Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

The Kansas Senate has failed to override the governor's veto of an anti-choice bill:

An attempt to overrule Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson’s veto of a late-term abortion bill failed in the Kansas Senate on Wednesday. The Senate voted 26-14 to revive the legislation — but that was one vote short of the two-thirds majority required to enact legislation over a veto.
Argentina's House of Deputies has approved same-sex marriage:

The House of Deputies approved same-sex marriage by an ample margin Wednesday and sent the legislation for consideration in the Senate. President Cristina Fernandez has promised not to veto the measure if it reaches her desk.

Gay rights activist Esteban Paulon calls it historic – the first time a gay marriage initiative has been debated in a national legislature in Latin America.
Speaking of marriage, it's been known for a long time that liberal states have fewer divorces than conservative ones. Now, researchers claim to have come up with an explanation.
To define the divide in a sentence: In red America, families form adults; in blue America, adults form families.
In other words, conservatives tend to see starting a family as a prerequisite for becoming a responsible adult, while liberals tend to see becoming a responsible adult as a prerequisite for starting a family. It's an interesting argument, though I'm sure there are plenty of other factors to be considered. (Link via wood s lot.)

The Obama administration may impose stricter regulations on for-profit colleges:

The tougher rules would require ITT Educational Services, Career Education, and Apollo Group’s University of Phoenix to show that their graduates earn enough money to pay off their student loans. If for-profit colleges can’t meet the standard, they could lose federal financial aid, which typically makes up three-quarters of their revenue.

The proposed rules may disqualify for-profits from receiving federal financial aid if their graduates must spend more than 8 percent of their starting salaries on repaying student loans.

The US cut its CO2 emissions by seven percent in 2009:

The seven percent decline is the largest absolute and percentage decline since the US EIA began keeping comprehensive records of yearly energy data in 1949.
Joe Romm says this about that:
Surely this country could reduce CO2 emissions a little more than 7% in 10 years and meet the modest target set out in the Senate climate bill, which appears likely to be introduced next week....

Yes, a part of the recent drop in CO2 is due to the recession, but actually that was only just a piece. Other key factors including low natural gas prices, gains in efficiency, state renewable energy standards, and a clean-energy-friendly stimulus.
The House has passed the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act:

The House vote was bipartisan; there are two Republican cosponsors in the Senate (Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina); there's a huge list of businesses big and small supporting it....The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers -- two of the most conservative business groups in the country and ardent foes of climate legislation -- not only came out in support of the bill, they made it part of their scorecards.

US researchers have come up with an interesting bladeless wind turbine:
SolarAero recently unveiled a new bladeless wind turbine that offers several advantages over current wind turbines — it emits hardly any noise in operation, has few moving parts, and since it doesn’t use spinning blades it’s much less of a hazard to bats and birds. The whole assembly is inside an enclosed housing, with screened inlets and outlets to keep animals safely out. It also can be installed on sensitive locations such as radar installations or sites under surveillance where the rotating blades cause detrimental effects.
Google, meanwhile, has invested $40 million in North Dakotan wind farms.

While the farms certainly provide plenty of clean, renewable power, they also use state-of-the-art turbine technology. The spinning blades can constantly adjust their individual pitch levels to achieve an optimal level of efficiency. The turbines are also about 15 percent larger than traditional designs. That larger surface area results in an even greater energy-capture rate.

The University of North Carolina will phase out its use of coal:

Earlier this week the University of North Carolina, accompanied by the Sierra Club and the North Carolina Energy Policy Council, made the announcement that it will begin phasing out coal burning from its plant, with the ultimate goal of being completely coal free by 2020....

This is being hailed as a significant first victory in the Sierra Club's campaign to get 58 universities nationwide to stop using coal as a fuel.

The premium consumers pay for green power is falling:

NREL analysts report that the rate premium that customers pay for green power continues to drop. The average net price premium for utility green power products has decreased from 3.48 cents/kWh in 2000 to 1.75 cents/kWh in 2009.

Even during the downturn, the assessment shows that consumers continued to support renewable energy by voluntarily participating in utility green power programs.
Austria is turning old phone booths into charging stations for electric vehicles:

Telekom Austria unveiled its first phone booth-turned-recharging station yesterday in Vienna. The company hopes to convert 29 more of the country’s 13,500 booths by the end of the year and then continue to roll out more and more. It takes about 6.5 hours to recharge an electric car, 80 minutes to juice a scooter and only 20 minutes to charge an electric bicycle.

And an improved type of electric cable could greatly reduce energy loss:
This is the most advanced cable in terms of distribution (24 kV), since its current value is higher than that obtained up to date, 3200 Amperes RMS, and therefore can transport the electrical strength of 110 MVA, i.e. five times more than a conventional copper cable of the same dimensions.

The superconducting electric cable could reduce energy loss by 50% and even by 70% in some parts of the distribution network. Reduction in loss represents energy saving and a significant decrease in CO2 emissions in the present distribution of generation of the Spanish electricity system.

