Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

President Obama has directed federally subsidized hospitals to give gay visitation rights to the gay partners of gay patients who have chosen the gay lifestyle.

Hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid payments must let patients choose which persons, including gay and lesbian partners, can visit them and help make critical health decisions, President Barack Obama said Thursday.

Gay rights advocates hailed the move as a major step toward fairness for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans....

The designated visitors should have the same rights that immediate family members now enjoy, Obama's instructions said. It said Medicare-Medicaid hospitals, which include most of the nation's facilities, may not deny visitation and consultation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Schools in Mississippi have been ordered to desegregate (what year is it, again?).

A federal judge Tuesday ordered a rural county in southwestern Mississippi to stop segregating its schools by grouping African American students into all-black classrooms and allowing white students to transfer to the county's only majority-white school, the U.S. Justice Department announced.

Fewer women are dying in childbirth:

The rate at which women die in childbirth or soon after delivery has fallen by about 40 percent since 1980, with dramatic reductions in the populous nations of India, China, Brazil and Egypt.

H/t: Cheryl. (Feministing offers some caveats.)

A federal judge has ruled that the "National Day of Prayer" is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.

"In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual's decision whether and when to pray," Crabb wrote.

This, of course, is typical anti-Christian hate speech from the oppressive secular mainstream. It's time to lock and load, metaphorically speaking, wink wink, you betcha!

In yet another attack on the cherished traditions of our Founding Fathers, agricultural researchers seem to have found a way of preserving table grapes without the use of sulfur dioxide:
[T]he hot water treatment resulted in significantly higher oxygen retention and lower carbon dioxide accumulation in packages, firmer texture, higher overall visual quality, lower decay rate, and lower microbial populations than other treatments or commercially packed grapes.
And yet another inquiry has cleared Phil Jones and CRU of wrongdoing:
"We were absolutely satisfied that these people were doing their job fairly and honestly," Lord Oxburgh, the head of the inquiry, said yesterday as reported by The Independent. "As far as we could see all of the conclusions were honestly and sensibly arrived at. We had no reason to question the conclusions, we had no reason to believe that they were reached by dishonest means."

By clearing the climatologists, the inquiries have also cleared decades of work on the science of climate change. However the panel did state that it would like to see better techniques used to analyze statistical data, though it added that such techniques would not have changed the researchers' overall findings.
Meanwhile, America's major-league baseball teams are promoting climate action:

America’s national pastime is leading the way on climate action by adopting a comprehensive conservation and greenhouse gas-reducing program, including a public outreach component at National League and American League ballparks this summer. The new sustainability drive involves all 30 Major League Baseball teams from coast to coast, in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Brazil has suspended its preliminary license for the construction of the Belo Monte dam in the Amazon rainforest.

Judge Antonio Carlos de Almeida Campelo also cancelled the construction auction for the project scheduled for April 20 and ruled that IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, refrain from issuing a new license for the project.

"It remains proven, unequivocally, that Belo Monte's plant will exploit the hydroelectric potential of areas occupied by Indigenous people who would be directly affected by the construction and development of the project," wrote the judge in the decision.
According to a new report by the UNDP, economic growth has little to do with human development and quality of life:
Times of India has gotten ahold of an as-yet-unreleased report, produced for the 20th anniversary Human Development Report, which shows that between 1970-2005 economic growth had little do to with increases in human development....

Furthermore, the paper found that empowerment of women broadly and household-level decisions about family planning and female schooling were strong drivers of increases in human development over time.

The SEC has brought civil fraud charges against Goldman Sachs:
The agency alleges Goldman failed to disclose that one of its clients helped create — and then bet against — subprime mortgage securities that Goldman sold to investors.

Investors in the mortgage securities are alleged to have lost more than $1 billion, the SEC noted. The agency is seeking to recoup profits reaped on the deal.

