Mexico City has legalized same-sex marriage.
The change will enable same-sex couples to adopt, apply for bank loans, inherit wealth and be included in the insurance policies of their spouse – rights they were denied under the civil unions allowed in the city.The US Senate has confirmed the country's first openly gay US marshal:
"We are so happy," said Temistocles Villanueva, a 23-year-old film student, who celebrated the new legislation by kissing his boyfriend outside the city assembly.
Minneapolis assistant police Chief Sharon Lubinski has become the first openly gay U.S. marshal. The U.S. Senate confirmed the Green Bay, Wis. native to be the U.S. marshal for the Minnesota district. Last week’s confirmation also makes her the first female marshal in the state.Apropos of which, Blog of Rights has a three-part post summarizing progress on LGBT issues in 2009. (You may also want to watch this.)
A new device uses GPS to lead desert-crossing immigrants to water:
The Transborder Immigrant Tool was developed by UC San Diego prof and activist Ricardo Dominguez and UCSD lecturer Brett Stalbaum. Both believe it will save the lives of hundreds of people who die each year during their trek across "Devil's Highway."The Obama administration has reversed Bush's policies on habitat protection in Texas.
Here's how the tool works. The phone, loaded with free GPS software, displays a digital compass that locates water stations installed by John Hunter, founder of the Water Stations project. Stations that are too far will not be displayed. The phone pinpoints "safety sites" -- such as Border Patrol station, a clinic or a church -- and includes poetry written by Amy Carroll to "welcome you to the U.S," said Dominguez. Encrypted to avoid detection by authorities, phones are $30 and should be available by summer.
In response to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, Citizen’s Alliance for Smart Expansion, and Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, the Obama administration agreed late Friday to reconsider critical habitat designation for 12 endangered Texas invertebrates, including three species from Comal Springs and nine species from caves in Bexar County....If you want to support this effort, you can make a donation here.
The Center for Biological Diversity has been actively working to overturn Bush-era decisions limiting protection for endangered species, including suing to overturn decisions affecting 55 species. To date, this campaign has been highly successful, with the Obama administration agreeing to reconsider 45 of the 54 decisions, including the 12 Texas species today.
A new study emphasizes the importance of cross-border conservation efforts.
The study -- featured on the cover of a recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA -- found that there could be a $67-billion savings in costs if conservation efforts of endemic vertebrates were coordinated across all the highly threatened Mediterranean ecosystem, compared with an uncoordinated planBrazil has established nine new indigenous reserves in the Amazon:
On Monday, Brazil decreed nine new indigenous reserves covering 51,000 square kilometers (19,700 square miles) of the Amazon rainforest, an areas larger than Denmark or Switzerland, reports the AFP.Guyana has agreed to improve oversight of its gold mining industry:
"We will never be able to do enough for the indigenous people," said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a speech announcing the decree. "The debt is historic and we can never reimburse through money, we can only make concrete gestures...."
39 indigenous reserves have been decreed since 2007 and there are now 663 in Brazil, amounting to more than one million square kilometers. More than half the Brazilian Amazon is now under some form of protection.
As a part of a deal with Norway to preserve its rainforests, Guyana will step up oversight of its gold mining industry, which has been accused of causing significant environmental damage including deforestation and mercury and cyanide pollution.The USDA is working with dairy producers to promote the adoption of manure-to-energy systems:
"The recent agreement with Norway, through which Guyana receives payments to avoided deforestation and degradation, now puts a significant monetary and moral cost to any unnecessary degradation of forest areas for any purpose," reads a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister of Guyana.
The US Department of Agriculture announced an agreement with U.S. dairy producers to accelerate adoption of innovative manure to energy projects on American dairy farms. The agreement represents a dynamic public/private partnership and is another demonstration of the Obama Administration's commitment to curb the emissions of greenhouse gases.The FDA, meanwhile, appears to be doing its job:
"This historic agreement, the first of its kind, will help us achieve the ambitious goal of drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions while benefitting dairy farmers," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The Food and Drug Administration came down on Nestle earlier this month for marketing its childrens’ juice boxes as “medical” foods.Inhabitat reports on a new breed of tiny photovoltaic cells.
In a Dec. 3 letter, the FDA said the company mislabeled its Boost drink, which comes in flavors like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, “as a medical food for the medical condition of ‘failure to thrive’ and also for ‘pre/post surgery, injury or trauma, chronic illnesses.’”
The glitter-sized solar sequins are made from crystalline silicon and use 100 times less material to generate the same amount of electricity as standard solar cells made from 6-inch square solar wafers. Perfect for soaking up the sun’s rays on unusual shapes and surfaces, the solar cells are expected to be less expensive, more efficient, and have promising applications in textiles and clothing.
Manufacturers of the brominated flame retardant decaBDE have agreed to a three-year phaseout of the chemical:
The phaseout was announced on December 17, 2009, by EPA, along with the Louisiana company Albemarle, the Connecticut company Chemtura (previously Great Lakes Chemical Company), and the Israeli company ICL Industrial Products and its subsidiary Dead Sea Bromine Company. According to Dave Clary, vice president and chief sustainability officer for Albemarle, the manufacturers came to EPA proposing the voluntary phaseout. "It was an industry initiative," he said.Here's my favorite part of the story:
While Albemarle and the other manufacturers continue to argue that decaBDE (also called decabrom) is safe, "we decided to spend our efforts in more positive ways developing new products, rather than spend them defending decabrom," Clary told EBN.The EPA is also moving towards stricter regulation of several other chemicals:
As part of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s commitment to strengthen and reform chemical management, the US EPA today announced a series of actions on four chemicals raising serious potential health or environmental concerns, including phthalates. For the first time, EPA intends to establish a Chemicals of Concern list and is beginning a process that may lead to regulations requiring significant risk reduction measures to protect human health and the environment....This sounds even more promising.
