As you may or may not know, Google is negotiating an information-sharing arrangement with the NSA. If you think this is a bad idea, you can let Google know by clicking here.
The US Department of Labor has reinstated important protections for guest workers:
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced today reinstatement of protections for imported farm workers that were slashed from the nation’s agricultural guest worker program during the last days of the Bush administration in early 2009.A couple of large American firms are rejecting fuel sourced from Canadian tar sands:
The Bush administration's changes to the H-2A agricultural guest worker program, which took effect on January 17, 2009, dramatically impacted wages and working conditions for foreign agricultural workers. Under the Bush rules, agricultural employers could more easily access cheap foreign labor with little government oversight.
“The United Farm Workers applauds Secretary Solis for restoring protections for imported farm workers that had been in effect since the Reagan administration. This is a great victory for all farm workers,” said Arturo S. Rodriguez, UFW president.
Two large U.S. retailers listed on the Fortune 500 have announced they won't buy fuel derived from Alberta's oilsands as part of their efforts to fight climate change.The Church of England has withdrawn investment funds from a controversial mining company:
Organic food store Whole Foods and home furnishings chain Bed, Bath and Beyond are believed to be the first major private-sector companies to tell their fuel suppliers they don't want gasoline or diesel refined from crude oil coming from the oilsands.
The Church of England has dropped is 3.8 million pound stake (5.9 million US dollars) in controversial mining company, Vedanta Resources, citing concern over the company's human rights record. The Indian company has come under considerable criticism for its plan to build a bauxite mine on Niyamgiri Mountain, threatening the mountain, forests, and the local tribe Dongria Kondh tribe.Canada has established a new national park in its boreal forest:
The park reserve will protect 4,100 square miles (10,700 square kilometers), which will make it the largest national park in eastern Canada.In related news, British Columbia won't allow mining and energy exploration near Glacier National Park:
The Newfoundland and Labrador Government will establish a waterway provincial park to protect the Eagle River, adjacent to the proposed national park reserve. The waterway park in the river watershed will encompass 1,200 square miles (3,000 square kilometers) of wilderness and include almost the entire length of the Eagle River from the headwaters to the sea.
Together these areas will protect over 5,000 square miles (13,000 square kilometers) of boreal forest.
At issue is the province's management plan for the Flathead River Valley, a million-acre watershed straddling the border of Montana and British Columbia....In response, Montana's senators announced a similar plan for their side of the valley:
The two sides collided last December after MAX Resource Corp. struck gold in the valley. The company insisted any extraction would occur through underground mines with no discharge into the Flathead, but environmentalists and U.S. Sens. Max Baucus (D) and Jon Tester (D) of Montana pressured the province to ban development....
MAX President Stuart Rogers said Point's announcement effectively kills further development of its "Crowsnest" gold deposit.
"We need to show the Canadians we're working in good faith on our side of the border, as well," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.Apropos of which, Carolyn Fraser writes on the trend towards "rewilding":
Baucus intends to join Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in introducing legislation "to ensure Montanans will be able to hunt, fish and hike in the North Fork of the Flathead for generations." The law would prevent all mining, oil and gas development and coalbed gas extraction on the area's federal lands....
According to Will Hammerquist, of the National Parks Conservation Association, more than 90 percent of the Montana land base in the North Fork is federal land, and will be covered by the proposed mining ban.
A Marshall Plan for the environment, rewilding promotes the expansion of core wilderness areas on a vast scale, the restoration of corridors between them (to fight the “island” effect of isolated parks and protected areas), and the reintroduction or protection of top predators.I have mixed emotions about this, but it's probably a good idea on the whole:
Known by a shorthand formula — “cores, corridors, and carnivores” — rewilding was first proposed in 1998 by the founder of conservation biology, Michael Soulé, and his fellow conservation biologist, Reed Noss. It was quickly adopted by grassroots initiatives, such as the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), a plan to protect and restore connectivity of ecosystems throughout the Rocky Mountains.
An old battleground of California's water wars could turn into one of the largest solar farms in the world, with thousands of shiny black and blue panels mounted across the desiccated, salty white crust of Owens Lake....IBM has found a cheaper way of making solar panels:
The project may eventually generate 3 to 5 gigawatts of power -- enough for 10 percent of California's power supply -- and include other utilities like PG&E and Southern California Edison and independent power producers....