The government will protect habitat for the endangered black abalone:
The agreement results from a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s failure to designate critical habitat for the shellfish, which, once common in Southern California tide pools, has declined by 99 percent since the 1970s.
Washington DC has approved new standards for school lunches:
[T]he measure calls for District public and charter schools to add more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the meals of about 71,000 students. It also encourages schools to buy food from organic farms in Maryland and Virginia, adds thousands of students to the free-lunch program and will eventually triple the amount of time that students have to spend exercising.
Concord, MA will ban bottled water:
The effort was lead by Jean Hill, an 82-year old activist, who lobbied neighbors and officials alike on the consequences of plastic bottles filling landfills and polluting local waters. "All these discarded bottles are damaging our planet, causing clumps of garbage in the oceans that hurt fish, and are creating more pollution on our streets,'' says Hil. "This is a great achievement to be the first in the country to do this. This is about addressing an injustice.''
Good discusses the appeal of community ovens:
The wood-fired Braddock community oven sits in a former vacant lot next to a former convent and across the street from the last remaining U.S. Steel plant in the area– a reminder of industrial halcyon days gone by. A local mason constructed the hearth from reclaimed stone and cinderblock from a run-down garage. With a few thousand dollars the oven was built and turning out smokey pizzas and gooey frittatas. “That this pile of material that was once a dilapidated garage in danger of collapsing could be repurposed for a bread oven is just a win win for everyone,” says Fetterman. Since its opening, art installations, literary gatherings, and Slow Food events have attracted hundreds of people to the site.
Sikkim claims that all its farms will be organic by 2015:

Nestled in between Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan the small Indian state of Sikkim is probably best known for its mountainous beauty and as being home to the red panda, but by 2015 it's going to have another notable distinction: Converting all its farms to certified organic agriculture.

The Economic Times reports that the state has been slowing use of chemical fertilizer since 2003 and has currently converted 6,000 of its 70,000 hectares of farm land.

Students at Rice University have made an electricity-free blood centrifuge out of a salad spinner:
Created by Lauren Theis and Lila Kerr, the ingenious DIY centrifuge is cobbled together using a salad spinner, some plastic lids, combs, yogurt containers, and a hot glue gun. The simple and easily-replicated design could be an invaluable tool for clinics the developing world, enabling them to separate blood to detect diseases like anemia without electricity.
Three Palestinian teenagers have invented an electronic cane for the blind (h/t: Karin).

Three schoolgirls from Nablus have been chosen to represent Palestine at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in California next month. The girls developed an electronic cane to help visually impaired people get around.

The cane has sensors that buzz differently according to the surface ahead and can even indicate when someone is approaching a liquid surface.

The ingenious idea started as a simple science project. Aseel Abu Leil, Aseel Sha’ar, and Nour El Arda teamed up at UNRWA’s Askar Girls’ School, Nablus....

The three 14-year-olds are ecstatic to be able to represent Palestine to an American audience at the fair in San Jose, California. They are busy working on their prototype before the trip in May – and are hoping to win the fair’s top prize of US$50,000.

An inhalable measles vaccine will soon be tested on human subjects:

Needles are never fun. They hurt, they can cause infection and in some unfortunate cases, they can spread disease. That’s why researchers are developing an inhalable measles vaccine for the developing world, where clean needles aren’t always available. The vaccine, which is under development at CU Boulder, will begin human testing this summer.

Archaeologists have discovered that the Mayan city of Palenque had pressurized water:

"Water pressure systems were previously thought to have entered the New World with the arrival of the Spanish," the researchers said in a recent issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science. "Yet, archaeological data, seasonal climate conditions, geomorphic setting and simple hydraulic theory clearly show that the Maya of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico, had empirical knowledge of closed channel water pressure predating the arrival of Europeans."

(See also The Origins Of Invention: Industry Among Primitive Peoples.)

The world's largest beaver dam has been discovered in Canada:
A Canadian ecologist has discovered the world's largest beaver dam in a remote area of northern Alberta, an animal-made structure so large it is visible from space. Researcher Jean Thie said Wednesday he used satellite imagery and Google Earth software to locate the dam, which is about 850 metres (2,800 feet) long on the southern edge of Wood Buffalo National Park.

I haven't posted many audio links lately. Therefore: A phonographic tour of continental Europe. American English dialect recordings. Recordings from the Tony Schwartz collection. And the Juan B. Rael Collection, which comprises "religious and secular music of Spanish-speaking residents of rural Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado." Yeah! Send me Daddy!

The 1934 Pool. Vintage Mexican advertisements. An exhibition of photos by students of Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind (via wood s lot). Photos by Biały Kwadrat. And images of Coney Island, circa 1906.

The Faces of Mars. Flags of forgotten countries. Photos by Rasmus Norlander. Drawings from the notebook of a 19th-c. doctor. Karl's Journey to the Moon. Some bottlecaps. And photos of the South Bronx by Roy Mortenson.

While we're at it, here's this.

(Photo at top by Marvin Newman, 1951.)


four legs good said...

Good stuff. Thank you, as always.

Karin said...

Some surprisingly good news, considering the ongoing catastrophe. Oh well, one step forward, two steps back.