In addition to phthalates, the chemicals EPA is addressing today include short-chain chlorinated paraffins, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluorinated chemicals, including PFOA.
The White House is poised to order all federal agencies to evaluate any major actions they take, such as building highways or logging national forests, to determine how they would contribute to and be affected by climate change, a step long sought by environmentalists.Unfortunately, new and existing wars probably won't count as "major activities."
France will compensate victims of its nuclear tests:
The French parliament has passed a law to compensate victims of nuclear tests in Algeria and the South Pacific, a response to decades of complaints by people sickened by radiation....Quebec is the first Canadian province to adopt California's strict rules on auto emissions.
The text, hammered out with help from some victims' associations, recognises the rights for victims of France's more than 200 nuclear tests to receive compensation. About 150,000 people were on site for the 210 tests France carried out, both in the atmosphere and underground, in the Sahara Desert and the South Pacific from 1960 to 1996.
The new rules will come into effect on January 14 and will impose increasingly stringent limits on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and light trucks made between 2010 and 2016 that are sold in the province.Low-Tech Magazine recommends a return to trolley canal boats.
For many centuries, canal boats were propelled by men, horses or mules on the towpath beside the water. Before diesel power took over, engineers developed several interesting methods powered by electricity: trolleyboats, floating funiculars and electric mules. Many of these ecological solutions could be applied today instead of diesel engines. Because of the very low energy requirements, they could easily be powered by renewable energy, generated on the spot by water turbines located at sluices.
Sections of Detroit are being converted to farmland:
"There's so much land available and it's begging to be used," said Michael Score, president of the Hantz Farms, which is buying up abandoned sections of the city's 139-square-mile landscape and plans to transform them into a large-scale commercial farm enterprise....In related news, closed auto dealerships are increasingly being repurposed:
Although company officials declined to pinpoint how many acres they might use, they have been quoted as saying that they plan to farm up to 5,000 acres within the Motor City's limits in the coming years, raising organic lettuces, trees for biofuel and a variety of other things.
With hard times in the auto industry and car dealerships closing around the country, the gleaming showrooms that once featured next year's models are becoming this year's new store, restaurant, school, day care center or yoga studio....Philadelphia is looking for a better way to handle stormwater:
Architects and historians say the shock that American automakers could go bankrupt has combined with depressed real estate values and enthusiasm for green energy to bring a unique level of interest to reusing showrooms.
People are reducing their reliance on cars to save money on gas and shrink their carbon footprint; they are renovating showrooms because relying on recycled water or solar energy makes it cheaper to renovate than to build new.
Philadelphia has a groundbreaking idea about what to do with stormwater: Use it to feed grass and trees instead of letting it rush into the sewers. The concept may seem obvious. But for most cities, a stormwater management plan that doesn't expand sewers or treatment plants is counterintuitive....Furthermore: Photographs by Alec Soth. Images of trails and roads. Photos by Kim Angers (taken through the viewfinder). Diagonals from the upper left to the lower right. Diagonals from the lower left to the upper right.
The plan involves replacing streets, parking lots and sidewalks with water-absorbing porous pavement, street-edge gardens and trees.
"We want to do anything we can do to return us as close as possible to the way nature intended the water cycle to be," said Howard Neukrug, director of the Philadelphia Water Department's watersheds office.
Victorian infographics. The Visionaires. Australian diptychs. The cartography of language production. Evolution without genes. And insect amusements.
Gravity wells. The sun shines on one of Titan's lakes. Spacehack. The Solar System in Maine. The geology of Ganymede, anatomized for your convenience. Blue moon, blue earth. And a sunset on Mars.
The Catalogue of Dispersed Objects (via things). Whirled of Kelly. Views from the tower of South Church. Radioactive gifts and gadgets. And literary inspirations for children's games.
Corvus corax. Mirrors of the Heart-Mind. Incomprehensible rebuses. The world's largest spherical panorama. A new method of freezing light. And images from Oregon State University's Archives.
Last, an examination of liquid crystals.
Best wishes for the coming year, and thanks for bearing with me through the last one.
(Photo at top: "The eerie Spitzer Space Telescope image shows infrared radiation from the well-studied Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) a mere 700 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. The two light-year diameter shroud of dust and gas around a central white dwarf has long been considered an excellent example of a planetary nebula, representing the final stages in the evolution of a sun-like star. But the Spitzer data show the nebula's central star itself is immersed in a surprisingly bright infrared glow. Models suggest the glow is produced by a dust debris disk. Even though the nebular material was ejected from the star many thousands of years ago, the close-in dust could be generated by collisions in a reservoir of objects analogous to our own solar system's Kuiper Belt or cometary Oort cloud. Formed in the distant planetary system, the comet-like bodies would have otherwise survived even the dramatic late stages of the star's evolution." Via NASA.)