The proposed site of the solar complex is where Los Angeles in 1913 built the first of two aqueducts to carry water from Owens Valley to the growing city. The lake was dry by the end of the 1920s.
IBM researchers have recently published a paper in the journal Advanced Materials about a very promising breakthrough in solar technology. How is it different from existing solar technologies such as silicon-based solar cells, or CIGS thin film? The main thing is that it's made from earth abundant materials that can be found in large quantities relatively inexpensively (not quite dirt cheap, but cheaper than what we have now), making it easier to scale up and drive prices down.HP has opened the world's first air-cooled data center:
The data center is located near the North Sea in northeast England, and is 100% air cooled with eight 2.1-meter stainless steel and plastic fans that suck cold air from outside into the building, where it then runs through filters and into the data center through the floors.Italy plans to electrify idling cruise ships:
A few other eco-friendly tricks HP has utilized include using light colored server racks that better reflect light and drop the need for additional lighting by 40%, and the building has tanks for harvesting rainwater, which can be used to humidify the air cycling into the building when needed.
Port authorities in Italian cities like Venice plan to install equipment to connect ships like giant cruise liners to the electricity grid while berthed to cut fuel consumption and to curb emissions, according to Enel, an Italian electricity utility.In Manhattan, parts of Broadway will remain closed to vehicles:
The initiative could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 30 percent, nitrogen oxides and particulates by more than 95 percent, and it could eliminate noise pollution entirely, Enel said Tuesday.
New York’s ambitious experiment that closed parts of Broadway to vehicles last spring will become permanent, city officials said on Thursday, even though it fell short of achieving its chief objective: improving traffic flow.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that a reduction in injuries to pedestrians and motorists, along with a warm response from merchants and tourists, had persuaded him to retain the eight-month-old pedestrian plazas in Times Square and Herald Square, a marquee initiative for his administration that re-engineered the Midtown street grid.
Portugal's parliament has passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage:
Portuguese lawmakers Thursday definitively adopted legislation legalising homosexual marriage, although President Anibal Cavaco Silva, a practising Roman Catholic, must give final approval....Iowa Republicans have failed in their latest attempt to outlaw gay marriage:
Cavaco Silva could still veto the measure, a move that would mean a new vote in parliament but would merely delay it becoming law.
Republicans failed on Tuesday in their effort to start the process of amending the Iowa Constitution to ban gay marriage -- meaning it will likely be 2014 at the earliest before voters could decide on the issue.And the IRS has ruled that treatment for gender identity disorder is a deductible medical procedure:
The Republican lawmakers tried procedural moves to pull measures out of committees and force a vote, but they couldn't get enough votes in either the House or Senate.
In 2002, Rhiannon O’Donnabhain deducted the costs of her hormones, genital surgery and breast augmentation from her federal taxes. The IRS said no in 2005, and she took the case to tax court in 2007. Earlier this week, the court ruled 6-4 in her favour – mostly. They didn’t allow her to deduct her breast augmentation because the evidence apparently showed that her breasts had developed as a result of hormone therapy. (Which might suggest that, if she hadn’t had breast development from hormones, then the breast augmentation deduction might actually have been allowed).Here's an interesting approach to pest control:
Researchers at Northern Arizona University recently revealed a new weapon against swarms of tree-eating bark beetles. Rather than dousing them with environmentally unfriendly pesticides, researchers exposed the bugs to recordings of their own mating calls. And their reaction was to freeze, flee, or violently attack one another.India has halted plans to release genetically engineered eggplant:
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said more independent research must be conducted to ensure the hybrid eggplant was safe for human consumption, after a government committee approved the commercial release of the genetically modified, pest-resistant crop in October.In Peru, farmers are switching from coca to cocoa:
''It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach and impose a moratorium,'' he said.
Like hundreds of thousands of other farmers in Peru's fertile San Martin region, Angulo participated in the global cocaine trade.Canadian researchers hope to make insulin from safflower:
"Coca brought lots of easy money … mucho dinero," says Angulo with a wistful smile. "But now we feel comfortable and safe. We don't have to hide from anyone."
