Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

Women in Afghanistan are attending secret literacy classes:

[T]he man behind the covert schools said they have reached 29 villages and around 450 students. Ehsanullah Ehsan has devoted his life to educating women in some of the most culturally conservative places on earth....

"It was crazy. It was painful to me," he said. "I always saw that – why do women have to wear burqa, not men? Why do women have to be treated so inhumanly? My mother was the one who loved me most. It was my mother who nursed me. Why alienate half of humankind? So, I thought, I have to do what I can do."

Austin, TX has passed a law that will require Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) to post notices that they do not offer abortion services:

Austin is the second city to require such notices. The city of Baltimore passed such an ordinance last December. (For those curious what the required signs in Baltimore look like, an image of them can be seen here.) Many think that the ordinances have become necessary due to the misleading practices of many crisis pregnancy centers which have, in documented cases, mislead women into thinking they provide medical services and often provide outright incorrect information about abortion and birth control.

The Philippine Supreme Court has recognized a national gay rights group as a legitimate political party:
Voting 13-2, the court threw out decisions by the Elections Commission denying accreditation to Ang Ladlad (Out of the Closet) on grounds that it tolerates immorality and offends Christians and Muslims.

The justices said the party had complied with all legal requirements, and that there is no law against homosexuality.

Baltimore has come up with an innovative solution to the problem of food deserts:
Residents of two Baltimore neighborhoods that lack supermarkets will soon be able to order their groceries through a free delivery system that operates with the click of a mouse from the library.

The new Virtual Supermarket Project, city officials' latest attempt to solve Baltimore's long-standing history of neighborhoods with little access to healthful foods, offers laptops where residents can order groceries online from Santoni's Super Market in Highlandtown and pick them up the next day at the Orleans Street or Washington Village library branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. The libraries are in East and West Baltimore's biggest "food deserts," areas targeted by the Health Department for their scarcity of grocery stores and nutritious food options.
A species of lemur that was thought to be extinct has been rediscovered:
Sibree's Dwarf Lemur was first described in 1896 but never studied during the 20th century. Over time, destruction of its native habitat led some to believe it might be extinct, until Mitchell Irwin of McGill University observed dwarf lemurs at Tsinjoarivo, in Eastern Madagascar, in 2001. Subsequent genetic analysis by Linn Groeneveld of the German Primate Center found the lemurs to be the long-lost Sibree's Dwarf Lemur.

Photo: McGill University
The California Public Utilities Commission has directed PG&E to stop threatening public power agencies:

Commissioners adopted a resolution telling PG&E and the state's other utilities that they cannot refuse to supply electricity to "community choice aggregators," a new type of public power agency being set up in Marin County and San Francisco. Marin's agency will start delivering electricity to its first customers on May 7, and San Francisco officials hope to follow suit soon after.

San Francisco is launching the nation's largest green loan program:

The advantages to the program are twofold: residents don’t have to pay for green improvements upfront, and they don’t have to continue paying for, say, solar panels if they move. Since the loans stay with the property, whoever owns the building continues to pay for improvements.

San Francico’s list of eligible projects is extensive, to say the least. Potential upgrades include geothermal heating pumps, solar panels, low-flow showerheads, greywater irrigation systems, green roofs, air filtration systems, and more.
Inhabitat discusses solar origami:

Standard flat solar panels are only optimized to capture sunlight at one point of the sun’s trajectory — otherwise they need automated tracking systems to follow the sun. MIT power engineering professor Jeffrey Grossman has found an artful answer to this planar problem — the ancient art of origami! Grossman found that folded solar cell systems could produce constant power throughout the day and didn’t need tracking. His new designs are up to two and a half times more efficient per comparative length and width than traditional flat arrays.

GE claims to have come up with a better LED bulb:
GE’s new bulb, the Energy Smart® LED bulb, will distribute light in all directions (just like the soon to-be-phased-out incandescent bulb, meaning in all directions) instead of just one. The light will also consume 9-W of energy and last for 17 years, which is 25 times longer than a 40-W incandescent bulb and three times longer than a normal CFL.
And Hitachi claims to have come up with a better lithium-ion battery:

In news that could affect everyone from laptop users to electric car drivers, Hitachi announced this week that it has figured out a way to double the lifespan of lithium-ion batteries — the batteries found inside virtually all of our energy-intensive electronics. According to Hitachi, that means their lithium-ion batteries can last up to 10 years without needing to be replaced.

