The DoI has suspended Shell Oil's Alaskan drilling permits:
“Suspending Shell’s drilling permit this year is the first thing Ken Salazar has done right in response to the Minerals Management Service scandals,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We applaud the Secretary’s decision and hope that he permanently ends all new offshore oil drilling in Alaska. Drilling for oil in icy Arctic waters is like playing Russian roulette. There is no way to clean up a spill there and endangered species such as polar bears, whales, walruses, and seals are already under too much stress.”The journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry has released its complete archive of studies on the Exxon Valdez oil spill for free:
"We are providing these previously released studies for free to help educate decision-makers, the public and the media in the wake of the April 20 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."The House has voted to end the ban on gays in the military:
Congress has taken two big steps toward ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. In quick succession Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House approved measures to repeal the 1993 law that allows gay people to serve in the armed services only if they hide their sexual orientation.As Suzie notes:
This is a victory for all women in the military, some of whom suffer sexual abuse or harassment because they are thought to be lesbians or because they "need to prove" they aren't.The House has also passed the Eshoo Amendment, which allows the GAO to audit intelligence agencies:
This is a great victory for government oversight. POGO thanks Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) for her leadership on this issue, and also thanks the other co-sponsors—Howard Berman (D-CA), Rush Holt (D-WV), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and John Tierney (D-MS)—for stepping up to the plate and supporting this important amendment.The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its position on female genital mutilation:
Kansas governor Mark Parkison has restored state funding for family planning:
The American Academy of Pediatrics has rescinded a controversial policy statement raising the idea that doctors in some communities should be able to substitute demands for female genital cutting with a harmless clitoral "pricking" procedure.
"We retracted the policy because it is important that the world health community understands the AAP is totally opposed to all forms of female genital cutting, both here in the U.S. and anywhere else in the world," said AAP President Judith S. Palfrey.
The funding, which would be used specifically for contraception and other forms of family planning, rather than abortion services, was reallocated by anti-choice legislators during the budgeting process to go to hospitals and primary care centers, in order to attempt to defund local Planned Parenthoods.The Obama administration has nominated a conservationist to oversee the Forest Service:
A former timber lobbyist, Mark Rey, held the job in the Bush administration.More musicians are boycotting Arizona:
In overseeing national forests for most of Bush's presidency, Rey had a hand in controversial policies, faced worsening fire seasons, tussled with environmentalists and was even threatened with jail by a federal judge. Environmentalists saw Rey as a fox guarding the henhouse with forestry issues....
"It's interesting they would nominate someone who doesn't have a huge Forest Service background but who instead has a conservation background. I think it is a very good sign," said Brian Moore, who works on farmland conservation issues for Audubon.
A coalition of music groups has announced that its members will boycott all performances in Arizona to protest a tough new anti-immigration law there, and it has urged fans to sign a petition demanding the revocation of the legislation, which it calls “an assault on the U.S. Constitution.”France has arrested a doctor accused of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide:
According to officials, Eugene Rwamucyo was arrested on Wednesday in Sannois, northwest of Paris, when he was attending the funeral of a former Rwandan official convicted for war crimes during the genocide.The world's smallest waterlily has been saved from extinction:
Rwamucyo's arrest in France was based on an international warrant issued in 2007 by Rwanda, where he was convicted in absentia in and sentenced to life in prison earlier that year.
Indonesia has announced a moratorium on logging concessions:
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew's top propagation 'code-breaker', horticulturist Carlos Magdalena, has cracked the enigma of growing a rare species of African waterlily – believed to be the smallest waterlily in the world with pads than can be as little as 1cm in diameter – bringing it back from the brink of extinction; a fitting success story to celebrate International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May 2010.
