Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

The sheriff of Pima County, AZ has announced that he will not enforce the new anti-immigrant law:

Dupnik called the law "racist" and "disgusting" and "stupid" and, in his "nuanced judgment" could not be enforced without mandatory racial profiling. Dupnik's reckoning of the legal issue is that he's just as likely to be sued for racial profiling as he is for not doing enough racial profiling, so he's standing pat, and will not enforce the new law.
You can add the Major League Baseball Players Association to the list of people who are unhappy with Arizona's racialist dingbattery:

The recent passage by Arizona of a new immigration law could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States. These international players are very much a part of our national pastime and are important members of our Association....The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written.

Meanwhile, San Francisco has suspended official visits to Arizona:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced today a moratorium on official city travel to Arizona after the state enacted a controversial new immigration law that directs local police to arrest those suspected of being in the country illegally.

The ban on city employee travel to Arizona takes effect immediately, although there are some exceptions, including for law enforcement officials investigating a crime, officials said.
Health insurers have reportedly been shamed into early compliance with the new healthcare legislation:
Following last week's Reuter's story by Murray Waas on WellPoint's practice of targeting breast cancer patients for rescission, both WellPoint and UnitedHealthcare announced they would implement reforms immediately, instead of waiting until the new law kicks in.

Following that story, the administration and Congressional leaders immediate contacted WellPoint's CEO to urge her to end the practice. Committee and Subcommittee Chairs from the House Committees on Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor sent a letter to the CEOs of the seven major insurance companies, "urging them to end rescissions and institute independent third-party review." Yesterday afternoon, the industry as a whole agreed to do the same, according to a letter from AHIP's Karen Ignani to top House Democrats.

In Florida, Democrats have blocked a GOP attempt to force women who need an abortion to pay for ultrasound:

The anti-choice legislators in Florida may have just been outmaneuvered.

In reaction to a last minute bill in the Florida legislature that requires all women seeking an abortion to pay out of pocket for an ultrasound before they can have the procedure, unless they show proof of rape or incest, Democrats did the unthinkable.

They shut down the House of Representatives.

Women who serve in the US military are no longer banned from submarines:
The first U.S. women allowed to serve aboard submarines will be reporting for duty by 2012, the Navy said Thursday as the military ordered an end to one of its few remaining gender barriers.
The DoJ is currently accepting public comments on the need to prevent prison rape.
On March 10, 2010, the Department of Justice opened a 60-day public comment period on national standards addressing sexual abuse in detention. Released last June by a bipartisan federal commission, these common-sense measures have the potential to help end sexual abuse in detention. But the standards are opposed by some powerful corrections leaders. These officials argue that it is too expensive to stop prisoner rape, and they seem to have a great deal of influence over the Department of Justice.
I can't tell you how many times I've been dismayed to hear people who are ostensibly "progressive" snicker over the idea of criminals being raped in prison (usually by black men, for some odd reason). I hold this truth to be self-evident: No one deserves to be raped under any circumstances, and preventive measures need to be taken regardless of what "corrections leaders" think.

In response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Obama has suspended new offshore drilling. (OMG he blew it up on purpose!)
As the federal government helps the efforts, Obama has reportedly stated that no new drilling will be allowed until officials can figure this whole mess out. Great news! While it’s not an official ban, at least new offshore drilling is on hold for the time being.
I support this decision, of course. But calling it "great news" may be stretching things a bit.
Apropos of which, you can learn how to help the animals affected by this spill by clicking here.

Thirty-three US generals and admirals have announced their support for a strong climate bill:

It is time to secure America with clean energy. We can create millions of jobs in a clean energy economy while mitigating the effects of climate change across the globe. We call on Congress and the administration to enact strong, comprehensive climate and energy legislation to reduce carbon pollution and lead the world in clean energy technology.

Cape Wind has finally received federal approval:
After nearly a decadelong permitting path, the Obama administration has approved the United States' first offshore wind farm.

The 130-turbine Cape Wind project, to be located in federal waters of Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts, is expected to meet 75 percent of the total electricity demand of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island.