Russia no longer produces weapons-grade plutonium:
The last Russian plutonium production reactor, ADE-2 at Zheleznogorsk, was shut down on April 15, 2010 at noon local time (04:00 UTC) as planned. This event marks the end of production of weapon-grade fissile materials in Russia.
Another h/t to Cheryl, who notes that "this is a particularly big deal, because many of Russia's production reactors also supplied electricity and hot water to local communities. So in order to end production of plutonium, they had to build alternative power plants for those communities."

She's also excited about the Nuclear Security Summit:
Shoutout to South Africa for giving up its nukes all by itself! And lookee here! Ukraine will give up its stockpile of enriched uranium! Canada too! Georgia has broken a uranium-smuggling ring!
There's lots more, so read the whole thing.

The geothermal power industry is growing:
In 2009, 188 new projects have been started which could together produce as much as 7875 MW of energy. These projects could potentially provide electricity for 7.6 million people, or enough energy to completely replace California’s coal-fired plants. “California could achieve its 2020 goal for global warming emissions reductions just by keeping energy demand level and replacing its coal-fired generation with geothermal,” said Karl Garwell, GEA’s Executive Director.
Who among us does not love solar-powered airships?
The High Speed Solar Airship (HSSA) is a high-flying airship concept that proposes using thin-film solar panels and other off-the-shelf components to create a cost-competitive, high speed vessel for cargo hauling. The airship has no fuel costs, since it uses 67.2 kW of solar panels, and it capitalizes on the fast winds of the Jet Stream to boost speeds on with west-to-east transport — flying at 30,000 feet, the airship could reach daytime speeds of 182 MPH and even continue flying at night with a speed of 165 MPH.
Image via Airships

Chesapeake Bay's population of blue crabs is rebounding:

The Chesapeake's blue crabs, in decline for a decade, are in the middle of an extraordinary comeback, officials in Maryland and Virginia said Wednesday. The estuary's crab population has more than doubled in two years, they said, reaching its highest level since 1997....

"Something like this is really rare to see in marine fisheries . . . to go from the situation where the crab had been over-fished and nearing possible collapse, to a point where it is now being sustainably fished," said Rom Lipcius, a marine scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

An inexpensive suction device may speed wound healing in the developing world:
MIT student Danielle Zurovcik recently developed a negative pressure pump that costs just $3 to build.

Zurovcik’s hand-powered suction-healing system is easy to use: just squeeze it and leave it in place on the wound. The plastic molded pump is connected to the underside of the wound dressing by a plastic tube. Zurovcik’s system can hold steady for days, so users don’t have to worry about it falling off. And while the device is somewhat clunky in its current incarnation, Zurovcik is already working on a pocket-sized version that can be concealed under clothing.
An American nonprofit is promoting straw bale construction as a means of reducing earthquake fatalities in rural areas.

Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate Building is a nonprofit working at developing durable buildings that can be built with local resources, little money and stay safe during devastating earthquakes like the 2005 7.5 quake in Kashmir....

The 25 ft by 25 ft buildings cost a mere $2250 for materials — what many of us are willing to pay for countertops. Currently they have finished 11 buildings that are energy-efficient, safe, and very low impact.

Target is opening recycling centers at all of its stores.
The recycling stations will accept aluminum, glass and plastic beverage containers, plastic bags, MP3 players, cell phones and ink cartridges.
IBM will require its suppliers to create environmental management systems:
I.B.M. said on Wednesday that it will require its 28,000 suppliers in more than 90 countries to install management systems to gather data on their energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and waste and recycling.

Those companies in turn must ask their subcontractors to do the same if their products or services end up as a significant part of I.B.M.’s $40 billion global supply chain. The suppliers must also set environmental goals and make public their progress in meeting those objectives.

Massey Energy shareholders are calling for Don Blankenship to be fired:

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, whose record of ignoring safety violations in has come under fierce scrutiny after the tragedy in his West Virginia Upper Big Branch mine left 29 dead. That mine itself had racked up 57 safety violations the same month the accident occurred, and had thousands more prior. Meanwhile, Blankenship has a long history of putting profits before safety, and has publicly declared this to be the case on a number of occasions--now, in light of recent evidence, shareholders of Massey Energy are calling for the company to fire him.