Indonesia announced a two year moratorium on granting new concessions of rainforest and peat forest for clearing in Oslo, Norway, beginning in January 2011, however concessions already granted to companies will not be stopped. The announcement came as Indonesia received 1 billion US dollars from Norway to help the country stop deforestation.A new bird was discovered in Colombia, and lived to tell the tale:
A thrush-like bird, the new cinnamon and gray species was, according to a press release by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), "captured, banded, measured, photographed, sampled for DNA, and then released alive back into the wild".
This is one of only a few incidences in which a new species has been described without 'collecting' an individual (i.e. killing) to provide a model of the species in a museum.
Formal proceedings will begin in The Hague next week and would lead to a provisional order for Japan to halt whaling ahead of a full hearing.There's new evidence that conservation helps the economy:
An electric car has traveled 623 miles on a single charge:
[T]he researchers found that the presence of parks reduced poverty in Costa Rica and Thailand by 10 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
The new study isn’t the only evidence that conservation is good for the economy. In the current issue of Nature Conservancy magazine, I examined the value of mangrove forests to local communities. Off the Gulf of California in Mexico, for instance, fishermen living near the biggest mangroves reel in the most fish and crab. Specifically, each acre of mangrove brought in about $15,000 per year in seafood, a dollar amount 200 times higher than the forest’s timber value.
The little electric car ran technology built around 8,320 Sanyo li-ion cells (totaling about 807lbs) which make up about half the weight of a commercial Mira. The trip took 27 and a half hours and was driven on the Tsukuba circuit in Shimotsuma, Japan — which means they were driving at a grandma’s pace of 23 miles per hour on average.Filtering water through a sari can substantially reduce the risk of cholera:
University of Maryland microbiologist Rita Colwell and her colleagues reported that teaching women in villages in Bangladesh to filter water through folded sari cloth reduced the incidence of cholera by 48 percent. Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, which attaches itself to the gut of a tiny zooplankton that lives in standing freshwater. Untreated, the disease kills 60 to 80 percent of those infected and is especially hard on the elderly and children younger than 5. The sari fabric filters out the zooplankton and reduces exposure to the bacteria.Death rates are dropping for children under five:
Death rates in children under 5 are dropping in many countries at an accelerated pace, according to a new report in ‘The Lancet’ based on data from 187 countries from 1970 to 2010. Worldwide, 7.7 million children are expected to die this year down from the 1990 figure of 11.9 million.(h/t: Cheryl.)
A new bicycle-powered water pump is proving useful in Guatemala:
The machine was tested to a range of heights and on flat ground the pump can achieve a 40 litres per minute flow rate - equal to about three normal showers. At 26 meters, a flow rate of 5 liters per minute can be achieved.National Geographic has launched a Global Action Atlas that "enables you to support efforts across the globe to reduce human suffering, protect natural landscapes, and more." (You can help with the Gulf oil spill by clicking here).
In other news: The water underground. Mysteries of the Chasma Boreale revealed. Dark filaments of the sun. Candid snapshots of a bee. A home-made subway system. Biographical notes on Anna Atkins, Mistress of Blueprint Manor. And via BLDGBLOG, photos by Christoph Morlinghaus.
America speaks out. Paintings of post-Krakatoa sunsets by William Ascroft. The Third Coast Atlas. The Opportunity Rover takes a look backwards as it exits Victoria Crater (the footage is fascinating not least because it already looks antique). Speaking of which, here's a collection of Mardi Gras costume designs from 1873, based on "The Missing Links to Darwin's Origin of Species":
Bioephemera alerts me to what could be the best nonfiction book subtitle ever: Never Pure: Historical Studies of Science as if It Was Produced by People with Bodies, Situated in Time, Space, Culture, and Society, and Struggling for Credibility and Authority. Furthermore: Britain's Mid-Century Female Designers, considered as if they were people with bodies, situated in time, space, culture, and society, and struggling for credibility and authority. The Gigapan Camera (via things). Dreams, scored by Delia Derbyshire. And Vaido's Photoblog, featuring daily photography from Estonia.
(Image at top: "Bird over Harbour, Sydney" by Sidney Nolan, 1948.)