Hitachi’s new batteries won’t initially find their way into our iPods, however. First, the electronics manufacturer plans to focus on grid-scale storage — i.e. solar or wind power storage. If Hitachi’s upgraded li-ion batteries are affordable and reliable enough, they could allow utilities to increase the amount of renewable but intermittent energy on the grid.

The US Energy Star program will allegedly be overhauled and improved:

It turns out that the issues with Energy Star are so systemic that the energy efficiency certification program may require a significant overhaul. The main change that Collins is proposing is to move the program toward third-party independent testing and certification instead of the self-policing that has been taking place thus far – a system that clearly is not working out.

St. Louis has approved a new tax to improve its transit system, just like Uncle Joe Stalin did when he decided to build the Belomorkanal.
In another vote of confidence for quality mass transit, St. Louis voters have overwhelmingly approved a measure that will raise the sales tax "to stabilize and eventually expand" its transportation network, according to Grist. The local Tea Party movement was ardently against the measure, and threw its weight behind defeating it. And then . . . . . . St. Louis voters approved the measure anyways--by an overwhelming margin of 24 points--establishing a half cent sales tax increase to fund the Metrolink public transit system.
Mission accomplished FUBO and ACORN!!!11 RIP America, 1767-2010.

Speaking of which, an op-ed in The Lancet calls for a global healthcare fund:

The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has shown that one can pool different streams of international assistance into one stable and reliable aid source. Why don't we broaden the mandate of the Global Fund to all elements of a comprehensive primary health care, into a World Social Health Insurance fund, to which every country contributes according to its means, and receives according to its needs? The receiving countries would no longer have to shuffle money around or adapt unpredictable charity to what they perceive as their real needs.

Supposedly, this Neo-Communist Manifesto was written by scientists from the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp. But after checking the kerning and analyzing the syntax, I'm convinced that it was written by Bill Ayers while high on crack that Barack Obama sold to him while high on meth, exactly as predicted in Revelation 13:13.

Living animals have been found in a marine dead zone:
You're likely familiar with the ever-growing marine dead zones, areas in the ocean where no life was believed possible due to depleting oxygen levels. But in a truly startling discovery, scientists have stumbled upon the first animal that can survive without oxygen -- a feat that until now was only possible in bacteria. This has a number of implications: both regarding the possibility that life may yet adapt to more severe conditions on earth, and on whether life is possible on other oxygen-free planets -- and may be more abundant than we thought.
An endangered penguin chick has hatched at the Seattle Zoo:

"This hatching is significant for the penguin Species Survival Plan," said Mark Myers, a Woodland Park Zoo curator who specializes in birds. "Humboldt penguins are an endangered species and here at the zoo these birds are important conservation ambassadors to teach visitors about the impacts humans have on penguins in their range countries."

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Guinea worm is close to being eradicated:

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has led a 20-year campaign to eradicate Guinea worm, a parasite that has plagued humans since biblical times.

"We will not stop the efforts of the Carter Center until there are no cases of Guinea worm left in southern Sudan or Ghana or Mali or Ethiopia. That's the only places where we have a few cases left.

"We have been working on it now for more than 20 years. We have reduced it, the incidents, from more than 2.5 million cases down to about 2,500 cases in the whole world."
The US and Russia have finalized an agreement on plutonium disposal:
The new protocol amends an agreement signed by then-Vice President Al Gore and the Russian leadership in 2000 under which the two countries pledged to get rid of 34 tons of plutonium each. The material came from weapons that had been decommissioned.
Via CKR, who notes that "not being able to agree on this is one of the dumb things that was exacerbated by George Bush's bellicosity."

Spring on Mars. The game of Hell (via Neatorama). Old photos of Gorky Park. The Edwin Smith surgical papyrus. The Sunrise Project. And via Coudal, some vintage Russian board games. This one (which seems like it could be related to the bizarre silent serial Miss Mend) looks fun and educational:

Connecticut sketches and speculative subways. Drawings by a robot. Photos by Tom Fowlks. A collection of graphics from satirical journals. And the 1870 Statistical Map of the United States, based on data from the 9th Census.

Found Fotos. Miscellaneous graphics by Alvin Lustig. Photographs by Homer L. Shantz. The first lasers. Wartime food posters. The exciting story of Wire for Sound. An informative blog on Pathological Geomorphology (via Peacay). The eldritch horror of Kaprekar's Constant. And the Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll.

Also, this.

(Photo at top by John Stetson.)

1 comment:

chris said...

Checking in from the "British Possessions" to say the 1870 census maps are wonderful.
Right down to colour, creed and sanity, or lack thereof. Wonder how the last one turns out this year.
Chart pr0n at it's finest.
Thanks, Phila