Peru's drug traffickers have moved into more remote areas, and cocoa growers from across the globe are coming here to learn how to duplicate Peru's success.
While today’s insulin is effective, it’s also expensive to produce. In many of the poorest nations of the world, diabetic patients often can’t afford the $800 a year it costs for a year’s supply.Danger Room discusses a new, bacteria-based water purification system:
According to the World Health Organization, the West is home to about 35 per cent of the world's diabetics and yet consumes more than 70 per cent of the world's insulin....
Each acre of safflower flowers could produce more than one kilogram of insulin, which could treat 2,500 diabetic patients for one year. That means just 16,000 acres of safflowers could meet the world's total demand each year.
Scientists at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) have successfully designed portable, efficient, bacteria-based water treatment units. Two of the devices are on their way to Army bases in Afghanistan, and the research team is in talks with the Pentagon about sending a working prototype to help relief efforts in Haiti.The University of Portland has banned sales of bottled water:
The systems, called “bio-reactors,” clean putrid water using the same bacteria you’d find in a handful of dirt. The bacteria filter the water, then eat up the sludge that’s a common byproduct of waste treatment. It’s all done in less than 24 hours, and from devices smaller than a standard shipping crate.
To put that into perspective, an average waste-water treatment process can take up to a month, and produces toxic sludge as an inevitable byproduct.
Officials at the Catholic university feel strongly that access to water is a basic human right and shouldn't be privatized or sold in single-use plastic bottles with present and looming water shortages. Environmental concerns played a role, too: The bottles are a petroleum-based product, they're trucked around and often not recycled. Worldwide, it takes 17.6 million barrels of oil annually (not including transportation of the finished product) to manufacture single-use plastic water bottles, according to Food & Water Watch.I was also cheered, this week, by Tim Lambert's account of his public debate with Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley:
"Every time a university or city bans the use of bottled water," says Julia DeGraw of the group, "they're making a huge statement and forwarding this message to the public that they need to be conscious of where their water comes from and they need to make informed decisions about where they get their water." Sixty-four campuses nationwide have a student-led "Take Back the Tap" campaign with Food & Water Watch, and at least 24 campuses in addition to UP have banned its sale, including the University of Montana Western, Colgate University and Harvard.
You know that famous scene in Annie Hall where a bore is going on and on about Marshall McLuhan's work and Allen produces McLuhan who tells the bore that he got McLuhan all wrong? Well, that's kind of what happened in my debate with Monckton. Based on what he had identified as his most important argument in previous talks I was pretty sure he would argue that climate sensitivity was low based on his misunderstanding of Pinker et al Do Satellites Detect Trends in Surface Solar Radiation?. And sure enough, he did.Anyway. Moth trails and sewing patterns. An American Time Capsule. Art by urban sketchers. Japanese industrial expo posters. Australian popular publishing, 1950s-1990s. 1965 Monochrome. And photos by David Plowden.
If you read the title of Pinker's paper, you'll see that it's about changes in surface solar radiation, not climate forcing as Monckton would have it. In ideal world I could have had Rachel Pinker appear from behind the curtain to tell Monckton that he was wrong about her paper, but I was able to do the next best thing. I first played a recording of Monckton's building up Pinker as good scientist who was not interested in the global warming debate, and where he got her gender wrong again and again. Then I played a recording of a female colleague with an American accent reading out Pinker's message to me on how Monckton had misunderstood her work. It was as if she was there.
Saturn's aurorae. Field recordings of Antarctica by Chris Watson. Gummy worm chromosomes. The shocking facts about Lumpen Orientalism. The writings of Sanora Babb. Images from Russian expeditions to the North Pole. The architecture of Esenwein and Johnson. Photos by Harold Cazneaux. And winter reconnaissance.
Little Camera. The Goldin Collection blog, featuring "a collection of radio programs featuring news, politics, health, science, religion, music, dramas, and much more from the 1930s through the 1950s." Travelling for Love. Photos by Shotaro Shimomura. Photos by Barbara Alper. A sun halo over Cambodia. And a green aurora over Orsta, Norway.
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(Photo at top via That Girl.)