Caribbean countries will no longer permit ocean dumping:
Countries in the Caribbean have agreed to bar the dumping of all garbage at sea, ending rules that allow the disposal of metal, glass and other refuse a short distance from shore and almost any trash farther out....

"It's a big deal," said [Jeff] Ramos, a U.S. Coast Guard commander based on the Dutch island of Curacao near Venezuela. "Especially in the Caribbean, with all the tankers and the traffic going to the Panama Canal, it will make a big impact."
This is pretty remarkable:
Nine-year-old Morgan LaRue is the first cancer patient in Texas to benefit from a groundbreaking procedure that will magnetically lengthen her leg, sparing her the possibility of up to 10 future surgeries as her body grows.
A clever new iPhone app uses geotagging to alert city governments about problems that need fixing.
For now, CitySourced is limited to these neighborhood blight/maintenence issues like potholes and graffiti. You can report a "homeless encampment" but you can't report the problem of homelessness, or a lack of bike lanes on city streets. But it can only lead to more civic engagement and create a closer connection between voters and their representatives and that's certainly a big step in the right direction.
The only known copy of a 1913 film about Abraham Lincoln has been found and restored:

[A] contractor cleaning out an old New Hampshire barn destined for demolition found seven reels of nitrate film inside, including the only known copy of a 1913 silent film about Abraham Lincoln....

After working with the George Eastman House film preservation museum in Rochester, New York, the college determined that the film, directed by and starring Francis Ford, did not exist in film archives. In fact, it was one of eight silent films starring Ford as Lincoln; there are no known surviving copies of the others.

(h/t: ErinPDX.)

While we're at it: Photos of the Eyjafjallajokull eruption. A collection of Polish candy wrappers. Hard-boiled cartography. A paper astrolabe. The Right to Quiet Society. A close-up view of creeping speedwell. And Flickr's This is a Public Service Announcement pool.

SepiaTown "lets you view and share thousands of mapped historical images from around the globe" (via things). The world's oldest organisms. Shadows of clouds. Notes on the autofluorescence of old dry mounts of snail radulae. Photos by Jessica Lauren Taylor. Photos by Peter Ziebel. And an exhibition of photomicroscopy.

The Anti-Slavery Alphabet (via Peacay). AntWeb. Old photos of East Tennessee (via things). The post-apocalyptic Kremlin. Book covers by George Salter. Photos of Peru by Michael Hanson. The Archaeogeography Photoblogging Collective. A gallery of casino carpets. And images from the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection.

Last, here's a film of the meteor seen recently in the Midwest.

(Photo at top: "Up close, the solar surface is a striking patch work of granules in this very high resolution picture of the quiet Sun. Caused by convection, the granules are hot, rising columns of plasma edged by dark lanes of cooler, descending plasma. But the high-resolution view reveals that the dark lanes are dotted with many small, contrasting bright points. Constantly present on the solar surface, the bright points do not seem to be related to sunspots that come and go with the magnetic solar cycle. Nonetheless, the bright points are regions of concentrated magnetic fields and are bright because the magnetic pressure opens a window to hotter deeper layers below the photosphere. For scale, the white bar at the lower left corresponds to 5,000 kilometers across the Sun's surface. The sharp, narrow-band image was recorded in September, 2007 using the Swedish Solar Telescope on the astronomical island of La Palma." Via NASA.)


Karin said...

I thought the top picture was a bunch of pomegranate pips.

peacay said...

This may just be about the 'nicest' hope post I've seen; perhaps I was acutely susceptible for one reason or another, perhaps the world has had a fairly good week; in either case, thanks for tweaking my optimistic half.

Also, re: the glbt visitation memo -- here's the post from the lady who received a classy call from B.O.