Wyoming has approved some modest wildlife protections at proposed wind-power sites:
Under the guidelines, construction activity will be halted within two miles of an active grouse lek during the mating season each spring, though turbines will be allowed to operate in any location more than a quarter mile from a lek (increased to six tenths of a mile for one species).
In semi-related news, Inhabitat reports on a fascinating wind-powered knitting machine.
[T]he Wind Knitting Factory is a 1.2 meter diameter handmade wind mill attached to a loom mechanism. As the wind blows, it spins the loom and knits a scarf tube!

Obviously the stronger the wind is blowing, the faster a scarf can be knit. Each scarf is 2 meters long and is labeled with the day it was made and how long it took to the wind to knit it. Totally powered by free renewable energy without any human power, these amazing little scarves are perfect for wearing on a windy day too!
A new law will retire or retrofit Colorado's coal-fired power plants:

“This law is a template for tomorrow that allows us to transform our energy portfolio, our economy and our environment by working strategically and collaboratively,” Gov. Ritter said. “By shifting our oldest and least efficient coal plants to cleaner, Colorado-produced natural gas, we send a strong message to the rest of the country that we absolutely can cut air pollution and protect public health while also creating jobs and protecting ratepayers.”

Russia apparently intends to remove roughly one million abandoned oil barrels from the Arctic:
[T]he Soviet military positioned bases on Alexandra Land and shipped in vast quantities of oil to sustain them. As the Soviet Union collapsed, the barrels were abandoned, considered too costly to transport or dispose of properly. So there they remained, slowly deteriorating in the artic snow, threatening to poison the island's ecology.

Faced with this looming crisis, Prime Minister Putin suggested his nation commit to cleaning the mess of previous generations....
New research suggests that microbes in soil will not release more CO2 as the planet warms:
In some tentative (as in, more research is needed) global warming science good news, scientists from UC Irvine, and Colorado State and Yale universities have discovered that microbes in soil begin emitting less CO2 as their environment warms. This contradicts previous studies which anticipated an ever-increasing amount of emissions from soil as average temperatures climb.
Iowa is closing several public caves in order to protect bats.
Iowa will close three public caves to help fight the spread of a disease that has killed a million bats across the eastern United States in the past several years.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources beginning Monday will prevent access to Maquoketa Caves near Maquoketa, Starr's Cave near Burlington and Searryl's Cave in Jones County.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has doubled protected habitat for the endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly.

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly, renowned for its aerobatic virtuosity and electrifying green eyes, is the only dragonfly on the U.S. endangered species list. Once found in fens, bogs, and other wetlands throughout the Midwest, the species remains in only a few scattered breeding sites in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri. The Hine’s emerald is primarily threatened by habitat destruction due to urban and agricultural development, off-road vehicles, road and pipeline construction, logging, and groundwater contamination from pesticides and other pollutants.

Photo by Carol Freeman.

Madagascar has officially banned the "cutting, exploitation and export of rosewood and ebony."
Madagascar's transitional government has finally signed a decree banning the logging and trade of precious hardwoods, a month after announcing the moratorium.

The decree comes in direct response to mounting pressure from the international community over ongoing destruction of Madagascar's national parks by illegal loggers.
Pokeberries may improve the efficiency of solar panels:

Nanotech Center scientists have used the red dye made from pokeberries to coat their efficient and inexpensive fiber-based solar cells. The dye acts as an absorber, helping the cell's tiny fibers trap more sunlight to convert into power.

Pokeberries proliferate even during drought and in rocky, infertile soil. That means residents of rural Africa, for instance, could raise the plants for pennies. Then they could make the dye absorber for the extremely efficient fiber cells and provide energy where power lines don't run, said David Carroll, Ph.D., the center's director.

"They're weeds," Carroll said. "They grow on every continent but Antarctica."

Mucilage from the prickly pear cactus may act as a natural water filter:
Assistant Professor Norma Alcantar at the University of South Florida in Tampa has discovered that when mucilage (a type of gum used to store water) from the prickly pear cactus is mixed with water that contains high levels of sediment or the bacterium Bacillus cereus, both the bacteria and the sediment sink to the bottom. The mucilage, in other words, acts as a cheap and effective natural filter, which could be employed by millions of people in developing nations to produce clean water.
Researchers have come up with a solar pasteurization system for farmers in Peru:
Currently, poorer farmers are unable to obtain market certification for their milk and dairy products because they can't afford pasteurization equipment. As long as their facilities remain unhygenic, they're kept out of the marketplace. However, John Cannarella, Ryan Lewis, Jared Stepanauskas, and Natalie Maslow have come up with a solar powered solution that is cheap and could have global implications for farmers in rural or developing areas.
More than twenty US cities are considering adding or improving streetcar lines:
Due to a change in federal transportation policy under President Obama, 22 American cities are reportedly considering building or expanding streetcar lines. Not only would the streetcar construction help revitalize many American cities, it could promote greater adoption of public transit and decrease reliance on cars.
US companies are increasingly moving from the suburbs to the city:

These companies are getting a jump on a major cultural and demographic shift away from suburban sprawl. The change is imminent, and businesses that don’t understand and plan for it may suffer in the long run.

To put it simply, the suburbs have lost their sheen: Both young workers and retiring Boomers are actively seeking to live in densely packed, mixed-use communities that don’t require cars—that is, cities or revitalized outskirts in which residences, shops, schools, parks, and other amenities exist close together.
Santa Clara County, CA has banned McDonald's Happy Meals:
Happy Meal toys and other promotions that come with high-calorie children's meals will soon be banned in parts of Santa Clara County unless the restaurants meet nutritional guidelines approved Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors.

"This ordinance prevents restaurants from preying on children's' love of toys" to sell high-calorie, unhealthful food, said Supervisor Ken Yeager, who sponsored the measure. "This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes."

This is a nice idea:

It's an obvious problem in urban and suburban jungles around the country: many people are eager to garden but have nowhere to indulge their green thumbs. And plenty of homeowners have gardens in need of tending.

Enter Taking the Craigslist model to gardening, it helps match up prospective gardeners to those with gardens, for free.
And so is this:
Want to start a community project aimed at local government transparency and bettering your block? EveryBlock, a site that culls ultralocal news about specific neighborhoods, has combined its powers with SeeClickFix, a reporting tool site that that allows anyone to report and track community problems that need a little local government love.
The EPA has launched a searchable chemical information database:

ToxRefDB provides detailed chemical toxicity data in an accessible format. It is a part of ACToR (Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource), an online data warehouse that collects data from about 500 public sources on tens of thousands of environmentally relevant chemicals, including several hundred in ToxRefDB. Those interested in chemical toxicity can query a specific chemical and find all available public hazard, exposure, and risk-assessment data, as well as previously unpublished studies related to cancer, reproductive, and developmental toxicity.

The FDA has approved a therapeutic vaccine for prostate cancer:
The big story here is that this is the first proof of principle and proof that immunotherapy works in general in cancer, which I think is a huge observation," said Dr. Philip Kantoff, chief of solid tumor oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and the lead investigator in Dendreon's largest clinical trial for the drug.
Here's one of those simple ideas that seems incredibly obvious in hindsight:

Changing the hue of hospital gowns and bed sheets to match a patient’s skin color could greatly enhance a physician’s ability to detect cyanosis and other health-related skin color changes, according to a new study from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute....

“If a patient’s skin color shifts a small amount, the change will often be imperceptible to doctors and nurses,” Changizi said. “If that patient is wearing a skin-colored gown or adhesive tab, however, and their skin uniformly changes slightly more blue, the initially ‘invisible’ gown or tab will appear bright and yellow to the observer.”

Eugene Deslaw's La Marche des Machines is finally online, which is well and good, but when is someone going to post Vers Les Robots? I've been wanting to use it at the end of FHB for years.

While we're waiting: An imploding stadium, viewed from within. Photos by Zoltán Vancsó. Vintage Olivetti ads. Paintings by Alan Reynolds (via wood s lot). Tiles and corbels and fonts...oh my! An Iconography of Contagion. And photos of Sweden by Carl Curman.

Belize radio. The Ant Nebula. An infrasonic soundscape of Manhattan, "which articulates an idea of New York City becoming an instrument and a sonic geographical browser by mapping the city with the ambient sounds." Photos by Katrien Franklin. And paintings by Carrie Marrill.

The James Koetting Ghana Field Recording Collection
. China's hanging coffins. An underground church and other doors to other worlds. A little thought experiment (via wood s lot). Around the world in 80 seconds. And photos of storms by Mitch Dobrowner.

Last, here's an informative film clip for you.

(Image at top by Sohan Qadri, via but does it float.)

No comments: