "greenhouse gas barrier" that traps heat, any more than Venus is. This barrier exists only in "rigged computer programs," which we know are unreliable because they contradict Brennan's assertion that global climate will cool for "at least 30 years." If we want really accurate predictions of decadal climate variation -- the kind you can set your goddamn watch by -- we need computer models that dispense with the greenhouse effect entirely.
That so-called "experts" need to be reminded of these basic principles by an amateur like Brennan is a staggering indictment of modern climatology.
In other news, America was discovered in 1942 by "some guy." And it isn't called America any more. It's Bonerland.
Monday, October 12, 2009
It dawns on me that as of today, I've been making a sorry spectacle of myself on this blog for five goddamn years, for fuck's sake. That makes Bouphonia at least 80, in human years.
Where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday that I was indulging myself in impotent complaint before a small but compassionate audience of rubberneckers.
Today...well, let's just say that things are very different. I have a desk now, for one thing.
I suppose I shouldn't make light of what I've accomplished here. In its crooked old age, and mine, Buffoonia has become a Wunderkammer that preserves the stillborn montrosities of my thought in neatly labeled specimen jars. This is interesting, like all disasters, but it's also useful: If I ever fall prey to self-satisfaction, I know exactly where to find the antidote.
Thanks to everyone who reads my ill-tempered gibberish; special thanks to those who risk their good names by commenting on and linking to it. And particular thanks to Echidne, who has talked me off the ledge so many times that she's in danger of having to take sole responsibility for this superannuated blog's wheedling demands on your patience.
I don't need presents, unless you've got an extra bottle of Cadenhead's Caol Ila 1995 lying around. But please do drop in and say hello, especially if you’re a lurker, so I may rest assured that we live like doves together, without gall.
Friday, October 09, 2009
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
As long as you're here, you may as well watch this.
(Illustration at top: "Imagen de la Tierra" by Antonio Tápies.)
Thursday, October 08, 2009
If you've been dying to know how someone who hates urban planning would allocate blame for the housing bubble, this is your lucky day. Randal O'Toole has been giving this matter some serious thought, and he's come to the conclusion that this disaster, like most others, was caused by urban planners and their bizarre insistence on "growth management."
The first thing you need to understand is that while there are actually several contributing factors -- including a sad failure "to properly assess the risks of subprime mortgages" -- most of them were in effect across the country, and can therefore be ignored. Once you've tuned out distracting issues like predatory lending, criminal negligence, unrelenting greed, deregulatory fanaticism, and the quasi-religious faith that overpriced houses will continue to appreciate in value forever, it's much easier to spot the really salient point, which is that some areas were harder hit than others. Since there's no obvious reason for people with easy access to unfeasibly large loans to prefer coastal California to Fort Stockton, TX, higher prices in California can only be the result of manipulation by some tweedy cabal of urban planners.
The most important factor that distinguishes states like California and Florida from states like Georgia and Texas is the amount of regulation imposed on landowners and developers....And yet, California still has a larger population than Texas and Georgia combined. Since market forces explain everything in life that's worth explaining, the conclusion is obvious: Either people prefer to live in states that impose more regulations on developers, or O'Toole is overlooking other real or perceived factors that make California more attractive than Texas or Georgia, any of which may affect the prices people are willing to pay (or try to pay) for a house.
Granting that it's insane to take out a gigantic ARM on a house in Antelope Valley, the fact that so many people were willing to do it can't really be blamed on smart growth advocates...especially since the multi-decade housing boom in this dreary, bone-dry area is pretty much the antithesis of everything they've ever recommended.
But O'Toole doesn't see it that way. To him, California's sprawl-crazed, foreclosure-blighted, politically conservative Central Valley is apparently the outcome of a vast experiment in New Urbanist central planning, while Atlanta -- where homes are currently sitting on the market for about 20 percent less than in June of 2007 -- is a glibertarian promised land.
And as usual, O'Toole's pejorative definition of "growth management" applies primarily to the policies and concepts he lives to oppose. If you fill a given area with single-family homes on double-wide lots, you're effectively limiting the number (and type) of people who can live there; in other words, you're managing growth. Sprawl tends to be more land-intensive and car-dependent than the higher-density growth typically favored by the planners O'Toole demonizes, which means it's likely to be more exclusive. And of course, that's no accident; it's the outcome of planning, as surely as a greenbelt or subsidized housing is. But like a lot of libertarians, O'Toole tends to depict plans (and public subsidies) that allocate resources "properly" as the impersonal working of natural forces. It's usually when people question the wisdom or fairness of business as usual -- or suggest that a given resource is not, in fact, infinite -- that they become "planners," in O'Toole's sense.